Article by www.exotissimo.com - Your travel partner in Indochina, Myanmar and Thailand.
Bangkok, a sprawling metropolis of 11 million, has been the Thai capital since 1782. Although on the surface Bangkok seems to be nothing more than a polluted urban nightmare it has much to offer away from the congested streets where a profusion of temples, palaces and even a few of the original thoroughfares of the city, canals called Klongs, have survived. For shopping and entertainment Bangkok is hard to beat from street markets to shopping malls of designer boutiques, restaurants serving every imaginable kind of cuisine and its world famous nightlife.
The Grand Palace and the Temple of Wat Phra Kaeo situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River are perhaps Bangkok’s best-known sights. Wat Phra Kaeo, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the royal temple and is named after a Buddha image that stands in the main chapel. In contrast to Wat Phra Kaeo the architecture of the Grand Palace is European in style with cloisters and manicured lawns.
A 15 minute walk from the Grand Palace is another of Bangkok’s famous temples, Wat Pho, also called the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This is the oldest and largest wat in Bangkok and apart from its 46 metre reclining Buddha Wat Pho also has a fine collection of bas-reliefs, stupas and statues.
Other noteworthy wats include Wat Tarimit, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha after its five tonne solid gold Buddha, Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn and Wat Benchamabophit or the Marble Temple, constructed of Italian marble.
Bangkok’s National Museum, the largest museum in South-East Asia, has a comprehensive collection of arts and artefacts including many items from the ancient capitals of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai. Jim Thompson’s House is a beautiful teak house assembled by the American silk entrepreneur from several traditional wooden houses and furnished with Thai antiques. Jim Thompson mysteriously vanished in the jungles of Malaysia in 1967 but the silk company he established is thriving and high quality Thai silk can be bought in the shop. Just about anything can be found at Chatuchak Market, Bangkok’s famous weekend market to the north of the city centre. There are over 8,000 stalls and this is a great place to search for bargains especially Thai handicrafts and souvenirs.
Under two hours’ drive and an easy day trip from Bangkok is one of the historical highlights of Thailand, the former capital of Ayutthaya. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya is a complex of palaces, shrines, monasteries and stupas covering an area of over three square kilometres. Nakhon Pathom, just over 100km west of Bangkok, is considered to be the oldest city in Thailand and the nearby floating market at Damnoen Saduak is worth a visit.
Another popular day trip from Bangkok is Kanchanaburi, the site of the infamous ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ in the Second World War. The JEATH War Museum run by monks is on the site of a former POW camp and displays a collection of photos and memorabilia from the war. Nearby are two cemeteries where many of the thousands of Allied soldiers who died working on the ‘Death Railway’ are buried.
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- The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Pho for ornate Thai architecture
- The National Museum, South-East Asia’s largest, for a fine collection of Thai artefacts
- Chatuchak Weekend Market for the best selection of handicrafts and souvenirs in Thailand
- A day trip to Ayutthaya for ancient palaces, shrines, monasteries and stupas
- Kanchanaburi for a chilling reminder of the Second World War