Bangkok is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities. Created the Thai capital in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, Bangkok is a national treasure house and Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
Major tourism attractions include glittering Buddhist temples, palaces, timeless 'Venice of the East' canal and river scenes, classical dance extravaganzas, an almost legendary nightlife, and numerous airconditioned shopping centres selling Thai silks, cottons, gemstones, bronze and pewterware, and many,
many more internationally admired handicrafts. Bangkok exceeds 1,500 square kilometres in area. Its population of over 6 million means that approximately one in every ten Thais is a Bangkokian.
Major Attractions
The Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaeo (Chapel of the Emerald Buddha)
This inner-city riverine landmark contains several buildings with highly detailed architectural features. Wat Phra Kaeo, within the same compound, is a treasure house of Thai arts, and houses the Emerald Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Thailand. Also contained with the Grand Palace enclave is the Royal Thai Decorations & Coin Pavilion which features a permanent exhibition of royal regalia, decorations, medals and coins and monetary units used in Thailand since the early 11th century.
Sanam Luang (Phramen Ground)
This oval public ground in front of the Grand Palace enclave is used for various royal ceremonies, including the Royal Ploughing Ceremony each May, and is edged by several noteworthy institutions. These include the Fine Arts Department, Thammasat University, and the National Museum, which houses a superb collection of artifacts and objets d'art dating from the Bronze Age.
The National Theatre regularly stages classical dance drama performances, the National Gallery houses a collection of traditional and contemporary paintings by leading Thai artists, and Lak Muang (City Pillar Shrine) on the south-east corner of Sanam Luang, contains a stone pillar placed there by King Rama I as the foundation stone for his new capital of Bangkok. Lak Muang is believed by many to have the power of granting wishes.
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
This large and extensive temple neighbours the Grand Palace enclave and contains a gigantic gold plated Reclining Buddha some 46 metres long and 15 metres high, and with inlaid mother-of-pearl soles.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
This famous Chao Phraya riverbank landmark, diagonally opposite the Grand Palace, is best known for a porcelain encrusted 79-metre central pagoda (phra prang) which sparkles in the sun.
Vimanmek Palace (The Celestial Residence)
Located behind Bangkok's National Assembly, this is the world's largest golden teak building. The 3-storey palace contains 81 rooms, halls and ante-chambers containing fin de siecle royal memorabilia.
Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha)
Located at the end of Chinatown's Yaowarat Road, near Hualampong Railway Station, this temple houses an ancient solid gold seated Buddha image, three metres in height and weighing five and a half tons.
Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple)
Located in Si Ayutthaya Road, near Chitralada Palace, this unique marble temple was constructed during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910), employs European ecclesiastic details, such as stained glass windows, and contains a superb cloister collection of bronze Buddha images.
Wat Saket (The Golden Mount)
Wat Saket's major feature is the Golden Mount, dating from the 1800s, which overlooks Ratchadamnoen Avenue. The golden chedi houses relics of Lord Buddha and offers a
panoramic view of historic Bangkok. Other inner-city templesthat merit visits include Wat Mahathat, a Buddhist university edging Sanam Luang, Wat Ratchabophit on Ban Mo Road, Wat Intharawihan on Wisutkasat Road, with its 32-metre-high standing Buddha image, and Wat Ratchanatdaram, behind the Rama III Memorial Park on Ratcha-damnoen Avenue, with its pink Loha Prasat.
Wat Suthat & The Giant Swing
Located on Bamrung Muang Road, this temple is noted for its superb 19th-century murals in the main chapel. The distinctive Giant Swing outside the temple was once used in Brahmanic ceremonial long since discontinued.
Royal Barges
Thailand's ornately carved and decorated Royal Barges are displayed in boatsheds on Khlong (Canal) Bangkok Noi, just off the Chao Phraya River near Phra Pin Klao Bridge.
Jim Thompson's Thai House
.This collection of traditional Thai-style houses, fashioned into one dwelling, belongs to the man who helped restore the Thai Silk industry after World War II, and, today, preserved as a museum, contains a priceless collection of Asian objets d'art.
The canalside museum is located in Soi Kasemsan 2 on Rama I Road, opposite the National Stadium. The canalside museum is located in Soi Kasemsan 2 on Rama I Road, opposite the National Stadium.
Suan Pakkard Palace
Located on Si Ayutthaya Road, this complex of five Thai-style houses occupies a beautiful garden and houses an important collection of Asian antiques. A lacquer pavilion is decorated with sumptuous late Ayutthayan period (1350-1767) gold-leaf murals.
Pasteur Institute Snake Farm
Located near Chulalongkorn Hospital, on the corner of Henri Dunant and Rama IV roads, the Snake Farm contains a collection of poisonous snakes which are 'milked' daily for their venom in order to produce invaluable anti-snakebite serum.
Dusit Zoo
Located beside the Royal Plaza, Bangkok's oldest zoo contains a collection of popular African and Asian mammals and birds in an ornamental garden.
Ban Kamthieng
Located in the garden of the Siam Society on Sukhumvit Soi 21 (Asoke), this 200-year-old northern Thai-style house contains a collection of traditional implements used by Thai farmers and ricefield fishermen.
Bangkok Doll Museum
Located on Soi Ratchataphan, off Ratchaprarop Road, this exhibits dolls made by the local factory.
King Rama IX Park
This 200-acre botanical garden-cum-public park is located deep inside Sukhumvit Soi 103 (Udomsuk) and was opened in 1987 to commemorate the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Siam City Park
Located in suburban Minburi, some 30-minutes east of the Lat Phrao flyover, this water amusement park contains a man-made sea with artificial surf, whirlpools, fountains, waterfalls and towering sliders. Satellite attractions include a children's playground, aviaries, open zoo and botanical garden
Safari World
This 300-acre complex is also located in Minburi, via Km 9 on Raminthra Road. The complex is divided into four sections, namely a Safari Park populated by African and Asian mammals, a Bird Park, a Macaw Island, and a Games Corner.
The Chao Phraya River & Bangkok's Canals (Khlongs)
Nineteenth-century Bangkok was laced with canals, giving the capital the designation 'Venice of the East'. Surviving canals, and the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings) provide memorable vignettes of a traditional waterborne way-of-life that has remained essentially unchanged over the centuries. The river and canals may be conveniently explored by public transport.
Express Boat Trip/Bangkok- Nonthaburi
An express boat service on the Chao Phraya River connects Bangkok with the northern neighbouring province of Nonthaburi, starting from the Wat Ratsingkhon Pier near Krung Thep Bridge. The fare is 7 baht. Major sights include the Memorial Bridge, Wat Arun, the riverine Grand Palace and Thammasat University. The most convenient boarding pointsareTha Chang Pier near the Grand Palace, and Tha Phra
Chan Pier near Thammasat University. The express boat service operates daily from 6.00 AM until 8.00 PM.
Khlong Mon
Boats leave every 30 minutes, daily, from 6.30 AM until 6.00 PM, from Tha Tian Pier behind Wat Pho. The single fare is 4 baht. Picturesque sights include canalside temples, orchards, orchid farms and perpetually fascinating vignettes of waterborne life.
Khlong Bang Waek
Boats leave the Memorial Bridge Pier every 15 minutes from 6.00 AM until 9.30 PM. The single fare is 10 baht. Scenic attractions include canalside temples and orchid farms.
Khlongs Bang Khun Wiang & Bang Yai
Boats leave Tha Chang Pier near the Grand Palace every 20 minutes between 6.15 AM and 8.00 PM. The single fare is 10 baht. Scenic attractions include canalside temples, the Royal Barge Boatsheds, Thaistyle houses and the early morning Khu Wiang Floating Market which operates between 4 and 7.00 AM.
Chao Phraya River Dinner Cruises
Riverine Bangkok offers some of the capital's most arresting sights, particularly at night when the weather is cooler and light reflections bestow the Chao Phraya River with flickering magic and romance. An ideal way of combining dining with riverine enchantment is to enjoy a river dinner cruise.
Reservations, current prices, conditions and departure times may be obtained from the Loy Nava Co. Ltd. (Tel: 437-4932, 437- 7329), the Yok Yor Restaurant (281-1829), the Khanab Nam Restaurant (433-6611, 424- 8453-4), River Sightseeing Ltd. (437-4047), Ban Khun Luang (243-3235, 241-2282, 241- 0928) or Riverside Co. Ltd. (434-0090-4).
Provinces neighbouring Bangkok contain certain popular attractions. These include:
This 'market garden' riverine province north of Bangkok was formerly famous for its durian orchards. The province contains several historic temples, including the provincial capital's riverside Wat Chalerm Phra Kiat-- which features exquisite porcelain- decorated gables, a castellated enclosure and excellent mural paintings -- and a traditional floating market at Khlong Ban Khu Wiang where, every morning farmers congregate in produce-laden sampans to offer a glimpses of a rapidly disappearing way of life.
Wat Phailom
This riverside temple is a sanctuary for open-billed storks which, from December through June, nest in their thousands within the temple complex.
The Ancient City
Essentially an open-air museum, this more than 200-acre complex contains scale replicas of religious complexes, monuments and buildings found throughout Thailand. The complex is located at Km 33 on Sukhumvit Highway and is open daily from 8.30 AM until 5.00 PM. Further details may be obtained by telephone (224-1057, 222- 8145-9).
This coastal province is best known for its salt production, the coastal fishing community of Mahachai where excellent native- style seafood can be enjoyed, and for bird-watching opportunities on coastal mudflats. A daily floating market is featured at Khlong Pho Hak.
This petite coastal province is laced with canals that irrigate fruit orchards and support traditional floating markets at Bang Noi, Tha Kha and Amphawa.
Phuttha Monthon
This Buddha's Precinct & Botanical Garden is located approximately 16 kilometres west of Bangkok. The more than 1,000-acre complex commemorates the Buddha's enlightenment more than 2,500 years ago, and is dominated by a bronze walking Buddha image some 15 metres high.
Human Imagery Museum
Located at Km 31 on the Pinklao-Nakhon Chaisi road, the museum houses life-sized fibreglass sculptures of former monarchs, ecclesiastics and rural folk. Further details may be obtained by telephone (01- 211-6261).
Rose Garden Country Resort
32 kilometres west of Bangkok, beside the Tachin river, this artfully landscaped resort complex is open daily to the public from 8.00 AM until 6.00 PM for an admission fee of 10 baht. A Thai Cultural Village within the complex presents a daily afternoon shows featuring folk dances, martial arts demonstrations and the like. Further details may be obtained by telephone (253-0295-7, 253-2276).
Samphran Elephant Ground & Zoo
Located just one kilometre from the Rose Garden, this 22-acre complex features many different wild animals and thousands of crocodiles, including the world's largest albino crocodile. Open daily from 9.00 AM until 6.00 PM, the complex stages daily shows featuring crocodiles and elephants. Further information may be obtained by telephone (284-1873, 294-5211, 284-0273).
Phra Pathom Chedi
This bell-shaped, orange-tiled chedi, located in Nakhon
Pathom provincial capital, some 56 kilometres west of Bangkok, is the tallest Buddhist monument in the world, and marks the spot where Buddhism was introduced to the Thailand-to-be some 2,300 years ago.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Located some 80 kilometres southwest of Bangkok, this market sees the daily morning congregation of produce-laden boats as farmers and smallholders trade in agricultural produce.
Shopping is one of Bangkok's major attractions. Favourite purchases include Thai silks and cottons, modern and traditional jewellery featuring precious gemstones such as sapphires, rubies,emeralds and diamonds, semi-precious
stones including opals, jades, topazes, turquoises and ziricons,silverware,nielloware, pewterware, bronzeware, ceramics, specially high-fired celadon, leather goods, woodcarvings, paintings, custom-tailored clothing and any of the one thousand and one items produced by skilled Thai artisans. Bangkok is one of the most competitively priced cities in Asia. Friendly bargaining in most stores and markets ensure favourable prices and service. There are six clearly defined city shopping areas:
Phatphong/Suriwong/Silom Area
Major hotels include the Montian and Dusit Thani. Numerous shops, and department stores, sell jewellery, gemstones, antiques, ceramics, leather goods, men's and women's clothing, handicrafts, Thai silks and cottons, electrical and photographic goods.
The area comprises Bangkok's major commercial and nightlife centre.
Mahesak/Silom/New Road Area
Principal hotels include the Shangri-la, Oriental and Sheraton Royal Orchid. The area is a major gemstone dealing and jewellery manufacturing area. Boutiques, art galleries, department stores and shopping arcades, including the River City complex, sell a wide range of items, with particular emphasis on antiques, tailored clothing, and contemporary Thai and Asian paintings.
Phloen Chit /Pathumwan Area
Principal hotels include Le Meridien, the Hyatt Erawan, Arnoma, Regent, Imperial and Siam-Intercontinental. The area encompasses several department stores and shopping centres, such as the World Trade Center, Siam Square, Siam Centre and Mahboonkrong. Almost everything the shopper needs may be found within this area.
Thailand's principal duty-free shopping outlet is located on the 7th floor of the World Trade Center.
Sukhumvit Area
Principal hotels include the Landmark, Ambassador and Sheraton Grande. Concentrated largely between Soi Nana (Soi 3) and Soi Asoke (Soi 21), several shops, shopping centres and department stores offer a broad range of Thai and imported items.
The Nana Entertainment Complex on Soi 4 is one of Bangkok's favourite nightlife areas.
Pratunam/Petchaburi Road Area
Principal hotels include the Amari Watergate and Indra regent. The area is best known for its inexpensive readymade clothing, which is sold partly in a street market, where determined bargaining is required for best prices.
This riverine section of Bangkok is favoured by back-packers for its budget accommodation. The area offers inexpensive items, especially readymade clothing, leather goods, footwear, cosmetics and curios. Bargaining is recommended.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
An approximately 35-acre public park on Phaholyothin Road, opposite the Northern Bus Terminal, and known locally as Suan Chatuchak, is the site of a popular weekend market which sells at least one thousand different local products including pets, handicrafts, plants, fresh fruit, antique reproductions, shoes, toys, clothing and domestic utensils.
The weekend market is open on Saturday and Sunday from dawn to dusk, or approximately 7.00 AM until 6.00 PM.
Bang Rak Market
Located on New Road, between Silom and Sathon roads, this market offers a particularly large selection of cut blooms and orchids. Lovely garlands made principally of jasmine are a specialty.
Thewet Market
Lining the bank of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem off Samsen Road, this market is best known for potted plants.
Lang Krasuang Market
Facing Khlong Lot, on Atsadang Road, between the Royal Hotel and Interior Minstry, a row of shophouses sell moderately priced second-hand goods, including antique cameras and typewriters, musical instruments, radios, and all manner of electrical goods. Bargaining is essential.
Woeng Nakhon Kasem
Better known as 'Thieves Market', located between Yaowarat Road and New Road, near Phahurat, this area sells antiques, including Thai and Chinese objets d'art, porcelain, brassware, copperware and furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Bargaining is essential.
Simply stated, Bangkok is one of the best eating places in the world, for gourmet and gourmand alike. Almost every major cuisine in the world is represented in specialty restaurants located throughout the city. Quality Thai and Chinese food is ubiquitous in outlets as diverse as coffeeshops and street front restaurants, markets and food centres found in shopping arcades, department stores and hotels. Several complimentary English-language tourism guides, available at hotel reception desks, provide comprehensive listings of choice eating places. The classified advertisement pages of Bangkok's most popular Englishlanguage newspapers are another reliable source of information for good dining. Bangkok's nightlife is almost legendary. Nightlife outlets are found citywide. Beyond hotels, the most popular nightlife areas are the Phatphong area between Silom and Surawong roads,
the Soi Nana and Soi Cowboy areas on Sukhumvit Road, and the New Phetchaburi Road area between Sukhumvit Sois 21 and 71.Aforementioned complimentary English-language tourism magazines list the most popular outlets, such as bars, discotheques, restaurants featuring Thai classical dance and cocktail lounges.
Bangkok offers accommodation to suit every pocket, from some of the world's best hotels to inexpensive guest houses. A comprehensive list of accommodation is available from the TAT office on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.
Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 2.50 baht to most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Airconditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 7 and 15 baht respectively. Airconditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 30 baht on all routes. A Bus Route Map is available at most hotels, bookshops and the TAT office on Ratchadamnoen Avenue for 35 baht.
Hotel taxis have fixed rates. Taxis cruising city streets are metered. They charge a minimum of 35 baht, for the first 3 kilometres, and approximately 5 baht per kilometre thereafter.
These three-wheeled 'openair' motorised taxis are popular for short journeys. Fares must be bargained in advance. Minimum fares, for journeys of up to 3 kilometres, are approximately 30 baht.
Major Events
Besides nationally celebrated events on public holidays, including Buddhist holy days and the traditional Thai New Year, Songkran, celebrated each April, Bangkok hosts a number of important annual events. They include:
New Year's Celebrations
Generally celebrated on January 1, located around Sanam Luang, and marked by earlymorning Buddhist merit-making, and afternoon and evening folk entertainment
Royal Ploughing Ceremony
Staged every May at Sanam
Luang, and presided over by H.M. the King, to mark the official commencement of the rice-planting season.
H.M. the Queen's Birthday
Celebrated each August 12. Public buildings, particularly in the Ratchadamnoen and Grand Palace areas are illuminated at night.
Chulalongkorn Day
Celebrated each October 23, principally beside the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn (reign: 1868-1910), the monarch generally credited with saving Thailand from western colonialisation, and who modernised his country, besides abolishing slavery.
Trooping of the Colours
Celebrated each December 3, preceding H.M. King Bhumibol's birthday, the elite Royal Guards swear anew their allegiance to their monarch in a colourful ceremony in the Royal Plaza.
H.M. the King's Birthday
Celebrated each December 5 with Buddhist merit-making, spectacular evening illuminations in the Grand Palace and Ratchadamnoen areas, and public entertainment principally in the form of folk dramas and open-air filmshows at Sanam Luang.