Bangkok is an energetic city that offers a great number of surprises not only inside its 400 temples but also at many other key attractions that can’t be found anyplace else on earth. Discover Thailand’s rich traditions and cultural legacy through the sacred temples and the Grand Palace. Witness the simplicity of life and the floating market along the Chao Praya River. Stroll around the night bazaar, have a taste of exotic street foods and authentic Thai cuisine, or have a relaxing day at the spa — trying the customary Thai massage and medication of common ailments using Thai herbs. All these activities will highlight the Thai people’s ingenuity and hospitality making a visit to Bangkok a cherished and treasured experience.
When To Go:
With a warm, tropical atmosphere, Bangkok is a well-known tourist getaway at any time of the year. The only downside is the stormy season from May through October that keeps numerous guests indoors during erratic storms; this is however the best time for flight deals, and hotel rates are at their lowest.
Most travelers want to come to Bangkok during November through April, when the climate is dry and it is nice to roam around because of the pleasant temperatures — despite the fact that costs for accommodation are high.
Here are the
things to do
when in the city of Bangkok:
Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)
The Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) is a classic Buddhist tower that is a giant size and decorated with mosaic patterns. From the observation platform of the temple you can have probably one of the most beautiful panoramas of Bangkok. In the evening it is impressive to see the illuminated temple from the opposite shore. Get ready for an endurance test when climbing up the stairs to the tower! To see porcelain utensils hanging on the walls may seem unusual, but they are actually impressive. The top of the tower offers a magnificent view of the city and the river, and near the temple there are many shops with souvenirs and fresh fruit stands.
The temple complex is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Before going into this temple, take a few moments to go down by the river near the temple pier. You will have access here since you are going to the temple complex, and you can see adults and children dressed in traditional clothes. Furthermore, they can be photographed. The architecture of the temple is awesome. In the temple there are 3 main climbing areas, each of which gets steeper the higher you go. This place never fails to leave a good impression because of its diversity and the brightness of the decor.
Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)
The Temple of the Reclining Buddha has great religious significance to its devoted flock and makes a strong impression on everyone who visits here. This is a very revered shrine with a special atmosphere as well as beautiful architecture and design. The area around the temple is a pleasant place for a stroll. The Reclining Buddha is huge and it’s hard to take a picture of the whole thing — 140 feet long and 46 feet high — all covered in gold leaf. It is quite close to the Garden Palace in the city center. This is a place where you must remove your shoes and use the rented skirts.
It is better to come here after the sunset when the crowds subside. Then it will be easier to be photographed next to the Buddha’s feet (all inlaid with mother-of-pearl) and to calmly walk around the complex. Do not forget to drop coins into at least some of the 108 bronze bowls; you can make wishes in this way, and the coins will help with the upkeep of the temple. You can also have a nice experience in the pavilions where they offer the famous Thai massage — it is in this temple where Thai massage first originated.
The Grand Palace
This is one of the most iconic places in Southeast Asia. The Garden Palace is a huge territory divided into many segments. The palaces, temples, and museums in this complex are interesting and unusual. The best time to visit is early in the morning when it is not hot and there are no crowds of tourists. Once you enter the area, there is a feeling that you are in some kind of ancient Disneyland where all is bright, colorful, big, and fancy — with all sorts of figures and religious statues. Inside there is a large golden stupa, which houses the remains of Buddha.
Even the library is decorated in gold and there is a small model of the temple complex in Cambodia (a miniature Angkor Wat) and more. The main thing is to go only with a guided tour to be sure of seeing everything, and be sure to come early. You also need to plan what kind of clothing to wear — for both men and women, the knees and elbows must be covered. Otherwise, you will be obliged to buy modest clothes at the palace gate before being allowed to enter the temples.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
When you find yourself in Bangkok, you will surely have a planned program of visits to museums, theaters, shopping centers and so on. But if you have free time, be sure to take a look at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Here you can find a variety of contemporary works of art created by Thai artists. It is located in a modern and stylish five-story building with an infinitely polite and pleasant staff and most importantly — an incredibly interesting collection. The featured sculptures, paintings, and other installations show a small amount of authorship from modern Thai artists and are all very interesting, original, and quirky. Plus you can take pictures everywhere.
And the cherry on the cake: the fifth floor is allocated to a separate hall showing the personal collection of a certain Richard Green; it provides a rather modest collection of salon painting. You can also find a few pearls of neoclassicism and works of Blair-Leighton, Godward and Alma-Tal. Overall, the museum definitely succeeds in showing that Thai art is not only the gilded temples, the emerald Buddha and Siam Niramit.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew)
This is a beautiful temple with a very small and hard-to-see Buddha dressed in exquisite clothing. You cannot take pictures and you must take off your shoes at the entrance to the porch of the temple. It is best to go all the way into the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) and do not stand in the hallways or lobby. Try to copy how the locals sit down (lotus position).
While they are praying, you will have time to see everything and at the same time nobody will be pushing you in your back. It is required to wear appropriate clothing and to show a respectful attitude. However, reverence, tranquility, and peace are guaranteed. It is forbidden to take pictures inside. The 26-inch Buddha statue is made of emerald and classified as a national treasure — and gets dressed regularly in new clothes made out of expensive fabrics. This temple is located inside the grounds of the Garden Palace.
The Siam Niramit is a state-of-the-art 2000-seat theater that offers a colorful and exciting show based on the main events in the history of Thailand. The tour price includes dinner, a walk through a Thai village, and the world-class laser show with fountains and elephants. The show lasts about 2 hours and is truly entertaining and worth seeing. It involves for example elephants walking across the hall (you can actually have an elephant ride here), acrobats flying under the ceiling for 30 seconds . . . then the lights go out and suddenly there is a different scene — of a flowing river right on stage, with a kind of rowing regatta going on. (One performer will jump into the water to show how deep it is!)
This is all happens very quickly and everything is unrealistically beautiful. The show has a perfect storyline, colorful costumes and scenery and the performers are superb. The surreal atmosphere is successfully recreated and is able to convey its symbols and message to the audience. It depicts the feeling of being in ancient Thailand, and you see the culture, religion, traditions and customs of the Thai people. You will love the fast-paced plot, how quickly and professionally the mountains appear from the river, the real rain and live elephants, and the many times they have quickly changed the scenery from one scene to another. Subtitles are available in all languages — and incidentally, this place is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Chao Phraya River
Taking a boat tour along the Chao Phraya River is one of the top things to do in Bangkok. The view of the city from the river is completely different, especially when passing the houses that are situated along the banks. It is not the cleanest river but what captures everyone’s interest is the life of the inhabitants along its shores. The river in Bangkok puts you between history and modernity, as you see luxury and poverty juxtaposed within a few yards.
During the journey to the south of the river you can see everything from children who are swimming to the monitor lizards that rise from the river and lie under the sun; temples scattered everywhere; skyscrapers and resorts; tourists and street vendors in a canoe. The waters of Bangkok show a whimsical and colorful world for every guest who wants to spend a holiday that is special and unconventional. At night, there is a magical view of the city and it’s amazing to see the contrast between the modern skyscrapers and the illuminated historic temples.
Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson House
is beautiful, well cared for and maintained — and the staff and guides are trained and prepared to entertain guests. Jim Thompson is a legend here and you cannot leave Thailand without visiting his house and knowing his story. A self-made American entrepreneur, he settled in Thailand and founded the Thai Silk Company — and collected structures and art objects from all around the country. The atmosphere inside the garden is amazing with very tall trees and a lake with giant tortoises, and the museum itself is fascinating. The guides speak only English or French. In the shop attached to the house they sell many products in silk.
The pillows are gorgeous, with wonderful colors; it is very contemporary and not at all kitschy. Also noteworthy are the ties and scarves for women. The prices are definitely not rock bottom, but the products are worth every baht you might spend. If you like something, buy it right then and there. A visit here is a nice way to learn about the interesting life of this character, and the house is impressive both for the structure and the decor.
Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit)
The Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) is another one of the Bangkok temples that should definitely be visited. The top of this temple offers an interesting view of the city, and going up the stairs you will find a series of bells that you can ring for good luck. But the main attraction here is of course the Golden Buddha and it is indeed amazing; it is worth upwards of $250 million and weighs 5.5 tons — that is a LOT of solid gold!
For a long period this Buddha was completely covered in plaster (apparently disguised to protect it from invaders) and nobody was aware of the stunning treasure underneath. A very long time later it was cracked while being moved — and the original Buddha was revealed.
Be aware of the restrictions on dress just like the rules in all the other temples of Thailand. The temple is not difficult to find, as it is right at the entrance to Chinatown.
The Golden Mount (Wat Saket)
You have to overcome a lot of steps (318 of them, winding around the golden chedi) to get to the top of the Golden Mount — which offers good views of Bangkok including the river. There is an entrance fee to get into the temple. On the way up, you will find a wall of bells that you can ring for good luck, and at the very top you can take a marker and write any wishes on special cloths.
You may want to visit the temple in the morning when the weather is not so hot; this makes the climb much easier. In the temple, there is a Buddha relic, which was found in 1897 on the border with Nepal and was granted to the King of Thailand Rama IV by the British government. The mount itself is a man-made hill; at the bottom of it you can still see vestiges of an old crematorium/cemetery that was used for 60,000 plague victims in the 18th century. Every November, this temple hosts a huge fair that attracts hordes of pilgrims and tourists; it lasts for a week and is a very colorful and fun celebration.