D.B.N. MURTHY

From the Grand Palace to the temples, the food carts to the river taxis, Bangkok promises to be a tourist's delight with its varied sights and sounds.

There is magic in the air as one walks in the streets of this great city Bangkok, known as Krungthep meaning City of Angels. Bangkok is a city of temples boasting around 400, the most famous being the Wat Phra Kaeo, within the complex of buildings in the Grand Palace, where the king, his family and the people worship the Emerald Buddha. On certain days, the king or his crown prince might arrive at the temple to worship and hand out gifts to monks. On these days, visitors are not allowed inside. The royal family is held in high esteem and so are the monks. The emerald Buddha is made of jasper and the temple was consecrated in 1782 A.D. The outer walls are decorated with frescoes depicting scenes from Ramakien - the Thai version of the Ramayana. Indians can easily identify certain characters from the Ramayana. Wat Pho is the temple of the 46m long reclining Buddha and is the oldest and largest of the temples in the city. Wat Tramit has the world's largest solid gold Buddha idol, sitting in meditation with a serene smile.

Food paradise

Candles are favourite offerings to Buddha along with flowers and incense sticks. One may find some of the largest and most beautiful wax candles in these temples. Wat Arun on the riverbank is aptly called the Temple of the Dawn because the early morning sun throws its golden rays on the temple. At night, it is brightly lit and is beautiful. A few temples, mosques and churches are scattered in the city. Interesting museums dot the city with numerous collections of objet d'art.There are food carts everywhere serving hot delicacies. Seafood lovers have a great choice - one could choose one's fish, turtles or squid from the restaurants' fresh water tank. Vegetarians, however, may not have much choice.Durian, the fruit, which resembles the jackfruit though smaller, has its own votaries. It is described as "a heavenly fruit with a hellish smell". Some restaurants not only serve good food, but also have the added attraction of genuine Thai classical instrumental music and dances based on the Ramakien. Sometimes dancers invite the audience to join them - a novel manner of audience participation, making the evening not only livelier but unforgettable.

Down the riverThe city is famous for its traffic jams and chaos. Chao Phraya is the waterline of the city with its numerous boat-boarding jetties. These river taxis operate regularly and are fast, avoiding the mad traffic and pollution. It is also cheaper. The view from the boat is a kaleidoscope of colour and variety. Big long barges float up and down the river carrying cargo. In the evening luxury boats carry visitors who are wined and dined to the strains of lilting music - a veritable floating restaurant. For the size of such a large city, the river is clean and relaxing at vantage points in cafes and restaurants near the river is a pleasant and peaceful experience.