Bangkok: always with a gracious smile.

Bangkok

As the political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital of Thailand, Bangkok features both old-world charm and modern convenience, at times served up in an apparently chaotic manner, but always with a gracious smile.

Invariably, every Thailand holiday includes a visit to the kingdom’s capital city, Bangkok, or Krung Thep, “the city of angels” as it is known to its inhabitants. Many tourists who travel to Bangkok are immediately overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and the vast number of attractions Bangkok has to offer. Indeed there is a wide variety of Bangkok sightseeing opportunities spanning more than two centuries of rapid development following the city’s founding in 1782 by King Rama I, the first king of the present Chakri dynasty. Since that auspicious date, Bangkok has swelled to a cosmopolitan, 21st century city of more than ten million inhabitants. While the immensity of the city and its bustling streets can be intimidating at first, those who spend some time in Bangkok are quickly enamored by the myriad of attractions Bangkok contains, from exotic temples, which underscore Thailand’s strong Buddhist history, to modern shopping malls, which make shopping an integral part of any Bangkok holiday. Bangkok features attractions guaranteed to please visitors either simply passing through the city or spending their entire Thailand holiday in Bangkok.

 Nearly every Bangkok holiday includes a visit to Thailand’s Grand Palace, arguably the premier Bangkok sightseeing attraction. Situated in the heart of Bangkok’s Rattanakosin Island, the gleaming spires of the Grand Palace are conveniently located nearby Bangkok’s most spectacular temples, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo), the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Wat Pho, which features an enormous reclining Buddha and was home of the first Thai massage school in the kingdom. These iconic destinations are top attractions to all visitors who travel to Bangkok looking to appreciate Thailand’s unique cultural traditions. In fact, there are more than 400 functioning Buddhist temples throughout the city and it’s not uncommon when you travel in Bangkok to spot saffron robed monks collecting morning alms or traveling throughout out the city, including along the Chao Phraya, the “River of Kings”, which passes alongside the Temple of the Dawn. The winding Chao Phraya is connected by numerous canals from which Bangkok has earned its nickname the “Venice of the East”; when you travel around Bangkok, a cruise on the Chao Phraya, a visit to a floating market, or an exploration of the cities “back alley” canals (khlongs) are themselves unique Bangkok attractions. Other historical and cultural Bangkok sightseeing ‘must sees’ include the National Museum, Vimanmek Mansion, and Suan Pakkad Palace, all of which either house fine art or are national treasures in their own right. Beyond Bangkok’s historical district, there are plenty of other attractions that make a Bangkok holiday both enjoyable and memorable. The downtown districts along Silom and Sukhumvit Roads have a convenient electric rail system, including an elevated sky-train and underground subway, that have made travel in Bangkok both easy and enjoyable. Connecting hotels directly to shopping malls and traditional markets, such as Mah Boon Krong Center and Chatuchak (JJ) weekend market, the MRT and BTS systems have literally elevated Bangkok shopping to world-class status. Of course, no Thailand holiday is complete without experiencing Thailand’s vibrant nightlife. Whether, the purpose of your Thailand holiday is to immerse yourself in Thailand’s unique culture or simply to splurge in Bangkok shopping malls, when you travel to Bangkok you are guaranteed a fascinating experience of both old-world charm and modern convenience and luxury.

Key Tips

Beware of scams involving tuk tuks, gem shops, and tailors, particularly around popular tourist attractions. Remember, there is no such thing as a free ride. Its better to flag down taxis that are already driving (the red light means empty); these will generally use the meter while parked taxis typically ask for higher fixed fares or will take you for the proverbial ‘ride’. During the monsoon season months of June through September rains come quickly and heavily, particularly in the afternoon. Adequate footwear and an umbrella are advisable.

The Grand Palace

Probably the most visited and remembered landmark of Thailand, The Grand Palace in Bangkok is where every visitor must pay a visit at least once in their lifetime. The construction of the Grand Palace began in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I, the founder of Chakri Dynasty, to become a royal residence, and it has been the utmost architectural symbol of Thailand ever since. The Grand Palace served as a significant royal residence until 1925 and is now used for ceremonial purposes only. The Grand Palace is divided into three main zones: The Outer Court, home to royal offices, public buildings and the Temple of Emerald Buddha; the Middle Court, which is where the most important residential and state buildings are; and the Inner Court, which is exclusively reserved for the king, his queen and his consorts. The major attraction of the Outer Court is the Temple of Emerald Buddha, the residence of Thailand’s most sacred Buddhist sculpture: Phra Kaeo Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), which was carved from flawless green jade, situated amid gold-gilded sculptures and ornaments, and fresco paintings of the main ordination hall.

Photo:Andy Marchand, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25566251

Situated at the center of the Middle Court is Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall which was ordered by King Rama V to become his residence and a major throne hall. The construction began in 1876 and completed in 1882, revealing an outstanding architectural-style combining European structure and traditional Thai roof tiles and spires. The interior sees sophisticated decorations  inspired by European renaissance era, adorned with royal portraits of Chakri Dynasty’s monarchs. The building now only serves state functions and royal ceremonies. At the far right of the Middle Court is Borom Phiman Mansion, which was also constructed during the reign of King Rama V in neo-renaissance style to become the residence of the crown prince. This most modern architecture within the Grand Palace compound later became the occasional residence of three succeeding kings. The mansion is not open to public and currently served as the official accommodation for visiting heads of state. Borom Phiman Mansion is part of Sivalai Garden complex, where the office of the Royal Household Bureau is. The garden was a recreation area for the royal women and children and is now used for receptions. Sat between Sivalai Garden and Chakri Mahaprasat Throne Hall is Maha Monthien Prasat complex, home to the Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai where royal ceremonies usually take place. While on the far left is Dusit Mahaprasat Thone Hall, which is an ideal archetype of traditional Thai architecture.

 

Getting there: One of the easiest, and most pleasurable, ways is taking the BTS skytrain to Saphan Taksin station, located atop Sathorn “Central” Pier. From here, take a Chao Phraya River Express boat to Chang Pier, and then it’s a short walk to the Grand Palace’s main entrance.

Opening hours:  Open daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm except during special royal ceremonies.

Entrance fee: 500 Baht, inclusive of access to Wat Phra Kaeo, The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile, which are located within the Grand Palace compound, and to Vimanmek Mansion Museum on Ratchawithi Road. Additional 100 Baht for a rental personal audio guide in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Mandarin.  

Dress code: Visitors are required to dress appropriately. These following clothes are strictly not allowed as outer garments for both ladies and gentlemen:

  • Shorts, mini-skirts, short skirts, tight fitting trousers, and tights
  • See-through shirts and blouses, as well as culottes or quarter length trousers
  • Sleeveless shirts or vests
  • Sandals (without ankle or heel straps)
  • Rolled-up-sleeved shirts
  • Sweatshirts and sweatpants, wind-cheaters, pajamas and fisherman trousers
  • Please wear black or white cloth to respect for the passing of Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Contact: 0 2623 5500 ext.3100, 0 2224 3273
Website: www.palaces.thai.net

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is not only one of the most visited Buddhist temples in Bangkok but it is where history, medical science and educational institute combined. Officially named Wat Prachetuphon Vimon Mangkararam, Wat Pho was believed to be founded during the 16th century and was later served as The Royal Temple of King Rama I of Chakri Dynasty. Laid inside the main ordination hall is the sacred 46-meter Reclining Buddha whose feet are beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, carved with holy signs. Wat Pho is, among Thais, also known as “the nation’s first public university,” thanks to 1,360 marble inscriptions about medical, historical and liberal sciences places all around the temple where the people can read and learn anytime. Marble inscriptions about medical sciences, anatomy and orthopedics are the origins of Wat Pho Thai traditional massage principles, which has made Wat Pho a world’s famous site. The traditional service, nowadays, is also available at the nearby pavilion.  in 2008, Wat Pho was listed UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MOW) as a documentary heritage for Asia and Pacific Region.

Photo: By Aimaimyi,CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9622648

Getting there: Bus no. 1, 3, 12, 25,44, 47, 53, 60, 82, 91, 501, 508. Admission : 100 baht

Contact: Tel : 0 2222 1969 ; Thai Massage School : 0 2221 3686 . 0 2622 3550-3
Website: www.watpho.com

China Town

Bangkok’s Chinatown, Thailand’s largest Chinese community, is commonly known among Thais as Yaowarat, according to the name of the road where it is located. The Chinese community dominated trades between Siam (ancient Thailand) and China since the reign of King Rama I, centered around Ratchawong Pier, while the construction of Yaowarat Road hadn’t begun until 1891 during the reign of King Rama V.  Today, Yaowarat is widely known as the kingdom’s largest center of gold trade and a great foodie destination. Yaowarat simply has two faces: If you visit Yaowarat during the day, what you see along both sides of this one and a half kilometer road are shops selling gold, Chinese herbs, fruits and Chinese restaurants serving authentic cuisine. But if you visit Yaowarat after sunset, the road turns into a street food heaven where a number of food trucks prepare you marvelous food, from Chinese fried noodles to iced Chinese dessert, you hardly find elsewhere.

Photo:Jacob Siverskog, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=470580

The City Pillar Shrine

Right opposite the northeastern corner of the Grand Palace complex finds the sacred Bangkok City Pillar Shrine. According to the ancient Siamese (Thai) belief, a city pillar needs to be installed upon the establishment of a new city to symbolize the stability of power. King Rama I of the current Chakri Dynasty erected the first city pillar on Sunday, April 21, 1782 at 6.54 am, when he moved the capital city across Chao Phraya River from Thonburi to Bangkok. The pillar was made of cassia wood (known as Chaiyapruek in Thai) gilded with gold leaves, measuring 29cm in diameter and 187 inches in height. Inside the city pillar there’s a space to store Bangkok’s horoscope. The City Pillar Shrine then was the very first building King Rama I had built for Bangkok, prior to the Grand Palace.

Photo: Ahoerstemeier, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28743

During the reign of King Rama IV (King Mongkut), he demanded a raise of the new city pillar to replace the old one, which was dilapidated. The new city pillar was made of teak and cassia woods gilded with gold leaves, measuring 70 inches in diameter and 107 inches in height. Both pillars are now sheltered in prang-shaped shrine, which was built at the same time with the second city pillar, together with sacred images of five protective deities (Theparak): Phra Suea Muang, Phra Song Muang, Chao Por Hor Klong, Chao Por Chetakhupt and Phra Karn Chai Si. The City Pillar Shrine had been later renovated to maintain its condition for a few times; the latest time was in 1982 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Bangkok.  

Opening hours: Daily from 07.00-18.00 hrs.
Admission: Free

Food & Drink

Bangkok is one of the premier cities for world-class cuisine. In addition to thousands of outstanding Thai restaurants from five-star to street stall, Bangkok features the entire spectrum of international cuisines, a byproduct of its cosmopolitan population. Expatriate Japanese, Indian, German, Italian, French, Lebanese, and people of nearly every other nationality have established authentic eateries throughout the city. Upscale food courts in many shopping plazas provide visitors with a wide selection of outstanding restaurants, and most hotels feature at least one Thai and one international dining establishment. An incipient food-tourism industry has even appeared on the scene; a testament to the outstanding variety and quality of cuisine available in Thailand’s capital city.

Khao San Road:

As one of the epicenters of tourist activity in Bangkok, Khao San Road features a great selection of food, from Thai street food to authentic Middle Eastern and western cuisine. While entrees in Thai restaurants along Khao San Road are hardly authentic -they tend to prepare their food with far less chili than most Thai restaurants do- menus are all in English and the prices are only moderately higher than in everyday Thai restaurants. On the street however, it’s possible to buy common Thai street food, such as fresh fruit, phad thai noodles, spring rolls, and various meats on a stick, all for under $1 US. For novices to Thai cuisine who are fearful for their stomachs, there are also chain branches of American fast food outlets Burger King, McDonalds and Subway, and for those with more refined palettes there are restaurants along nearby Phra Athit Road that serve authentic Thai cuisine to a predominately Thai student crowd.

Photo:Takeaway, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26331657

Silom Road:

The Silom business district around Sala Daeng BTS station may be better known to visitors for the Patpong red-light district and its popular night market. However, Silom features an outstanding collection of Thai and international restaurants, both upscale and casual. In addition to many fine dining restaurants and moderately priced cafes, there are also many international chain restaurants and some of Bangkok’s best street-food dining venues, both on Silom and its side streets, particularly Soi Convent and Soi Sala Daeng.

China Town:

Yaowarat, Bangkok's Chinatown, is a one of the top dining neighborhoods in Bangkok, with a range of dining options from some of the cheapest food stalls, including fresh fruit vendors and roasted chestnuts stands, to some of the most expensive Chinese restaurants in the city. Along Yaowarat Road and the mazes of side streets leading away from it you will find dim sum, seafood, and many other Chinese eateries, particularly Cantonese dining establishments.
In nearby Pahurat, just west of Chinatown, there is a large, long-established Indian community that sells Indian cuisine at a number of authentic restaurants.

Photo:ผู้สร้างสรรค์ผลงาน/ส่งข้อมูลเก็บในคลังข้อมูลเสรีวิกิมีเดียคอมมอนส์, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3186932

Siam Square:

In addition to dozens of restaurants of every variety in the Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, and Siam Center shopping malls, the streets of Siam Square contain numerous restaurants serving authentic Thai, Chinese, Italian, and even American food at the city’s only Hard Rock Café.

Sukhumvit Road:

With arguably the highest percentage of hotels in the city it’s hardly surprising that Sukhumvit Road is a literal smorgasbord of dining options. Beginning around Sukhumvit Soi 3 there are many Arab, Middle Eastern, and African restaurants, as well as a number of British and Irish Pubs. Sukhumvit 11 alone features Spanish, Indian, Australian, Italian, German, Mexican, Thai, and even fusion cuisine at the popular Bed Supperclub. Up near Sukhumvit Soi Asoke there are many Korean restaurants, and around Sukhumvit 24 and the Emporium Department store there are many authentic Japanese eateries. After hours, Sukhumvit Road becomes a street-food paradise with vendors lined up along the sidewalk between Sukhumvit 3 and 21, where all variety of Thai food is served until the early morning hours.

Bangkok Riverside:

Both along and upon the Chao Phraya River there are a host of upscale restaurants and authentic Thai restaurants. With some of the most spectacular sunset views in the city, restaurants along the river’s edge range from swanky hotel cafes and outdoor, rooftop dining rooms, to rustic riverside Thai restaurants and seafood specialists with live music. For additional romance, a dinner cruise aboard an old, teak, rice barge or a larger, more festive boat with live music are both popular experiences for enjoying both the river of kings and some outstanding Thai cuisine.

Transport

Although Bangkok's canals historically served as a major mode of transport, they have long since been surpassed in importance by land traffic. Charoen Krung Road, the first to be built by Western techniques, was completed in 1864. Since then, the road network has vastly expanded to accommodate the sprawling city. A complex elevated expressway network helps bring traffic into and out of the city centre, but Bangkok's rapid growth has put a large strain on infrastructure, and traffic jams have plagued the city since the 1990s. Although rail transport was introduced in 1893 and electric trams served the city from 1894 to 1968, it was only in 1999 that Bangkok's first rapid transit system began operation. Older public transport systems include an extensive bus network and boat services which still operate on the Chao Phraya and two canals. Taxis appear in the form of cars, motorcycles, and "tuk-tuk" auto rickshaws. Bangkok is connected to the rest of the country through the national highway and rail networks, as well as by domestic flights to and from the city's two international airports. Its centuries-old maritime transport of goods is still conducted through Khlong Toei Port.

The BMA is largely responsible for overseeing the construction and maintenance of the road network and transport systems through its Public Works Department and Traffic and Transportation Department. However, many separate government agencies are also in charge of the individual systems, and much of transport-related policy planning and funding is contributed to by the national government.

 

Bangkok
Thailand

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