Top 5 Things To Do In Bangkok

Travel guide to planning a vacation or visit to Bangkok, including an overview of the top attractions, museums and historical sites.

Visitors are advised, however, that many of Bangkok’s most popular attractions are governed by a strict dress code reflecting the country’s religious practices and its ongoing censure of “Western” influence. Shorts, tank tops, tube tops, mini-skirts, flip-flops and T-shirts bearing vulgarities will result in denial of entry.

This is one of the most photographed spots in the city…and with good reason. The palace was built over the course of 3 years at the end of the 18th century by King Rama I and is the official residence of the current monarchy. This is also where you will see the temple of Wat Pra Kaeo housing the 15th century Emerald Buddha whose robes are rotated three times a year by no less than the Thailand’s king himself. The king, in fact, is the only person who is allowed to touch the statue. When you visit this—and other places of worship throughout Bangkok—be sensitive and respectful of those who have come to pray. That means no photography, no laughing, no loud talking, and no interrupting services that are in progress. Both the palace and the temple are open year round to the public from 8:30 to 4:30, closing for lunch between the hours of 12 and 1.

When we think of traditional statues of Buddha, the image that generally comes to mind is one in which he has assumed the lotus position. At Wat Pho, however, you can one in an uncharacteristic pose: lying down. The Reclining Buddha is covered in gold leaf and faces his viewers, propped up on one elbow with the back of his head resting on his hand and a blissful expression on his countenance. He measures a little over 150 feet long. And don’t forget to check out his soles, which are meticulously inlaid with mother of pearl representing the indisputable signs of a true spiritual leader.

Wat Pho is the largest and oldest temples in the city of Bangkok. It also has the distinction of being the country’s first university as well as the most popular place in the world to learn the art and techniques of Thai massage. For all the walking around you’re going to be doing on this trip, you may want to consider an hour of relaxing indulgence at the hands of an expert.

In March of 1967, an American architect and CIA operative named Jim Thompson disappeared without a trace in the Cameroon region of Malaysia. His teak house, however, very much puts forth the suggestion that he has only stepped out for lunch and will be returning at any moment. Thompson’s claim to fame was his passion to reinvigorate the Thai silk industry and encourage merchants to beat a path to Bangkok’s door for hand-woven goods. The house itself is noteworthy in that it is actually a combination of six smaller dwellings that were transported from outside Bangkok and reassembled along one of its canals. Thompson’s reputation as an art connoisseur is reflected in an impressive collection of Asian art and sculpture throughout his former home and landscaped gardens. Tours are available from 9 until 4:30 every day.

If you are interested in Thai art and archaeology, the city’s National Museum is a place you won’t want to miss. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 until 4, the museum offers a mix of artifacts from the private collections of early rulers as well as rotating regional exhibits. A large variety of rooms and separate pavilions in what is Southeast Asia’s largest museum complex will enhance your knowledge of Thailand’s social, religious and political structure. Of particular note is the museum’s collection of chariots still used to this day to transport deceased members of the royal family to the crematorium.

Although it is no longer a royal residence, Vimanek Mansion continues to be used for state receptions and banquets. Entirely made from teak—one of Southeast Asia’s most precious exports— it is filled with photographs, artwork, furniture, and personal memorabilia hailing from the 19th century reign of one of its late kings. It also goes without saying that your kids probably won’t be the only ones to wonder if anyone was ever tempted to slide down that long teak banister! The building itself is open for tours from 8:30 to 4:30. A stroll on its grounds just before dusk is a photo memory you’ll want to carry home.

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