Bangkok is certainly one of the most exotic cities in the world. It is the cultural and economic center of the country of Thailand, which used to be the intriguing nation of Siam. Because Thailand is a monarchy, there is considerable pomp and circumstance associated with the kings and the special treatment has produced much of the meticulous detail enshrined in the country’s royal buildings. But most of Bangkok’s tourist attractions revolve around the practice of Buddhism and the Wats (Temples) of Bangkok are second to none. Just like in Europe with its awesome churches, however, it is probably possible to become "watted out," since many are very similar. A Western visitor, nevertheless, will be totally impressed and mind-boggled by the gold and the exquisite workmanship which adorns each and every house of the Buddha. This post will be followed soon by a photo album and walking tour.
1. Grand Palace – This incredibly ornate and spectacular complex of buildings is truly special and ranks as one of the most important attractions of its kind in the world. The grounds also contain the Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Thailand’s most important religious shrine.
2. Wat Pho – The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, very close to the Grand Palace, claims to have one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world. He is 150 feet long and 43 feet high, is covered in gold and his feet are encrusted with mother-of-pearl. The grounds here contain many other beautiful buildings as well. Wat Pho is also the center for Thai massage instruction and visitors can receive a complete massage, done by an apprentice, for a fraction of the cost at a major hotel.
3. Boat Ride on the Chao Phraya River – This muddy river which winds through the city provides and important vehicle of transport for the goods and services of the city. Since there are few bridges across the river, and since traffic is always snarled in the city, river traffic is both convenient and efficient. Every visitor should see the vast city from the water, paying particular attention to the bustle of everyday life here. At the stops, pay close attention when someone throws bread into the water to see the frenzy of hundreds of large fish which thrive in the river.
4. Wat Benchamabophit – The Marble Temple is another exquisite assemblage of buildings and meticulous grounds, to the north of the Grand Palace. Several golden Buddhas are featured in this collection of structures named for the white Carrara marble used in their construction.
5. Wat Traimit – The Temple of the Golden Buddha displays a 5-ton Buddha of pure gold which was discovered accidentally when it fell during transport and the plaster covering cracked.
6. Wat Intharawihan – This temple contains a large golden standing Buddha, 32 meters high.
7. Wat Arun – The Temple of Dawn dominates the west (Thonburi) side of the river, opposite the city center. Its imposing prang or spire rises almost 80 meters and is exquisitely crafted of Chinese ceramic tile.
8. Shopping in the Patpong Night Market – Bangkok’s "red-light district" becomes, at night, the scene of some of the best shopping in Bangkok. Bargain hard to score those unususal items that are too expensive elsewhere. Knock-offs are featured here, but there is much more to see and the people-watching is great.
9. Wat Saket and the Golden Mount – The Golden Mount rises majestically above the old city center and views from the top (after many stairs) are fantastic in all directions. Wat Saket, at the bottom of the hill, is another exquisite complex.
10. Having Clothes Made at James Fashion – One of the premier shopping experiences in Bangkok is to have clothes custom-made. They can be ready for wear in 1-2 days and the staff will even come to your hotel for fittings and delivery of the finished product. Textiles is one of the major industries in Thailand.
Other sites considered:
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market