Bangkok is everything you'd expect from the capital of Thailand: it's noisy, crowded, colorful, exciting, infuriating, and smile inducing. There are ancient sites to be visited and modern shopping malls that have a kitschy yet high-end ambience. Bangkok can be overwhelming as its lifeforce smacks you in the face, but it's a fascinating city that represents Southeast Asia's tension between the developed and developing worlds.
Bangkok also serves as a gateway to many other parts of Thailand. From here, you can hop a short flight to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and other popular destinations. You can also board a train or hop on a bus for little money, and visit national treasures such as Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and many other gems of the country.
1. Grand Palace
If you only visit one major historical tourist attraction in Bangkok, this should be the one. The royal compound lives up to its name, with spectacular structures that would put the most decadent modern monarchs to shame. It's also the home of Wat Phra Kaeo, which houses the Jade (or Emerald) Buddha.
2. Wat Pho
Located immediately south of the Grand Palace precinct, Wat Pho makes an excellent addition to your tour, provided your feet are up for more walking. Also known as or Wat Chetuphon), the temple was built by King Rama I and is the oldest and in Bangkok. It has long been considered a place of healing, and was famous centuries ago for its pharmacy and as Thailand's first "university,"
3. Wat Arun
Wat Arun is something of a triumphant complex, dating back to ancient battles between the former Siam and Burma. Having fallen to the Burmese, Ayutthaya was reduced to rubble and ashes. But General Taksin and the remaining survivors vowed to march "until the sun rose again" and to build a temple there. Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, was that temple. It is where the new king later built his royal palace and a private chapel.
4. Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha
Sheer luck (or lack thereof) makes this attraction special. During the 1950s, the East Asiatic Company purchased the land around the temple. A condition of the sale was the removal of a plaster statue of Buddha, but the statue proved too heavy for the crane being used. The cable parted and the figure was dropped, being left overnight where it fell.
5. Wat Suthat
Wat Suthat, adjacent to the Great Swing, is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Bangkok's Buddhist temples. Three kings had a hand in its construction: it was begun soon after the coronation of Rama I (founder of the Chakri dynasty) in 1782, continued by Rama II, and completed ten years later by Rama III.
6. Giant Swing
In the center of the busy square in front of Wat Suthat stands one of Bangkok's most eye-catching sights, the 27 m high teak frame of the so-called Giant Swing. This used to be the focus of a religious ceremony held every year in December after the rice harvest.
7. National Museum & Wang Na Palace
History buffs in particular will want to devote at least half a sightseeing day to the national museum, if not more. Until the mid-1970s, this was Thailand's only museum, which explains why its collection is so big. Fortunately, just about every exhibit is labeled in Thai and English andguided tours are also offered in English, so you won't miss out on any of the country's fascinating ancient and contemporary history.
8. Chatuchak Market
Bangkok's sprawling weekend market is the largest in the world. Here shoppers find everything from jewelry and religious icons to animals and delicious street foods. There are 15,000 stalls, offering just about anything you can dream up.
9. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
For an even more interesting market experience, you can arrange a tour to Damnoen Saduak, afamous floating market located in Ratchaburi (about 1.5 hours outside Bangkok). The popularity of floating markets once earned Bangkok the nickname "Venice of the East", bear in mind that this has now become something of a tourist trap, so don't expect an exclusive morning of shopping by boat. But you will be able to buy fresh and delicious foods and interact with locals in an authentic way.
10. Khao San Road
This is Bangkok's infamous backpacker district, a neighborhood jam-packed with guesthouses, food vendors, clothing stalls, and travelers from every corner of the globe. You'll need to tap into your patience when hanging out here because, while it is colorful and exciting in its own way, the crowds and scents and blaring music can test even the calmest soul.
11. Jim Thompson House
The historic home of a "self-made American entrepreneur" who disappeared while traveling in Malaysia now stands as a relic of an older time in Bangkok. Jim Thompson settled in Thailand after spending time there as a serviceman around the end of WWII.
12. Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park provides visitors with a green oasis amidst the traffic and chaos of Bangkok. Hang out on one of several lawn areas, enjoy the shade of a Chinese pagoda, or take a boat out on the lake.
13. Terminal 21
The name might lead you to think this is a transport hub, but it's actually a shopping mall. And you might be wondering why you would want to visit a shopping mall for kick while traveling. Well, Terminal 21 has a special flair - even by Thailand's shopping standards.
14. Street Food Stalls
In order to experience Bangkok, you have to try to the cuisine. You'll have no trouble at all finding vendors to tempt you with treats, and you haven't really done the city without chowing down on grilled meats and fish, soups, fresh fruit, and myriad other dishes.