Cultural Things to See and Do in Bangkok

Cultural Things to See and Do in Bangkok

wat po, Bangkok

Cultural Things to See and Do in Bangkok

 

Visitors to Bangkok craving the authentic Thai experience can find themselves frustrated by the modern-day trappings of this thriving metropolis and leave yearning for more full immersion cultural activities. But little wellsprings of tradition still flourish in and around Bangkok where you can savor the exotic sights, smells, sounds and tastes of this fascinating culture.

Wat Pho

Escape the hustle bustle of modern Bangkok when you step into this space that’s been held sacred for centuries. Lovingly maintained and rebuilt when necessary, the 80,000 square meter complex is aligned to the cardinal points and houses thousands of artworks celebrating Buddhism, culminating with the impressive gold-plated reclining Buddha. The Northern section has always been dedicated to the healing arts is currently home to Thai massage classes with pavilions where students practice their skills on visitors. The southern compound also exudes serenity as home to a working Buddhist monastery complete with resident monks. The entry fee includes a bottle of water you’ll be grateful for in the oppressive heat and humidity — which is why it’s preferable to visit early in the day equipped with shade hats and hand fans.

Rose Garden in Nakhon Pathom

Treat your five senses to the delights of a meticulously landscaped flower garden just a 30 minute drive from Bangkok, making it a perfect daylong escape the frenzy of the city. Covering 75 acres, it’s idyllic for taking gentle strolls, relishing leisurely picnics, taking in traditional shows and shopping. And it’s not just roses in the garden, there are pavilions featuring elephant performances that are fun for all ages and there’s even an exquisite golf course. Guided tours complete with transportation are available, but if you’re traveling with small children it is recommended to hire a taxi cab for the trip.

Khon at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre

Although this classical ‘30s theater occasionally earned its keep as a movie house, it’s now restored to its original glory to offer authentic performances of classical Thai dance, music and theatre. Every Thursday and Friday night, the Hanuman Chakri Royal Courtiers perform traditional reenactments of courtly drama and divine providence. On weekends, the Khon Thai Masked Dance uses high-tech lighting and sound to enhance legendary storylines like Ramakien, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic poem. Open seven days a week, tickets can be purchased online or at the Grand Palace ticket office.

River Cruise on Rice Boat

Glide serenely down the Chao Phraya River through Bangkok on a lovingly restored antique rice barge that doesn’t skimp on the comforts. Romantic cruises include traditional Thai dinners complete with local entertainment and English-speaking guides that help you appreciate, and photograph, the City of Angels’ riverside icons like the impressive Temple of Dawn and the illustrious Royal Barges Boat House. Drift along under remarkable bridges outlined in tiny lights as night falls and the skyline of Bangkok defines itself against the darkness.

Tip! Must Try:

Thong Ta Resort And Spa – Suvarnabhumi Airport

Searching for hotels in Bangkok can be daunting was so many choices, so world-wise travelers look for full-service facilities like this one that offer well organized, convenient airport pickup and delivery service. Recover from jet lag in their hot tub, catch up on your laundry and indulge in the 24/7 room service. Relax in air-conditioned comfort at the bar and restaurant and use the free Wi-Fi or enjoy reading newspapers in their outdoor area on beautiful days. The friendly tour and travel desk can help you arrange car rentals or guided excursions into Bangkok or day trips to fascinating historical sites like Angkor Wat.

 

Image(c)poo-tee-weet

Copyright © 2016 -2022 AroundSoutheastAsia.com
Bangkok, the City of Angels

Bangkok, the City of Angels

wat arun bangkok thailand

Bangkok, the City of Angels

 

One aspect of Bangkok that never ceases to fascinate and intrigue me is the kaleidoscope of contrasts ever-present throughout the city. Indeed, the Thai capital is hardly alone in this regard. Extensive travel throughout Southeast Asia has brought me in close touch with simple, humble Buddhism on the one hand and raw, furious capitalism on the other. I have seen elegant reverence for ancient traditions one minute and total, all-in embraces of Western excess the next.

This is not to suggest that as a city, Bangkok has a patent on this kind of cultural dichotomy. Far from it. I can certainly name others that offer displays of venerable, quiet dignity by day and colourful flourishes of libertine, carnal gluttony by night. With Bangkok however, the flagrant contrasts are much, much more extreme. I think this is a key factor in the city’s vast allure.

One enclave of Bangkok where a lot of this comes together is Silom. Part corporate and financial district, the area is also the most notorious nightlife hub in Asia and arguably, the world. Silom after all, is home to Patpong.

The diminutive but infamous red light, entertainment and go-go bar district spans two parallel side streets between Surawong Road and Silom Road. Thought a fair number of locals frequent Patpong, the chaotic area is expat, backpacker and farang tourist central. Some come for the ridiculous spectacle that is Patpong, some for sheer curiosity’s sake and some for more nefarious reasons. The backdrop of Miss Saigon and The Deer Hunter is worth a look however, no matter how narrow.

High above the seamy veneer of Patpong’s go-go bars is Silom’s extraordinary skyline. You want to talk about contrasts, just stroll down this de facto “Wall Street of Thailand” which runs into the adjacent riverside district of Bang Rak. Luxury hotels, Fortune 500s, banks, shiny malls and upmarket shops all crowd for space in this Bangkok economic nerve centre. Though cultural points of interest are few and far between in Silom, visitors can always explore the oasis-like environs of Lumphini Park. The heritage home of former Thai Prime Minister M.R. Kukrit is a welcome respite from the skyscraper-red light contrast as well. Last but not least, I always recommend visitors in Silom district catch a Muay Thai event at Lumphini Stadium and check out Assumption Cathedral.

Nightlife, beyond the dense confines of Patpong, assumes other forms as well. Thanks to a plethora of phenomenal hotels in Silom district, the Bangkok ‘hood is chock full of superb bars, restaurants and even the occasional upscale rooftop lounge. If you want to get posh in the Thai capital, Silom is the place to do it. A number of reliable mid-range restaurants and bars in the district help keep the budget in line but many of Silom’s nobler digs are well worth a look-see. Splurge one night in Silom and slum it up the next – this is what makes Bangkok, Thailand so spectacular.

Copyright © 2016 -2022 AroundSoutheastAsia.com
Touring Bangkok’s Temples

Touring Bangkok’s Temples

reclining buddha

Touring Bangkok’s Temples

 

I travel to Thailand and visited Bangkok back in February and although most of what I’d heard about Thai tourism before dealt with its seedy underbelly, I found Bangkok to be a beautiful city. Part of the purpose of my trip was to visit the city’s temple complexes of Wat Pho and Wat Arun the architecture of which I had admired for years.

Similar in architecture to the Cambodian Angkor Wat, these temple complexes were some of the highlights of my trip. I visited Wat Pho on the second day of my trip. It’s located in the central district (Phra Nakhon district) of Bangkok where I planned a fully day of sight seeing. The complex is divided into two walled compounds. One of these holds the Reclining Buddha and the other is a working Buddhist monastery.

The Reclining Buddha that I just mentioned is one of the largest Buddha images in the world and I can honestly say that I’d never seen anything like it. The body is covered in gold plate and the soles of its feet are covered in mother of pearl on which is etched 108 Buddhist scenes. The rest of the temple is home to more than a thousand smaller images of Buddha.

Overall, it was fairly overwhelming to my Western sensibilities but I really enjoyed seeing it in person. If you’re going to visit the temple you should be aware that there is a dress code (no shorts for example) and a small admission fee. Strangely, the temple complex is also home to a school of massage and traditional medicine. The school’s hours are similar to the temple’s and it’s possible to purchase massages while there.

I spent a good 90 minutes at Wat Pho and the rest of my day was spent touring adjacent sites in the Phra Nakhon district. The next day, I toured Wat Arun on the bank of the Chao Phraya. It’s located one district over from Wat Pho in Bangkok Yai and if there hadn’t been so much to do and see around Wat Pho I could have seen both in the same day.

Of the two temples, Wat Arun was far more impressive. It’s dominated by an ornate central tower and incorporates a lot of Hindu and Chinese figures in its design. It was very different from Wat Pho (except in the fact that it too charged a small admissions fee) and while I found the Buddha at Wat Pho to be interesting, the architecture at Wat Arun was visually stunning.

I toured it by myself but there were clearly organized tours of Bangkok that stopped there. Of course, there’s more to see than just the tower because, like Wat Pho, Wat Arun is a functional monastery with a collection of ponds and small buildings scattered throughout the complex.

I enjoyed Bangkok but the trip wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable without the temples. I’d recommend them to anyone visiting Thailand.

Copyright © 2016 -2022 AroundSoutheastAsia.com

Pin It on Pinterest