Things To Do in Bangkok: Some Suggestions for a First-Timer’s Itinerary
Bangkok is usually either the travellers’ doorway to South-East Asia, or their point of exit. It’s where they recover from jet lag or where they reluctantly prepare to leave the colourful Asian experience behind and head back to the grey world of mundane work and cold weather.
Bangkok is the perfect place to either start your adventure or wrap up a wonderful holiday. And for those who happen to visit Bangkok in the middle of their travels, congratulations to you for being a bit more original in your itinerary design!
Things to do in Bangkok are plentiful and depend on your taste, time frame and budget.
The historic Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) should be included on everyone’s list of things to do in Bangkok. They can be reached by leisurely taking one of the tourist boats going down the Chao Phraya River, and getting off at the Tha Chang stop. The Grand Palace used to be the King’s residence. It is a complex of palaces and temples, and a little town in its own right. Most people who visit Wat Phra Kaew spend a large chunk of their time their marvelling at the Emerald Buddha statue kept within the grounds. The Emerald Buddha, which slightly disappointingly isn’t made out of emerald but out of green jade, holds a special significance to the Thais and is visited by the royal family on religious occasions.
Within walking distance of the first two attractions, is Bangkok’s other famous temple – Wat Pho (if on the boat, disembark at the same stop as above – Tha Chang). There are many temples in Thailand called Wat Pho, but this one is special because it features the Reclining Buddha. At 46 meters in length and 15 meters in height, this is Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha and presents Buddha entering Nirvana.
If you are a bit of a temple junkie, fascinated by the local Buddhist culture or just love to view large and beautiful pious statues, there are two more temples you could include on your shortlist of things to do in Bangkok. One is Wat Traimit and the other Wat Benchamabophit. Wat Traimit can be easily included into a one-day tour of Bangkok. If a boat is your chosen means of transportation, you can conveniently leave the vessel at Tha Ratchawong stop. Wat Traimit is home to the world’s largest golden statue, a 3-meter-tall and 5.5-ton image of Buddha, that will impress you from both the artistic and monetary perspectives. The beautifully carved Sukhothai-style statue is valued at US$40 million in gold alone, and its historic value is immeasurable.
Wat Benchamabophit has been described as the Kingdom’s most unusual temple. It’s also known as the Marble Temple as the stone a lot of it was made from, was imported all the way from Italy during the reign of King Rama V (1853-1910), who was fascinated by European culture. It is the closest to a European palace you will get in these parts of the world, and it also features 53 Buddha images, depicting different artistic styles from different eras of Thai history. After the visit, a stroll along the canals is recommended, to ruminate on the abundance of culture you’ve just been exposed to, and admire lotus flowers under the Chinese-style foot bridges.
After this cultural explosion, take your temple clothes off (which means covered shoulders and knees), and exchange them for a more light-hearted get-up. A pleasant and interesting evening in Bangkok can be spent in Chinatown, or go for one of the cabaret shows to quench your curiosity about Bangkok’s lady-boys. Chinatown is a world of its own and you feel as if you have just been transported to a Chinese metropolis. The bright neon lights, the glitter, the street food (make a point of not eating or buying any endangered animals or their products). The busy alleys and the more tranquil parts of this old Chinese settlement are best explored without any strict plan or curfew. They are a pleasure of stimulation to walk through without rush or agenda.
More preparation will be required to visit one of the many cabaret shows, should you wish to enjoy the glitz and the exaggeration of Thailand’s third gender. The shows most often mentioned in Bangkok are the Calypso Cabaret, Mambo Cabaret and the Playhouse Cabaret.
This short introduction to things to do in Bangkok, should get you on your way to a great day of excitement, heat (don’t forget your water bottle and cheap refills from eco-friendlier vending machines), ancient romance and modern-day glamour and entertainment. Bangkok cannot leave you indifferent. Enjoy!