Once you’ve done the top sights, indulge in your personal passions. Grab a ticket to a Thai boxing match, join a local cooking class or take a ride along the winding canals that make this city the ‘Venice of the East’. When it all gets too hot to handle, all ages can cool off on the slides and rides at Siam Park City and Fantasia Lagoon. Young or old, this metropolis caters to every interest, from late-night clubbing to admiring temples adorned in incense, candles and flowers.
Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
For fascinating insight into Thai culture and architecture with an air royalty, step foot inside the four walls guarding the Grand Palace. The official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand) from 1782 to 1925, it’s a marvellous complex adorned in golden spires and stupas, where grand halls, pavilions, courtyards, royal residences, throne halls, gardens and forts meet. Thanks to progressive expansions made with each new generation of kings, today it poses a fascinating meeting of architectural styles. Discover beautiful Thai art, artefacts, sacred scriptures, the king’s antique throne and the popular and impressive Wat Phra Kaew (the Emerald Buddha Temple).
Bangkok National Museum
For a fabulous introduction to Thailand through a mesmerizing assembly of Thai art and history, the Bangkok National Museum is a must-do first stop. It’s also the largest museum in Southeast Asia and is located in a former palace, Wang Ha, built in the 18th century. Inside, exhibits span all the way from Neolithic times to today, organised into sections such as clothing, puppets, ceramics, musical instruments, khon masks and royal stele. Adding to the collection are a few insights into broader Asian culture, including Chinese weapons, Cambodian Khmer Arts and Vietnamese Cham.
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)
The Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and recognisable temples, sitting on the banks of the winding Chao Phraya River. An exemplary show of fine craftsmanship, the alluring Khmer-style structure is adorned in intricate patterns filled with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain, dominated by an imposing 70-metre spire and encircled by four minor towers. A temple designed to represent Mount Meru, the centre of the world in Buddhist cosmology, it magically catches the first glow of morning sun, making sunrise is a beautiful time to visit. Sunset is also spectacular, for the impressive silhouette created against the skyline.
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho, is Bangkok’s largest temple as well as being one of the oldest. The star attraction is, as the name suggests, an enormous 46-metre-long, gold-plated Buddha stretching out in full reclining position through the temple; his feet alone measure 5 metres long. But the complex is also fascinating to wander for the intricately detailed murals, the colourful and elaborate architecture, the long lines of golden Thai statues in lotus position and the nation’s most extensive collection of Buddha images.
The Jim Thompson House
For a unique and intimate glimpse into Asian objects d’art, delve into the life and legacy of Jim Thompson at the Jim Thompson House. An American architect who established a large and successful Thai silk company before going missing in the jungles of Malaysia in 1967, he was an avid collector. Admire his beautiful collection of Thai silks, art and antiques inside his former home which is, in itself admirable, a lovely complex of six traditional Thai-style teakwood houses with a few of Thompson’s own personal western twists. Outside, a lush garden and fish pond injects extra serenity.