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The daunting challenge to the traveler in Bangkok—one of the most exotic, exhilarating capitals in the Far East, center of an exquisite culture untainted by colonialism—is how to discover the soul of the city amid its teeming crowds and heavy traffic. The Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok is launching a program of cultural discovery which gives guests the opportunity to experience classic Thai civilization first-hand, away from the press of mass tourism. Dubbed The Peninsula Academy and based upon the highly successful pilot at the group's flagship property in Hong Kong, the program offers a primer in Buddhism, which underlies every aspect of the country's culture.
An art historian leads the group on an architectural river tour down the Chao Praya, ending at a 19th-century temple not ordinarily open to the public, whose walls are covered with superb frescoes. The head chef takes guests to the clean, airy market where he shops for the foods that will be used in cooking demonstrations—and lunch.
The "curriculum" was devised by Paothong Thongchua, or Pan, a passionate authority on Thai culture and the author of a definitive work on traditional Siamese textiles. The Bangkok property plan to launch this program by mid-summer in the form of four different packages, plus 12 à la carte activities. Rates to be announced.
333 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Bangkok 10600; 66-2-861-2888; fax 66-2-861-1112.