A few years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit Thailand for the first time as part of my three country Southeast Asia tour I booked through my favorite company, Exotissimo Travel.  My too-short stay was based out of the old part of Bangkok, and included visits to Ayutthaya and all the most popular destinations in the city.  Bangkok is rich with treasured historical sites and temples that bring visual pleasure with their amazing display of color and detail.  My favorite places were the wats, or temples, that were decorated with remnants of broken shipments of china plates.  Religious icons, flowers, and intricate designs were created and combined like one giant mosaic project.  You can find the best examples of the use of china on the facades at Wat Arun and Wat Pho.  Also at Wat Pho, you can view the 15 meter high and 43 meter long golden Reclining Buddha statue laying on his side, head propped up by his right hand.  His slippers are decorated on the bottom with 108 panels depicting the symbols of the Buddha, all designed using inlaid mother of pearl.
Wat Arun
Wat Pho

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
The Grand Palace was the official residence for the Kings of Siam, later Thailand, from 1782 to 1925 and now serves as location for royal events.  It is a complex of many buildings topped with gold spires and traditional angular, steep roofs made of red and green tiles.  One of the buildings within the palace walls contain the famous Emerald Buddha, a 45 cm tall figurine made of green jadeite and dressed in gold robes.  The legend of the Emerald Buddha's existence dates back to 43 BC.
Grand Palace
Grand Palace

Grand Palace
While staying in Bangkok, you can't pass up a trip just outside of the city to the old capital of Siam: Ayutthaya. Founded in 1350 by King U Thong, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. What remains today are the foundations of buildings and ruins of several temples from the former capital that once was home to a population of up to 1 million people. In 1767, the city and its treasures were destroyed by the Burmese army, during one of their final invasions of many that occurred over a span of more than 200 years, and its people were subjected to terrible acts of violence by the conquering power. Wandering around the old grounds of the kingdom, you can still find some interesting sites, like the sacred Buddha head engulfed in banyan tree roots or the tombs in Wat Ratchaburana. In the modern town of Ayutthaya, you may see vendors selling rooster souvenirs of many sizes, including a 20 foot gold sequined rooster!  Locals purchase the roosters and place them by the King Naresuan Monument because he is one of the country's most revered leaders, as he had many military accomplishments and led the Thai independence from Burma in the late 16th century.  King Naresuan is often pictured with a rooster and his love of cock fighting was well known, so to honor his legend, locals leave him their purchased roosters.
Buddha in the tree at Wat Mahathat


Wat Mahathat and Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana




If you have some extra time on your vacation, hop a plane to enjoy one of Thailand's fantastic beach destinations.  I chose to explore the popular destination of Phuket and went SCUBA diving around the Phi Phi islands, whose reefs were surprisingly undamaged from the tsunami.  "The Beach," starring Leonardo Di Caprio, was filmed on the Phi Phi islands, and there are some places where the water is the most interesting shade of blue/green.  Beware if your boat captain pulls up near a shore filled with monkeys - those little buggers can swim fast and climb aboard like little pirates because they've been conditioned to expect boats to bring them bunches of bananas.  Another beautiful island I want to try the next time I'm in the country is Koh Samui.



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