Tha Maharaj: Life at the River

‘Tha Maharaj’ is a community mall located on Maharaj Road in the Rattanakosin area, thus in walking distance of Thammasat University. The Rattanakosin Island was built in the early Rattanakosin period. Hence, Tha Maharaj tries to capture the charm of the old town’s architecture.

Tha Maharaj (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Tha Maharaj (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

This community mall is thus in close proximity of the Chao Phraya River and there is also the Tha Maharaj Pier. What is more, it is surrounded by some important cultural attractions of Bangkok including The Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Nearby this place are also Silpakorn Fine Arts University and Siriraj Hospital.

Tha Maharaj Pier at the Chao Phraya River (photo credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)

Tha Maharaj Pier at the Chao Phraya River*

Of course, due to this location, Tha Maharaj has become a tourist attraction as well. However, locals also love this place because there are specialists of antiques and one of the greatest Thai amulet markets in the country.

At Tha Maharaj*

A community mall with many shops and restaurants*

Tha Maharaj aims at bringing the beauty of the Chao Phraya River near to the visitors. In addition, people should get to know and enjoy the local culinary specialities which can also be referred to as the Taste of the River. What is more, the place surprises the visitor with some colourful details 🙂 Thus, there is also a community garden and a riverside promenade.

There a numerous shops and a community garden*

There a numerous shops and a community garden*

Colourful details for a good mood*

Colourful details for a good mood*

Tha Maharaj includes seven buildings in total and a parking building. There are more that 50 restaurants, retail shops dedicated to fashion and beauty. You can reach this place by road but also via Chao Phraya Express Boat. Other options to get there are Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, Long-Tail Boats and Private Boats.

Reach the Tha Maharaj by road or by boat*

Reach the Tha Maharaj by road or by boat*

Summing up, Tha Maharaj is certainly worth a visit since there are not only numerous interesting shops, facilities and restaurants but also special events and activities like weekend market.

A colourful place for special events and friends of the Chao Phraya River*

A colourful place for special events like the weekend market and friends of the Chao Phraya River*

For more information check out: Tha Maharaj

Yours, Sirinya

(All photos in this post, credit: Amporn Konglapumnuay)




The History of Wat Arun

Wat Arun is known as the Temple of Dawn located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi. It is a very prominent landmark in Bangkok. This temple is best seen from the opposite river bank. The complete name of this temple is Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan.

Wat Arun

View on Wat Arun from from Bitter Deck at Sala Arun. photo: Amazing Thailand FB page

View on Wat Arun from Bitter Deck at Sala Arun. photo: Amazing Thailand FB page

Wat Arun is a temple complex that consists of the towers, the so-called ‘Phra Prang’ (spires) which symbolize the Mount Meru of Hindu cosmology. There are also narrow lanes, old white buildings, shrines and two giants called ‘Yak Wat Jaeng’ who are the mortal enemies of the ‘Yak Wat Pho’ located across the river. The Yaks are figures from the Thai Ramakien, the white figure is called Sahassa Deja and the green one is Thotsakan, the Demon Rāvana.

‘Yak Wat Jaeng', the temple guardians of Wat Arun (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

‘Yak Wat Jaeng’, the temple guardians of Wat Arun (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

The temple has existed since the days when Ayutthaya was Thailand’s capital. It was then named Wat Makok in the place called Bangmakok meaning ‘Village of Olive’. Hence, Bangmakok was shortened to ‘Bangkok’.

The Chao Phraya River as seen from the main spire of Wat Arun; photo by John Thomson in 1865, Wellcome Library London

The Chao Phraya River as seen from the main spire of Wat Arun; photo by John Thomson in 1865, Wellcome Library London

After defeating the Burmese Army in Ayutthaya, King Taksin reached this place to establish the new capital Thonburi. He arrived at dawn and thus renamed the temple ‘Wat Jeang’. ‘Jeang’ means bright, dawn and clear. During his reign, no monks lived in this temple. However, it was used to house the Emerald Buddha which is located at Wat Phra Kaeow today.

The precious Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

The precious Emerald Buddha, today located at Wat Phra Kaeow (photo credit: JPSwimmer, wikipedia.org)

King Taksin’s General had taken the Emerald Buddha from Vientiane in Laos to Wat Jeang. Later after King Taksin’s death, this General became King Rama I (Buddha Yodfa Chulaoke). Eventually, King Rama I moved his capital from Thonburi to Bangkok taking the Emerals Buddha with him. There the Buddha was moved to his present site in the Emerald Buddha Temple.

King Rama I, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke; photo: wikimedia.org

King Rama I, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke; photo: wikimedia.org

King Rama II (1809-1824) started the construction of the tall spire and the four smaller ones. This was completed by King Rama III (1824-1851). The towers are supported by rows of demons and monkeys and very narrow steps lead to a balcony on the central tower.

The towers of Wat Arun are supported by a row of demons, photo: Sirinya Pakditawan

The towers of Wat Arun are supported by a row of demons, photo: Sirinya Pakditawan

The towers are built of brick covered with stucco and the decorations are also unique. There are numerous pieces of multi-coloured Chinese porcelain.

Pieces of multi-coloured Chinese porcelain at the Temple of Dawn, Bangkok (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

Pieces of multi-coloured Chinese porcelain at the Temple of Dawn, Bangkok (photo: Sirinya Pakditawan)

The central tower also harbours the figure of the God Indra seated on his vehicle Erawan which is the three-headed elephant. What is more, there are also figures of the Moon God on a white horse. In addition, the trident of Shiva extends from the top of each tower.

Wat Arun stairway, photo: wikimedia.org

Wat Arun stairway, I think in the centre there is Indra on his vehicle Erawan, photo: wikimedia.org

Thus, the central balcony offers an impressive view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. From there you can also see the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho.

Wat Arun seen from the Chao Phraya River, photo: wikimedia.org

Wat Arun seen from the Chao Phraya River, photo: wikimedia.org

Summing up, I find that Wat Arun is one of the most impressive monuments that I have ever seen. I really love to visit this place soon again 🙂

Yours, Sirinya




Media Review: Top 10 Bangkok by Ron Emmons & Alex Robinson

Today’s media review is about Top 10 Bangkok by Ron Emmons (texts) & Alex Robinson (photographs) (ISBN: 978-3-7342-0510-1). This guidebook was published by Dorling Kindersley Verlag GmbH, Munich. My review copy is the 3rd and newest edition (2014/2015). This book is in German language, comprises 128 pages and costs 9,99 EUR.

Top 10 Bangkok

Top 10 Bangkok German Cover 2014

Top 10 Bangkok German Cover 2014

However, there is also a corresponding English edition of this guide called DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide: Bangkok written by the same author and published by Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London which is the partner company of Dorling Kindersley Verlag, Munich. The latest edition of the English version is from 2014. You may take a look inside the book here.

Top 10 Bangkok is a comprehensive travel guide with compact Top 10 lists, detailed maps and more than 250 colour photographs. Hence, the guide is structured in three sections: Bangkok’s Top 10, Around Town (in German: ‘Stadtteile’, meaning different areas of the city) and Streetsmart (in German: ‘Reise-Infos’, i.e. travel information).

The guide names ten highlights that the traveller should visit when going to Bangkok. These highlights are:

  • Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
  • National museum
  • Wat Pho
  • the Klongs
  • Dusit park
  • floating market (Damnoen Saduak)
  • Chatuchak weekend market
  • Jim Thompson House
  • Wat Arun
  • Ayutthaya

In addition, this guide provides information about important historical events, museums & art galleries, shopping, markets, restaurants, bars & clubs but also about entertainment like theatre & cabaret. What is more, there is also information about special attractions for children, festivals, beaches nearby Bangkok, sports, spas and Buddhist temples.

The section Around Town (‘Stadtteile’) is divided into historic district (Old Town), Chinatown, Downtown, Greater Bangkok and the outskirts of the city (Beyond Bangkok).

As far as travel information (Streetsmart) is concerned, there is advice about travel preparation and planning your journey & arriving in Bangkok. Further there is info about Bangkok on a budget, money, banking & communication, safety & health. In addition, the guide lists things to avoid but also provides shopping, hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Furthermore, the guidebook also includes a phrase book with some basic Thai vocabulary and an extra-map (city map, skytrain map & additional tips for a perfect day off in BKK).

In my opinion, this book is a comprehensive, elaborate and well structured guide. In particular, I welcome that Bangkok’s Top 10 highlights are again each divided into Top 10. For instance, the Dusit park is subdivided into 10 impressions and experiences: 1. Vimanmek Palace, 2. Royal Plaza, 3. Ananta Samakhom throne hall, 4. Abhisek Dusit throne hall, 5. Photography Museum, 6. Royal Elephant Museum, 7, Clock Museum, 8. Textile Museum, 9, Sea Pavilion and 10. Dusit Zoo. Hence, you cannot really miss or overlook an attraction.

In addition, I also find the extra map very useful because it lists some of the important attractions, malls, markets and restaurants and tells you how to get there by public transport (i.e. Skytrain, Metro, bus, ferry).

Finally, I can highly recommend Top 10 Bangkok, in particular to everyone who goes to BKK for the first time. On the whole, this is a very practical and compact guide. Since the book is lightweight and small, it fits in every pocket and bag 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(P.S. if you’re looking for a compact Thailand travel guide, check out Vis-à-vis Thailand)




John Thomson: Pictures of Old Siam

“His [Thomson’s] photographic style can be perceived from the beauty of his works. Back then when all he had was natural light, he still managed to get the beautiful photographs”

(Paisarn Piemmettawat, the exhibition’s organizer’s assistant)

John Thomson: the crown prince of Siam (Rama V)

John Thomson photography: the crown prince of Siam (Rama V)

John Thomson Photography

Recently I’ve come across an interesting article in the Bangkok Post. It is about a photo exhibition of the Scot J. Thomson, born in 1837, who was one of the first photographers in the Far East.

young Siamese prince

A young Siamese prince

The National Gallery on Chao Fah Road in Bangkok now shows 60 of Thomson’s black and white photos of old Siam. These photos were taken in 1865 – 1866. The exhibition is called “Siam Through The Lens Of John Thomson”. It started on 10. January and runs until 28. February 2015. You have free entry to this exhibition.

Siamese nobleman Racha Chaya

Siamese nobleman Racha Chaya

The photographer arrived in Bangkok on 28. September 1865. Thus, the exhibition marks the 150th year since his arrival in Siam.

Siamese Buddhist bonze.

Portrait of a Siamese monk, 1865

While staying in Siam after living and travelling some other places in Asia like Ceylon and Malaysia, Thomson took photos of the King of Siam, members of the royal court but also of ordinary people. Hence, he also documented village life.

L0055805 Siamese boatman, Siam [Thailand].

A Siamese boatman with his oar.

 

siamese teenager with topknot

A Siamese youth with traditional topknot

What is special about Thomson is that he was the first (Western) photographer to be allowed into the Grand Palace and to take photos of King Mongkut, Rama IV. The King was very much impressed with his skill of taking photos.

800px-Thomson_King_Mongkut_of_Siam-762x1000

King Mongkut, Rama IV, in European attire, 1865

 

L0055542 The 1st King of Siam, King Mongkut, in state robes, Bangkok

King Monkut in traditional Thai attire and regalia of royalty, 1865

Hence, there is a very special picture of a procession taken in front of Wat Pho because the situation was that the King called everyone to stay still so that Thomson could take photos of this event. In fact, this is a rare picture of a historical moment that displays the greatness of Thai tradition.

king of siam and procession

The king and his procession in front of Wat Pho

What is more, Thomson also took photos of the city of Bangkok and Ayutthaya.

the chao phraya river as seen from the main spire of Wat Arun

The Chaophraya river viewed from Wat Arun

thomson_1

The pictures in this post are all taken from the Wellcome Library, London. They also have more photos of Thomson’s travel to other parts of East Asia.

Well, the exhibition is over but there is now a new book called ‘Siam Through the Lens of John Thomson’ published by River Books. If you are interested in history, old Siam and John Thomson’s photography, I strongly recommend you check out this work 🙂

Yours, Sirinya