By Kevin Leland
Bangkok, Thailand is a complex combination of old and new, spiritual and material pleasures. The enormous city buzzes with activity 24 hours a day but tranquil places can be found among the contrasting poverty and luxury of this intriguing metropolis. One night in Bangkok, will give you decades worth of stories tell. Here below are many of the tourist attractions that Bangkok has to offer world travelers. Tell all about it. If you can!
Jim Thompson was an American entrepreneur who spent 25 years of his life in Thailand. He was responsible for helping develop the Thai silk industry. While in Bangkok his Thai style house was abuzz with social get togethers and events. Now his house which is a combination of 6 teak Thai houses is a museum where you can enjoy not only the structure but the extensive collection of eastern art. There is a large collection of Buddhist artwork and other artifacts collected on Jim’s travels. The house stands at Soi Kasemsan 2,Rama Road.
Of the many floating markets in Bangkok Damnoen Saduak is the most tourist friendly, it is in Ratchaburi Province. Although popular with tourists the mornings are less crowded and you can get some beautiful artistic photos. The floating markets are not only store fronts for the locals but many make the market their home. See the fruits and vegetables sold from wooden boats floating in the canal or sample the “boat noodles” whipped up on the spot. There are also tours which take you by boat to the markets so you can see them from the water and not the shore. There are other lesser known floating markets in Bangkok including Tha Kha Floating Market, Don Wai Floating Market and Amphawa Floating Market.
Thailand’s oldest and biggest Buddha Wat (Temple) also has the most images of Buddha in Thailand. Within the temple is the huge Reclining Buddha which is gold plates and has mother of pearl eyes. In the temple grounds are over 1000 Buddhas there is also a Temple Hall or shrine (Bot) and over 90 Chedi. The Chedis or mounds contain the ashes of deceased royals and the larger ones contain the ashes of Buddha himself! In the grounds are various rock gardens, chapels and bell towers. You will find the compound split into two areas, the north side of the dividing Chetuphon Road has the more interesting structures and in the southern part is a functioning monastery. Also within the same compound is Thailand’s most renowned massage school. It’s possible to get a massage here and even take a course in this ancient art. Wat Pho can be found in the Phra Nakhon district.
This ancient temple is in the center of Bangkok. Most visitors to the temples of Bangkok recommend going in the early morning. The Buddhist monks awaken very early, around 4:00 a.m. and begin their day with prayer. The coolest time of the day makes observing the monks’ early morning routine very soul soothing. These monks, shrouded in bright red-orange will venture out into the crowds that are beginning to gather in the streets, and collect the day’s necessities from the charitable giving of their more worldly neighbors.
The Emerald Buddha that you went to the temple to see is actually a statue made of Jadeite. However, this statue wears clothing made of gold. There is a set of garments to go along with the three different seasons known to Thailand -the summer season, the rainy season, and the cool season. A representative of the King or sometimes the King himself will change the clothing at a ceremony commemorating the start of a new season each November, March and July. The clothing not being worn can be seen on the grounds of the Grand Palace, where the public is allowed to view them.
This beautiful jewel of Bangkok was built in 1782 by King Rama I. The Grand Palace looms over 60 acres of land on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It is the spiritual, art and culture center of Thailand, and has been the seat of politics for centuries. It is a meeting place for royalty and the people. It is the pride and joy of this city. The architecture is sublime.
If you visit the Emerald Buddha, you are in the north-east corner of this magnificent structure. Don’t miss going into the second court to see the major throne halls. You can check out the Amarin Tharawinitchai and Dusit Mahaprasart thrones. I suggest taking a tour. If you want to hear stories and history that you won’t find in a Google search, and are in it for more than just a quick photo op, then paying for a tour can be well worth the money spent.
This is where Bangkok got its reputation as Thailand’s “sin city.” The song from the 80’s musical, Chess admonishes would be flesh seekers:
One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble. Not much between despair and ecstasy.
Prostitution laws were revised in 1966, and soon after, Patpong began to corner the market in this racy industry. It has long since relinquished its dominance as the seat of Bangkok’s carnal pleasures market. Although, it’s long reputation as the top spot for prostitution, it still makes it into the number one red light district to visit, especially for those wanting to just people watch, you know, watching people solicit sex as opposed to renting people for sex.
Found at Sukhumvit Soi 4, Nana Plaza is Bangkok’s sleaze central. Known world-wide for its racy themed go-go bars – It is the quintessential strip mall of sex. Unlike the other red light districts, that mix adult fun in with some activities for the wife and brats, Nana Plaza is so unabashedly and totally adult entertainment, children are not seen or heard anywhere on the strip, and tent markets or any kind of store, marketing anything but sex, are far and few between. This red light district is primarily for adults — and adulterers.
Each store front has prostitutes, behind the glass, available for every kind of fetish. You can play headmaster and naughty school girl, or if that is too much like boring old real life, maybe you can try a more dominatrix, masochistic theme, and pick a nice girl with a whip, leather hood and ball gag. Nana Plaza is just for real players, so the streets aren’t too crowded with rubber-neckers, gawkers and window shoppers, like you’ll find at Patpong.
A short, quarter mile stretch of road through Bangkok, this red light district is so named after a guy who after retiring from the American Air force, went into business in the city, opening one of the first go-go bars there in the seventies. T. G. “Cowboy” Edwards, was tagged with this nickname because this tall, handsome black guy would usually be seen sporting a ten-gallon hat.
True to form, Soi Cowboy, like the other red light districts of Bangkok holds up neon lights that sketch erotic images on the velvet black backdrop of Bangkok’s hot, hazy midnight sky that hovers above thick walls of glass, and in the fishbowl you’ll find a god in every golden cloister, and if you’re lucky, then the god’s a ‘she.’
In the 1700’s Chinese started to make this their home today it is a slice of China where all the traditions, cuisine and character of China is preserved. Enter the area through the large Chinese Gate near Odeon traffic circle. It is a little overwhelming and frantic but the hustle and bustle gives you a look at a different kind of expat culture. Try to visit during one of the Chinese festivals which are celebrated here in full force. Bordering China Town is the Traimit Wot, a temple containing a 5.5 ton solid gold Buddha, the biggest solid gold Buddha in the world! On the second floor of the Chapel which houses this Buddha is a museum which recounts the history of the Chinese in China Town. On the next floor up in a museum tracing the interesting history of the gold Buddha himself.
Located on the water’s edge this temple is built in the Khmer style was commissioned by King Rama II in the early 19th century. It has the sweeping triangular shape of all Prang or Stupa culminating in the pointed roof at 100 meters high. In the evening the temple is lit up and shimmers in gold but up close the beauty is even more impressive. There is exquisite porcelain work and intricate floral patterns. In the temple grounds are 4 smaller prang and impressive murals. You can climb part of the way up the Wat Arun to get a great view of the river. The temple is on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River and can be reached by ferry from the Tha Tien express boat pier or by taking a canal tour.
This is the largest museum in South East Asia and displays an incredible collection of Thai art as well as art from the rest of the region. You can see archeological findings from the region, prehistoric artifacts, sculptures from various periods in Thai history and the Royal Funeral Chariots in the museum grounds. Also in the museum grounds are the Buddhaisawan Chapel and the Red House which was once the home of Queen Sri Suriyen. The list is endless of weapons, Hindu scriptures, Lan Na Art and many other exhibits. The museum is near the Phra Pinklao Bridge in the Phra Nakorn District and from here you can easily reach the National Theatre and Grand Park Sanamluang.
Within peaceful gardens are 8 traditional teak Thai houses from Chian Mai, the literal translation of the name is “Cabbage Patch” referring to the state of the land many years ago. Today the groomed tropical gardens offer respite from the busy city. The palace is not one of the most ornate but it contains a simple charm as well as displaying many riches, musical instruments and fine art within the houses. The loot all belongs to the Prince and Princess Chumbhot and includes antiques and some odd items. Within the grounds is also the Panthip Centre of Arts displaying pottery, bronze, tools and other artifacts from the Ban Chieng period which mirrors the western prehistoric eras. Don’t miss the Ayutthaya Lacquer Pavilion which dates back to the 17th century. Inside the black lacquered walls are decorated with gold painted murals.
The park is in Silom an area of skyscrapers and business wheeling and dealing once again proving Bangkok’s diversity. The relatively small park has a lake and bike track as well as a statue of King Rama VI dating back to 1941. The park has some interesting features including a Chinese Pavilion and a more modern public pavilion for activities. It is possible to rent boats and row upon the lake. Don’t miss the Chinese style tower in the park with a clock on top and several sculptures.
This temple sits atop the Golden Mount an artificial hill created in the 1800’s The Wat Saket is a complex of religious structures at the bottom of the hill and comes from the Ayutthaya period. To keep the hill from sinking into the soft soil it is supported by teak beams, and concrete walls were later added to preserve the elevated status. Climb the 318 steps to the top of the Golden Mount to see the view and golden Chedi, also check out the wall with names of those buried here. The best time to visit is during the Loy Kratong Festival when the entire hill is wrapped in red material. Find the Wat on Ratchadamnoen Klang and Boripihat Road.
The mansion sits in the Dusit Garden and was constructed in 1900 on the orders of King Rama V where he lived for a short few years while he was between moving house from the Grand Palace to Amporn Satan Residence. Over the years the mansion was used by several royal houseguests in need of temporary residence. Today the world’s largest teak wood mansion displays a lavish mish mash of eastern and western furnishings and art work. Within Dusit Gardens you can also see a collection of royal coaches and the Swan garden Residence.
Housed within the Thai Red Cross Institute is a snake farm which serves the purpose of collecting venom to be used in anti-venom serums throughout Thailand. The institute also conducts research and provides vaccines for smallpox. You can even watch the snakes being “Milked”. There are guided tours and you will be told the story of the stolen Bangkok snakes. You’ll also get a chance to hold one of the creatures! The Institute is on Rama VI Road and the building was donated to the institute by Rama VI and named after his mother. Just in case you get bitten never fear the snake farm is strategically located near to the Chulalongkorn Hospital!
- Cheap hotels in Bangkok (ebookers.com)
- Bangkok ideal for cultural exploration in 2010 | British Airways – Travel Industry News (travelnews.britishairways.com)
- Fly Lice (squarerootofpie.com)
- Bangkok, Thailand (maximizetravel.wordpress.com)
- Night in Bangkok – Bangkok, Thailand (travelpod.com)
- Reclining Buddha – Bangkok (personanondata.blogspot.com)
- Amazing Trip to Sparkling Bangkok (9holidayscouk.wordpress.com)
- Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha (thejaiyencountry.wordpress.com)