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Destination Guide in Thailand

Bangkok

The city of Bangkok is the capital, largest urban area and primary city of Thailand. Known in Thai as Krung Thep Mahanakhon, or Krung Thep for short, it was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It came to the forefront of Siam when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya. However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom did not begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river by Rama I after the death of King Taksin. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called "Phra Nakhon" (Thai: พระนคร), pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis' core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.
Attraction

Palaces and Wats

The Bangkok Metropolitan Area is home to two capitals of Thailand: the area historically known as Rattanakosin, and the modern Bangkok. There are a large number of palaces in Bangkok. Several are still in use by the Thai royal family, while others are now open to the public and some have become government buildings or universities.

The king's official residence is the Grand Palace, which dates to 1782 and has housed Thailand's monarchs for over 150 years. Up to the early 20th century and before the 1932 Revolution, the complex was key in Thai government: it included royal courts, administrative branches, and was similar in layout to that of previous Thai capitals. Within the complex is the Chakri Mahaprasat Hall and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha and is considered the most important temple in Thailand. Chitralada Palace is the Bangkok residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit.

Of the hundreds of wats located in Bangkok, only a few are notable. When King Taksin led his troops out of Ayutthaya and into Thon Buri, they took refuge in Wat Arun. This pre-Thon Buri era structure rises to 85 metres (279 ft) and has held the status of tallest structure in Bangkok for longer than any other modern skyscraper.

Wat Pho, which houses the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and named for its huge reclining Buddha measuring 46 metres (151 ft) long and covered in gold leaf. The Buddha's feet alone are 3 metres (10 ft) long.

Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temples and the site of the original Giant Swing. A huge teak arch, all that remains of the original swing, stands on the grounds in front of the temple. The swing was used in a ceremony to give thanks for a good rice harvest.

Within Wat Saket is the Golden Mount, or Phu Khao Thong, an unusual temple that houses Buddha relics within its 58-metre-high chedi surmounted by a golden cupola. Built by King Rama I just outside the new city walls, the late-18th century temple served as the capital's crematorium. During the next hundred years, the temple became a dumping ground for some 60,000 plague victims

Museums

National Gallery Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ หอศิลป) is a former location of the Royal Thai Mint and now exhibits collections of both traditional Thai and contemporary arts by past as well as present famous artists of Thailand. Oil paintings by His Majesty the King are also exhibited here.

National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ พระนคร): A former palace of the Wang Na or second king – Kromphraratchawangbowon Mahasurasinghanat – built simultaneously with the Grand Palace, the complex comprises several major throne halls such as Phra Thinang Siwamok Phiman, Phra Thinang Phutthaisawan and Phra Thinang Itsara Winitchai.

Suan Pakkad Palace (วังสวนผักกาด) this complex of five Thai-style houses was once the residence of one of Thailand’s leading art collectors, Prince Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga. It houses an extensive collection of Asian art and antiques, including items from the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilisation, and also an impressive collection of seashells. Khon (classical Thai masked dance) Museum and Traditional Thai Music Museum are also established here.

Vimanmek Mansion Museum (พระที่นั่งวิมานเมฆ): This is the world’s largest golden teak building located in the compound of the Dusit Palace on Ratchawithi Road. The three-story royal mansion has 81 rooms, halls and ante-chambers containing fin de siecle royal memorabilia.

Public Parks

Queen Sirikit Park(สวนสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์): It was built to commemorate the 60th birthday anniversary of HM Queen Sirikit. A big pool in the park contains three fountains and a fine collection of both Thai and foreign lotuses.

Lumpini Park (สวนลุมพินี): This was a huge open space once belonging to King Rama VI, who issued a royal command to turn the area into a public park as a gift to Bangkok residents.

Princess Mother Memorial Park (อุทยานเฉลิมพระเกียรติสมเด็จพระศรีนครินทราบรมราชชนนี): It was built near the Wat Anongkharam community where Somdej Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, HRH the Princess Mother had resided during her childhood. The park comprises a full scale model of the Princess Mother’s house and the old buildings renovated as exhibition halls displaying the life story of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother as well as the history of the Wat Anongkharam community.

Shopping Areas/Markets

Shopping in Bangkok is not limited to one or two major streets. There are many areas throughout Bangkok affording ample choices and easy access. The following is just a selection of some of the principal shopping areas.

Ploenchit-Ratchaprasong (เพลินจิต-ราชประสงค์): Top department stores and luxury shopping malls are concentrated in the area, namely Central, Gaysorn Plaza, Isetan, Zen, Erawan Bangkok, Peninsula Plaza, all of which together make the largest shopping promenade in Bangkok. Furthermore, Central World Plaza and Narayana Phand Pavilion, host the official handicraft centre selling items from all parts of the country. Ratchaprasong intersection is the gateway to several shopping areas such as Phloenchit-Sukhumvit, Siam Square-Mahboonkrong, Silom and Pratunam-Phetchaburi.

Silom-Surawong-Patpong (สีลม-สุรวงศ์-พัฒพงษ์): Silom Road is the main artery of Bangkok’s commercial heart and is paralleled by Surawong Road, while Patpong runs crosswise between the two. In addition to housing dozens of specialist shops and boutiques representing all the major buys, this area also boasts many branches of well-known retailers and several shopping plazas. Street stalls also abound, most notably at Patpong’s famous night market.

Pratunam-Phetchaburi (ประตูน้ำ-เพชรบุรี): A highlight in the district is Pratunam market, one of Bangkok’s biggest centres for ready-to-wear clothing.

Cruise

The Chao Phraya River & Bangkok’s Canals (Khlongs): Nineteenth-century Bangkok was laced with canals, giving the capital the designation ‘Venice of the East’. Surviving canals, and the Chao Phraya River provide memorable vignettes of traditional waterborne way-of-life that has remained essentially unchanged over the centuries. The river and canals may be conveniently explored by chartered boat or cruise.

Dinner Cruise: Riverine Bangkok offers some of the capital’s most arresting sights, particularly at night when the weather is cooler and light reflections bestow the Chao Phraya River with flickering lights.

Cultural Performances

Jim Thompson Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์จิม ทอมป์สัน): This collection of traditional Thai-style houses, fashioned into one dwelling, belongs to the man who helped restore the Thai silk industry after World War II, and today, preserved as a museum, contains a priceless collection of Asian objects d’ art.

Theatres

Chalerm Krung Royal Theatre (เฉลิมกรุงรอยัลเธียเตอร์) is located on Charoen Krung Road (New Road) near the Old Siam Plaza. Thai dramas and plays are usually held while Khon or Thai musical dance drama is a special event that is staged occasionally.

Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre (นาฏยศาลา หุ่นละครเล็ก) presents the Hun Lakhon Lek puppet show. The establishment of this theatre was inspired by the intention of Master Sakhon Yangkhieosot or Joe Louis, a National Artist of 1996, who wishes to preserve the art of operating Hun Lakhon Lek puppets. Hun Lakhon Lek usually performs the story of Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Sakhon Nattasin is currently the only performing troupe of Hun Lakhon Lek in Thailand. The troupe received the Thailand Tourism Award presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 2000 in the category of Recreational Attraction.

Patravadi Theatre (ภัทราวดีเธียเตอร์) Renowned for its lavish productions, this outdoor theatre has gained popularity through its modern adaptations of classical Asian literature, with each play demonstrating an ingenious blend of various theatrical techniques.

Siam Niramit (สยามนิรมิต) has state-of-the-art cultural performances which have achieved international standards. It uses special techniques integrated with drama to depict the history of each region of Thailand including depictions about hells, the forest of Himmaphan, heavens and lands beyond imagination from Thai literature. There is also a spectacular performance of Thailand’s arts and cultural heritage. The show is staged by more than 150 performers in a luxurious theatre with a capacity of more than 2,000 seats.

Hotels

A number of deluxe hotels can be found in Bangkok, such as the Peninsula Bangkok, which recently made the top 10 in Travel and Leisure magazine's top 100 hotels list, coming in at #4, while the Oriental Hotel claimed the ninth spot.[2] Sukhumvit Road hosts a series of international chains such as JW Marriott, The Landmark, Intercontinental, Sheraton, and many boutique hotels such as The Davis, Unico Grande Sukhumvit. The Banyan Tree on Sathon, one of Bangkok's tallest hotels, featured the tallest bar and restaurant in the city, Vertigo, up until the launch of Sirocco Restaurant on top of State Tower, 247 m (810 ft) up from the bustling street set of Bang Rak.

Bangkok also offers a number of smaller boutique hotels for discerning travelers seeking uniquely designed lodgings and personalized service. There are large numbers of inexpensive hotels scattered throughout the city such as Yaowarat Road, most notably in the backpackers' paradise of Khao San Road. Unlike Western cities, motels are uncommon in Bangkok. However, a fast and growing business is bed and breakfasts adapted to suit the Asian lifestyle. A variety of these small houses can be found in Phloenchit, Watthana and Khlong Toei.

 

Culture of Bangkok

Sport

Boxing StadiumsThere are two venues in Bangkok for this type of sport.

  • Ratchadamnoen Stadium (สนามมวยราชดำเนิน), Ratchadamnoen Nok Road.
  • Lumphini Stadium (สนามมวยลุมพินี), Rama IV Road.

Turf Clubs: Horse racing in Bangkok is at the Royal Turf Club and Royal Bangkok Sports Club. Tennis: Since the success of former Thai tennis player Paradon Srichaphan, many middle-class Thais have took the game up and lots of courts are scattered around the city.

Spas

Meditation: It has been said by monks that it is impossible to become enlightened in Bangkok. Bangkok is not a haven for the spiritually inclined but there are a couple of centers which offer practice. It is possible to reside at one of the capital’s temples, but permission needs to be sought beforehand.

Thai Traditional Massage: This therapeutic and highly soothing form of massage purportedly evolved from rishis (forest-dwelling Brahmin hermit ascetics) who relieved the physical stress of extended periods of meditation by adopting certain postures. Wat Pho is the best known centre for massage and massage tuition. Major hotels also offer Thai massage services.

Food

In Bangkok, it is common to greet with the phrase "Kin khao rue yang?" (Have you eaten?) that is simply the equivalent of "How are you?". Food is as much an integral part of Thai culture as Muay Thai or traditional Thai massage. In the city of Bangkok you do not have to walk very far to find something to eat, food carts can be found in every street corner as well as in many small Soi (lanes) which are full of varieties of food stalls. There are many of restaurants in Bangkok, there are noodle stands, fruit stalls, curry shops, Pad Thai stalls, road-side barbecues and even carts selling fried insects; and then there are countless superb restaurants serving international as well as Thai and other Asian cuisine to suit most tastes and budgets. The range of options is quite staggering and very few visitors or expats can claim to have tried everything Bangkok restaurants have to offer.

Food Location

Yaowarat (Chinatown): This area is clotted with cheap restaurant and stalls dishing up Chinese food. Due to the area once being the epicenter of Chinese immigrants, the Chinese food sold is probably the most authentic in Thailand

Phahurat (Little India): This district, since it is the home to countless families of Indian origin, is the best place in Thailand for Indian food.

Siam Square / Sukhumvit Road / Silom / Soi Lang Suan Plenty of international restaurants are situated in these areas. Most however, are quite trendy and up-market.

Banglamphu: Banglumphu caters predominantly for budget backpackers. Besides just cheap Thai food, innumerable international restaurants have sprung into business over the past few years.

Nightlife

Bangkok offers a widely varied nightlife. The city is famous for their massage parlours, go-go bars, host bars and karaoke places, with Patpong, Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza being the main areas catering mainly to male tourists. There are Westernized clubs and cafes for the rich, and lower-cost bars and pubs that are very popular with the locals. The city's Phra Nakhon district is home to probably the most profound worldwide example of a "backpackers' ghetto", Khaosan Road. Sukhumvit Road boasts some of Asia's most crowded clubs along the 5 km (3 mi) section between Ekamai and Withayu.

Types of nightlife in Bangkok include:

  • Discos, which are popular with the younger trendier crowd
  • Live Music Joints, that play either Thai Folk or English classics
  • Karaoke clubs, that can be found all around and where customers can either sing to everyone or rent a private room.
  • Barbecues, which are large restaurants which play music and serve alcohol to the smaller restaurants (unlike the other venues).
  • Thai Pubs, which are unlike Western ones as they are usually huge. Visitors can enjoy great live music.
  • Western pubs, which can be found serving draft beer. There are also a few Irish Pubs, if that’s your fancy.

Bangkok has the biggest gay scene in Thailand. More than 200 bars, clubs, discos, saunas are concentrated in the Bang Rak Area around Patpong and Phaya Thai; they are found randomly distributed along Sukhumvit Road and around Ramkhamhaeng University (mainly local crowd). A growing number of female visitors are attracted to the male show bars and gay clubs.

Festivals and events

Bangkok Songkran Festival 13–15 April The traditional Thai New Year is an occasion for merriment all over the city, but most notably at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, where the revered Phra Phuttha Sihing image is displayed and bathed by devotees. In the Wisutkasat area, a Miss Songkran beauty contest is held and accompanied by merit-making and entertainment. Khao San Road, Bang Lamphu area is also one of the high-spots in the city where locals and tourists play water by the water-throwing activities.

Royal Ploughing Ceremony May

An ancient Brahman ritual, conducted at Sanam Luang, in which farmers believe, is able to forecast the abundance of the next rice crop. The event is a result of a series of ceremonies that are conducted by Phraya Raek Na, portrayed by a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives who wears colourful traditional costumes. This ceremony was re-introduced in 1960 by H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is considered the official commencement of the rice-growing season.

H.M. The Queen’s Birthday Celebration 12 August

To display their loyalty and to honour Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on the occasion of her royal birthday, the Thai people decorate their houses and public buildings. Around Bangkok, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the area around the Grand Palace and other well-known locations are bedecked with coloured lights and magnificent adornments.

Trooping of the Colours December

Their majesties the King and Queen preside over this impressive annual event, held in the Royal Plaza near the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn. Dressed in colourful uniforms, amid much pomp and ceremony, members of the elite Royal Guards swear allegiance to the King and march past members of the Royal Family.

H.M. The King’s Birthday Celebrations 5 December

H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch is well beloved and deeply respected by all Thais old and young. The occasion of his royal birthday provides his loyal subjects the opportunity to express their reverence for him. All over the country, buildings and homes are elaborated and the area around the Grand Palace is spectacularly illuminated.

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