Wat Niwet Thamprawat is a monastery located on Balen Island in the Chao Phraya River opposite the Bang Pa-In royal palace south of Ayutthaya. The Temple was constructed in 1867 under orders from King Rama V, who wanted the temple to have the architectural style of a Western cathedral. The building is Gothic style and beautifully adorned with colorful stained glass. Inside the temple, the principal image of Buddha and his followers are placed to resemble the alter of a Christian church and not a traditional Buddhist Church. The monastery is home to a quite large Buddhist school where many novice Monks can be seen taking care of the amazing temple grounds.
On the southern end of Balen Island is a Light House and Public Park. The Light House was constructed at the same time as the Wat Niwet Thamprawat to act as a beacon for boats carrying supplies to both the Temple and Bang Pa-In Palace. The Public Park is a great place to catch the extting sun in the nice warm evenings of Thailand.
The most unique feature of the island is the method of entrance and egress, which is a simple cable car system, which is accessible from the Bang Pa-In Palace Parking area.
The Amphawa Floating Market is an excellent example of the modern day floating markets found in Thailand today. The market is located approximately 1.5 hours drive to the west of Bangkok within the Samut Songkhram Province. The history of Thailand's floating markets developed naturally, due to the vast system of waterways found in Thailand and Amphawa's history dates all the way back to the Ayutthaya period.
The market is only open on the weekends and is mostly visited from local Thais who are looking for a nice day of shopping and a great lunch next to the waterways of the market area. Delicious food is sold from colorful boats. The market offers a number of interesting boat tours that include a tour of the local temples as well as a tour to see the fireflies that inhabit the trees along the river.
The food sold from the boats is fairly inexpensive but very delicious and fresh. A huge recommend!
Getting to Amphawa from Bangkok on your own can be a challenge. There are vans that leave from the Victory Monument Circle (adjacent to Centry Mall). I recommend getting to Victory Monument Early in the morning (between 8 and 9). Also, I recommend buying your departure ticket on arrival to Amphawa. Go to the Van Station at least an hour before the scheduled departure time and signing in. The Vans fill up fast!
Approximately 60 kilometers north of Bangkok, near the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya, lies Bang Pa In, the summer palace of the King of Thailand. Nestled on the banks of the Chao Praya River, the original palace complex dates back to the 17th century and the reign of King Prasat Thong, although many of the buildings you see today were built during the palace's revival under Rama IV (King Mongkut) during the latter part of the 19th century. When you first enter the magnificent grounds of Bang Pa In you will be greeted by beautifully rendered gardens set around a vast ornamental pond.
The main path will first take you through the Outer Palace grounds, past Ho Hem Monthian Thewarat (The Golden Palace of the God King). Built in the shade of a Banyan tree, this small stone shrine was constructed in 1879 in the form of a Khmer-style prang (a residence of a king or god with a shape reminiscent of an ear of corn). Dedicated to King Prasat Thong, the shrine houses a small alter and the image of a deity.
Standing on the opposite shores of the ornamental pond is Saphakhan Ratchaprayun (The Assembly Hall for Royal Relatives). This colonial-style two-story building was built in 1879 for use by King Chulalongkorn's brothers. The building is now home to a small exhibition detailing the history of the palace complex.
From here you will also be able to see a truly wonderful Thai-style building that sits on an island in the center of the lake. Glistening in sumptuous gold, Phra Thinang (Royal residence) Aisawan Thiphya-Art (The Divine Seat of Personal Freedom) is considered to be the finest example of a Thai pavilion (sala Thai) and has been designated a national symbol. The pavilion houses a statue of Rama V (King Chulalongkorn).
Phra Pathom Chedi is the tallest stupa in the world with the height of 127 metres (417 ft). A Stupa is a structure related to the Buddhist religion which contains holy relics. The temple which houses the stupa is Wat Phra Pathom Chedi located in the town of Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. The name Phra Pathommachedi (said in Thai of course) literally means “Holy chedi (stupa) of the beginning”. The stupa at the location is first mentioned in Buddhist scriptures of the year 675, however archaeological findings date back to the 4th century. In the 11th century it was overbuilt with a Khmer (Ancient Cambodia) style prang, which was later overgrown by the jungle. King Rama IV later rebuilt the chedi in its present glory, which was completed in 1870.
Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi in Kanchanaburi is perched on top of a rocky hill overlooking the Mae Klong Hill, affording visitors an amazing view of the river valley. The twined Temples are quite different with Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple) having a Thai design and a large covered Buddha Image and Wat Tham Khao Noi being a Chinese design and a large overlooking Chinese pagoda.
Wat Tham Sua offers a cable car to visit the main level of the Temple. Once on the main level, there are still many steps to take for the determined traveler to get to the top of the large chedi adjacent to the large covered Buddha. The views are worth the trip to the top.
Wat Tham Khao Noi has a labyrinth of steps winding through the temple to the Pagoda. The Pagoda has also many spiriling steps to the top. But again, the work is worth it for the awesome views of both Wat Tham Sua and the Mae Klong River Valley.
The two temples are not connected, so to see both it takes a lot of work, walking to the top of one and then the other. To me the trip was well worth the fantastic views!
To get a good understanding of what occurred in World War 2 with the construction of the Thailand-Burma Railway or Death Railway, I suggest visiting certain locations in Kanchantaburi. The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum will give you a lot of the history of the difficulties that the prisoners of war and the Asian workers endured to build the railway under the brutal command of the Japanese Military. The Death Railway section of the Tham Krasae Railway Station will show you the amount of rosk that needed to be removed and the bridges that needed to be built, mostly by hand. The Kwai River Bridge that was made famous by the 1957 film “Bridge over the River Kwai”. And the somber Kanchantaburi War Cemetery, the final resting place for many of the prisoners of war who died during the railway construction.
The Ban Hat Ngio Rope Bridge is located deep within the Kanchantaburi Province, only a few kilometers from the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. The Bridge is only a few meters wide and is not actually rope but steel cable but may have been a rope bridge at one time. The bridge connects a small village with a temple across the Kwai River. Is a beautiful scenic area and one worth taking the brief detour after your visit to the Hellfire Pass Museum.
The Hindad Hot Spring is about a 4 hour drive from downtown Bangkok. While this is quite far, if you are in the area visiting other attractions in Kanchantaburi, a trip to the hot springs is worth a soak to unwind. There are several pools built at the hot springs to allow people to enjoy the hot mineral water. The pools are constructed with various temperatures so that you can start off at a moderately warm pool allowing you to get used to the warm water before you make the move to hot pool with is a warm 44 degree C. The pools are set alongside a tree shaded, cool stream just a few feet away from the hot spring fed pools for a quick dip.
So you can go from the hot pools to the cold stream waters (and vice-versa) to completely relax every muscle in your body. Thai massage is also available on site for a minimal fee. Entrance fee to Hindad Hot Spring is 40 Baht (1.20 USD) per person for a whole day of relaxing should you want.
The Sai Yok Elephant Camp in Kanchantaburi is a great place to get close to elephants. The camp offers visitors a chance to ride or wash the elephants within the camp. Most of the elephants are free roaming throughout the camp and you are allowed to roam the cam freely and take as many photos as you like. The camp is quite large and the trail the elephants take the visitors takes you through dense jungle and through some streams.
Many people died building the Thailand–Burma Railway during World War 2. One way to appreciate how difficult was is to visit locations along the “Death Railway” where the difficulties were at the extreme. The area east of the Tham Krasae Railway Station that is still in use today. This area is very scenic with the sheer cliffs along the winding Kwai River. But remember many gave their lives to remove the rock to make a flat grade for the trains to run smoothly during World War 2. If you get a chance to visit, and you feel the high humidity and temperature of what is typically Thailand, remember how difficult it must have been for the prisoners of war who did not have proper food or clothes (and no air-conditioning) and were often beaten if the slowed construction.
The trains on this line are mostly used for tourists, showing a big portion of the “Death Railway” within the Province of Kanchanaburi.
At the western end of the cliff area and just west of the Tham Krasae Railway Station is another interesting destination, the Krasae Cave. It is not a large cave but easy to access and there is a Buddhist Shrine in the cave making it a place for meditation.
Many of the destinations in Central Thailand is dense green jungle with spots of civilization here and there to make things interesting. Click here to view a list of Articles about Destinations in Central Thailand.
Bangkok's 9 Royal Temples
Bangkok Must Sees
Exploring Thailand's Nature
Islands of the Thai Gulf
Thailand's Royal Palaces
Thailand and World War 2
Explore Chiang Rai
Explore Chiang Mai