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Getting to know Bangkok

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One Saturday afternoon last month, Chatraporn Sampansapawa, 11, a Prathom 5 (Grade 5) student at Wat Rachdatithan School, and a couple of her peers met with a large press delegation at the Vimanmek Mansion in the compound of Dusit Palace. 

Chatraporn Sampansapawa describes the pagodas in the compound of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN

After a tour of the mansion, Chatraporn and her friends undertook the task of guiding, while on the bus, the press through the important places along the way to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, where all the youngsters showed off their tour-guide skills, explaining each of the attractions in the temple's complex.

The students are some of the fruit of the "Ayudhya Allianz CP (AACP) Pha Nong Thiaw Bangkok" (AACP Takes Students on a Tour of Bangkok) campaign, a collaborative effort between AACP and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). The campaign opens up an opportunity for less-wealthy students in and around Bangkok to explore the nation's capital city, an adventure that they might otherwise have little chance of experiencing.

This year, 3,000 Prathom 5 students and 400 teachers from 200 schools under the BMA's jurisdiction joined the programme, which has been running for five years now. So far, around 25,000 students and teachers have taken part.

Under the theme of this year's programme, "Rising Sun in Siam", the students go on a day excursion through selected landmarks in Bangkok on weekends. The current schedule started in May and will end this December.

Last month, Chatraporn, who took part in the excursion in June, was selected to share her enthusiasm for Thai history and culture by serving as a tour guide for the press trip.

"It was a very entertaining experience. I had the chance to learn new things," she said, recalling the trip which took her and her flock to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and Vimanmek Mansion. She volunteered that she had never visited the three sites before.

"I had never seen a reclining Buddha that large, and the chapel is absolutely gorgeous," gushed Chatraporn, referring to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, her favourite holy site.

"From this activity, at least, students can learn that they are surrounded by many beautiful places that are tied to their national history and ancestry. For example, students can learn that the Temple of the Reclining Buddha was built in the reign of Rama 1. In this way, students are able to develop an affinity with that holy site and are persuaded to learn more," said Impun Yoosawai, Chatraporn's teacher.

Impun added that after her students returned from the trip, they had to share their impressions and the knowledge that they had gained from the experience with their friends who had not had the same chance.

"This activity coincides with what they learn in the classroom. We take them to see real places, so that they can absorb Thai culture and appreciate what our ancestors have given us," said Patchara Taveechaiwattana, chief of market management and corporate affairs at AACP, in explaining the benefits of the programme.

Some of the other students who joined in the programme, such as Ekarat Kaewdoo, 11, and Suebpong Puttipong, 10, both Prathom 5 (Grade 5) students from Wat Sabsamosorn School, reported that the respective tours reinforced their interest in history, and, as a result, they have fallen in love with Thai culture even more deeply.

Ultimately, Chatraporn said, she would like to study history and historical sites in Bangkok more thoroughly in order to pass on the information to her friends and relatives. "When I visit these places with my family, I can tell them all about the interesting facts and backgrounds," she said.

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