Sightseeing Tips in Bangkok
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Bangkok's sights, attractions, and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its nightlife.
The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) since 1782.
The king, his court and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925.
Bangkok, the centre of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, has been the capital of Thailand since 1782, when the seat of government was moved across the Chao Phraya River from the Thonburi (west bank) side of the river. There are many palaces in the city, some still used by the Thai royal family, while others are now open to the public. A number have become government or academic buildings as well as museums. The king's official residence is the Grand Palace, which has housed Thailand's monarchs for over 200 years. Before the 1932 Revolution ended absolute monarchy, the complex was the home of Thai government: it included royal courts and administrative branches, similar to the earlier capital at Ayutthaya. It houses Chakri Mahaprasat Hall and Wat Phra Kaew, which contains the Emerald Buddha, considered the most important temple in Thailand. However, the more modern Chitralada Palace is the actual Bangkok residence of the reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), and his Queen Sirikit.
Of the hundreds of Buddhist temples (or wats) in Bangkok, only a few are of much interest to tourists. When King Taksin led his troops out of Ayutthaya and into Thonburi in 1767 CE, they took refuge in Wat Arun. The most prominent feature is a tall chedi built in the 1820s that stands 85 meters (279 ft). It was tallest structure in Bangkok until modern skyscrapers were built a few decades ago.
Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is south of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. It is Bangkok's largest temple and contains a huge reclining Buddha figure that is 46 metres (151 ft) long and is covered with gold leaf. The feet alone are 3 metres (10 ft) in size.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temples and the site of the Giant Swing, formerly used in an annual Brahman ceremony. A huge teak arch from which the swing was hung still stands in front of the temple.
Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong in Thai), houses relics of the Buddha in a 58-metre-high chedi surmounted by a golden cupola. Built by King Rama I just outside the new city's walls, the temple served as the main crematorium. In the century after its construction, some 60,000 plague victims were either cremated there or placed outside for vultures to devour.
Queen Sirikit Park (สวนสมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์): It was built to commemorate the 60th birthday of HM Queen Sirikit. A big pool in the park contains three fountains and a fine collection of both Thai and foreign lotuses.
Lumphini 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 includes a full-scale model of the Princess Mother's house and old buildings renovated as exhibition halls displaying the life of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother as well as the history of the Wat Anongkharam community.
Chulalongkorn University (พิพิธภัณฑ์ในจุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย) comprises several museums located around the university such as Museum of Human Body, Museum of Imagery Technology, Museum of Animal Parasitology, Museum of Geology, Museum of Natural History, Snail Museum of Thailand and more.
The National Gallery Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ หอศิลป) is the former location of the Royal Thai Mint and exhibits collections of both traditional Thai and contemporary art. A number of oil paintings made by His Majesty the King in his earlier years are exhibited here.
The National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ พระนคร) is housed in former palace of the Wang Na or second king, Kromphraratchawangbowon Mahasurasinghanat, the designated heir to the throne in former years. Built simultaneously with the Grand Palace for Rama I's brother, the complex contains several major throne halls: Phra Thinang Siwamok Phiman, Phra Thinang Phutthaisawan, and Phra Thinang Itsara Winitchai.
Suan Pakkad Palace (วังสวนผักกาด) is a complex of five Thai-style houses was once the residence of one of Thailand's leading art collectors, Prince Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga. It contains an extensive collection of Asian art and antiques, including items from the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilisation, and an impressive collection of rare seashells. The Khon (classical Thai masked dance) Museum and the Traditional Thai Music Museum are also here.
The Vimanmek Mansion Museum (พระที่นั่งวิมานเมฆ) is the world's largest golden teak. It was built on Ko Chang by King Rama V, but was moved to the compound of the Dusit Palace on Ratchawithi Road when 19th century French imperialists threatened the original location. The three-storey royal mansion has 81 rooms, halls, and ante-chambers, all containing royal memorabilia from the fifth reign. Royally-sponsored Thai art masterpieces are also on display near Vimanmek at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall (พระที่นั่งอนันตสมาคม) as part of the "Arts of the Kingdom" exhibition.
The Siriraj Medical Museum, in the Siriraj Hospital on the west bank of the Chao Praya, is a large six-section medical museum with diverse exhibits on medicine in general, forensic medicine, and the history and present state of medical profession in Thailand. Often overlooked by tourists, the exhibits are a valuable resource for both medical professionals and interested laypersons.
The Museum of Siam, on Chanamchai Road, focuses on the provenance of people of Thailand with a focus on the people of Bangkok.
Khaosan Museum, The history of Khaosan Road and its environs. The museum depicts the way of life and history of Khaosan Road in the days before it became a byword for backpackers from around the world. It is on the 2nd floor of Kraichitti's house.
Jim Thompson Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์จิม ทอมป์สัน) was constructed by American expatriate Jim Thompson from several traditional Thai-style houses, dismantled and assembled into one dwelling. Thompson helped restore and promote the Thai homemade silk industry after World War II. Following his mysterious disappearance in Malaysia in 1967, his home was turned into a museum to display his priceless collection of Asian art.
Chaloem Krung Royal Theatre (เฉลิมกรุงรอยัลเธียเตอร์) is on Charoen Krung Road (New Road) near the Old Siam Plaza. Thai dramas and plays are staged, while "khon", Thai musical dance dramas, are occasionally performed here.
The Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre (นาฏยศาลา หุ่นละครเล็ก) hosts the Hun Lakhon Lek puppet show. It was inspired by Master Sakhon Yangkhieosot (also known as Joe Louis), named a National Artist in 1996. Hun Lakhon Lek usually performs episodes of the "Ramakian", the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Sakhon Nattasin is currently the only performing troupe of Hun Lakhon Lek in Thailand, and in 2000 received a Thailand Tourism Award in Recreational Attraction from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
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 of hell, 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.