by Wayne Burns
Bangkok, ThailandSanam Luang, the heart of the capital
Sanam Luang is one of the few a visitor can realistically visit on foot, although even here distances are long. Within the district can be found the Grand Palace complex and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew). This compound, with its massive whitewashed, castellated walls, is open to the public every day for an admission fee, which includes the entrance ticket to Vimanmek Palace, located some distance away.
King Rama I founded the Grand Palace after seeing that the site was the least vulnerable to attack. But his contribution was merely the laying of foundations. Each of his successors built upon the earlier beginnings so that the buildings in the complex date from different periods. The main palace, Chakri Maha Prasad, was constructed in 1867 by Rama IV, or King Mongkut, who had invited Anna Leonowens to come to Siam to tutor hsi children. Guidebooks, available explain the history and architectural features in detail. The compound is large and, together with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, can easily require a half-day tour to do it justice.
Continuing around Sanam Luang, one can see, facing north, the Ministry of
Defense with its collection of cannons on the lawn, and across the street, in a marble pavilion, the shrine housing the Rak Muang or City Pillar, placed there by King Rama I. This is regarded as Bangkok`s symbolic foundation stone, with the power to grant wishes.
On the other side of Sanam Luang, still facing north but on the left, can be seen Wat Mahathat and Silpakorn University.
Further on are the buildings of the National Museum, National Theatre and behind, on the river, the buildings of
Thammasat University. This center of learning, called the University of Morals and Politics before World War II, was an internment camp for citizens of the Allied countries, some five hundred of whom stayed there throughout the war.
Tours of the National Museum are conducted in many languages by volunteers, starting in the mornings on weekdays.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office, located at:
Tourism Authority of Thailand
1600 New Phetchaburi Road, Makkasan, Ratchathevi,
Bangkok 10400, THAILAND
Tel: 662 250 5500, TAT Call Center: 1672
Will have the exact times and days for these tours. A tour of Sanam Luang can easily consume a day if the Grand Palace and the National Museum are combined.