Bangkok is one of the world’s most visited cities for a reason. The Thai capital was even named “World’s Best City” by the American magazine Travel & Leisure for four years straight. And it is easy to see why, as Bangkok is the whole package for an exciting city trip. Not only does it teem with vibrant night markets and yummy street food stalls. But the City of Angels also stuns visitors with world-class historical attractions. So, on your first visit to Bangkok, here come five cultural landmarks to put on your bucket list.
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The Grand Palace
With its golden Siamese stepped roofs, the Grand Palace shines bright in the Bangkok skyline. Commissioned by King Rama I in 1782, the palace used to be the seat of the government. Nowadays, the King has moved quarters to another royal residence. Yet, this feat of architecture remains a must-visit for those willing to experience a piece of Thai history. And the main Chakri Palace is far from the sole attraction to behold.
From the sovereign’s audience chamber to the sacred Emerald Buddha Temple, the Grand Palace spans over 214,000 m². So, allow three to four hours to cover the whole place. Also, check the schedules ahead of your visit since the palace might be closed because of royal ceremonies. A bit of foresight will also help you avoid potential scams, as some tuk-tuk drivers pretend the site is closed to get you to tourist shops instead.
The Bangkok National Museum
The first national museum in Thailand sits opposite the Grand Palace. Therefore, a mere 15-minute walk will take you to the home of the world’s most extensive collection of traditional Thai artifacts. Antique weapons, Khon masks, and traditional puppets, the Bangkok National Museum digs deep into the riches of Thai art. The collections focus on regional Buddhist arts, too.
But this museum, one of the largest in Asia, also allows you to learn more about Thailand’s past. The Thai history gallery spans thousands of years of history, dating back to Neolithic times.
Have you ever heard of the world’s most imposing Buddha statues? Then head to the Wat Pho temple to witness a massive Reclining Buddha first-hand. Towering fifteen metres above ground, this gold-plated statue is forty-six metres long. Its feet alone stand at three metres high!
Wat Pho also boasts 108 bronze bowls at the feet of the statue. In Buddhism, indeed, 108 is a sacred number, just like in mathematics and even astrology. But while the temple impresses for its sheer size, Wat Pho is also a centre of Thai traditional medicine, including the art of massage. Thus, massage enthusiasts might couple their visit with a relaxing session.
On the banks of the Chao Praya River, Wat Arun bears the name of Aruna, the god of Dawn. And it is particularly fitting, as the temple is daunting at night. But you can also plan a more serene visit at dusk when the morning lights enchant photographers, since the temple of Dawn is one of Bangkok’s most picturesque landmarks.
The Phra Prang pagoda is particularly famed for its colourful ceramic and porcelain tiles. This 79-meter-high tower is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, which stands symbolically as the centre of the universe in the Buddhist cosmology. In such a holy place, however, beware of covering your knees and shoulders.
Built in the 14th-century, Ayutthaya was the second capital city of the Siamese kingdom. Despite its destruction in 1767, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And while the ancient Buddhist libraries and monasteries lay to ruin, there is still magic in this historic cultural centre.
Fun fact, the city was also home to the country’s first large-scale gambling houses. Yet, the 17th-century brick-and-mortar casinos are long gone. But casino gaming might be back in Thailand as talks of legalization are on the table. Until then, online gambling is the way to go. The best platforms have compiled a list of fully licensed online casinos. Gamblers can therefore enjoy their favourite games in all safety. So, from sports betting to classic card games, online gambling sites are the perfect entertainment fix on your trip to Ayutthaya. Indeed, the ancient city is an easy train ride from Bangkok.