Outside of Bangkok, on the old road to the beach resort of Pattaya, lies a relatively little known park dedicated to preserving Thai cultural heritage in the form of the many significant buildings and historical places from throughout the country. Founded by a rich Thai gentleman (recently deceased) the "Ancient City" (Muang Boran in Thai) is well worth a visit.
Taking up 320 acres of land, roughly in the shape of Thailand, the huge park reproduces -- usually on a smaller scale -- important buildings from around Thailand. There are over 100 monuments collected or reproduced. Some of them are reconstructions of buildings that no longer exist. Other buildings are examples of traditional vernacular architecture that were scheduled to be demolished and instead were purchased by the Ancient City, dismantled and reconstructed in the park. The panorama above left was taken from a small scale reproduction of Khao Pra Viharn, a mountain-top temple on the Cambodian border.
Many of the buildings represent religious and royal sites from around Thailand as well as from the past. The throne hall at right reproduces one which was destroyed 200 years ago when the old capital of Ayuthaya was sacked by the Burmese. Inside are some quite exquisite examples of Thai wall paintings, and you can easily imagine the first ambassadors from Europe handing their credentials up to King Narai enthroned on the elevated reception area.
There are also many examples of typical Thai houses from the past. The gate with the nice view at left is in a typical central Thai house consisting of several individual single-room buildings around an elevated platform.
One of the most striking examples of temple architecture is the wooden wat purchased from a hill temple in the North of Thailand (right). Its beautifully carved and decorated, and very different from the typical Thai temples you will see all over Thailand today. The bicycles you see in front (click the photo to enlarge it) are for rent for use within the park, which is quite large. They are a good way to get around if you don't have a car. You really wouldn't want to walk all the way around the park. As it is, it will take you most of a day to see the whole thing.
As it does take the better part of a day to see the park, you'll be wanting lunch. There are ample "snack bars" spread throughout the park, but the place for lunch is the recreation of a Thai floating village (left). There are a number of restaurants in various styles on the water. You can walk around until one place strikes your fancy. The food is generally basic Thai. There are also some souvenir stands around the village as well.
The Ancient City is constantly expanding and improving. Under construction is a massive temple (right) which when finished will contain something like 1,000 Buddha images, one of every kind and style.
A visit to the Ancient City makes an excellent, although potentially exhausting, full day outing from Bangkok. Be sure to start early and allow yourself the better part of a day to see everything. The Ancient City is located on the old Sukhumvit road. Its not far from the Crocodile Farm, which is a better known attraction.