Bangkok is a highlight of oriental culture, fascinating tourists and travellers for years. Legendary for its exotic scenery and alluring night life, Bangkok has a wealth of cultural spots just waiting to be explored; follow our travel guide to the hot spots for a fun and informative trip to this rich, exotic vacation spot.
The Grand Palace is a good place to start. This 200 year old landmark is by far Bangkok’s most famous spot, and was home to the Thai king and the Royal court for 150 years. Its stunning architecture and exquisite craftsmanship and detail makes the spiritual home of Thailand all the more special. Within the complex there are many buildings to tour, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which dates back to the 14th century. This Indian statue has seen many parts of the East, and its body (made of Jade) is wrapped in gold clothing. It really is a sight that has to be seen to be believed.
On the west bank of the Chao Phraya River is the Temple of Dawn, known locally in Taiwanese as Wat Chaeng. Bathed in golden light, the temple makes a stunning view from across the river and its distinctive spire remains one of Thailand’s most famous landmarks, looming above the surrounding city at almost 70 meters high. The spire is covered in coloured glass and porcelain, all laid out in complex and intricate patterns. As with all of Thailand, the Temple of Dawn is also laden with a rich history; it’s named after King Taksin’s dawn-arrival to the temple after fighting his way out of a besieging Burmese army.
While we’re on the topic of Temples, Wat Pao (a.k.a. Temple of Reclining Buddha) is another must-see in cultural Bangkok. It’s the largest temple in the city and is famous for its 46 metre long Buddha, adorned in rich orange-yellow gold. The Buddha’s feet alone stand at three metres in length and are decorated with mother-of-pearl. Talk about expensive shoes. You can also get a traditional Thai massage while visiting, though be warned, Thai massage is definitely not for the faint of heart. You might leave with a spring in your step, but be prepared to put through your paces first!
Haggling is a bitter sweet (okay, mostly bitter) part of any shopping in a foreign land, and the Bangkok Floating Markets are (sadly) no exception. Over the years the sales have become increasingly tourist-based, but the market still remains a vital part of Thai culture, even though the chance to simply soak in the bustling atmosphere without the stress of banter with a shop owner is unlikely for tourists. The answer is to take a guided boat tour, allowing you a chance to sit back and watch as the tropical prejudice and floating kitchens entice and entrap fellow travellers. Luckily, the markets also vary from place to place; Damnoen Saduk is totally chaotic and thrilling, while Bang Khu Wiang remains relatively peaceful. We’ll leave the choice to you!
So if you’re visiting Thailand remember that some truly unique cultural sites are often just round the corner. Sometimes it may be worth hiring a car for a few days to really explore from the comfort of your own air conditioning and its possible to get a bargain when you hire a car in Bangkok, especially from the airport. From golden Buddhas to illuminated temples, be prepared to have your breath taken away and your heart warmed.
Guest post written by Vito James, who writes for erentals.co.uk