Bangkok was at the heart of the modernization of Siam, later renamed Thailand. Today it is the coutry's capital and most populous city. The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong.
Wat Pho is a Buddhist temple complex and is one of Bangkok's oldest temples, established in the 16th century. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, it is first on the list of six temples in Thailand classed as the highest grade of the first-class royal temples. It houses the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including a 46 metre long reclining Buddha. The temple is considered the earliest centre for public education in Thailand, and the marble illustrations and inscriptions have been recognised by UNESCO in its Memory of the World Programme. The area is served by Chao Phraya River Express at the Tha Thien Pier.
The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok and it has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782. By 1925, the King, the Royal Family and the government were no longer permanently settled at the palace. Today, it is still used for official events such as royal ceremonies and state functions. The Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, halls, pavilions set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards. Its asymmetry and eclectic styles are due to its organic development, with additions and rebuilding being made by successive reigning kings over 200 years of history. The Palace is one of the most visited temples in Thailand.
The Buda Esmeralda, better known as Wat Phra Kaew, is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha housed in the temple is a potent religio-political symbol and the palladium (protective image) of Thai society. It is located within the precincts of the Grand Palace. The Emerald Buddha, a dark green statue, is in a standing form, carved from a single jade stone. Except for the Thai King and, in his stead, the Crown Prince, no other persons are allowed to touch the statue. The architectural style of the main temple is named as Rattanakosin style (old Bangkok style) and it is very elegantly decorated and similar to the temple in ancient capital of Ayudhya. Note that there is a very strict dress code to enter this sacred site.
Bangkok's city pillar shrine (also known as san lak muang) is one of the most ancient, sacred, and magnificent city pillar shrines in Thailand. It was probably King Rama I who erected the first city pillar in 1782. It was believed that people would achieve prosperity and fulfillment in their work and career, avoid misfortune, and improve their luck, power, and prestige if they took a bow and paid their respects at this sacred place. Lak mueang are city pillars found in most cities in Thailand, and they are usually housed in a shrine which is also believed to house Chao Pho Lak Mueang, the city spirit deity.
Wat Ratchabophit or formally Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Ratcha Wara Maha Wihan is a Buddhist temple that was built during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). The temple features a unique layout, with its wiharn and ubosot (the holiest prayer room) joined by a circular courtyard, at the center of which stands a gilded chedi (a mound-like or hemispherical structure). The golden chedi is covered with orange-coloured tiles and on top of the chedi, there is a golden ball. There is a relic of Buddha inside and the chedi was built in Sri Lankan style. On the west end of the temple grounds is the Royal Cemetery, with numerous monuments to major and minor members of the Royal Family, most notably those in the immediate family of King Chulalongkorn.
The Giant Swing is a religious structure and was formerly used in an old Brahmin ceremony. The Swing was constructed in 1784 in front of the Devasathan shrine by King Rama I. During the reign of Rama II the swing ceremony was discontinued as the swing had become structurally damaged by lightning. It was renovated in 1920. An annual swinging ceremony known as Triyampavai-Tripavai was held at Giant Swings of major cities until 1935.
Lumphini Park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI on royal property. This place was a museum, where many products and natural resources were shown, then after World War I, it was rebuilt into the first park in Bangkok. Today the park offers rare open public space, trees, a lake and playgrounds in the Thai capital. The area is conveniently served by MRT at Silom Station.
The Erawan Shrine, formally the Thao Maha Phrom Shrine ("Shrine of Lord Brahma the Great"), is a Hindu shrine that houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation Lord Brahma. It was built in 1956. A popular worship attraction, it often features performances by resident Thai dance troupes, who are hired by worshippers in return for seeing their prayers at the shrine answered.
Pratunam Market is one of Bangkok's major markets offering wholesale clothing for locals and outdoor stalls selling a large variety of foods and souvenirs for tourists. It is probably the cheapest market for buying clothing, fabrics, and textiles in central Bangkok.
The Jim Thompson House is a museum housing the art collection of American businessman and architect Jim Thompson, the museum designer and former owner. Built in 1959, the museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand; sporting vibrant jungle foliage in the heart of the city. Following his moving to Bangkok and the establishment of the Thai Silk Company Limited in 1948, Thompson became a major collector of Southeast Asian art.
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat is the largest and most important Chinese Buddhist temple in Bangkok. It hosts celebrations of a number of year-round events, including Chinese New Year, and the annual Chinese vegetarian festival. The temple was founded as a Mahayana Buddhist temple in the 19th century and built in a classic Chinese architectural style, with typical sweeping tiled roofs decorated with animal and floral motifs, including the ubiquitous Chinese dragons.
Yaowarat Road is home to Bangkok's Chinatown. It has been the main centre for trading by the Chinese community since some 200 years ago. Yaowarat Road is well known for its variety of foodstuffs, and at night turns into a large "food street" that draws tourists and locals from all over the city. Yaowarat's Sam Peng Market is the center of the area. The path of the road is said to resemble a dragon's curvy body, making it an auspicious location for business. There are many shops selling gold, garments, textiles, souvenirs, antiques, musical instruments and local delicacies.
Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or simply Wat Arun ("Temple of Dawn") is a Buddhist temple on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple derives its name from the Hindu god Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. Wat Arun is among the best known of Thailand's landmarks and the first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence. Although the temple had existed since at least the 17th century, its distinctive prang (spires) were built in the early 19th century during the reign of King Rama II.
The Chao Phraya is the major river in Thailand, with its low alluvial plain forming the centre of the country. It flows through Bangkok and then into the Gulf of Thailand. It is a major transportation artery for a network of river buses, cross-river ferries, and water taxis. More than 15 boat lines operate on the rivers and canals of the city, including commuter lines. A number of cruise lines offer scenic sailing tours that pass through temples and neighbourhoods, and visitors get spectacular views of Bangkok's cityscape.
Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan or simply Wat Saket is a Buddhist temple that dates back to the Ayutthaya era (14th-18th century), when it was known as Wat Sakae. Phu Khao Thong (Golden Mountain) is a steep artificial hill inside the Wat Saket compound. The Golden Mount is now a popular attraction because of the panoramic view it provides and has become one of the symbols of the city.
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall or Phra Thinang Anantasamakhom ("the place of immense gathering") is a royal reception hall that was commissioned by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in 1908. The building was completed in 1915. the Hall now serves as a museum and is from time to time employed for certain state occasions. The Hall is a two-storey construction with a large dome (49.5 m high) in the centre, surrounded by six smaller domes. Inside there are paintings on every ceiling and wall of the dome depicting the history of the Chakri Dynasty.
Asiatique The Riverfront is a large open-air mall featuring a historical theme from the period of King Chulalongkorn's reign (1868–1910). It contains 1,500 shops and stalls and 40 restaurants, most of which are housed in the former warehouses. Other historical buildings and objects include an old sawmill and a World-War-II bomb shelter. There is an parking lot tram designed to look like a car from Bangkok's former tram system, and the site is decorated with bronze statues representing maritime activity. The market is served by a free shuttle boat that connects Saphan Taksin Station and the Asiatique Dock.