Thursday, April 16, 2009

Samut Prakan's Ancient City

Ancient City aka Muang Boran. This photo only courtesy of wikitravel's cheric baker.

I've always loved visiting Bangkok, but I almost never do a DIY trip here. Sometimes, those package tours - along with the United Nations crew - are huge savings. Imagine just paying 800 baht for a Kanchanaburi trip that visits a minimum of 5 sites, including a train ride along the bridge over the River Kwai? Today was different. I set my sight on Samut Prakan's Ancient City aka Muang Boran (pronounced nasally as "muy-yeng bolan" - or the locals will never understand you).

Lonely Planet recommended several buses, but after asking the stamp vendor at Banglamphu, as well as the tourist police at the nearby jetty, I was told to get Bus no. 82. This will take about 2 hours. The great news? To my surprise, this was FREE! - and aren't the best things in life... you know the rest!

Here is the catch. This will take you to Samut Prakan indeed - at the Phra Pradaeng area, which crosses the gargantuan bridge and across the river. Unfortunately, you should not cross that bridge after all. I did! There were a lot more options. Take a boat to cross the river, then from the other side, take another boat that... etc. etc. etc.

I ended taking a taxi - meter! - that directly took me straight to the compound of Samut Prakan's outdoor museum of Muang Boran. B200 later, and 30 minutes longer than what Lonely Planet mentioned, I paid my entrance fee of 300 baht; chose the tram, instead of a bicycle - it was blisteringly hot!

Samut Prakam is 32 kilometers south of Bangkok. And Muang Boran, as it is called locally, sits the world's largest outdoor museum which contains 109 scaled-down replicas of Thailand's most important sites. This is Thailand's version of the Philippines' erstwhile Nayong Pilipino.

About 500 photos later, and a dozen gallons of sweat absorbed within my shirt, I was a very contented traveller. This "museum" has replicas of the country's most famous sites, including those that have been completely eradicated or ruined already.

Go visit Thailand, everyone. If you have, come again! It is spectacular. There is the presence of the military as you head out of the metropolis, but this is not the case as you head out of the city. From outside the Muang Boran, I crossed the other side (there is an overpass) then took a minibus - a makeshift pick-up - at less than 5 baht to Pakham. Then with the help of those amazing Thai - strangers if you may - I took the AC bus 511 that took me back infront of Pratunam's Platinum Mall (at 16 baht only). If that isn't charmed traveling, I dunno what is!

Lesson learned: there is a reason why the Lonely Planet is updated almost on a yearly basis. If locals tell you a different story, than your LP, there must be a reason for that. If I followed what was instructed, I would have arrived there 30-60 earlier. I wouldn't have to pay for a metered taxi - 200 baht. I would have had more time to explose the almost 200 structures in Muang Boran. But no regrets. Some lessons you learn the hard way.

This is the
Eye in the Sky watching all the way from Samut Prakan, Thailand.

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