Tour Thailand in a day - at the Ancient City

There is plenty of eye-candy

There is plenty of eye-candy

By Josh Morris

The thought of visiting a reconstruction of some of Thailand’s temples and houses on the outskirts of Bangkok might sound like a day at a tacky amusement park, but without the rides. However, The Ancient City (Muang Boran) in Samut Prakan is a pleasant surprise and a good way to spend a morning or an afternoon. The Ancient City is popular with school kids, tourists, lexpats and local people alike, but it never feels too crowded here, especially on weekdays.

The attraction actually opened in 1972, which will immediately answer your question about just how ancient it is. It’s located near enough to Bangkok to make it an easy place to visit for a few hours, but it’s far enough away to be a temporary respite from the hustle an bustle of the busy capital. It’s a good idea to head here in the morning, just after rush hour, so that you can enjoy the sights before the hottest part of the day begins, but also so as not to get caught up in late afternoon traffic on the way back.

The vast site takes up more than 320 acres, and it’s unlikely that you will cover every inch. The best advice is to head off armed with the attractions map and just explore at leisure. For the energetic, there are plenty of bikes available for hire, but far more fun is to zip about with a golf buggy. You’ll notice immediately that the shape of the Ancient City closely resembles the shape of Thailand itself, and similarly the attractions are located in roughly the same position they are in the country. Certainly a clever idea by the planners, it means you can easily establish whether you’re looking at a northern or southern style dwelling for example.

It is a pleasant surprise that there is nothing tacky here; the reproductions are excellent with considerable input from National Museum experts in their construction, and it’s a great way for people who only have a short time in Thailand to view some of the attractions that they simply won’t have time to see, as well as some that no longer exist. At the last count, there were 116 monuments here, but with the promise of more to come. You will notice construction taking place in some areas of the park, but this isn’t something that will adversely affect your visit.

In true Thai style, organise your day around a lunch stop. The Floating Market area has some good eateries overlooking the water, and this is the place to stop for a meal, although you will find plenty of smaller drink and snack stops as you explore. On a recent visit here, I encountered a large party of school children, so it might be a good idea to take an early or late lunch if the noise of 50 excited kids might be too much for you, not to mention the novelty of trying out their English language skills on a foreigner!

Good if you miss Ayuthaya or Sukhothai

Good if you miss Ayuthaya or Sukhothai

One of the park’s most notable monuments is the reconstruction of the former Royal Hall of Ayutthaya, the original of which was destroyed in 1767. There are a good range of Thai style houses from years gone by, placed according to the different regions of the country. Not all of the monuments are reconstructions however; some are the genuine article. For example, there is a wooden temple in the northern area of the park which was bought from a hill-village in northern Thailand. Tourist guide to Ayuthaya.

Fairly close to the entrance, you’ll find a model Thai village where you can buy a range of souvenirs of differing quality. You might find something of interest, but in reality you’ll find much better souvenir shopping elsewhere in Bangkok.

You’ll regularly hear people say things like “not half as tacky as I expected”, but at the same time, some people will genuinely enthuse about the place, as one British tourist said, “this is a great way to do some sightseeing without the kids getting bored”.

The Ancient City’s size makes it too big to attempt to walk around it in a day, which would soon become a tiring chore. The benefit of the size though is that even when it’s relatively busy, you will never really notice it. There are plenty of bicycles available at the entrance, as well as a mini-tram service with Thai, English, Japanese and Chinese speaking guides available. However, to maximise your enjoyment, it’s recommended that you rent a golf buggy for a few hours.
More on the Ancient City.

There are a number of organised tours that include the Ancient City on their itinerary, but it is an easy enough place to visit independently, despite being outside of the city. A taxi from central Bangkok will take about an hour to get here, or you can take the BTS (sky train) to On Nut and then take a taxi from here. Most taxi drivers will know Muang Boran (Ancient City), and there are usually a number of taxis in the car park to take you back to the city on your return journey. You can also negotiate with your taxi driver to wait for you.

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