By: Meleena Bowers/Travel Writer and Contributor at The Travel Women
Bangkok is a sprawling, borderline frenetic metropolis, a city of electrifying contrasts where tradition meets modernity. Thailand’s capital is filled with arresting historical sites and uniquely Thai experiences that may leave you wishing you had allocated more time in what the locals call The City of Angels.
With its proximity to the equator, an early start is advisable to ward off heat. In the morning board the Chao Phraya Express Boat, an economical ferry offering passengers a glimpse into the city's aquatic arteries on the way to the Old City. Disembark at Tha Chang Pier and hop on an inexpensive cross-river ferry for a short excursion to Thonburi on the West side of the Chao Phraya River.
Thonburi is the site of Phra Racha Wang Derm, the former royal residence, until the late eighteenth century when King Rama I moved the capital across the river. The now defunct capital is home to the riverfront temple of Wat Arun, named after the Indian God of Dawn, Aruna. The striking spire is decorated in a colorful mosaic of Chinese porcelain and reaches over 80 meters high towards the heavens. Climb the central prang for a view across the river to Rattanakosin, a manmade island that is home to your next destination, the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace, which served as the royal court from 1782 to 1925, is Bangkok’s most iconic attraction. The ornate Grand Palace is immense and merits a full morning. Marvel at the glints of sunlight dancing across the orange and green gilded roof of Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Palace’s undisputed star. The Emerald Buddha, a little over two feet tall, was carved from a single slab of jade and dates back to the 14th century. It is the most sacred site in Bangkok and is believed to serve as the Kingdom’s protector. It is so revered that only the King of Thailand or the crowned prince are allowed to touch it.
Take a quick stroll to check out the Grand Palace’s neighbor, Wat Pho, one of Bangkok’s oldest and largest temples. Its most famous resident is the gargantuan Reclining Buddha.
At 46 meters long and 15 meters high the Reclining Buddha is meant to capture Buddha at the moment he passes into Nirvana.
Purchase a bag of satang coins to place into the 108 pots located along the temple wall. The 108 bowls represent the positive symbols that helped Buddha reach perfection. The ritual is believed to bring good luck and longevity to participants.
Should CIA spies strike your fancy, round out your sightseeing with a visit to the Jim Thompson House, the mansion of American WWII CIA operative turned entrepreneur. The compound’s six elevated teakwood homes crowned with steep roofs that angle towards the sky and raised thresholds that serve as talismans to repel evil spirits who seek to disrupt occupants’ sleep, exemplify old world Thai architecture.
If you’re in Bangkok during the weekend consider swapping your temple trekking for a few hours at the Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s largest. This behemoth market has 27 sections that sell almost anything imaginable from antiques, handicrafts and souvenirs to housewares, clothing, and culinary goods. With the opportunity to blend customized signature scents from natural oils, the Anya Dharu Scent Library in particular is a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
An outdoor food court awaits you. Satiate your thirst with a fresh coconut water or fruit juice before wandering the food stalls to see what sweet, savory, or spicy Thai dishes tempt your palate.
If all your sightseeing left you thirsty for a beer tower (or two) of Thailand’s most popular beer, Chang, hail a tuk-tuk to Khaoson Road where food, dancing, shopping, and rowdy revelry await.
For an evening with a view, end your whirlwind tour with a visit to The State Tower where you can enjoy a cocktail on the 64th floor at Distil, Bangkok’s highest bar, and toast to a great day in the city. Cheers! Or, as they say in Bangkok, Chon Gâew!
P.S. A Tourist Trap Warning: TUK TUK's
Tuk Tuk's are an amazing way to get around Bangkok! They are cheap, fast, and a really fun way to take in Bangkok and Thai culture on the go! However, Tuk Tuk drivers in Bangkok are given extra money by local shops to bring their tourist passengers in! So unless you want to spend precious time in tailor shops and other vendors that you have no intention of buying from, make sure you say the magic words to your tuk tuk driver before hopping in - "NO STOPS!" Also, always decide on a destination and total price before agreeing to the ride.
Drivers may also try to tell you that certain attractions, such as the palace or a temple, are only open for certain hours. This is a ploy to let them drive you around to other places (like tailor shops) until the attraction opens. Most tourist attractions are open from early in the morning until the later afternoon/evening. Doing your own quick research will save you lots of time and money!
About Our Guest Bloggers:
The Travel Women is an inspiring Blog and Community that we are big fans of! They share travel stories by women, for women, and strive to give back to the environments and local communities that they visit. Check them out and follow along on their Instragram! Meleena is a regular contributor to The Travel Women and founder of The World Travelure. Check her out at www.worldtravelure.com and on Instagram @worldtravelure.