DAY ONE – DAMNOEN SADUAK FLOATING MARKET
My sister and her family will soon be coming to Thailand for their “once-in-a-lifetime” holiday. Well, maybe not quite true, but this is certainly their first holiday abroad as a family. They have been saving up for years to pay the air fares for their family of five. I have been put in charge of planning their short stay in Thailand. To be clear here, this is really only the stopover. The main event is the beautiful beaches of Queensland, Australia. They will be arriving late Monday afternoon and I will be taking them back to the airport on Friday afternoon of the same week. So, we basically have three and a half days to play with. What I thought I would do here is work out a rough schedule. Naturally, nothing is set in stone. Any holiday should be as flexible as possible. Even more so at the moment as we are in the middle of the rainy season. So, we could re-arrange the order of these days or even change things completely.
At the moment, the first day involves waking up at 5.30 a.m. in order to travel to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. It is true this place is a bit touristy, but if you arrive early then you can easily experience an “authentic” floating market from yesteryear. At least it will be possible to get some picture perfect postcard shots. We will rent a boat here and be paddled around the canals. Then a fine Thai style breakfast. From here we would probably head to Nakhon Pathom to visit Phra Pathom Chedi, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. There is also a fine collection of Buddha images here. In the market surrounding the stupa we will sample some of the delicious Thai desserts such as sticky rice in a bamboo tube.
The road back to Bangkok from here passes three major tourist attractions. We won’t have the time or energy to visit them all. These are The Human Imagery Museum, The Rose Garden and Samphran Elephant Ground. I think we will skip the first one as it is basically a wax museum of notable Thai and world leaders. The Rose Garden is good for the cultural show where you can see traditional Thai dancing, an ordination ceremony, a Muay Thai boxing match and a wedding ceremony. This costs 480 baht each. The nearby Samphran Elephant Ground has a crocodile wrestling show and a spectacular elephant battle show. This costs 500 baht each. It is possible to do both but it would be rushed. The tour groups do it but I think we should choose one.
DAY TWO – THE GRAND PALACE, THONBURI CANALS AND RECLINING BUDDHA
Our second day would be spent in Bangkok. The highlight of any trip here is of course The Grand Palace and the neighbouring Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Hopefully we will get a bit of sunshine for this as the sparkling colours should be fantastic for photos. Very difficult to take bad pictures here. A tip if you are coming here by yourself, ignore anyone that tells you that the palace is closed for a ceremony until 3 p.m. If he says the code word “lucky buddha” or “big buddha” then you will know he is a con-man. Just ignore him. The police certainly do.
After the palace, we will probably head to the nearby pier at Tha Chang. This is where they used to take the palace elephants to bathe in the river. The plan will be to rent a long-tailed boat for a one hour tour of the Thonburi canals. Even before you reach the pier you will be approached by people who will try and tell you that it costs 1,000 baht each. Ignore them and keep walking. If we are lucky, we should get a boat for about 700 baht. The plan would be to stop briefly at the Royal Barge Museum and end up at Wat Arun a.k.a. the Temple of Dawn. After exploring here we will cross the river to Wat Pho a.k.a. the Reclining Buddha. If we made an early start then we should be very hungry by now. I think we would then head to one of the air-conditioned shopping malls at Siam Square for a late lunch. We could stop at the Erawan Shrine near Central World for some free Thai dancing. I think by this time they will be really tired so I won’t plan anything else other than shopping. I was thinking of taking them to Siam Ocean World. But as they are going to Queensland, I would suggest they visit the aquarium there instead as it is not only better but it is also cheaper.
DAY THREE – BANG SAI ARTS & CRAFT CENTER and AYUTTHAYA HISTORICAL PARK
This is a full day so hopefully they are over jet lag and they have plenty of energy. The historical park at Ayutthaya will be the main destination. There are about four or five different temple ruins to visit here. We will have our own transport so it will be easy to get around town. If you go there by train or bus then you can rent a bicycle for the day. There is also the option to do a boat trip if we don’t do the Thonburi canal trip the day before. I really like Ayutthaya and it is only about 90 minutes from Bangkok.
There are a couple of major tourist attractions that can be visited on the way to Ayutthaya. These are Bang Sai Arts and Craft Center and Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. You could do both but you would have to cut down on the number of places that you will visit in Ayutthaya. So, I would pick Bang Sai. The Thai village here has buildings from all regions of Thailand. A great place to compare architecture and way of living. You can also visit the factory buildings where you can see people doing traditional forms of handicraft as well as silverwork and bamboo weaving. It is quite a fascinating place to wander. There is also a large shop where you can buy their work. This place is supported by the royal family. It was set up to help people in rural areas of Thailand to gain valuable skills in order to help support themselves and their community.
DAY FOUR – ANCIENT CITY and ERAWAN MUSEUM
The final day is a short one, but as I live in Samut Prakan, visiting the Three Headed Elephant at the Erawan Museum and the nearby Ancient City shouldn’t take us too long. If you are in Bangkok, then you would need to have a full day to come here. Both of these are highlights and you need to spend as much time as you can. We will go to the Erawan Museum first as you have to join a tour. The three-headed elephant is massive. There is a lift in the rear leg and it takes you up into the belly of the elephant. The Ancient City is a great place to go if you don’t have time to visit all of Thailand. Basically you can see replicas of all the most important buildings and monuments from around Thailand. It is a massive 300 acre park that you can explore on foot or by bicycle. If you drive around in a car, it would take you at least two hours to see the highlights. Really you need all day to do it justice. It is a great place to take photos of yourself and pretend to your friends how much you traveled!