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10 Most Popular

 

By Rachawadi

10 Most Popular
Cultural & Historical Tourist Destinations of Thailand

Last year, Osotho, the oldest and most popular Thai-language tourist periodical of Thailand, conducted a poll among its readers throughout the country, to find out the relative popularity of the numerous tourist destinations of this country. The poll was divided into five categories; national parks; islands; cultural and historical sites; festivals; communities and way of life. In this issue, Thaiways would like to present some most popular cultural and historical destinations which were included in the poll for the reference of our readers'Ed.

1. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaeo, was built by King Rama I, the founder of the present Chakri Dynasty, in 1782. It was located within the Grand Palace, just like Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which was inside the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya. The King had the     intention to enshrine the most  sacred Emerald Buddha, which he had just recovered from Vientian, the capital of Laos, in this new temple.


The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

The beautiful temple became one of the earliest  tourist spots opened to the people from all over the world when tourism was first promoted about 50 years ago. Apart from its important status as the place where the Emerald Buddha is enshrined, the magnificent architectural style, the splendid decorations of the temple, and the mural paintings along the winding corridor, depicting the Thai version of the Indian epic the Ramayana, which consist of 178 sections and is considered the longest mural of the world, are also the temple's main attractions to the visitors.


Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

2. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

This place of worship on a mountain top just outside the city of Chiang Mai was built in 1373 in the reign of Phaya Kuena of the Lanna Kingdom to house a relic of the  Buddha. The golden octagonal chedi, standing amid Lanna-style shrines, and ancient but still flourishing trees, and at the top of a stairway consisting of over 200 steps, has been the number-one attraction of the North to Thai and foreign tourists and pilgrims alike for decades.


Phra Nakhon Si Ayuthaya Historical Park

3. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, Ayutthaya

The longest-lasting former capital of Siam, Ayutthaya, which had func-tioned as the seat of  the royal courts for 417 years, was placed on the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites by the UNESCO as early as 1991. Ruins of grand architectural structures are today scattered over a large area, mostly in the forms of religious buildings, such as temples, chedis and statues of Buddha, reflecting a long, continuing period of prosperity of Buddhism in this country. Within the historical park, there are a total of 211 archaeological sites, including the famous Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mongkhon Bophit, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Maha That, Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Lokkayasutharam.


Wat Arun Ratchawararam

4. Wat Arun Ratchawararam, Bangkok

Wat Arun is known for its majestic corn-cop-shaped pagoda called prang, which, at a height of 70 metres, standing on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River as the largest and tallest prang of the world. It was built in the reign of King Rama III, with four smaller ones surrounding it, all decorated with colourful porcelain pieces. This group of prang has become a well-known sight among people from all over the world, partly because it has been used, together with the state barge, as the symbol of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).


Si Satchanalai Historical Park

5. Si Satchanalai Historical Park, Sukhothai

The park is an ancient region that has left  traces of its long process of development from a group of prehistoric communities to
areas of high prosperity in art and culture before it  was registered as a World Heritage Site in 1991. It is remarkable for its numerous large-sized ancient laterite buildings, covering part of Chaliang, an ancient town, and part of Si Satchanalai, which developed in a later stage. These historic sites are situated in natural surroundings of mountains and forests without the disturbance of modern prosperity. The park is thus considered a historical tourist spot whose atmosphere is the most beautiful and perfect in Thailand.


Sukhothai Historical Park

6. Sukhothai Historical Park, Sukhothai

The ancient city of Sukho-thai which is closely related with the city of Si Satchanalai in origin, was egistered as a World Heritage Site, also in 1991, in the name of Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns (of Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet). It has its distinguished features being the birthplace of the Thai alphabet, several other aspects of Thai culture and systematic city planning. Its Buddha images are also recognized as of  supreme beauty. Last but not least, there are large-scale historical sites of different kinds, including huge statues of Buddha, though, so far as natural beauty is concerned, Sukhothai Park, being located not far from town, is not quite as superior as Si Satchanalai.


Phra That Phanom

7. Phra That Phanom, Nakhon Phanom

According to legend, the original Phra That Phanom was built no less than 2,300 years ago, when Phra Maha Katsapa together with 500 arahats brought a breastbone relic of the Buddha to be enshrined here.
The original chedi was toppled in 1975 after being  hit by a violent storm for several days continuously. Donations were made enthusiastically by people from the whole country for the re-construction of the chedi and a new Phra That modelled on the original was completed in 1979. Once again, it became a crowded place of worship thronged with Buddhists and tourists from all over the country, especially the northeastern provinces, all the year round. Around the full-moon day of the third Thai lunar month (corresponding to February) when a Buddhist festival is held, the place will be bustling day and night.


Phra Pathom Chedi

8. Phra Pathom Chedi, Nakhon Pathom

With a height of 120 metres and a circumference of 235 metres, Pathom Chedi is a place of worship held by the Thai people as a national pride. It is a Sri Lankan style  pagoda shaped like a turned bell. King Mongkut, or Rama IV, when he was an itinerant monk, first found the chedi in a dilapidated condition. He presumed that this big chedi might have been built by the emissary-monk of King Asok the Great of Sri Lanka to Suwannaphum, as Siam was then known, for the first time to spread Buddhism. After his enthronement, he had a new, larger chedi built to cover the old one and named it Phra Pathom Chedi, meaning the First Chedi. Today it still attracts large numbers of pilgrims from every corner of the country. In the basement of the chedi there is a national museum, in which a large collection of artefacts of the Dvaravati Period (9th-11th C.) is kept.


Phimai Historical Park

9. Phimai Historical Park, Nakhon Ratchasima

Phimai Stone Castle is the largest stone castle in Thailand. Judging from the record of a stone inscription and the artistic style of the building, the castle was constructed during the reign of King Suryavarman I in the 16th century of the Buddhist Era as a Brahmanist temple. The architectural style is a mixture of Baphuon and Angkor Wat. The temple was converted into a Buddhist one in the reign of King Jayavarman VII. And Phimai National Museum in the castle is the place where a large and most interesting collection of ancient artefacts of Khmer is kept.


Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park

10. Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park, Phet Buri

Phra Nakh on Khiri, or Khao Wang, is the only royal palace of Thailand that is located on hilltop. The hill was formerly named Khao Samana after Wat Maha Samana, which was built on the eastern slope of the hill in the Si Ayutthaya Period. King Mongkut, or Rama IV, when still a monk, used to go up to the hilltop to pray. After his ascension to the throne, he ordered the construction of a palace on the west peak of the hill where he resided, a house for the attendants on the central peak, where a relic of the Buddha was enshrined, and Wat Phra Kaeo on the east peak to serve as the King's  private chapel. The King named the group of hilltop buildings Phra Nakhon Khiri Palace. These buildings, though not majestic nor splendid, have a unique charm of perfect harmony when you see them in the landscape. What is more, you can reach the hilltop by cable car, making your trip even more enjoyable.


Tourists ride bicycles around
Sukhothai Historical Park

If you are interested in visiting any of these cultural and historical sites, please contact
Alex Holiday on tel: +66 (0) 2880 7388-9,
www.alexholiday.com

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