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See Bangkok, knows Thailand

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Next to the Royal Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, there is a vast open ground called Sanam Luang or Thung Phra Men.   There may not be much going on, but Sanam Luang has some historical significance.  At the time when Bangkok was first established, the ground was a rice field and was sometimes used as a location for a royal crematorium, Phra Men in Thai. The ground was, thus, otherwise called as ‘Thung Phra Men’ which means the crematorium ground. In considering that the name was inauspicious, King Rama IV had the ground renamed as ‘Thong Sanam Luang’, or the Royal Ground, and the rice farming there cancelled.  The area is used for various public events, most notably for political activities during election time.  It is still also used as a crematorium for the high-ranking Royal family members. 

If you have a few hours to kill in the afternoon, there are a few places around the Grand Palace that is worth seeing.

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Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ)  This old temple was built in the reign of King Rama I. Located on Na Phrathat Road near Thammasat University, the temple houses Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, one of the two highest seats of Buddhist learning in Thailand and also offers meditation classes for foreigners.  Open: Daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tel: 0 2222 6011; Meditation Centre Tel: 0 2623 6326


The City Pillar Shrine. (ศาลหลักเมือง) According to an old Thai tradition, a city pillar had to be built upon the establishment of a new city. King Rama I had the Bangkok city pillar erected near the Temple of the Emerald Buddha on Sunday, 21 April, 1782, with the city’s horoscope inside. The original pillar was made of cassia wood known as Chaiyaphruek, measuring 75 cm. in diameter and 27 cm. high. In the reign of King Rama IV, the old dilapidated pillar was replaced by a new one made of the same kind of wood, measuring 270 cm. high and standing on a base of 175 cm. wide, sheltered by a Prang-shaped shrine as it appears today. The shrine also houses images of protective deities including Thepharak, Chaopho Ho Klong, Phra Suea Mueang, Phra Song Mueang, Chaopho Chetakhup and Phra Kan Chai Si. Open: Daily Admission: Free

The National Theatre (โรงละครแห่งชาติ), located on Na Phra That Road next to the National Museum, is the official centre of Thai classical performance.  Call 0 2224 1342, 0 2222 1092 for a current programme.

 Patravadi Theatre (ภัทราวดีเธียเตอร์) is near Wat Rakhang, Thon Buri. Renowned for its lavish productions, this outdoor theatre has gained popularity through its modern adaptations of classical Asian literature, with each play demonstrating an ingenious blend of various theatrical techniques.  The theatre also operate a riverside restaurant with some great view and tasty Thai food.  Showtime is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Call 0 2412 7287-8 or www.patravaditheatre.com for a current programme.

 Source of content and photographs  : Tourismthailand.org   &  Wikipedia.org

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