Thursday, 13 December 2018

Walking Tour of Ratchadamnoen Road

This tour starts near Sanam Luang Ground in front of the Royal Hotel at the northern end of Atsadang Road, which is parallel to Khlong Lot Canal dug up to mark the boundary of the capital area in the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809). Walking along Atsadang Road until you reach the second cross-roads, then turn left onto Bamrung Muang Road. On the left there is a short narrow path leading to Phraeng Phuthon Community consisting of rows of 2-storey shophouses painted in green and cream and built in the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910).

Going further on Bamrung Muang Road for a few hundred metres after crossing Sao Chingcha Intersection, you will catch the sight of the Giant Swing. This giant swing was used in the past in an annual Brahmanic ceremony.

However, the old red swing aged 45 years was already removed. The replacement of the brand-new one, comprising the four well-selected logs of the golden teak, was just completed in December 2006. Wat Suthat behind the giant swing is attractive for its large cast bronze presiding Buddha and the splendid carved door leaves which are replicas of the masterpiece of King Rama II (1809-1824), who was an all-round artist. The original ones are now kept in the National Museum.

From Wat Suthat continue northwards along Din So Road you will find Bangkok Metropolitan Administration on your right hand side. At the end of this short road is Ratchadamnoen Avenue or the Royal Avenue, on which the Democracy Monument is located. Then walk further to the right and you'll see a beautiful pavilion newly built for receiving guests of state, and the nearby Statue of King Rama III (1824-1851). Behind the pavilion is the unique Loha Prasat (Metal Castle) Pagoda. The pagoda is in the shape of a square with 3 storeys and 36 small pagodas along the edges of the floors and one at the centre of the top floor. Despite its name, there is no metal part in the whole structure except the lightning rods fixed to the pagoda tops. Presently, it is the only one of its kind left in the world. (The two other formerly built in India and Sri Lanka were already in ruins.) It is part of Wat Ratchanatda, a beautiful temple which was built by King Rama III.

Then go out of the temple through its gate on Mahachai Road, turn right and walk a few steps to another temple, Wat Thepthidaram, which was constructed in the same reign. The influence of China is reflected through the designs and decorations of porcelain and Chinese stone statues. Walking back to Ratchadamnoen Avenue, at the corner where Mahachai Road and the avenue meet is Mahakan Fort with a short section of the old city wall. Both were built by King Rama I. The fort was among the 14 erected to guard the capital.

After crossing Phan Fa Bridge just outside the fort, you will see at a short distance away on your right, a resplendent and magnificent golden pagoda on top of a mount called Phukhao Thong (Golden Mount). It is located in the compound of Wat Saket. Built by King Rama IV, this gilded chedi houses a Buddha relic from India. The golden chedi can be reached by a 318-step spiral stairway. While on top, you'll have a wide view of the older part of Bangkok.

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