10 of Bangkok’s Must See Attractions
- Published on Wednesday, 08 July 2015 01:43
- 0 Comments
The modern-day metropolis of Bangkok contains an enthralling contrast of bustling city streets, a lively nightlife, and markets packed full of enthusiastic traders. The colorful culture and ancient temples make every trip to Bangkok a special event, and there’s plenty to keep you excited as you explore all that the city has to offer. Here’s our ten favorite highlights that every visitor to the city must-see, and of course this is just a taste of all you can see while you’re here in Bangkok.
The Grand Palace
No trip to Bangkok is complete without visiting the Grand Palace, it’s the ultimate ‘must-do’ for everyone who stays in the capital, as it’s the most authentic symbol of Thailand’s spiritual center. Constructed in the 19th century, the Grand Palace was originally the official royal residence, and the spectacular grounds and architecture are dazzling to every person who steps through the gates. The Royal Mint and the administrative center of Thailand were also housed within the palace grounds, so you’ll encounter many government buildings around the inner court, many of which that were once home to all the children and ladies of the royal court. You can’t miss Wat Phra Kaeo on your visit, known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, this is one of the most sacred temples in the country. Visitors are asked to be respectful, covering their shoulders and knees, and remember to never point your feet towards the Buddha. Our advice is to get their early before it gets too hot, grab an audio guide and spend a few hours learning about the crowning glory of Thailand’s history, culture and reverence for the monarchy.
Wat Pho Thai Massage
Thailand is famous for its massage, and there’s no better place to spend a relaxing afternoon than at one of the most famous schools of massage in the city. The tranquil grounds of the temple only add to the experience, as you amble through the chedis and check out the famous Reclining Buddha to relax your mind before you start relaxing your body. The massage school at Wat Pho first opened in 1955, and their traditional massages are affordable, and well worth it. If you have the time opt for 90 minutes to get the full effect, but if it’s a little too much pressure (the masseuse will really dig in so it can hurt), tell them “bow, bow,” which means you want it softer. If a hard, deep-tissue massage isn’t for you, try an alternative approach using the Thai herbal balls, a soothing oil massage, or just opt for a soothing foot massage.
Chatuchak Market (The Weekend Market)
Known to the locals as JJ market, our advice is to get there early to beat both the heat and the crowds, and it will give you enough time to explore one of the largest markets in the world. It’s only open on Saturday and Sunday, and Chatuchak is so much more than the typical shopping experience. Packed full of both locals and tourists every weekend, you’ll find everything from small little stores selling art, clothes, jewelry, furniture, antiques, and there’s even a section with pets on display. Plus, if you find that you’ve bought far too much there are a number of overseas parcel stalls who will help you pack up all your shopping to ship it back home for you. As you wander the market one of the best locations for lunch is the bar Viva, with lively music and fresh food cooked for you in massive woks, just be sure to save some room for all the street-side eats that grab your fancy as you wander through the massive size of the market. This can also be a downside, as it’s very easy to get lost, so make sure everyone in your group knows to meet at the clock tower if they lose track of each other, it’s the biggest landmark in the market and quite easy to navigate to.
Dining on the Chao Phraya River
Once the sun sets and the buildings start to sparkle, there’s really something magical about touring down the river through the heart of the city. Treat yourself to a dinner cruise, so you can sit on deck and enjoy the ancient wooden houses, luxury hotels, as well as the giant river barges commuting up and down the Chao Phraya River. The temples are lit up at night and really dazzle, giving you a sense of what it was once like in Old Siam. One of the best river cruises in Bangkok is the Grand Pearl, taking visitors onboard a luxury yacht to dine on oriental and western cuisine, while they enjoy live music and a traditional Thai dance show. You can choose to sit on the open deck dining which gives you an impressive panoramic of every site you pass, or the air-conditioned dining room to ensure you’re always comfortable. A cruise down the river by the light of the moon will make for a special evening that you’ll remember a lifetime.
Khao San Road and Rambutri
One of the most famous roads in Bangkok, Khao San is a haven for young backpackers. Come and explore the walking street and the market stalls, alongside the pubs offering ‘buckets’, cheap and massive cocktails designed to give you a buzz. Despite its surprisingly small length, Khao San comes alive during the night as traders, travelers, and the youthful locals head out for a night of entertainment. This strip has a character you typically find on the islands, and there are plenty of fantastic little bars for those willing to look deep enough. Gazebo is a rooftop bar with a Moroccan style, or if live music is your thing you can’t miss Brick Bar which pumps out great tunes every night of the week. Understandably, Khao San Road isn’t for everyone, and if you want a more bohemian atmosphere head up the road to Rambutri. The same quirky elements are all here, but it’s a little less crowded, with plenty of outdoor tables to sit and watch the passersby. Once sun starts to set check out The Deck, which is back towards the river, as it offers an almost perfect view of Wat Arun as the day comes to a close.
There’s something to be said about the organized chaos that is Chinatown, which is impossible to describe without seeing it firsthand. The crush of people makes the entire area come alive, and if you thought Bangkok couldn’t get any busier, Chinatown almost needs to be seen to be believed. Follow the seemingly endless narrow and winding pathways through the Sampeng Lane market, and marvel at all the traders you pass. The owners are not usually targeting the tourist trade, so it’s an eye-opening glimpse into the local life in Bangkok. Many stalls offer their wares in bulk, and there are herbalists selling a huge range of medicinal curiosities. Our advice to really make the most of Chinatown is to head there in the evening, grab a table just outside Soi Texas, enjoy all of the local food on offer and do some people watching. The restaurateurs here serve massive prawns that have been barbequed fresh and a huge range of delicious dishes that you really need to try. The endless buzz present in Chinatown, one of the oldest districts in the city, will make you realize Bangkok is truly a city that never sleeps.
Muay Thai Boxing
For many the concept of boxing doesn’t appeal to them, but here in Thailand it’s much more than an ordinary contact sport. Thai children are taught the defensive martial art from a young age, and the history and culture of the country are present in all aspects of the sport. The pre-fighting rituals are known as the Wai Kru, and are akin to a dance, which every fighter performs to honor their teachers and their opponent. In local areas you will see groups crowded around their TV’s as they cheer their favorite champions, and you’ll quickly learn the Thai’s are proud of their Muay Thai heritage. Live matches can be seen at both Lumpinee Stadium and Ratchadamnoen Statium on alternate nights of the week, pay the extra to sit ringside for an up-close and personal look at all the action. If you’re feeling adventurous and want a more hands-on experience, drop in for a class with a qualified instructor at Chacrit Muay Thai School.
The Jim Thompson House
This homestead is now a museum, and provides a fascinating insight into the life of Jim Thompson, an American who is known worldwide for reviving and ultimately saving the silk industry in Thailand. He notoriously disappeared following a post-lunch stroll in Malaysia in 1967, the brand he created is one of the most recognized for Thai silk, home-wares and textiles. You can’t visit Bangkok without taking home a Jim Thompson souvenir, a brand that is synonymous with good taste. As you walk through the grounds of the beautiful wooden house, it feels as if you’ve been transported back in time to a Thailand that could only exist in your imagination. Set inside one of the busiest areas of the city only adds to the charm of this attraction, making it one of the most visited homes in Bangkok. It was completed just eight years before Jim Thompson went missing, and has been lovingly kept the same ever since, full of Asian antiques and collectibles that demonstrate the eclectic style of the former owner. In its heyday the homestead was one of the unofficial social centers of the city, and the parties held here were incredible. Do your best to soak up the atmosphere of this heritage site, and take a ton of photos.
The Great Outdoors
Even if you’re a city lover, after a few days in the concrete jungle of Bangkok you’ll begin to crave nature, and the greenery in Lumpini Park is a welcome relief. Take a stroll around the grounds or rent a paddle boat and explore the lake, the massive size of Lumpini makes it a popular destination in the heart of the city. Benjasiri park is another great choice, and after sunset it comes alive with fitness enthusiasts, walkers, tai chi practitioners and more. Watch the children run amuck on the playgrounds, and the agile young guys play a local game of sakraw, a type of foot-volleyball. Take a deep breath, relax, and soak it all in.
Rooftop Bars and Dining
You can’t leave Bangkok without enjoying a night at one of the city’s best sky-bars. Towering 63 floors above the city, the aptly named “Skybar” at Lebua Hotel is a worthwhile visit, offering a stunning view out over the city. It can be a little crowded because it’s one of the most iconic bars in Bangkok, but it’s definitely worthwhile, even for just a couple of cocktails. If you’re here for a truly special occasion the restaurant is a perfectly romantic spot, although diners do pay more for the exclusivity of the surprisingly intimate experience. Of course, there are a number of other bars in Bangkok which offer a similar view, but Skybar is the most famous, and a must-see for every visitor to Thailand.