A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about palaces

Mutrah and Old Muscat

Bug-eyed fish and the Sultan's Palace

sunny 24 °C
View 2013 Round the World Trip on FrancisRTW's travel map.

Building (largely by workers from India and the sub-continent) seems to be happening everywhere in Muscat, indeed everywhere in Oman. New international airport, new railway network, 4G upgrade to the telecom network; a major new infrastructure project seems to be announced everyday. Everywhere that is apart from Mutrah and "Old" Muscat which seem quiet unhurried villages on the coast in comparison with the bustle just a short distance inland.

Mutrah, despite being the main port area for Muscat has the feel of a small fishing village with a very active fish market where the daily catch is delivered and sold. It had a lovely atmosphere without a particularly fishy smell and nobody seemed to mind as we (and subsequently a coach load of tourists from the recently arrived cruise liner in the port) wandered round the fish market looking at all the different types of fish that had been caught that day. There were tuna, swordfish, sardines, red snappers and many other strange looking types of fish most of which I couldn't name; one large dark coloured fish with protruding eyes looked particularly ugly to me as it was laided out for display at the back of a truck (see final fish market photo).

Stallholder at Mutrah Fish Market

Stallholder at Mutrah Fish Market


Freshly caught Swordfish and Yellowfin Tuna at Mutrah Fish Market

Freshly caught Swordfish and Yellowfin Tuna at Mutrah Fish Market


Mutrah Fish Market

Mutrah Fish Market


Mutrah Fish Market - the cruise liner tourists arrive

Mutrah Fish Market - the cruise liner tourists arrive


Ugly looking Fish being unloaded at Mutrah Fish Market

Ugly looking Fish being unloaded at Mutrah Fish Market

Moving on from the Fish Market we walked along the "Corniche" or harbour wall looking at the boats in Mutrah's harbour and port area. There were a couple of pretty Dhows moored off shore but pride of place was given over to the Sultan's Royal Yacht with its dedicated naval supply ship behind it. It's an impressive looking boat but apparently spends most of its time moored here. Behind the Royal Yacht was the big cruise liner Costa Atlantica and a couple of small catarmaran ferries, I think we can guess which boat the coachload of german tourists at the Fish Market came from!

The Corniche at Mutrah

The Corniche at Mutrah


Dhows in Mutrah Harbour

Dhows in Mutrah Harbour


The Sultan of Oman's Royal Yacht in Mutrah Harbour

The Sultan of Oman's Royal Yacht in Mutrah Harbour


The Cruise Liner Costa Atlantica moored in Mutrah Port

The Cruise Liner Costa Atlantica moored in Mutrah Port

Across the road was the entrance to Mutrah Souq, a typical chaotic Arab Market but housed in a surprisingly modern building. We were lucky to visit it on a Sunday, an unusually quiet day but will still heard one stallholder offering to sell "Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh" which perhaps isn't one of the most original of sales pitches but probably goes down well with the tourists.

The entrance to Mutrah Souq on the Corniche

The entrance to Mutrah Souq on the Corniche


Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh on sale at Mutrah Souq

Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh on sale at Mutrah Souq


Mutrah Souq

Mutrah Souq


Mutrah Souq

Mutrah Souq

From the Souq we moved on to Old Muscat in the next bay along the coast. Like Mutrah, Old Muscat feels unhurried and small scale compared with the bustle of the commercial area slightly in land but the buildings are certainly not old and pride of place goes to the Sultan's Palace built in 1972 on the site of the former British Embassy. Surrounding the Sultan's Palace were different ministry buildings and a couple of museums one of which was the Bayt Al-Zubair with its interesting well presented collection of traditional weapons, clothing and other artifacts from the different regions of Oman. It also had a new hall dedicated to the "Jewel of Muscat", a replica of an Arab Dhow that was sailed to Singapore in 2010 recreating what happened in the 9th Century.

The Sultan's Palace

The Sultan's Palace


The Sultan's Picture on the wall of the Bayt Al-Zubair Museum

The Sultan's Picture on the wall of the Bayt Al-Zubair Museum


Giant ornamental Frankincense Burner at Al-Riyam Park overlooking Mutrah Harbour

Giant ornamental Frankincense Burner at Al-Riyam Park overlooking Mutrah Harbour

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Oman Tagged museums markets cruise_ships harbours palaces souq Comments (0)

Ayutthaya

Day trip to the Ancient Capital of Thailand

sunny 37 °C
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Ayutthaya lies 52 miles (85 kilometres) north of Bangkok and was one of the ancient capitals of Thailand until it was destroyed by the invading Burmese Army in 1767. For over 400 years it prospered and was covered in temples and after its destruction was replaced by Bangkok built on newly exposed land in the Gulf of Siam.

On the way we visited the Royal Palace at Bang Pa-in most of which was built between 1872-1889 and is still used occasionally by the King and Queen of Thailand for hosting state receptions and banquets. The grounds are very ornate and are built in a european style. in the centre of the gardens is the Aisawan-dhipaya-asana Pavilion surrounded by a pond in which we could feed bread to some very energetic turtles and fish! The Royal Palace itself is a two storey manaion built in the Chinese style containing an impressive throne room on the ground floor.

The view up the lake as you enter the grounds of the Bang Pa-in Palace

The view up the lake as you enter the grounds of the Bang Pa-in Palace


Turtles swiming in the pond surrounding the Aisawan-dhipaya-asana Pavilion

Turtles swiming in the pond surrounding the Aisawan-dhipaya-asana Pavilion


Ho withun Thasuna

Ho withun Thasuna


The Phra Thinang (Royal Residence) Wehart Chamrun from the Ho withun Thasuna

The Phra Thinang (Royal Residence) Wehart Chamrun from the Ho withun Thasuna


Me in front of the throne room at the Royal Residence

Me in front of the throne room at the Royal Residence

About an hour's drive later we reached Ayutthaya which is a UNESECO World Heritage Site. In 1700 Ayutthaya ideally situated for trade between India, China and Malaya was the largest city in the world with a population of about 1 million people. The Wat Maha That Temple seemed the most impressive part of the site with its pagoda towering above the ruins and the evocative sandstone buddha mostly buried and overgrown by a tree.

The ruins of Wat Maha That

The ruins of Wat Maha That


The pagoda at Wat Maha That

The pagoda at Wat Maha That


The head of the Sandstone Buddha

The head of the Sandstone Buddha


Buddha amongst the ruins at Wat Maha That

Buddha amongst the ruins at Wat Maha That

We then moved on to Wat Na Phra Mane, the only part of Ayutthaya not destroyed by the invading Burmese Army in 1767 as it was used as their headquarters. The Buddha is unusual in that it is dressed in Royal Attire, as with all Buddhist Temples we hasd to remove our shoes before entering.

The monastery at Wat Na Phra Mane

The monastery at Wat Na Phra Mane


Me by the Buddha in the Temple at Wat Na Phra Mane

Me by the Buddha in the Temple at Wat Na Phra Mane

Our final stop at Ayutthaya before a boat trip back to Bangkok was to the temple at Wat Lokayasutharam which holds one of the largest Reclining Buddha Images (although not as large as the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho that I saw the previous day).

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam


Me by the Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam

Me by the Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam


Wat Wora Chet the Ram near Wat Lokayasutharam

Wat Wora Chet the Ram near Wat Lokayasutharam

Passing rice paddy fields on the way, we then met up with a cruise boat and had a very tasty Thai Buffet Lunch as we floated down the river back to Bangkok. Amongst the temples and houses on stilts the peppered along the shore we also passed landing craft given to the Thai military by the USA following the Vietnam War and the shed containing the Royal Barges now used only for ceremonial occasions.

Paddy Fields on the way to meet up with the cruise boat back to Bangkok

Paddy Fields on the way to meet up with the cruise boat back to Bangkok


Surplus Landing Craft given to the Thai Military after the Vietnam War

Surplus Landing Craft given to the Thai Military after the Vietnam War


The Royal Barge Sheds by the Phraya River

The Royal Barge Sheds by the Phraya River


A large portrait of the King of Thailand beside th River Phraya

A large portrait of the King of Thailand beside th River Phraya


The Grand Palace Complex from the Phraya River

The Grand Palace Complex from the Phraya River

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples boat ruins palaces buddha tour solo Comments (0)

Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace

The one that nearly got away

overcast 32 °C
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I was so impressed by the spendour and extent of Wat Pho when I visited it on my first day in Bangkok that I assumed incorrectly that I had covered off Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace (the number 1 tourist sight in Bangkok) next door as well. Having realised my mistake I realised I could just about fit them in on the morning of my departure.

I took my by now well trodden path of the Skytrain to the central pier at Saphan Taksin (the Skytrain is a couple of railway lines built on elevated trackway along major streets in the centre of Bangkok) and then the ferry up the river to the Chang Pier (Pier No. 9) where I negotiated my way through the street market to the entrance to the Grand Palace Complex.

Skytrain at the National Stadium Station

Skytrain at the National Stadium Station


Skytrain tracks at multiple levels outside the MBK Center

Skytrain tracks at multiple levels outside the MBK Center


View from aboard a ferry on the Phraya River

View from aboard a ferry on the Phraya River


Getting off the ferry at Saphran Taksin

Getting off the ferry at Saphran Taksin


Street Market by the Chang Pier on the way to the Grand Palace

Street Market by the Chang Pier on the way to the Grand Palace

Once I got to the Grand Palace it was overrun with tourists, especially the older initial Phraw Kaew that houses the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha itself is tiny when compared with others I have seen - only 66cm tall - but the spendour of the gilded temple that houses it you would hardly notice. Dress code was particularly enforced at the Emerald Buddha and many of the ladies ended up wearing borrowed sarongs and no photographs are allowed inside so the picture I have got was taken using zoom.

Wat Phra Kaew viewed from the outside

Wat Phra Kaew viewed from the outside


Giant guarding the entrance to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Giant guarding the entrance to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha


The Emerald Buddha

The Emerald Buddha


Me by the Temple to the Emerald Buddha

Me by the Temple to the Emerald Buddha


The upper terrace at the Grand Palace, including the Golden Chedi, Phra Mondop and the Royal Pantheon

The upper terrace at the Grand Palace, including the Golden Chedi, Phra Mondop and the Royal Pantheon


Detail from around one of the spires outside the Royal Pantheon

Detail from around one of the spires outside the Royal Pantheon

Next door to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha Complex is the Grand Palace itself. This is a much newer and contains buildings that are still used for state occasions and also is guarded by ceremonial guards. Just like in London the guards constantly had tourists jumping beside them to have their photo taken!

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace


Changing the Guard outside the Grand Palace

Changing the Guard outside the Grand Palace


Me outside the Chakri Maha Prasat and Dusit Maha Prasat Hall at the Grand Palace Complex in Bangkok

Me outside the Chakri Maha Prasat and Dusit Maha Prasat Hall at the Grand Palace Complex in Bangkok


The Dusit Maha Prasit Hall next to the Grand Palace

The Dusit Maha Prasit Hall next to the Grand Palace

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged trains temples markets boat city palaces buddha monorail solo Comments (0)

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