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Top Ten Things To Do in Bangkok for Travellers

I bet you didn’t actually know that Thailand’s capital city’s name is actually the longest place name in the world…it’s really:

“Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. However, this would take a few minutes to say in everyday conversation, so Thai use “Krung Thep” instead. It is only the foreigners that call it Bangkok. Amid the glistening temple roofs, flower gardens and rickety tuk tuks, this city is slowly transforming into a world city, and has come a long way from the sooty skies, dark alleys and seedy scenes. It is tamer, and the emerging art  and dining scenes have evolved into worthy competition of some of the world’s best cities. In recent years, a rush of modern improvements have been made, where sparkling new malls, museums, subways, restaurants and shops dominate the streets…quite a sensory overload! Perhaps not for the faint of heart, Bangkok’s energizing spirit will leave you wanting more long after your departure from this city…

Here is a  list of ten things that are definitely worth a visit…that is not to say there isn’t more…plenty more! We also suggest you read up on safety and customs in Thailand for travellers

1. Wat Pho (The Reclining Buddha)

Wat Po Temple Hundreds of temples lie all over Thailand, and Wat Pho is certainly one of the most popular, not to mention the largest! It has more depictions of Buddha than any other temple, and houses the 46 metre reclining Buddha finished in gold leaf.  This temple is one of Thailand’s greatest landmarks, and a must-see. The reclining Buddha depicts the passing of Buddha into Nirvana. Mother-of-pearl inlay ornaments the eyes and the soles of the feet, which display 108 different promising lák·sà·nà (characteristics of a Buddha) in both Chinese and Indian styles. The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds which are bisected north-south by Sanamchai Road. The northern compound is where you’ll find the reclining Buddha, whilst within the opposite direction lies a working Buddhist monastery housing monks and a school.  The northern walled compound is where the reclining Buddha and massage school are found. The galleries that extend between the four chapels feature no less than 394 gilded Buddhist images. This is also the national headquarters for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine, which includes Thai massage, a mandate legislated by Rama III when this very old tradition faced extinction. I would certainly recommend booking a massage here…you know you’re in good hands! You can see the location of these temples and the rest of the ones mentioned in our Bangkok Traveller Map section.

2. Night Bike Tour

Night-Bike I am not much of a cyclist myself, but if you’re in for ‘the night of your life’, then the Night Bike tour is a fun (and calorie-burning) way of seeing the city in a whole new light (and lack of it in some areas!). The Grasshopper Adventures provides a variety of experiences on bikes throughout Bangkok, with the night bike tour offering some breath-taking views of the Chao Phraya all the way to Wat Arun. You’ll find quite a few places along the river filled with ‘bikers’ after the sunset, sipping on Singha or Chang beer and delving into some Tom Yum soup. The streets are flooded with lights, giving the surrounding temples the ability to demand their well-deserved attention. You can book this tour and others here 

3. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

The Emerald Buddha in Bangkok

Wat Phra Kaew, which means ‘Temple of the Holy Jewel Image’, commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is the most revered Buddhist shrine in Thailand, and according to popular belief, the Emerald Buddha is ancient and originated in Sri Lanka. Art historians, on the other hand, believe that it was actually crafted in Thailand somewhere in the 14th century.  The Buddha has travelled plenty over the centuries, and as story would have it, it was once shrouded in plaster and kept in a monument hidden in Chiang Rai, but a lightning storm in 1434 uncovered this buried treasure. It spent a long time in Laos, and eventually King Rama I created it’s present shrine, which has remained a tangible symbol of the Thai nation until today. It is feared that the removal of the image from Bangkok will signify the end of the Chakri dynasty.

The temple is located on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Central to the temple sits the Emerald Buddha, carved from jadeite. No one is allowed next to the Buddha, except the King or Crown Prince, who conduct rituals and dress the statue in different gold robes for each season – rainy, cool or hot.

Be prepared to take off your shoes when entering the sacred temple!

4. Chao Phraya River

Chao Phraya river Chao Phraya River is major water transportation for tour and trade. The wide river is one of the city’s landmarks that feature historical and cultural evidence that splits the city to 2 areas. The boat tours are the most popular transportation that attracts visitors. There are other transports such as taxi boats or group boats. The river Ferry is also a good choice if you want a budget transport for your family. It’s incredibly a way to see Bangkok in a different angle. Also, you will be taken across the river and stop by at several areas like Wat Po, Snake Farm, Orchid Farm and Grand Palace. You can also visit various canals along the way. Cheap alternative to eat cheap foods is the dinner cruise.

5. Floating Markets

Bangkok Floating Market

Once known as the Venice of Asia, due to Bangkok’s extensive network of canals (which have since been filled to make way for roads), these markets have now become more of a novelty. They are popular throughout Bangkok and its surrounding provinces, but Amphawa is one of the most popular among Thai locals. This entire neighbourhood community turns into a floating Disneyland-like floating market on the weekends.

Floating markets are always a backpacker’s favourite pastime, and you can while away the time looking at the little curiosities or sitting by the canal devouring the freshly cooked food, which you can barely believe was made on a little boat! They offer a tiny glimpse into the past, a taste of a way of life of a bygone era. Damnoen Saduk caters to foreigners, and tourists flock here during the weekends. If you prefer more local flavours, you should visit the smaller markets such as Tha Kha, Khlong Lat Myom (a green oasis) or Taling Chan (known for its fresh selection of roasted seafood). There’s a lot to take in at all of them, but you’ll find boats piled high with tropical fruits and vegetables, fresh coconut juice and local cooked food everywhere.

6. Bangkok Art and Culture Center

Bangkok Art and Culture CenterIf you’re looking to step out of the sun for a while, then the art center is definitely a place you’ll want to cool down in. The top 3 (out of 11) floors are exhibition halls. Local arts activists fought hard for decades to get the Guggenheim-esque atrium Art and Culture Center, which only recently opened in 2008. Beyond the paintings and the sculptures, there’s video, conceptual photography, installation and performance. If you’re not all that interested in art, the MBK Center (across the Sky Bridge) offers every product known to humanity at a discounted price. The warren of alleys of nearby Siam offer boutique fashion shops, art-movie houses and an adventuresome Whitespace Art Gallery, popular among Thai youth.

7. Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak-Weekend-MarketThis market will test the very essence of the phrase: ‘shop till you drop’, because here, you literally will! One of the largest markets in the world, about 35 acres, sees more than 200,000 visitors a day on an average weekend. More than 8,000 markets stalls sell everything you could possibly imagine, and at decent prices. For newbies, this market will seem like trying to conquer a country, but there is a system to help you navigate your way through Chatuchak. One main walkway encircles the entire market, which branches off into a series of numbered alleyways called Soi 1, Soi 2, Soi 3 and so on. These are grouped into sections, 27 to be precise. You can also find points of reference as you go along…the clock tower is a handy one!

8. Khao San Road

Khao San Market in BangkokUnofficially known as the Banana Pancake Trail, the infamous backpacker ghetto is described as “the centre of the backpacking universe” in the popular book ‘The Beach’. Thousands of travellers converge within this budget travel hub for cheap accommodation as they prepare for the next destination on their self-seeking journey. All the  necessities are within a stone’s throw away, and packed into this 1km street are countless hostels, guesthouses, bars, bookshops, market stalls, tattoo parlours, massage parlours and many, many more. The carefree atmosphere and ‘anything goes’ attitude is not like other places in Bangkok, and it has become so infectious that locals also flock here, especially young hipsters and art students. Unrivaled accommodation prices, a crazy nightlife, and a reputation for chaos have made Khao San Road the default destination for backpackers and budget travelers that stay in Bangkok.

9. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun TempleLocals call it ‘Wat Chaeng’, and the major landmark situated on the west bank of the Chao Praya River. Despite its name (from Aruna, the Hindu god of Dawn), its best views are at sunset, and you can seat yourself at one of the coffee shops or restaurants across the river, which make an excellent viewpoint of this Khmer-style Buddhist temple. It is undoubtedly one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, with its colourfully decorated spires and its 80 metre tall central prang (Khmer-style pagoda) which stand majestically over the on the riverside. If you fancy some exercise, you can climb the prang up the steep exterior steps and catch your breath on one of the two terraces.  It is the most photographed image in Bangkok.

10.  The Grand Palace

Grand Palace in BangkokIt was once home to the King and his family, for about 150 years. It was also once home to the administrative seat of government, but Thai kings stopped living in the palace at the start of the 20th century, but the complex remains the seat of power and spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom. Nowadays, it is reserved for ceremonial purposes and state events. The layout of the palace is similar to the those found in Ayutthaya, the glorious former capital of Siam, which was raided by the Burmese. There are 3 different zones, the Outer Court (in which the Temple of the Emerald Buddha can be found), the Central Court (where only 2 of the throne halls are open to the public)  and the Inner Court (which was once a small ‘city’ entirely populated by women and boys who had not yet reached puberty), and is till today, completely closed off to the public. There is a strict dress code, so ensure to respect their regulations. You can hop on a a boat to Chang Pier along the Chao Phraya River to get to the Palace, which undoubtedly has to be one of the destinations on your map!



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