Perhaps as old as the city of Bangkok itself, Wat Phra Kaew lies in a complex that covers an area of 1.5 square kilometers (0.58 square miles) and features more than 100 buildings, including those of the Grand Palace. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the highlights at this temple include the recently restored murals of scenes from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana) and the 75-centimeter (29.5 inches) tall jade Emerald Buddha, the most highly revered Buddha statue in the country. While there are certain accounts that trace the origins of the Buddha statue to India and Sri Lanka, the most convincing legend around the statue links it to the Lanna Kingdom. According to legend, the statue was procured when a stucco-covered Buddha was struck by lightning at a temple in Chiang Rai. What appeared to be a slightly chipped exterior revealed a green sheen, which led to the revelation of the emerald Buddha when completely unraveled. The Emerald Buddha exchanged several hands and traversed many kingdoms before it found its rightful place in the Wat Phra Kaew. The gilded robe seen lightly resting on the revered statue is changed thrice each year by the King of Thailand himself.
Characterized by a gleaming nexus of intricate spires that shoot upwards, and a spectacular sprawl of regional architecture, the iconic Wat Pho is counted among Bangkok's oldest temples. This royal temple was built by King Rama I on an erstwhile temple site, and while the original features of the temple are still exquisitely preserved, the temple underwent remodeling during the reign of King Rama III. The crown jewel of the stunning Wat Pho is the languorously reclining statue of the Buddha, stretching across 46 meters (150.9 feet) of glistening gold. Apart from the lifelike Buddha statue, the temple is also home to the most extensive collection of Buddha images, and one of Thailand's earliest hubs of religious education. Wat Pho boasts of a northern compound called the phutthawat, which constitutes some of the temple's most impressive buildings, including the one within which the Reclining Buddha is housed. The southern compound remains closed off to visitors, and comprises of a school and accommodation for resident monks. While many are aware that Wat Pho is a revered religious and educational symbol, few know of its association with the traditional practices of Thai massage. From 1955, the temple has been operating as a center for Thai medicine, besides also displaying endless plaques and inscriptions related to this traditional therapy within its vast complex.
Jim Thompson's house is a key spot for tourists and locals who are aware of the legendary entrepreneur and his role in setting up the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company in Thailand. Constructed from six different traditional teak houses in the year 1958, all of the walls have been reassembled. Today, the house has been converted into a fine-art and history museum where one can find Jim Thompson's beautiful collection of art. Artifacts from Thailand and Southeast Asia, comprising of finely-crafted sculptures, vivid paintings, and exquisite porcelain artifacts, form the core of the displays laid out in the businessman's former residence. The guided tours offered here are extremely informative and insightful. Additionally, the Jim Thompson's house serves an a venue for many exhibitions and events.
Wachirabenchatat Park (Rot Fai Park) used to be part of Thailand’s State Railway golf course, hence its other name, "State Railway Public Park", and the decommissioned steam train which stands at one entrance. The park, a mixture of gardens, grassland, small hills, wooded areas and lakes covers an area of 148 acres (60 hectares). There are many family activities available with cycling (bike hire is cheap and many bikes have child seats), jogging tracks, kayaking, rowing and bird watching. There are sports grounds and areas with children's play equipment, and the park is decorated with sculptures. It is well worth hiring a bike to explore, as it covers a large area. Also here is the Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
Located in Chatuchak, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) houses an impressive collection of modern Thai art as well as certain religious works. Traditional and historic artwork can also be found here, making this art museum one of the finest in all of Thailand. Visitors can spend hours looking at the vast array of works exhibited here, that range from Surreal to Naive to Abstract. Some of its commendable works include the Buddha and Dharma artworks among others. Many prominent works are a tribute to Silp Bhirasri, the father of Thai contemporary art, who loved Thailand's traditions dearly. Overall, this impressive museum manages to capture the essence of Thailand's culture through its beautiful paintings.
Also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha, Wat Traimit is home to one of the world's largest solid gold Buddha statues. This statue is three meters (10 feet) tall and is made of five and a half tons (5,500 kilograms) of gold. It was rediscovered by accident in 1957. The 13th-century Sukhothai style Buddha had been brought to Bangkok by King Rama III, who had encased it in stucco to protect it. This is an essential part of any Chinatown exploration.
Many art connoisseurs complain about the impersonal, clinical feel of large galleries, with sprawling displays and exhibits. The classy Rotunda Gallery provides a refreshing alternative, hosting small exhibitions, with styles varying from traditional Thai folk art to contemporary Western. You could combine your visit with a browse in the Neilson Hays Library, regardless of whether you are in Bangkok for research purposes or just to explore Bangkok's literary treasures.
Neilson Hays Library, known for being home to the Rotunda Gallery was built in 1921. Today it stands as the oldest foreign non-profit entity in Thailand, displaying 20000 volumes including a great collection for children. The library has been host to talks by many famous authors, such as Margaret Drabble, Paul Theroux, Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer and Jung Chung. Readings for kids are conducted on certain mornings. Various exciting events and educational activities are held here from time to time.
Badminton is quite a popular sport in Thailand and Naret Badminton Court is one such indoor sports facility which is used for badminton. There are several badminton courts available which can be booked in advance. So grab your racquet, bring a partner and play a few rousing games. There is also a small stand for sodas and other drinks for the players.
A walk along Silom Road from Sala Daeng BTS station to Silom Village encapsulates a microcosm of Bangkok life. Traffic noise, fumes, food smells, crowds and color accost the senses. Stalls selling t-shirts, cushion covers, masks, scarves, watches and souvenirs line the pavement, while shopping malls jostle for attention with spas, massage parlors, banks, tailors, travel agents and food outlets of all kinds. Here office workers mingle with tourists, and diners eat at noodle stalls, Mexican restaurants, British pubs or five star hotels according to taste. Silom Village is worth a stop if you still have the energy at the end of the walk.
Constructed in the 1860s in an area that continues to have a high proportion of Indian residents to this day, this colorful temple features a tall facade of intricate, entwined Hindu deities. Located across from Silom Village, the main shrine is devoted to Shiva's consort, Shakti, her son Subramaniam and her elephant-headed son, Ganesha. There are also a few Buddha images inside, so Buddhist Thais also come here to worship. If you are on a shopping expedition around Silom, combine it with a visit here to make it a culturally enriching day as well.
Owned by well-known photographer Manit Sriwanichpoom, Kathmandu is a photo gallery uniquely designed inside a restored Portuguese shop. The ground floor holds a set of black and whites, personally taken by Sriwanichpoom during his journey to various places, and is kept amidst a room with antique green walls. The upper floor displays works of several other photographers and artists both from Bangkok as well as other cities. There is also a book corner, where visitors can take a look at a selection of photography and art related books.