- THE GRAND PALACE
The Grand Palace is the jewel in the crown of Bangkok. A trip to view the palace's gilded spires, majestic palaces and exotic pagodas is an unforgettable experience.
- WAT TRAIMIT
Located at the end of Yaowarat Road, near Hualamphong Station
The temple is famous for its five-and-a-half-ton solid gold image, designed in the Sukhothai style. This image was 'discovered' in the 1950s under a plaster exterior when it fell from a crane while being relocated. The plaster was probably added to disguise the image from pillagers during the Sukhothai and later Ayutthaya periods.
- WAT ARUN, THE TEMPLE OF DAWN
Rising majestically on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River, the Temple of Dawn can be reached from Arun Amarin Road in Thonburi or by boat from the Tha Tien Pier near Wat Pho. The present temple was built during the 19th century on the site of the Royal Chapel of King Taksin, which dates from the 17th century.
Wat Arun's unique feature is its 240-foot pagoda or 'prang', built in the Khmer style, which can be ascended by a narrow winding staircase for fine views over the river. The brick-built prangs are covered by plaster embedded with pieces of broken multi-colored Chinese porcelain. The temple gardens offer respite from the bustling city streets nearby.
- MUANG BORAN (THE ANCIENT CITY)
Km 33 (old) Sukhumvit Road
The Ancient City, or Muang Boran, is dubbed as the world's largest outdoor museum. This 80-hectare city features 109 scaled-down copies of Thailand's famous monuments and architectural attractions. The grounds of the Ancient City correspond roughly to the shape of the Kingdom, with each of the monuments lying at their correct places geographically. Some of the buildings are life-size replicas of existing or former sites, while others are one-third scale.
This is the market where you can get "ANYTANG" you want. Mostly stalls full of bootleg merchandise, such as fake Rolex watches, Nike shirts and sweats, and any name brand product you can possibly think of; you can also eat, get your feet massaged or just walk around people watching. There are also a plethora of Sex Clubs. The ground floor clubs are just go-go bars, the upper floors are where the slightly more risque behind-closed-doors erotic cabarets take place. One warning- there are many guys around that will try incessantly to hawk you into their club, but will eventually leave you alone as you keep walking. If you DO go to one of the Sex clubs, make sure that they DON'T have a cover charge!
- THE FLOATING MARKETS
Several floating markets ('talaat naam') in and around Bangkok offer the tourist a picture-postcard image of the traditional Thai way of life. Small wooden boats laden with fruits, flowers, vegetables and other produce from nearby orchards and communities make a colorful and bustling scene at market time. The boats are inevitably paddled by Thai women in blue farmer's garb ('mor hom') and flat-topped conical hats called 'muak ngob', which are characteristic to all parts of Thailand. The floating markets are still important commercial centers for those living along the banks of 'klongs' with no road access.
Three floating markets are within reach of Bangkok:
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, 80 km southwest of Bangkok in Ratchaburi province, is one of the largest and most popular floating markets among tourists. Also known as Klong Lat Phli Floating Market by the locals, the market is active in the mornings only, from 6.00 am to 11.00 am. If you want to take photos without hordes of tourists, get there early.
Air-conditioned buses leave for Damnoen Saduak every half hour starting at 6.00 am from the southern bus terminal on Boromrat Chonnani Road, Tel +66 2 434-5557-8. To get to the market itself, take a boat from Potchawan Landing or Seri Khemi Kaset Landing. Several smaller and quieter floating markets are located in Ratchaburi and nearby Samut Songkhram province. The best way to explore these markets is to hire a long-tailed boat for around 300 baht an hour, (or less depending on your bargaining powers).
Tha Kha Floating Market is about 10 km beyond Damnoen Saduak. It can easily be reached from Samut Songkhram by minibuses, which leave every 20 minutes. The market is active from 6.00 am to 12.00 am on weekends only.
Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market, in Bang Kruai district of Nonthaburi province, can be reached by boat from Tha Chang Pier near the Grand Palace. The market operates from 4.00 am until late morning but the best time to visit is around sunrise. Monks also come to the market by rowing boat to receive alms from the villagers.
- JIM THOMPSON'S HOUSE
Located alongside Saen Saeb Canal on Soi Kasem San 2, off Rama I Road
Despite the name, Jim Thompson's House is one of the best-preserved examples of the traditional Thai house in the city. Once home to the American silk entrepreneur Jim Thompson, this remarkable house-cum-museum accommodates Thompson's vast collection of antiques and artworks from all over the Southeast Asian region. Notable items include priceless examples of blue and white Ming porcelain and 19th century jataka paintings, which cover the walls of the rooms. Don't miss the headless Buddha figure in the garden, which dates from the 6th century. This early Dvaravati image is one of the oldest surviving Buddha statues in the world.
Who was Jim Thomson?
Perhaps even more fascinating than the house itself is the tale of the mysterious owner, American Jim Thompson. A former member of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, Thompson revived the flagging silk weaving industry at the end of the Second World War. His marketing skills helped turn the fortunes of the ailing Thai silk industry around, and Jim Thompson is to this day regarded as the very finest brand of Thai silk. As his business grew, Jim Thompson became a well-known Bangkok socialite, dedicated to reviving Thai crafts and arts. Much of his art collection is still on display at his Ayutthayan house in Bangkok's Rama I Road area.
Jim Thompson disappeared under mysterious circumstances whilst on a walk in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia in 1967. Many theories have been put forward to explain his disappearance but the truth remains a mystery. Suggestions of a conspiracy involving his CIA connections have been proposed in explanation, but so too have jungle tigers, heart attacks and Communist insurgents.