Central Thailand: Travel/Tourist Information Guide
Central Thailand is the region that surrounds the Thai capital of Bangkok making it the most populated region in the country. It is also called the Central Plains because it covers the broad alluvial plain of the Chao Phraya River. The region contains a blend of natural and cultural attractions with a touch of modernization. Aside from the bustling capital, the region is also the home of the historical towns in the Chao Phraya Basin with Ayutthaya and Lopburi as the most visited destinations. The natural beauty of nature is mostly found in the west of Bangkok including Kanchanaburi.
The city of Bangkok is Southeast Asia's primary travel hub. It is located at the basin of the Chao Phraya River. As the capital city of Thailand, it is the center of commerce and communication. With a population of 14 million, Bangkok is the largest and busiest city in Thailand and it is divided into 50 districts. Numerous attractions include museums, temples, and parks that mirrors the culture and history of the city. The Royal Grand Palace is one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the city. The artifacts, the Thai art, and the architecture of the palace continuously awe the tourists who visit here. Wat Arun is the most visited temple in the city. It is also known as the “Temple of Dawn” for its magical and striking sight when it reflects the first light of the morning sun. n the heart of the main business district lies a pristine, serene, and calm Lumpini Park; the largest park in the city. Here, people enjoy the calm greenery away from the busy streets.
Ayutthaya is located about 80 kilometers north of Bangkok. It is filled with a rich historical background. It was the capital of the Thai Empire and the center of trade since 1350. It is the most prosperous city in Southeast Asia in the 17th century with three palaces and 400 temples threaded by canals. Nowadays, the ruins remain and some are restores, granting it to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is now known as the Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park featuring palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries, and statues. For learning more about the city’s historical past, the Ayutthaya Historical Study Center is the best museum to go to. The largest temple in Ayutthaya is the Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Another popular temple to see is the Wat Mahathat, a large temple with rows of headless Buddhas. Outside the city walls, there are remarkable temples and remains from the countries that once set sail here like the foreign settlements of the Netherlands, Japan, and Portugal.
Kanchanaburi Province is the third largest province in Thailand. It is located 130 kilometers west of Bangkok. The province has 13 Amphoes or districts. The Kanchanaburi Town is located at the confluence of Kwai Noi River and Kwai Yai River and it is two hours away from Bangkok. The main sight of interest in Kanchanaburi is the Bridge over the River Kwai, a part of the infamous Death Railway to Burma. Another part of the Death Railway is the Hellfire Pass or the Konyu Cutting. It is a rock cutting done by hand by the Australian and British POWs that measures 73 meters long and 25 meters high. The information regarding the history of the World War II in Thailand lies in the museums of Kanchanaburi. The most visited temple is the War Pha Luang Ta Bua, which is popularly known as the Tiger Temple. It is one of the biggest attraction in the region.
The province of Lopburi is located just over 150 kilometers due north of Bangkok. It is famous for the hundreds of crab-eating macaques, a medium species of monkey, that roam around the Old Town especially around Phra Prang Sam Yot and Phra Kaan Shrine. There are also monkey amusement parks in the city. Aside from the monkeys, the city is also homing ancient ruins like the Ban Vichayen; the remains of Constantine Phaulkon's residence that was built in the reign of King Narai the Great, the Phra Kahn Shrine, the Phra Narai Ratchanivet with Somdet Phra Narai Museum that houses prehistoric exhibits, the Phra Prang Sam Yot that is a Khmer-style temple known for its three linked towers, the Wat Phra Phutthabat, the Wat Phra Sri Rattanamahathat that is one of the town's most important monasteries, and the Wat Sao Thong that features a large Buddha figure are some of the ancient places that are worth visiting. The sunflower fields in Lopburi are also one of the most fascinating places in the city. At Jiin Lay Mountain, rock climbing is a featured recreational activity.
Saraburi is about 140 kilometers north of Bangkok. It is known to be housing the Buddha Footprint in the Wat Phra Buddhabat. It is under royal patronage of the first class. The footprint is covered by an ornate,jewel-like building called a mondop. Behind the mondop, there is a series of platforms that continues on up the hill. At the top of the hill are signs that leads to a path around the peak to the other side of the hill. Following the path, there is a small cave that houses a seated Buddha image on a raised dais.
The province of Nakhon Pathom lies at about 56 kilometers west of Bangkok. The two main sights of interests are the Phra Pathom Chedi and the Sanam Chan Palace. The Phra Pathom Chedi is the tallest Buddha pagoda in the world. The tip of the spire is 127 meters above the ground. The chedi sits on two-tiered square base with circular gallery that surrounds the area. At every points of the gallery, there are large chapels that are housing different Buddha image. The Sanam Chan Palace was built by King Rama VI. The main royal residences are grouped around a circular drive on an island in the center of the park. These are the Tab Kaeow Residence, the Phiman Pathom Residence, the Vajariromaya Residence, and the Chali Mongkhon Asana Residence.
Petchaburi is a beach town about 80 miles south of Bangkok. Some of the main attractions are the Phra Nakorn Khiri, the Khao Luang Caves, and the Cha Am. The Phra Nakorn Khiri is hilltop retreat built by King Mongkut with views of the countryside. The Khao Luang Caves is filled with Buddha images. The Cha Am is a resort town that is continuously developing and attracting a lot of tourists.