Bangkok, with a population of over 9 million inhabitants, is one of the biggest cities in the world. Its heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife do not immediately give visitors a warm welcome. But first impressions can be misleading. It is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, extensive canals, a vibrant nightlife and great shopping, that has something for every traveler.
An overview of the top tourist attractions in Bangkok:
Khao San Road is, technically speaking, a small road located about a block from the Chao Phraya River. Khaosan translates as “milled rice”, a reminder that in former times the street was a major Bangkok rice market. In the last 20 years, however, Khaosan Road has developed into a world famous backpackers hangout. It offers cheap accommodation, ranging from dorm style hostels to reasonably priced 3-star hotels as well as bars, food stalls, restaurants, convenience stores, internet cafes and travel agencies.
“Klong” is Thai for canal. Historically, people used klongs throughout Thailand for transportation and commerce, earning Bangkok the nickname, “The Venice of the East.” Today, most klongs have been filled in for use as streets. But you can still visit a tourist version of a traditional floating market on the Klong Damnoen Saduak in the Ratchaburi province or take a boat through central Bangkok on the Khlong Saen Saeb to avoid city traffic.
The infamous CIA operative Jim Thompson revived the Thai silk industry after World War II and had this house assembled from six traditional Thai-style houses. As Thompson was building his silk company, he also became a major collector of Southeast Asian art. Jim Thompson’s House sits on a klong across from Bangkrua, where his weavers were then located. Tourists must take the guided tour through the buildings, which are given in plenty of foreign languages.
Situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River , Wat Arun (“Temple of Dawn”) is one of the oldest and best known tourist attractions in Bangkok. The temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Despite its name, the best views of Wat Arun are in the evening with the sun setting behind it.
Opened in 1990, the eight-story CentralWorld marketed itself as a middle class shopping center, opposed to the upper class-marketed Siam Paragon. On 19th May 2010, CentralWorld was one of the many properties set on fire by anti government protestors. The fire raged for two days and the Zen department store collapsed in the fire. After months of repair works, the shopping complex reopened on 28th September with 80% of its retail space open for business.
Wat Pho is famous for the huge Reclining Buddha statue it houses. It is one of the largest temples in Bangkok and also one of the oldest, constructed nearly 200 years before Bangkok became Thailand’s capital. Wat Pho holds the distinction of having both Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha image and the largest number of Buddha images in Thailand. The gold-plated Reclining Buddha statue is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and commemorates the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana.
The construction of the Grand Palace started in 1782 when the capital of Siam was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok. The palace served as the residence of the Kings of Thailand until the mysterious death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946. His brother King Bhumibol Adulyadej who succeeded him moved permanently to the Chitralada Palace. Today the palace is a major Bangkok tourist attraction. Part of the palace compound is dedicated to a royal temple, Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred temple of Thailand and home to the famous Emerald Buddha. A jade statue adorned in gold clothing.