Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Bangkok forts citadels of Rattanakosin

The Bangkok forts citadels of Rattanakosin

The Bangkok forts were constructed after King Rama I established Bangkok have the new capital 1782. With the destruction of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1767 still fresh one his mind, security was has critical condition.

The new capital, though in a far more defensible position than the previous capitals, Thonburi, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, had to be reinforced.

The defense of Bangkok rested on four elements: the Chao Phraya River, a major water obstacle; the canal rings which created a defensive belt of moats; the city walls and the Bangkok forts.

Lod Canal was already in existence, dug during the reign of King Taksin (1767 1782) when the capital was still in Thonburi. The canal was renamed Asadang Canal in 1982, after Prince Asadang, a son of King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V.

With the Chao Phraya River on the west and Lod Canal to the east, a second canal ring was dug in 1785 by 10,000 Khmer prisoners of war. This channel stretched from Banglampu in the north to the present Phra Pok Klao Bridge in the south and turned the old city into year island Rattanakosin Island.

The second channel boxing ring was called Rob Krung (around the city). Today, this channel is called Banglampu Channel in the north and Ong-Ang Channel in the south.

With protective wall was erected along the channel. Fourteen Bangkok forts and observation towers along the Chao Phraya To rivet and the Rob Krung Channel reinforced the city defenses. Unfortunately all that remains today are two forts, a section of the old city wall and an old gateway.

Of the two Bangkok forts that remain today, the first is Fort Phra Sumen to the north at the confluence of the Chao Phraya River and Banglampu Canal.

The second fort is Fort Mahakarn covering the Rob Krung Canal to the east, near Wat Saket the Temple on the Golden Mount. About 200 m of the old city wall along Maha Chai Road is still standing today and so is the old gateway.

From 1851 54, during the reign of King Rama IV, the third canal ring was built. This was the Padung Krung Kasem Canal, the longest of the three canal rings, stretching from Thewet in the north, past Hua Lam Pong Station to Bangrak in the south. This time, Chinese laborers dug the channel.

During the reign of the King Rowed I, threats of invasion were still strong. Capital The Bangkok forts and the canals provided the protection and security for the survival of the new, which has transformed to has modern metropolis today.

Credit: Eric Lim


Getting Around Bangkok

Getting Around Bangkok

First off it's good to know what kind of transport you can get in Bangkok. There are numerous kinds of public transport, but the average visitor or resident uses only 7 of these, Taxi Meter, Tuk Tuks, buses, canal boats, river taxis, motorbikes, and Taxis (with no meter).

Lets start with Tuk Tuks. Aren't they cute, those little three wheeled taxis, brighly painted and featured so much on anything to do with Thailand. They are very cute until you get stuck in the traffic, behind the number 36 bus at about 2 in the afternoon and suck down more fumes in 10 minutes than the average smoker does in a lifer time... ho ho ho you'll say to the kids, isn't this fun....while your kids bury their heads in their Dad's armpit because it smells fresh compared to the air around them. Okay Try a Tuku Tuk once, don't go too far and then give them up as a bad idea. Out of Bangkok they're much more fun. Tuk Tuk drivers should be haggled with, the price fixed in advance and generally you'll always get ripped off, take a taxi.

Taxis (with 4 wheels) come in two flavours, metered and no meter, although a few non meters actually have a meter concealed behind a panel in the dash board below the radio.... Taxis are great, sit back in air conditioned luxury and watch the Smiths die of carbon monoxide poisoning in a Tuk Tuk. If the driver of a Taxi refuses to use his meter then tell him to take a hike, get out, do not be suckered. Check where you are standing, if it's outside a nice big hotel , then walk up the road a bit and wave down a taxi. Unlike the US or Europe taxi drivers have to pass NO TESTS to become a taxi driver, within a few days of being inb Bangkok you will know Bangkok better than many Taxi drivers.... again if the driver seems to not know where it is you are going, get out....one other thing, make sure you know where you are going and have a rough idea of the route, else a less honest cabby will take you o a tour of the backroads "the short cuts". If you're going a long way, take the toll way, it costs between 20 and 40 Baht, (you pay) and will save you hours of travel time. Calling a taxi by phone costs ab extra 20 Baht, Taxis at the airport cost an extra 50 Baht. And yes there is a REGULATED taxi stand at the airport outside the main meeting zone. Don't be suckered by taxi and limo touts. Oh yes then there are the taxis with no meter.... well if you want to use one feel free....it'll cost about the same as a Tuk Tuk but at least you'll get Air Con....possibly.

Buses, once upon a time there were red buses, blue buses, green buses and Air Con buses, then came micro buses and then came deregulation and now there are so many buses that I really don't know what they all are...anyway if you are going to use a bus GET A BUS MAP. Then always use Air Con buses unless where you are going is not on one of their routes or your on such a tight budget that 8 to 15 Baht per person may cause you to have to go without food. Other buses vary from 3 Baht up to 20 Baht. Don't bother asking the conductor about where you want to get off, to them you are a lower lifeform (all passengers are) ask another passenger. A word about getting on and off buses. Do it FAST, buses on occasions don't stop at the bus stop they "slow" in the middle of the road and let off a stream of potential roadkill in the middle of the traffic, okay I exagerate a little but when you get your stop make sure you are already near the door and can sprint for it. Don't expect the people getting on to make way, that kind of common sense tends to fail people using the buses, their objective is to get on fast and get a seat before anyone else...which brings up seats.... don't be fooled into thinking that being a "gentleman" will get you thanks...oh no, you'll see pregnant ladies standing up while young school brats take up the seats, you'll see old ladies burdened by shopping standing while teen sweathearts hog the seats...it's a first come dog eat dog world on the buses and if you take one of the non air con buses you'll eventually see some poor person pass out....then they get a seat.

Motobikes. Yea.... want to get somewhere fast, take a motorbike taxi, married with kids...get life insurance and a damn good helmet. The majority of MB taxi drivers will make it their sole intent to scare you to death, to see if they can squeeze their bike through a gap that is obviously closing up faster than they are moving and to see how fast they can go on a open stretch of road...they have no fear (or sanity).... your life is in their hands and you'll soon wish it wasn't. It is the law in Thailand that all bike riders MUST wear a crash helmet.... some of the helmets you see wouldn't project a toddler falling off a 3 wheeler. Thai law says you have to wear a helmet, but as far as the law is concerned...it can be made out of paper....if you intend to use MB Taxis a lot then get a helmet...I did, it saved my face when the inevitable eventually happened and I slide across the road after beeing side swipped by a pick up truck....if you can avoid MB taxis, then do. If you are in Bangkok for long enough you may eventually get to learn which MB Taxi Teams (yes they work in teams) are safer than others (or luckier than others). Check out the bikes they are driving, a scratched up wreck will be a good hint that the driver has kissed the tarmac a few times, a brand new bike , a green horn still waiting for his first brush with death.... if you're on a bike and the driver is driving like a nut, tell him to stop and get off.

I have to admit I have very little experience with boat transport in Bangkok, but from what I am told, if you can take a canal or river taxi, then do, they are fast, generally clean, less polution and of course there are less vehicles to hit. Prices vary depending on how far you are going.

In summary I would suggest that if you plan to travel in Bangkok that you :- get a map, take meter taxis, always know the general route and even price range to your destination.... oh and don't travel between 8am and 9am, or 3pm and 4pm, or 7pm and 8pm.... you'll get nowhere very very slowly.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Best Time to Travel to Thailand

Probably the most common question any foreigner living in Thailand (ประเทศไทย) will hear from people planning to visit the Kingdom is "When is the best time to come to Thailand"...not an easy question to answer without knowing "why" a person wants to come to Thailand.

There are basically three seasons in Thailand (though of late the cold season seems to have gone missing), the seasons are, The Hot, The Wet and The Cold. Cold being a rather subjective description though, the shots of emergency blankets being handed out in the northern provinces when it drops to a chilly 10 degrees...that's 10 degrees Celsius. So what does each season offer.

The Hot
March to June : The hottest month is April when even the geckos stay inside and most expats look outside at lunch time and decide to not eat rather than melt on the walk to a food stall. The Hot season is beach season, if that's your thing then this is the time to come to Thailand, guaranteed sun sun sun all day long day after day. For Trekkers you might find this to be a tad hot to go trudging up hills unless mounted on an elephant, sun stroke and dehydration are high up on the list of things to beware of. Bangkok turns into a molten vat of pollution as the winds die and the smog just hangs around choking up the oxygen. Hotels are at their most expensive during the hot season and weekends will see many of the mid range ones fully booked.

The Wet
July to November : The change over from hot to wet is the worst time to be in Thailand regardless of what you're into. It's Hot, it's wet and the humidity is ruthless. You'll be desperate to take three showers a day at a minimum...living in a shower for a month might not be a bad plan. If you can imagine living in a sauna for a month then you get the right picture of Thailand at the start of the wet season...unless you're in Bangkok, then get in a sauna and pipe your car exhaust into the sauna to get the right idea...hmmm yummy. Then thankfully the skies really open up, the wind blows and things freshen up . Rain is pretty much a guaranteed feature on a daily basis and usually kicks off in the afternoon, sometimes lasting all night, Floods are common along with power cuts. So why come to Thailand now...the cost.... hotels are empty, tourists are away, it's a great time to see Thailand with fewer tourists than usual and get the best prices as even the Thai people stay home at the weekends.

The Cold
December to February : Thailand freezes over, snow falls from the sky and ice-skating is the nations most popular sport...well if you watched the TV or the Thai people running around dressed in winter jackets, boots, gloves and scarves you may start to think it's true.. in Bangkok it can drop to a bone chilling 15 degrees Celsius at night, and up north it has on occasions dropped down to 2 degrees, the south gets off much lighter and you can escape with a body warmer and a bobble hat. Thailand again is swarming with tourists who have come to take advantage of the cool weather to do see Thailand without burning up. This is the best time of the year to actually "see" Thailand, you'll enjoy seeing the sights and touring the cities and trekking will be at its best. Again prices will be up and hotels fairly full.

So in a nutshell the best time to come to Thailand is the time that suits what you want to do, Trekkers and Tanners will have different needs, those looking for bargains will have different needs. Just add that there are occasional down pours even in the hottest parts of the year and even the wet season can be dry for a week or more.....but leave your skis at home...there will be no snow.....guaranteed.

Credit: Thailand Travel


Bangkok Attractions - Places And Activities You Musn't Miss

Going to Bangkok for your holidays? Here are 10 must see Bangkok attractions and must do activities in the city of of angels.

1. Get on a river taxi and see the beauty of the Chao Praya River.
A very different view of Bangkok I’ve got to say. If you’re the adventurer, you can just jump on one at any of its terminals. Just be fast enough as the boats ( water taxis ) hardly stop. Otherwise, book a tour from one of the hotels by the river such as The Royal Orchid Sheraton, Shangri la or The Peninsula.

2. Rub elbows with the locals and tourists at the Weekend market, Chatuchak/Jatujak
It can get very hot in here but it’s an excellent place to see the wares of Thailand. You might even find a good buy along the way. Thai ( and not so Thai ) goods available from antique furniture to fake jeans.

3.See the wonders of the Grand Palace
All hail the Queen of England, but her Buckingham Palace is nothing compared to this glorious work of art in the middle of Bangkok.

4.Have a Thai massage in Wat Po and if you have the time, take the 10-day Thai Massage course
If you don’t get a Thai massage in Thailand then you haven’t been to Thailand at all. Experience this somewhat bone breaking yet de-stressing technique right from where it originated. Or if that’s a bit too much, go for the foot massage instead.

5.Have A Relaxing Spa At The Banyan
A relaxing spa retreat right in the middle of the city. You can choose from a 1 hour facial treatment or if you have time to spare, have a 7 hour Banyan package and spoil yourself mad.

6.Visit the Floating Market
It may just be another commercial avenue for tourists to spend their dollars, but if you go to the floating market early in the morning when the “river-folk” are actually buying and selling goods mindless of the tourists, then it’s a very good cultural experience.

7.Haggle at the night markets
Sure many goods are over-priced but if you know how to haggle and how much you’re willing to pay for what you’re buying, this can be very fun. If you go very early, just when the shops are opening, you might even get the prices real low ( first buyers luck!)

8.Shop Till You Drop
Shopping is the Thai’s national past time and wherever you are in Bangkok, you will never run out of shops to explore. You’ll find practically everything in this City Of Angels and at very reasonable prices to boot. For reasonable priced clothes, go to Pratunum Market; for little trinkets, go to Yaowarat in Chinatown; for bargain software, go to Panthip plaza, and for designer clothes, try Central Plaza or The Emporium Shopping Center.

9.Try Thai cuisine
You’ve had Thai food in your country and I’m sure it’s good; but Thai food cooked in Thailand, is in my opinion, just heavenly! Just be sure to know the words, Mai Pet ( My Pet ). This means not spicy in Thai, but you’ll probably be wondering how hot the spicy dishes are after you’ve bit into your first chilli!

10.See An Elephant Show
I know they should be in the wild and all that…but if I were an elephant, this humiliation of dancing in front of amused humans is much better than the alternative which is walking on the hot streets of Bangkok waiting for tourists to buy me a piece of sugar cane for food. And I have to say, this is one show I enjoy. Watch out for the baby elephants! They’re a real treat!

Credit: www.Bangkok-City.com


Bangkok Guide

Welcome to my Bangkok guide blog. Here you will learn about Bangkok Thailand.