Day Trips From Bangkok

CROCODILE FARMKnown as the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo, it lies 30 kilometres southeast of Bangkok. Founded in 1950, the farm has over 40,000 crocodiles of 28 different species, some of them no longer in existence elsewhere. The farm was acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the largest crocodile ever held in captivity. The Estuarine/ Siamese hybrid named 'Yai' measures six metres in length and weighs 2,465 pounds. The highlight of the visit to the farm is a show in which handlers go into a pond full of crocodiles and handle them by their tails rather roughly. The ferocious reptiles seem to obey the orders quite obediently, except for some stubborn ones. Besides crocodiles, the farm also has other zoological amusements. There are elephants, which dance to disco music, gibbons, which are now on Thailand's protected species list, a collection of poisonous snakes, lions, tigers, a tame python, a black bear and a host of other birds and animals. The farm is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission fee is Bht. 200, which includes the crocodile wrestling and elephant show.

ANCIENT CITYA few kilometres from the Crocodile Farm is the Ancient city, which bills itself as the world's largest outdoor museum. Spread over 81 hectares of what were rice fields, it took three years to construct. The complex has scale replicas, some full size, others one-third the size of the original, of famous monuments and temples from all parts of the kingdom. Some of them are reconstructions of buildings that no longer exist, like the Grand Palace and Royal Chapel of Ayuthaya. In addition to the monuments, the Ancient City has a model Thai village, in which you can see artisans at work on various native handicrafts like lacquer ware, ceramics and paper umbrellas. The complex takes an entire day to cover as each building is situated according to its actual geographical location to give an idea of regional variations in architecture. It is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

FLOATING MARKETOne attraction that is almost certainly on any visitor's agenda is the Floating Market at Damnern Saduak. The trip to the market starts very early in the morning from one of the many piers along the Chao Phraya river. In a comfortable boat, you get to sail along one of the major canals of the city witnessing scenes of Thai life along the banks. Men and women wearing straw hats can be seen transporting their merchandise to the Floating Market in their longtail boats. The market is specially famous for its fruits, particularly large, succulent pomelos. Early morning is the ideal time for visiting the Floating Market because around 9 a.m. the place is deluged by thousands of tourists and there seems to be a traffic jam even along the waterways.

AYUTHAYASituated some 89 kilometres to the north of Bangkok, Ayuthaya is the former capital of Thailand (1350-1767). It was completely destroyed by retreating Burmese forces in 1767 but the ruins still bear witness to its former splendour. Archaeological excavation of the site, on which Chao Sam Phraya Museum also stands, is still continuing and some of the ruins have been restored. During its hey day, Thai culture and commerce flourished there as the English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish held their trading posts in Ayuthaya. Today Ayuthaya is a bustling country town sprawled along the main street from the Pridi Damrong Bridge to a little beyond the Chandrakasem Palace. There are two museums in Ayuthaya namely Chao Sam Phraya and Chan Kasem. The former, in the centre of the town on Rajana Road, contains a superb collection of terracotta, bronze and stone statues mostly from the Ayuthaya Period and some belonging to the Lopburi and U-Thong styles. Probably the best way to reach Ayuthaya is by boat, though bus and train services also are available. Several cruises run daily between Bangkok and Ayuthaya, bookings of which can be made either at the travel agencies or at the travel desk in most of the hotels.

BANG PA-IN PALACE About 60 kilometres from Bangkok on the river route to Ayuthaya, the Bang Pa-in Summer Palace is a charming collection of palaces and pavilions once used by the kings of Thailand as a summer retreat. Although the Bang Pa-in Palace itself presents some fine examples of Thai architecture, the surrounding palace complex illustrates Thailand's fondness for adaptation, with two buildings in the classical Greek architectural style, a Gothic church and a replica of the Imperial Palace of Beijing. A Thai-style pavilion called Aisawan Thipaya-art in the middle of the lake is regarded as one of the finest examples of Thai architecture.

ROSE GARDENThirty-two kilometres west of Bangkok lies a resort which is very popular both among Thai people and overseas visitors. Known as Suan Samphran, the Rose Garden is a combination of beautifully-landscaped gardens, a modern hotel with convention rooms, several classy restaurants, a swimming pool, a golf course, a bowling alley, and a model Thai village. Also available are facilities for boating and water-skiing on the lake. The highlight of the resort is a traditional Thai cultural performance amidst the Thai cultural village setting. The performance includes Thai folk dances, classical dances, sword fights, Thai boxing, a Buddhist ordination ceremony, and an elephant show.

NAKHON PATHOMJust 54 kilometres west of Bangkok is the city of Nakhon Pathom where Buddhism is believed to have been introduced to Thais. Its colossal landmark seems to tower over the surrounding countryside. Standing 127 metres high, Phra Paithom Chedi is the tallest Buddhist monument in the world. In the days of canal travel, a royal visit to Nakhon Pathom involved more than a day's journey. Hence it is not surprising that various palaces and residences were built there. The Sanam Chandra Palace has a fine sala (formerly a meeting pavilion) and a building in the most unusual Thai interpretation of English Tudor architecture.

KANCHANABURIOne of the most picturesque provinces of Thailand, it was built under the patronage of King Rama III. About 129 kilometres to the west of Bangkok, it is located at the confluence of Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi rivers. The formation of Maeklang River starts from here. Besides the dense jungles and rugged hills, the area is known for the infamous Death Railway Bridge over the River Kwai constructed by allied prisoners of the Japanese army during World War II. Australian, British, Dutch and Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the construction of the Death Railway lie buried at the Kanchanburi cemetery. The area achieved archeological distinction during the war when a freak accident led, to the discovery of Neolithic burial sites in the area. From a study of the remains, it was established that a definite cultural link existed at some time between the people who lived in Thailand and those who lived in the Malaysian peninsula. There are several valleys and waterfalls worth seeing. Notable among them are Erawan Khoo Phang or Sai Yok Noi and Sai Yok Yai. The cave temples of the Golden Dragon or Wat Tham Mangkhon Thong, Wat Tham Khoo Laem and Wat Tham Koo Poon are also worth a visit.

LOPBURIThe former summer capital of Thailand, Lopburi lies 155 kilometres north of Bangkok. The journey through the fertile rice bowl of Thailand is a pleasant one. Just 10 kilometres north of Ayuthaya, the hills of Korat plateau appear on the horizon. Lopburi was an important town during the Dvaravati and Khmer periods. The last scenes of King Narai's life were played out in Lopburi in the Suttha Sawan Pavilion. Of King Narai's buildings, the only one which has substantially survived is the Dusit Maha Prasat Hall. This was built for the audience granted by the king in 1685 to Chevalier de Chaumont, ambassador of King Louis XIV. Of particular interest in Lopburi are two important relics of the Khmer and pre-Khmer periods. One located just west of the railroad, is a 13th century laterite block shrine with three spires which gave it its Thai name of Phra Prong Sam Yod (Sacred Three Spires). The second is the Hindu Spire (Prong Khaek) in the centre of the town. This monument was probably built during the 11th century and restored by King Narai in the 17th century.

WANG TAKRAI PARKEstablished in 1955 by the late Prince Chumbot of Nagara Svarga and opened to the public by his widow, this 200-acre park is situated in a picturesque valley 106 kilometres from Bangkok. traversed by a stream, the park has a large variety of trees, shrubs and flowers. Nearby attractions include two waterfalls, Nam Rong and Salika.

KHAO YAI PARKThailand's most popular wildlife and nature preserve is 205 kilometres from Bangkok. It offers a spectacular view of thickly forested valleys and hillsides and a number of waterfalls. In the vicinity are tigers, elephants, bears, monkeys, deer, porcupines, civets, mongoose and various species of birds and butterflies. A paved road cuts through the park with branch roads leading to Heo Suwat waterfall and the summit of Khoo Khaeo mountain.

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