Here is a regional map, thanks again to Google. We did not visit the north of Thailand, known for forests and elephants, nor the far south, known for beaches. Our time was spent in and around Bangkok.
Like many of the places we visited on this adventure, the Bangkok region is a mixture of the old with the new. First the old.
Thailand was previously known as the Old Kingdom of Siam. The ancient city of Ayutthaya is located 50 miles north of Bangkok, and was the seat of government for 33 kings from 1353 to 1767. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We next visited The Grand Palace of Thailand, which is located in Bangkok. This sprawling compound has been a landmark since its construction in 1782. Of note to theater buffs, King Rama IV, who ruled from this palace and opened trade with the West, was the basis for the character of the king in the musical The King and I. The grandeur and scope of the buildings cannot be captured in a photograph. Here are a few glimpses.
Next it was on to the new. Bangkok is a sprawling city bisected by the Chao Phraya River. Construction cranes are everywhere.
A sunset cruise is a great way to get oriented.
Dining at a riverfront restaurant, you could convince yourself that you could be in any modern city. But go a few blocks from the waterfront and you quickly realize that this is still a developing country, and the distribution of wealth is very uneven. We took a bicycle tour with Co van Kessel Company and would recommend them to anyone looking for a true immersive experience. We navigated through back alleys and had an up-close look at parts of the city that most tourists never see.
But it wasn’t all rough around the edges. Our bicycle tour included an impressive temple in the Chinatown neighborhood. As with all countries in this region, Buddism is the major religion.
After this short 4-day glimpse of Thailand, we flew to Laos to continue our adventure. We look forward to sharing our experiences there in our next post.