Thailand is a wondrous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands. Along with a fascinating history and a unique culture that includes delectable Thai food and massage, Thailand features a modern capital city, and friendly people who epitomize Thailand’s “land of smiles” reputation.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy whose current head of state is HM Bhumibol Adulyadej. A unified Thai kingdom has existed since the mid-14th century, and Thailand was known as Siam until 1939 when it officially became the Kingdom of Thailand.
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.
As the kingdom’s political, economic, cultural, culinary, and spiritual capital, 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 Rattakosin district, 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 Keaw), the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), and Wat Po, which features an enormous reclining Buddha and was home of the first Thai massage school in the kingdom. 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.
For tourists, Bangkok has a feast of attractions to offer. The city is dotted with 400 glittering Buddhist temples of great beauty, magnificent palaces, classical dance performances, numerous shopping centers, and a still functioning traditional way of life, especially along the canals and the Chao Phraya River, the “River of Kings”, which winds through the city; Bangkok truly is the “Venice of the East”.
Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew
A real “must see” is The Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Located close to the Chao Praya River, this kilometer square “city within a city” may not be as large as Beijing’s Forbidden City, but it is much more spectacular. The architecture is truely exotic and awesome, with golden pagodas sparkling in the sun. Wat Prakaew is the home of Thailand’s most precious religious icon. Visitors to this amazing complex must be respectfully attired with no shorts, sandles, or sleeveless shirts.
Vimanmek Palace, Cloud Mansion, is located behind the National Assembly. This palace is believed to be the world largest building made entirely of golden teak. The building was originally constructed on Srichang Island in the Gulf of Siam by King Rama V (King Chulalongkorn). In 1901, the building was moved to its present site which was Bangkok suburbs at that time.
Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, this temple can be reached either by Arun Amarin Road or by boat from Tha Tien Pier, near Wat Pho. It was restored during the brief Thonburi period to be the Royal Chapel of King Taksin. An important structure is a 79 meter-high pagoda or “Phra Phang” decorated with ceramic tiles and fragments of multicoloured porcelain. The name of this temple literary means “Temple of the Dawn” but the most beautiful view of it can be seen from the east side of the river at sunset.
Wat Saket, The Golden Mount or Phu Khao Thong, is well-known for its golden chedi atop the Golden Mount of a height of 77 metres. The artificial hill was created when a large chedi under construction by King Rama III, collapsed because of the soft soil underneath. Later King Rama IV commanded the construction of a small chedi on its crest. King Rama V later added to the structure and housed a Buddha relic from India in the chedi. The concrete walls were added during World War II to prevent the hill from eroding. Visitors can have a stunning panoramic view of Rattanakosin Island at the top of the mount. Every year in November, a festival is held at Wat Saket, included a candlelit procession up the Golden Mount.
Siam Square is a very popular shopping area among Thai and foreign visitors. Siam Square itself is a few blocks area which is centrally located and surrounded by hotels, shopping complexes, movie theatres, shops, restaurants, and it is the main junction of sky train (BTS). Central World Plaza is the largest shopping complex in this area and the site for Bangkok New Year Countdown celebrations. During the cooler months of November to January, the major breweries sponsor the setting up of beer gardens on the plaza in front.
China Town or Yaowarat is a bustling, crowded area where you can buy just about anything day or night. The main thoroughfare through Chinatown is Yaowarat Road, which is approximately 1.5 kilometers in length. It was built during the reign of King Rama V. On each side of the road, there is a network of streets and alleys lined with shops selling all sorts of things. In many of these streets, you’ll find shops side by side selling the same items. There is an old fresh food market called Trok Isarnuphap where leading chefs from all over Bangkok shop for the finest and freshest ingredients for their restaurant menus.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
This is paradise for bargain hunters. Every Saturday and Sunday, 9,000 individual booths are open selling an infinite variety of products from all over Thailand as well as things from far off lands. Handicrafts are every where including pottery, hand-made glass models of the Royal Barges, fluffy toys, colourful tropical fish, singing birds puppies of many breeds, furniture and lots of new and second hand clothing, shoes, handbags, belts. There is so much on offer that even international home decor wholesales come here to shop. Music lovers can find unique traditional Thai musical instruments being sold direct by the artisans who have crafted them to make the pleasing sounds.
Dusit Zoo was formerly a part of the Royal Dusit Garden Palace, called Khao Din Wana. It was established in 1938 and covers an area of 118 rai in the Dusit District of Bangkok. It has a very good collection of animals from around the world, over 1,000 birds and nearly 2,000 animals. Major sections include a Nocturnal Animals Exhibit where you can see how they live in the night- time environment. The Reptiles and Amphibians Center has more than 70 species. There is a special Childrens Zoo where youngsters can have contact with small animals. You can learn about animal behavior at the Animal Presentation area. For more fun, there is Playland where children can really enjoy themselves on amusement rides.
Muay Thai (Thai Kick Boxing) is a national martial art of Thailand, originated in the early part of the Ayutthaya era as a form of unarmed combat, and has become very exciting spectator and famous sport nowadays. Its popularity has spread world wide, and many young foreigners come to Thailand to get trained under Thai coaches. There are Muay Thai training camps located in just about every province. Muay Thai fans can watch competitions at the 2 famous stadiums: Lumpini Stadium (Rama IV Rd.): Tel: 0 2252 8765 Tue, Fri, Sat nights at 6:30 p.m. and Saty afternoon at 5:00 p.m. Ratchadamnoen Stadium (Ratchadamnoen Nok Ave.): Tel: 0 2281 4205 Mon, Wed, Thu, and Sun nights at 6:30 p.m.
Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre (Joe Louis)
The history of Thai puppets goes back about 300 years. The art of Hun Lakorn Lek (which means small puppet performance) has been revived by artist Mr. Sakorn Yangkhiawsod, also known as Joe Louis. Different from other traditional Thai puppets, the Joe Louis puppet play is performed in a special way in which three manipulators control the movement of one puppet. Today his troup is the only one in Thailand, that still performs this wonderful and unique kind of puppet play. For more information, please call 0 2571 4968, 0 2571 4969 or visit www.joelouistheatre.com.
- More information on tourist information can be found at http://www.tourismthailand.org/About-TAT