Ang Thong, Thailand – Thailand’s Golden Bowl
Thai town of 200 Temples and the Region of Giant Buddhas
After finding out I would be spending 2 months teaching English in Ang Thong, I was super excited. Googling the name showed me pictures of a tropical paradise with turquoise waters, white sand beaches, and I later found out The Beach was shot there.
When the car that would take me to my school started heading north out of Bangkok, I started to worry. Then the penny dropped. Thailand has two Ang Thongs. I was heartbroken that my beach dream was over so suddenly.
However, I spent the next two months getting to know and appreciating one of Thailand’s lesser-visited regions and found myself wondering why more people don’t come here.
Ang Thong means golden bowl in Thai, and it really suits the landscape. Golden, flat, paddy fields are dotted with giant golden Buddhas and Monks, springing up from the morning mists. In the evening, mesmerising and vivid palettes are used in Chao Phraya river sunsets.
The city itself is home to over 200 temples, ranging from tiny buildings no bigger than shrines to giant Buddhas that guard the endless plains.
For me though, the best thing about Ang Thong is not the landscapes, and not the religious monuments, but the people. They’re open, friendly, kind, and happy to meet and help foreigners.
My experience was living with a family, and they became a 2nd family and we are still in touch today in very broken Thai and English. I found that I experienced with all of the locals I came into contact with in Ang Thong, and it’s a place I’ll never forget.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
The easiest way to get to Ang Thong from Bangkok is taking a 2-hour minibus ride from Bangkok. These leave regularly from Victory Monument and cost around 200 baht per person. They can sometimes get crowded. If you’re in the front seat and a monk gets on, you’ll be expected to give up your seat out of respect.
Ang Thong doesn’t have a train station, but you can travel to nearby Ayutthaya or Lopburi and travel from there.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Gaze in awe at Thailand’s biggest Buddha, at Wat Muang.
Before getting to the largest image of a sitting Buddha in the country, you have to make your way through Wat Muang’s terrifying hell garden. The statues representing Buddhist hell include people being cooked alive in pots, humans with the heads of a number of different creatures, and important scenes from Thai history. This is impressive but pales in comparison next to the 95m golden Buddha which sits majestically atop a pedestal, keeping watch over the countryside.
Luang por Thuad statue
Much like the Buddha at Wat Muang, this golden statue of a monk can be seen for miles around. It’s a great destination for a day out as the statue is set in front of a lake full of catfish. As well as the lake, there are a lot of shops here where you can buy everything from traditional Thai snacks and sweets to the classic, unisex, backpacker elephant-print pants. There’s even a restaurant on site which serves local favourites such as Pad Thai, Papaya Salad, and tasty dessert Sticky Rice and Mango.
Phra Tamnak Kham Yat Royal residence
This former royal palace dedicated to King Borromkarot stands in ruins in the Kham Yat district of Pho Thong. Built in the 18th century, it was his official residence for visiting the reclining Buddha at Wat Khun In Phramun. Now, only the original bricks and mortar of the building remain but it offers a fascinating glimpse into the architecture of the area.
Cycle along the Chao Phraya river
Head out towards Tambon Talat Kruat (tambon is a small village in Thailand) and there’s a lovely single-track road which passes through small villages and local temples. It’s best to travel during the day to see water monitors (large lizards that resemble Komodo dragons). It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset, but beware that it can be dangerous to cycle here at night.
Stay – Accommodation
There aren’t a huge number of hotels in Ang Thong, and many of them are in the province rather than the city itself. If you want to be in the city, it’s a good idea to wait until you’re here to book and have a look around. You could also stay in nearby Ayutthaya (33km away), where there’s a lot more choice when it comes to hotels. Here are some of the best we’ve found in Ang Thong province.
Bualuang Boutique Resort
One of the few city centre hotels with an online province, Bualuang Boutique Resort is a great place to base yourself in Ang Thong. There’s a garden view, flat-screen TVs and the bathrooms are fitted with hot showers. You can get a double room for as little as £15 per night.
A great option in Ang Thong province is Smile Resort. It’s close to the Big Buddha at Wat Muang, and it offers flat screen TVs, fridges, and free wi-fi. Double rooms start at £14 per night.
If you do choose the option of staying in Ayutthaya, Banjearanai homestay is one of the best-rated properties on Booking.com. It’s a great place to experience traditional Thai culture, rent bikes, and watch the sunrise. The hotel offers a lot of mod cons, with a kitchen and a fridge if you want to cook yourself, but also a BBQ and patio if you just feel like relaxing and having a few Changs or Singhas.
Eat – Restaurants
Thai food is delicious, and I was lucky enough to live with a chef. As Ang Thong is close to Bangkok, the food is quite similar to what you get in the capital. Some of the best foods include pad-see-ew (thick noodles with chicken, vegetables, and sauce), red curries (green and yellow curries are rare here), and tiny coconut and spring onion balls are a popular dessert. For restaurants, try Pinto for scrumptious traditional Thai food, but you can’t go far wrong with street food and market fare. It’s super cheap, filling, and tasty.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
According to the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), it’s best to visit Ang Thong between November and April. The temperature and humidity vary little throughout the year. January, July, and August are the most popular months and this is when hotels may cost a little more.
Safety – Possible risks
You are unlikely to face the same safety risks that travellers to Bangkok and the more tourist-orientated parts of Thailand do. Transport is probably the biggest safety risk – when I was in Thailand it had the 2nd most dangerous roads in the world. Only rent a car if you’re confident and have experience of driving abroad. Due to the low-lying land, there is also a risk of floods during the rainy season.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Again, because there’s little tourism here, Ang Thong is a very cheap destination. You may notice that all of the hotel options in this article are very affordable – there are very few luxury and boutique options here. Transport from Bangkok is what will set you back the most – and that’s the equivalent of about £5. Market street food can be picked up for pennies, and eating in a restaurant won’t be much more.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Here, it’s not customary to greet people by shaking hands or kissing. Instead, make a small bow and prayer gesture with your hands. You should also do this when saying thank you.
Reality Check – Be Aware
Ang Thong is undeniably beautiful, but because it’s not on a lot of tourist itineraries it can be very difficult to get by here if you don’t speak Thai. It’s a good idea to learn a few Thai words before you come here. That said, the locals are always willing to help out and you can get by with gestures. I carry a book called Just Point with me, which is great if you’re in a country where the language is so different to your own.
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Have you ever been to a city that had a really unique historical or cultural feature? Where was it and what made it so unique?
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