10 Stunning Bangkok Attractions
Experience the stunning Buddhist architecture and ornament, massive markets and flowing canals of one of Southeast Asia’s crown jewels, Bangkok, Thailand.
1. Wat Pho
Bangkok's oldest and largest temple, Wat Pho has the country's longest Reclining Buddha. Built in the 16th century and reconstructed by Rama I (r. 1782-1809), it is a typical Thai temple, with resident monks, a school, massage pavilions, and a generally lived-in feel. Around the grounds are statues and chedi (stupas) glittering with mosaics.
2. Bangkok's Canals
In the 19th century, Bangkok was known as the "Venice of the East," since all transportation was by canal. Today, most of the canals to the east of the Chao Phraya River have been filled in to created new roads. However, the area to the west remains much as it was in the 19th century, with a network of waterways spreading out into the countryside. Here, visitors can get a taste of traditional canalside life and visit a few attractions such as Wat Arun and the Royal Barge Museum along the way.
3. Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo
In 1782, Rama I (r.1782-1809) established the capital in Bangkok, where he built Wat Phra Kaeo to house the country's most precious Buddha image. In 1784, he had the Grand Palace built, which became the home of the royal family. No king has resided there since the early 20th century, but the complex is a stunning display of Thai art and architecture and a truly memorable sight.
From the 14th century onwards, Ayutthaya was the capital of an independent kingdom until the city was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. It was never re-inhabited. Today, Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its ruins give a sense of the city's former size and glory as well as offering an insight into Thailand's cultural heritage.
5. Wat Arun
Wat Arun is named for Aruna, the Indian god of dawn, because King Taksin arrived here at sunrise on an October day in 1767 to establish Thonburi at Siam's new capital. With it prominent prang (towers), the temple shows a strong Khmer influence. All the prang are ornamentally encrusted with colourful broken porcelain.
6. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Today, the many waterways of Bangkok's once extensive canal market have been filled up to make new roads, but for visitors the image of floating vendors in traditional dress remains quintessential Thai. So each morning, vendors and tourists alike descend on Damnoen Saduak to re-enact scenes from an idealized past. Visitors can explore the rural canals, take pictures of colourful boats, and shop for souvenirs.
7. National Museum
Thailand's premier museum offers a great introduction to Thai history. Inside, the Buddhaisawan Chapel is one of the country's most precious treasures, as is the Phra Sihing Buddha images it houses. Other highlights include well-preserved fragments of Dvaravati and Srivajaya statues, as well as Ramkhamhaeng inscription.
(Photo courtesy of Erik-Jaeger/Flickr)
8. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak market, held every Saturday and Sunday, is the biggest market in Thailand. An estimated quarter of a million people visit this veritable shopaholic's paradise every day. The vast site has over 15,000 stalls but products are grouped into sections making it easy to find specific items.
9. Dusit Park
Sometimes referred to as the New Royal City, Dusit is home to several royal residences and government offices. Dusit Park was created by Rama V (r. 1868-1910) in an attempt to emulate parks that he had seen on visits to Europe. The green and shady paths are a pleasure to walk along, with many interesting sights on offer.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Cogh/Flickr)
10. Jim Thompson's House
Jim Thompson, an American who came to Bangkok in 1945, is credited with having revived the Thai art of silk weaving. His traditional Thai house is filled with Southeast Asian antiques, paintings and sculptures. Surrounded by a lush garden, the compound consists of five other teak houses on stilts which also showcase part of the collection.
(Photo courtesy of Alice Chen/Flickr)