The world is a vast place with no limit to beautiful, exotic, or fascinating places to visit. Tourism and travel are huge industries world-wide, with many cities competing to have the biggest draw. One of the most visited cities in the whole world, and with good reason, is Bangkok in Thailand. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and is a city famous for its culture, food, nightlife, and historical locations. Bangkok draws some of the biggest tourism crowds of any city on earth because it has so much to offer. In this fantastic city you can visit royal palaces, ancient temples, important historical sites, and take in a thumping, modern nightlife all in one day. This diversity and density should push Thailand to the of your “must-see” travel list.
But in a city so full of original sites and locations, how is traveler supposed to know what to choose. When we travel we are often on a tight timeline, so savoring every moment of our precious vacation is essential to having a great time. In cities like Bangkok, it is easy to become flummoxed by all the diversity and options for travelers. It can be help for the unsure traveler to spend time researching the city’s attractions before arriving at the airport, so that they may plan out a loose itinerary for their time. If you’re a traveler looking to craft your perfect Bangkok itinerary, look no further than the following eight locations. These locations are the best of what Bangkok has to offer, and they should be included in any traveler’s plans.
1.) Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha – The predominant religion in Thailand is Buddhism, so it serves to reason that Buddhist temples are scattered throughout the entire country, including Bangkok. This famous Wat (which is the word for a Buddhist monastery or temple) complex is in the Phra Nakon district of Bangkok. This temple also goes by the colloquial name: “Temple of the Reclining Buddha”. This temple is considered one of the finest temples in all of Thailand and was built by and for Thai royalty. The temple is adorned with many images of the Buddha (including the enormous, famous namesake: reclining Buddha). In fact, this temple houses the most images of the Buddha in all of Thailand. Once, this temple was used as one of the first places for children to obtain a public education. Children now have other buildings in which to conduct their studies, but as a nod to the past there is still a school of Thai medicine housed here. One aspect of Thai medicine is the famous Thai massage, which is taught and practiced within the temple.
2.) The Grand Palace – This expansive and impressive complex needs to be a must see for anyone visiting Bangkok. This large complex was once the original home and working quarters of all the Kings of Siam and then eventually the Kings of Thailand. Here the kings, their families, their court, and the government’s officials would spend nearly all their time. Of course for such prestigious people the building needed to be opulent and beautiful. The building was first started way back in 1925, but it didn’t stop anytime soon. As need has arisen, more has been added so the style is quite varied throughout. The Grand Palace is not just one building, but a vast collection of separate buildings, gardens, pavilions, halls, and paths; much like its own internal city. The complex is walled off for protection, but parts are open to tourists to visit, even though some royal offices are still held there.
3.) BTS SkyTrain – Bangkok is a very large city which can be intimidating for a non-local to navigate through. If you’re looking to make the most of your time while on your stay in Bangkok, you might want to think hard about what form of transportation will give you the best bang for your buck (and time). The Bangkok Mass Transit System (or the BTS or Skytrain for short) is one of the best ways to see the city. This “rapid transit” system is elevated, which gives it the Skytrain name. There are 34 stations across the Skytrain’s two lines. The Skytrain as it is used today was officially opened in 1999. Now the Skytrain is used by both local and tourists alike, as it is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get around the city — all while taking in excellent overhead views.
4.) Jim Thompson House – This attraction is very unique and worth your time when you’re in Bangkok. The name Jim Thompson doesn’t sound very Thai, does it? Well that is because it is the name of an American businessman. Jim Thompson visited Thailand to build his silk business back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. While there, he fell in love with Thai and Buddhist art and culture. He so loved it that he decided to build his house out of several antique Thai structures that he had moved and joined together. Today those houses make up the Jim Thompson house museum. You can view his collection of art and see the historic architecture when you visit. There are guided tours around the complex to give you information on the buildings and the art, which is very educational. The grounds are garden-like and quite beautiful too.
5.) Wat Arun – This wat is yet another amazing and beautiful piece of architecture you need to add to your list. If you want to see a real spectacle, this Wat is best visited during sunrise or sunset. It is at that transitional time of the day that the Wat’s unique roof and architecture is displayed at its most splendid. Wat Arun goes by another name, which gives a hint as to why visiting at sunrise or sunset is important: Temple of Dawn. The roof of the Wat has been intricately decorated with colorful an iridescent Chinese pottery and seashells. These materials do a fantastic job of reflecting and scattering light. When the sun is low on the horizon, the effect is even more magical. Hence the appropriate nickname! This Wat is located on the west side of the Chao Phraya River in the Bangkok Yai district. Once, Wat Arun housed the emerald Buddha image, but that has since been moved.
6.) Golden Buddha Statue – The Golden Buddha statue should be on every visitors list not just because it is quite beautiful, but because it has a funny and fascinating history. This massive 5.5 ton golden statue is currently housed in a small offshoot of the Wat Traimit, but that was not always the case. The statue is quite old, possibly dating as far back as the 13th or 14th centuries (based on the style). The statue is thought to have been made in India and transported to Thailand. In 1767 the golden statue was covered with plaster and colored glass in an attempt to disguise its value from Burmese invaders. Since that time it has been moved around with no knowledge of what was under that plaster. At one point it was even kept outside under nothing but a tin roof. One day, in 1954, during transport, the statue was accidently dropped, which caused the plaster to chip away. After careful plater removal, the now revered statue is housed in its current, illustrious building.
7.) Wat Phra Kae – This wat is the wat to end all wats. If you love the ornate, the opulent, the golden, and at rich, you will adore Wat Phra Kae. Of all the beautiful wats throughout Thailand and Bangkok, Wat Phra Kae is absolutely the most sacred. In this wat is made up of several buildings across 234 acres. There are over 100 separate buildings on the wat’s grounds. But, the most important part of Wat Phra Kae is the venerated Emerald Buddha. This statue of Buddha stands 31 inches tall and is made from one solid piece of jade, which gives the Buddha its name. Originally hailing from India, this Buddha is said to bring prosperity and pre-eminence to any country which houses it, so it has become an essential part of Thai identity. The Emerald Buddha is said to be the protector of Thailand, and battles have been fought to keep it in the country.
8.) Lumphini Park – After a long day visiting opulent temples, it might be nice to spend some time in nature. One natural area in bustling, urban Bangkok is Lumphini Park. Lumphini park is quite large, covering a 360 acre area. It was created in 1920 and is located in the Lumphini sub-district. The intent for the park was to create a beautiful public space, which it has succeeded at. In the park you will find plentiful tress, playgrounds, jogging paths, and even a large artificial lake. The lake is a big draw to the park because it allows visitors to rent small boats. What is more relaxing than drifting on a gentle current? The park is also a center for social good. Within it you will find several buildings and organizations dedicated to helping the needy such as the Elder Citizens Club and the Home of Hope, which aims to assist homeless children. All in all, the park is a nice place to take a break from the city.