The Best of Bangkok

Asian Geographic - - On Assignment -


ac­tion-packed, buzzing city of Bangkok has a seem­ingly end­less to-do list for vis­i­tors. Beyond the well trod­den al­ley­ways around Khaosan Road, there are sev­eral other routes to ex­plore in and around this bur­geon­ing metropo­lis.

The win­ning stu­dents and their ac­com­pa­ny­ing teacher will have the chance to jour­ney into the pre­his­toric past at the Di­nosaur Planet Theme Park in the bustling Phrom Phong area of Sukhumvit. The amuse­ment park is ded­i­cated to re­mem­ber­ing these pre­his­toric rep­tiles, from the fierce T. rex to the in­tel­li­gent Ve­loci­rap­tor. It houses up to 200 life-size mod­els, fea­tured in ex­hibits that im­i­tate nat­u­ral habi­tats, lo­cated around a cen­tral “ac­tive” vol­cano. It’s a must for palaeon­tol­ogy – and In­sta­gram – en­thu­si­asts!

From here, it’s a short drive back into the present, where the stu­dents will be able to ex­plore one of the tra­di­tional float­ing mar­kets just out­side the city; en route, we may stop to ex­plore the Tham Khao Bin cave, which show­cases mag­nif­i­cent sta­lac­tites and sta­lag­mites.

At the float­ing mar­ket, hun­dreds of boats nav­i­gate the sys­tems of wa­ter­ways out­side of the city. These mar­kets are one of Thailand’s most iconic cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties, pre­sent­ing the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to prac­tise your hag­gling skills. The nar­row boats are stacked high with fruit and veg­eta­bles and float­ing kitchens, from which you can sam­ple lo­cal Thai cui­sine, com­plete with a co­conut.

As the day fades out into even­ing, stu­dents may have the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in a Muay Thai train­ing ses­sion. Known as “the art of eight limbs”, this an­cient mar­tial arts tra­di­tion can be traced back to the 12th cen­tury, when it started out as a form of com­bat. It has evolved into a ma­jor sport­ing em­pire to­day, with peo­ple from around the world flock­ing to Thailand to train and com­pete. About an hour’s drive west of Bangkok is the lush cul­tural com­mu­nity of Sam­pran River­side, a fam­ily-owned eco-vil­lage that of­fers a va­ri­ety of cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties and work­shops on their 70-hectare prop­erty, flank­ing the Tha Chin River. The ini­tia­tive part­ners with lo­cal farmers in a lo­cal com­mu­nity en­gage­ment en­ter­prise that pro­motes or­ganic agri­cul­ture and sus­tain­abil­ity; they also col­lab­o­rate with lo­cal schools. The es­tate houses a ho­tel, sev­eral restau­rants, and a cul­tural vil­lage that en­cour­ages vis­i­tor education on tra­di­tional Thai ac­tiv­i­ties such as bam­boo danc­ing, pot­tery, rice farm­ing and Thai cook­ing.

A par­tic­u­lar high­light is the Sook­jai Or­ganic Farm tour. The 15-acre or­ganic farm­ing op­er­a­tive grows a range of veg­eta­bles and herbs, such as

The nar­row boats are stacked high with fruit and veg­eta­bles and float­ing kitchens, from which you can sam­ple lo­cal Thai cui­sine, com­plete with a co­conut

morn­ing glory, spinach, basil, egg­plants, chill­ies and lemon­grass, amongst oth­ers. They also grow a va­ri­ety of or­ganic rice such as Hom Pa­tum and Hom Nako­rn­chaisri. Sam­pran River­side also launched a lo­cal farmer’s mar­ket called Talad Sook­jai, which runs on week­ends.

The Hot Soup School Chal­lenge win­ners will have the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in a range of ac­tiv­i­ties at Sam­pran, while also kick­ing back and re­lax­ing in this oa­sis just out­side the city.

Af­ter the fall of Sukhothai, Ayut­thaya – founded in 1350 – be­came the sec­ond cap­i­tal of the Si­amese King­dom, and re­mained so be­tween the 14th and 18th cen­turies. It flour­ished, be­com­ing a cos­mopoli­tan hub of pol­i­tics, re­li­gion, com­merce and cul­ture, and was once home to over a mil­lion peo­ple. The great em­pire was over­thrown by the Burmese in 1767. Thou­sands of peo­ple were im­pris­oned, and many of the great city’s trea­sures and his­tor­i­cal arte­facts were sadly looted. The seat of power shifted, and for decades, the glory of the for­mer em­pire was all but for­got­ten. How­ever, be­gin­ning in 1969, the city un­der­went ma­jor restora­tion.

To­day, Ayut­thaya is run as a his­tor­i­cal park, and has been listed as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site. Many of the sites have been par­tially re­stored, so that vis­i­tors are pre­sented with a glimpse of the king­dom’s for­mer glory. The win­ning team will have the chance to ex­plore this mag­nif­i­cent com­plex of tem­ples, monas­ter­ies and stu­pas. Pack a good pair of walk­ing shoes!

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