This is a fun and pretty place we recently visited.
It’s called Ancient City or Muang Boran. It’s located about 30 km from Bangkok, or a 40 + minutes, 300 ish baht taxi ride away.
We had heard that it was a touristy attraction that showcased miniature landmarks from around Thailand. We expected just that, miniature buildings and very hot weather. We were right about the scorching sun, but we were surprised by everything else. It was not kitchy miniature buildings, but a vast area roughly in the shape of Thailand, with landmarks from around the country, mostly temples, in smaller scale. Not miniature, just a little smaller.
Some of the buildings are replicas, some are the actual buildings removed from their original home and reconstructed there (like the beautiful houses of the floating market area). There are also other buildings that are original designs by the founder of Ancient City.
See, this place was established by Lek Viriyaphant, a wealthy Thai businessman turned cultural heritage promoter. He started construction in the 1960’s, and the official oppening was celebrated in 1972 with the royal reception of Queen Elizabeth II by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
You can cruise the grounds by bicycle, by a fixed-route tram, or, like we did, hire a golf cart. We spent an outstanding 7hours there, with a 2 1/2 year old, and enjoyed it very much. We didn’t even get to see everything, it’s that vast, and we loved it that much.
Why we loved it:
We were not expecting much and were pleasantly surprised. To us it didn’t feel fake, artificial, “disney-like”. It felt alive and lived-in, if that makes sense. There were foreign turists, but there were many more thai turists, which to us was a positive thing in a place meant to preserve and promote thainess (very envogue in Thailand right now…)
The park wasn’t crowded, but it didn’t feel too quiet either. There were clearly people actually living on the grounds, inside some of the houses displayed as traditional dwelings of different regions of Thailand. There were children’s toys, and slippers at the house’s thresholds, friendly cats, but also vintage carts and dusty village artifacts clearly there for the show and not for real use. Inside the temples, replicas of famous ones, people actually prayed and left offerings.
This sense of being genuine extended to the food. There was plenty of it, street food, exactly the same in variety, preparation, and presentation, as you would find in any given street in Bangkok (or Thailand? i wouldn’t know). The little stalls were scattered around the park, with more choices – and english translations- around the floating market area.
As a vegetarian I was surprised to not have a problem finding something for lunch. That is a topic for another post but Thailand is not so vegetarian friendly- unless you speak some thai and are familiar with thai food and the ingredients that go into a dish. I had a Pad Thai, that was very good. Our other non-vegetarian lunch choices were a papaya salad, sticky rice and fried chicken. We also had some fruit and a really nice little sweet called Khanom Thuay sold by friendly old ladies. We drank a lot of fresh coconuts throughout the day, and some refreshing (but a tad too sweet) hibiscus tea.