An Insider’s Guide to the Ancient City
- Published on Wednesday, 29 July 2015 10:47
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If you’re pressed for time and want to experience Thailand’s full cultural heritage in a day, stop in at the Ancient City, and get a glimpse into what life was once like in Old Siam. You can wander through the grounds of glorious temples, get a feel for the culture and customs that inspired the country’s rich history, and learn about the soul and purity of the Buddhist beliefs that draws people to Thailand again and again. Thailand’s exotic allure resonates with tourists from all over the world, but for many visiting the capital it can be difficult to really see what Bangkok was once like. Of course you can still find charming little places tucked in next to the modern city skyscrapers, and a trip out to Ayutthaya or Chiang Mai will introduce you to some lively aspects of the country’s past, but it can be difficult to see it all.
To get a sense of the most important landmarks the country has to offer, there is another way. Set over 240 acres, the Ancient City has scale replica’s of 116 of Thailand’s most important ancient sites concentrated in a single attraction. You can check out each of these heritage sites in detail, and still be within an hour’s reach of Bangkok. The open air museum follows a layout that emulates the country of Thailand, with the monuments placed in the same representative geographical locations as their real-life counterparts. But don’t let this fool you. The Ancient City is definitely not a miniature toy attraction, and the replica’s are architectural marvels in themselves. Some are impressively large, allowing you to walk among giant Buddha statues, and through the ornate interiors of the ancient palaces and temples. A day at Ancient City allows you to really soak up the atmosphere and the history of Thailand.
It’s also a nice day trip to get out of Bangkok, and what I find most appealing is the ability to properly experience and walk through all of the different sites. Bicycles are available so you can pedal your way throughout the ‘mini-Thailand,’ and then it’s as simple as hopping off at each historical monument you want a better look at. If it’s a little too hot for cycling, golf buggies are also available to send you whizzing through the park, marveling as sites like the Death Railway or the ancient Lanna temple zip by.
The concept behind the Ancient City came from a single man, Lek Viriyaphant. Initially he wanted to create a golf course following the layout of Thailand complete with scale miniatures of important historical sites, but after discovering the state of decay many of these were in he changed tactics. The concept was no longer for tourism, but educational, as he strove to create an open-air museum that would preserve Thailand’s rich history and teach people about the country’s past. What is most impressive is the fantastic attention to detail that has been incorporated into every replicated site, and the real crown jewel is the Grand Palace. It’s been built as a traditional Thai palace, and while it differs substantially to the real Grand Palace you can visit in Bangkok, it’s the most impressive site in the Ancient City.
Another fascinating area contains a number of traditionally-built Thai homes, as well as the market which has been created specifically to help tourists step back in time. As you walk through the ancient stalls, the chaos of modern Bangkok couldn’t be further from your mind. A floating market has also been setup, with winding walkways out across the water, and plenty of delicious items for you to enjoy with lunch, or to snack on as you stroll by all the sites. The statues and gardens are used to explain the local legends, and the real beauty of the Ancient City is the large green spaces where you can sit, relax, and soak up the atmosphere of times gone by.
For anyone who is tired of the typical tourist attractions, the Ancient City is a refreshing change, and there is nothing gimmicky about it. The entire purpose behind the project has been education, highlighting the splendors of the past and to preserve the ancient culture of Thailand. I was surprised at the lack of visitors to the park, and the ability for Ancient City to succeed in opening every visitor’s eyes to the strong heritage of Thailand. Walking around the grounds you’re able to check out the sites in detail, without bumping into tourists at every turn, showing you another side to Thailand – it’s definitely worth a visit.