While many tourists spend no more than a couple of days in Bangkok on their way to Thailand’s mountains or beaches, the city is alive and squirming with culture, intrigue and adventure. Many of the country’s top tourist attractions can be found nestled among the city’s busy streets, including palaces, temples and authentic markets.
Just wondering around Bangkok is a feast for all the senses, and you can see a lot in a short amount of time. It would take weeks, however, to truly appreciate all that this garish, sparkling gem of a city has to offer, but here are a few highlights to get you started.
The Grand Palace is probably the most famous attraction in the whole of Thailand. The palace was the official resident of the Thai royal family up until the 20th century and features a glorious feast of architectural styles, with everything from Italian Renaissance to traditional Thai design. The complex also features the iconic Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew.
On the west bank of the Chao Phraya River is Wat Arun, which is famous for its intricate ceramic detail, Chinese statues and 79-metre pagoda. Known as ‘The Temple of Dawn’, this Bangkok attraction looks particularly majestic as the sun goes down, when it is best viewed from a boat from Wat Po across the river. This second temple is also worth a look with its multiple spires and giant reclining Buddha, and visitors should remember to dress respectfully when visiting here. More on temples.
For more culture, head to the National Museum, which provides tours in English on Wednesdays and Thursdays for a few extra baht. The museum, which is the largest in the country, provides a fascinating account of the role of Buddhism in Thailand’s development and boasts an incredible display of artefacts. More on museums.
Once the home of King Rama V, Vimanmek Palace, which claims to be the largest gold and teak mansion in the world, is an oasis of tranquillity in this hedonistic haven. Traditional performances are put on daily and the amazingly-sculpted building and gardens and are a sight to behold.
Those who are not averse to haggling in the heat should take advantage of the great shopping opportunities in Thailand’s capital. Among the modern malls –what they lack in authenticity they make up for in air-conditioning – is an abundance of bustling markets. Chinatown is a treat for any trinket junkie, with every sparkly object imaginable from jewellery to antiques. Chatuchak Weekend Market is the place to go for vintage clothing and traditional Thai crafts, however, if you happen to be in town on the right days. More on shopping.
A saunter down Khao San Road is pretty unavoidable during a stay in Bangkok but, thankfully, it’s one of the most entertaining places in town. This bohemian hotspot full of street stalls, guesthouses and bars is the number-one place in Thailand for people-spotting. Visitors with time on their hands will find that hours will pass like minutes as they observe the endless stream of quirky characters passing through. More on the Khao San Road.
Patpong and Silom Road are also notorious hot spots for fun-lovers. The plethora of girlie bars is a huge attraction for both interested punters and those who are simply curious to witness the fabled ping-pong shows. There are also a number of regular bars and nightclubs in this area, with Sukhumvit Road also worth a nosey.
More on Bangkok attractions.