Bangkok, the capital city and cosmopolitan metro center of Thailand, was founded more than two centuries ago as a small trading port center on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Even though Bangkok can rival any major city in the world today in terms of modern technology, the city boasts a rich, cultural history that is apparent to all who visit, through the many temples, palaces and historic sites that dot the colorful landscape.
No visit to Bangkok would be complete without a visit to the religious epicenter known as the Grand Palace. This imposing structure built in traditional Thai style is Bangkok’s most famous landmark. The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and for nearly two hundred years, was home to kings, royal courts and Thai governing bodies. Within the walls of the sprawling Grand Palace complex are many other buildings, shrines and smaller complexes of note – including the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) – which houses a 14th century Emerald Buddha that is the focal point of many of Bangkok’s religious ceremonies throughout the year.
Wat Arun (Temple Of The Dawn)
Wat Arun (Temple Of The Dawn) is a stunningly beautiful spire-shaped temple that rises some 70 meters above the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Wat Arun is revered as the most beautiful temple in Thailand because of the intricate designs used in its construction. Tiny pieces of colored glass, porcelain and ambient lighting that turns the temple into a truly majestic site in the evenings. Wat Arun is not merely a tourist attraction. The temple was built by King Taskin after his battle victory over the Burmese army in the late 1700s. Wat Arun was also once home to the sacred Emerald Buddha and is still a regular worship site for thousands of Thai Buddhists. When you visit, be sure to check out the gorgeous murals and Golden Buddha in the Wat Arun ordination hall.
Bangkok Floating Markets
Floating markets are deeply rooted in the culture of Bangkok and date all the way back to the mid 1300s. These markets are comprised of merchants in flat bottomed wooden boats setting up shop along the many canals and rivers that cut through the city. The vendors are local townspeople who sell everything from traditional Thai meals, fresh produce and meat to hand crafted clothing, gifts and décor – right from their tiny boats. The Damnoen Saduak is the largest and most popular of the floating markets in Bangkok and is a tourist hot spot year round.
Chinatown in Bangkok? Yes! And it’s a colorful, bustling, busy destination filled with interesting sites to explore. The streets are lined with vendors selling everything from traditional Chinese dishes to clothing, trinkets and gold. Chinese festivals holidays – like the Chinese New Year – are the best times to visit Bangkok’s Chinatown to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a culture all its own.
Wat Pho is a beautifully designed, historically significant temple complex located just minutes from the Grand Palace. The one thing you will notice about Bangkok’s historic sites is that Buddha plays an integral role in their design. Wat Pho is no different. In fact, the focal point of this religious complex is a stunning 45 meter reclining Buddha statue covered in gold leaf. Visitors can wander the grounds of Wat Pho and explore its interior walls, which feature more than 300 images of Buddha in various statues and murals. They can also partake in a traditional Thai massage at the on-site massage institute or relax with a master yoga instructor in the lotus gardens.
Chao Phraya River and Canals
If hustle and bustle are what you are looking for during your visit to Bangkok, head to the river and canals that traverse the city. Bangkok’s waterways are a hub of activity any time of the day or night. Of course, you will find the floating markets, but you can also experience traditional Thai life on the canals as its been for centuries. Hire a boat for an immersive tour or simply stroll along the winding paths and explore at your leisure. There’s always something new – and old – to see along Bangkok’s waterways.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a bargain hunter’s mecca. It is comprised of more than 8,000 market stalls covering 35 acres and welcomes more than 200,000 visitors on any given weekend. The sights, smells and sounds of Chatuchak Weekend Market will send you into sensory overload with its vast array of colorful textiles, delicious local foods and traditional Thai handicrafts. The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a definite must-do if you are ever in Thailand.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road could very well be the vortex where East meets West in Bangkok. This vibrant tourist and commerce hub is lined with bars, clubs and other nightlife entertainment venues that offer an eclectic mix of atmospheres and music genres for visitors. There are shops, market stalls, eateries and just about any other type of venue a tourist in Bangkok could want – all lining this one street in the middle of town! Khao San Road runs through the heart of the Old City district of Bangkok and is a great starting point for a walking tour of the city’s many popular cultural landmarks, including those mentioned above.
Apparently, Red Light Districts are a thing in Bangkok – and they are legal. One of the oldest and most frequented of these is the Soi Cowboy. Neon lights, clubs, drinks and dancing girls await you in a carnival-like atmosphere that draws tourists from all over the world day and night.