Category Archives: Bangkok

Hilltribe Ordination at The Marble Temple

Wat Benchamabopit, which is more commonly known as The Marble Temple, is probably the most beautiful temple in Bangkok. It is certainly one of the most unique as it is a blend of European and Thai architecture. It is a beautiful place to photograph at any time of the year. However, this last weekend was extra special as 285 Hilltribe people, mainly youngsters, were being ordained as novice monks.

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The boys and young adults taking part in this ordination ceremony came from 13 different provinces around Thailand. This is an annual project that has been organized in order to promote Buddhism among the Hilltribe people. This year it was done in honour of the 84th birthday of H.M. The King which is on the 5th December.

Normally young men being ordained as monks are supported by their families. However, as many of these Hilltribe people come from poor backgrounds, members of the public were invited to sponsor one of the novice monks. They donated 2,500 Baht to a scholarship fund and were then able to make merit by presenting the robes.

Presentation of robes took place all day on Saturday and also on Sunday morning. The same robes were presented many times to the young men dressed in white. Then on Sunday afternoon, the actual ordination took place. This started with a parade around the main chapel. This was done three times in a clockwise direction. They were led by long drums and dancers.

They then entered the main chapel where the ordination ceremony took place. Everyone first ordains as a novice. The first part of the ordination procedure is called the “Going Forth in Homelessness”. This is where the candidate requests to become a novice.

He is instructed about the Triple Gem (the Buddha, the Teaching, and the Community of Monks) and the purpose and benefits of the ordination. He is then told the five basic objects of meditation which are: hair of the head, hair of the body, nails, teeth and skin.

The first half concludes when the shoulder cloth is put over the head of the boys. After this, all of the candidates are taken outside to change from their white clothes to their robes. These are not easy to put on. The boys certainly couldn’t do it themselves. As there were so many of them, they needed the help of monks.

Once they had the robes on, then all of them went back into the hall. They next request to take Refuge in the Triple Gem and the Ten Precepts. They said: “I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dhamma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge.” This is then repeated three times. The abbot then tells them that they are now “samanen”.

As a novice monk, they have to obey the ten precepts. This includes basic things like not stealing or lying and also not eating after noon. But they can drink liquids in the afternoon like milk. At the end of the ceremony, the abbot reads the 10 precepts out in Pali which is the ancient language of the scriptures. The novices have to repeat them after him. The new novice monks now prostrate three times and leaves the hall.

Bicycle Ride During “Bangkok Car Free Sunday”

Today, the first regular “Bangkok Car Free Sunday” was organized. The idea was to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take their bike instead. For many people, that is easier said than done. Even though I took the BTS Skytrain into Bangkok today, I still had a 45 minute drive to my nearest station. Taking my bike on the BTS was quite easy and it didn’t cost any extra money. However, it is probably only practical to do this on Sunday mornings. Coming home I had to let two trains pass as they were too full.

Cyclists from all around Bangkok were invited to join a bike rally this morning starting at the King Rama VI statue in front of Lumphini Park. By 8:30 a.m. just over 400 people had registered to join the rally with their own bikes. A further 100 people signed up for the free bikes. Quite a few people were obviously serious riders as they were all dressed up in the proper gear. But, it was encouraging to see a number of families and also teenagers on their bikes.

The Bangkok Governor was at the starting point to wave us off. He actually rode on a bicycle for a bit, but that was only for the cameras and for only 30 meters. For us, we had two loops that covered about 10 kilometers. We first went along Rama IV Road, then up Wireless Road, past the US Embassy, turning left at Phloenchit and then left again at Ratchaprasong. We then rode down Ratchadamri Road, with a brief stop at AUA, before completing our first loop back at the King Rama VI statue.

Our second loop was a bit more interesting. We headed down Silom Road first where we did a brief stop at this abandoned Christian cemetery. Only this small chapel with a cross on the roof is left. Apparently they are going to develop this into a green space for local people. We then turned left into Pan road, where we passed the Hindu temple (below) and then at Sathorn Road we turned left again. We had regular breaks along the way which made it a very easy bike ride. Our last stop was Christ Church on Soi Convent. This church dates back to 1864.

At each place we visited, there was someone there who told us about the environment and also a bit of the history of the place. This was done in both Thai and English.  Apparently they are now planning on holding this event on the first Sunday of every month. I heard that the next one will be in Bang Kae. I will post on as soon as this is confirmed. Bangkok apparently already has 28 separate cycle paths covering a distance of 20 kilometers. They said that they will work on more.

All of these pictures were taken on my iPhone and uploaded live onto Twitter and my moblog live during the event. I then uploaded the rest onto my Facebook page while I was riding the Skytrain to my next destination. Incidentally, if you are taking your bike on the Skytrain, it is advisable to use the last carriage. If you want to take it on the MRT Subway, they will only let you if you have a folding bike.

Map showing the route of the 1st  Bangkok Car Free Sunday Bicycle Ride:

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Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok

One of the less known museums in Bangkok is the Royal Thai Air Force Museum. It can be found on Phahon Yothin Road which is on the eastern side of  Don Muang Airport. I was in the area at the weekend visiting Rangsit Floating Market and so took the opportunity to drop in on this museum. It is a great place to come for anyone with an interest in aviation. Not all of the air planes are Thai made and they have some surviving aircraft from all around the world.

The history of aviation in Thailand dates back to 6th February 1911 when Mr. Charles Van Den Born, a Belgian pilot, made the first demonstration flight in Bangkok. Three Thai officers were then selected to receive training in France. While they were there, the Thai Government ordered eight aircraft. After their graduation, the airmen and aircraft returned to Thailand in late 1913. On 29th December the first public test flight took place with Thai pilots. The aircraft in this picture dates back to the 1930’s and is a Curtiss Hawk III, believed to be the only surviving one in the world.

The Royal Thai Air Force museum was set up in 1952 with the purpose of collecting and restoring defense articles of different periods including equipment and aircraft in use during the early period of Thai aviation history up to the present. The RTAF museum was first located at a hangar west of Don Muang airfield and was not opened to the public until 27th March 1959. The present museum was constructed in 1968 at a total cost of 6,635,000 Baht. The museum was officially opened to the public on 24th January 1969.

The exhibits at the Royal Thai Air Force museum feature many types of aircraft rarely found anywhere else in the world. Many of them were in service during the war and  played a vital role in the safeguarding of Thailand’s independence. The numerous victory Medals awarded to the RTAF pilots attest to the bravery of the Thai pilots. The Royal Thai Air Force has tried to develop the museum to ensure that it has a complete historical record of the Royal Thai Air Force. In addition to the aircraft on display, there are also armaments and various uniforms.

The Royal Thai Air Force museum is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on national holidays. Entrance is free. On the premises there is also a shop selling souvenirs to do with aviation. The following is a map showing the location of the Royal Thai Air Force Museum in Bangkok:

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How to get there:

Buses no. 34, 39, 114, 356
Air Conditioned Buses no. 3, 21, 22, 25, 34, 39, 114, 356

Alms Giving to 12,600 Monks in Bangkok

Early on Sunday morning, thousands of lay people from Bangkok and the surrounding provinces, came together to give alms to an estimated 12,600 monks. The event took place along Ratchadamri Road in front of Central World. About 800 meters of the road from Ratchaprasong Intersection and towards Pratunam was closed to traffic.

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The Most Venerable Phra Phromamatee, member of the Sangha Council, was the master of ceremony and the presiding monk. Mom Ratchawong Sukhumphan Boriphat, Governor of Bangkok, and Mr. Virun Techaphaibul were the Chairmen for the event.

For Buddhist people, this year is very important as it is the 2,600th anniversary of Buddha’s Enlightenment. This is now the second mass alms giving that I have attended this year. The other took place back in April in Samut Prakan Province. Today’s event was in commemoration of Visakha Bucha Day which takes place on 17th May this year.

Visakha Bucha Day is one of the most important days in the Buddhist calendar. It takes place every year on the full moon of the sixth lunar month. Three important events happened on this day. These were the birth, enlightenment and the death of the Lord Buddha. Buddhists make merit on this day by going to the temple to offer food to monks and to listen to sermons.

The road in front of Central World was completely covered in white sheets. In addition, there were ten red lanes which marked the path to be taken by the 12,600 monks. Many of the lay people came early in the morning, even before the sun came up, in order to get a good spot. I was there at 5:30 a.m. and there was already hundreds of people there.

After chanting and a sermon, the monks then started to file down the paths between an estimated crowd of 100,000 lay people. In normal alms giving events that I have attended, the monks would start accepting alms straight away. However, as there were 12,600 here it wasn’t possible. So, they all filed down to the end first. Once all of the monks were on the red carpet, the lay people then started offering food to the monks at the same time.

The majority of alms offered were dried food as well as personal necessities such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Like the mass alms giving in Samut Prakan, most of the donated food will be sent to 286 temples in the deep south of Thailand. Proceeds will also be used to sponsor the Robe Offering Ceremony for the entire year.

Due to the on-going troubles in the four southernmost provinces in Thailand, it is not easy for the monks living there to go out on their daily alms rounds. In fact, monks have been targeted and shot dead in the past. The event today was organized to give them both moral support as well as dried food.

There will be another mass alms giving event later this year. Like this one, I will announce news of this on my Twitter account @RichardBarrow as well as on my Facebook page. Feel free to add me as a friend. We also have a new website for Thai Travel News where we will post more details as and when we receive it.

Sam Praeng Festival in Bangkok

Over this weekend, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) are organizing the “Sam Praeng – The Colours of Yesterday Festival”. The event is taking place in the communities of Phraeng Phuthon, Phraeng Nara and Phraeng Sapsaat. There are cultural events, exhibitions and lots of delicious Thai food.

Praeng in Thai means “junction”. This area was formerly the palace of King rama IV’s son. Later on, a road called Praeng Nara was built through the grounds of the old palace. A row of houses of European style, which was popular at that time, were constructed along both sides of the road. Many of them can still be seen today and are in good condition.

The festival starts at about 4 p.m. though it is best to go a bit later as it doesn’t really start to kick off until dusk. There are about three different roads in this area where the festival is taking place and each road has one or two stages set up for shows. This is the long drum parade through the streets.

The highlight for me was the food of course. Many of the shophouses had set up tables in front of their premises and were selling a variety of food as well as other items. Instead of eating one big meal I just walked around snacking on a variety of different food. This is a famous khanom buang shop. Their recipe is slightly different to ones I have tasted before.

The festival continues until about 10 p.m. Each stage has different shows that vary from singing to ballroom dancing. At this stage I watched the long drum dancing which is from the Northeast of Thailand. This show also included sword fighting and flame throwing.  I also watched a ten year old kid play a Thai xylophone.

This isn’t one of those big festivals. It is something organized by the local community. But, it is worth taking the time to explore the area as there is a lot of history here and the old architecture is something you don’t often see in a modern Bangkok. It is not too far from the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang.

Map showing the location of Sam Praeng:

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