Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world but as a city itself , it is not that old. Despite its relatively young age as cities go (a few centuries), it is a striking contrast of the old and the new. Two areas of interest that may be highlights to any visit are its temples and its shopping. Here are some quick pointers on places to see if your visit is of a short duration such as a shore day on a cruise, or pre or post cruise stay.
Traditional boats with Wat Arun on the horizon.
~ There’s a number of floating markets with the Damnoen Saduak probably the most well known. If you don’t mind crowds, this is the one to visit. You can buy everything from fresh veg to gorgeous tropical flowers to your lunch of traditional boat noodles. A guided tour may be your best option here to navigate the masses of people and see the best of the market.
~ If you dislike crowds, try the Bang Khu Wiang floating market. It is less likely to be crowded with tourists especially if you visit early in the day.
~The highest concentration of gold shops is in Chinatown. This area also has a plethora of market stalls, restaurants and shops. As is the floating markets, this is a very exotic and vibrant part of city life and is definitely not to be missed, especially during traditional festival times such as New Years.
Contrasting Image: The Central Embassy, Bangkok’s modern luxury shopping centre
~A huge shopping area for tourists (and wholesalers) is the Chatuchak Weekend Market which comprises over eight thousand stalls in twenty-seven sections over thirty-five acres. (Hint: You need a map and reference points to navigate it.) Several hundred thousand other shoppers will be cruising the stalls too looking for bargains but don’t let that deter you.
Wat Benchamabophit or Temple of Marble
There are over four hundred temples in the area of Bangkok. Here are the best choices for a small amount of time. Note: you must dress very modestly as these are religious locations and you may be required to remove your footwear (it is suggested taking a bag with you to carry your shoes in):
~A must see temple is the Wat Arun. You can pick it out easily as it stands against the sky, a predominant two hundred foot spire in the landscape view near the Chao Phraya River. If you are sure footed and don’t mind heights, you can climb to the top and get a magnificent view of this section of the city including the Grand Palace opposite, on the other side of the river. The architecture is stunning and this is perhaps the most beautiful of the country’s temples.
Wat Arun or Temple of the Dawn
~Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha is situated in the grounds of the Grand Palace so you can visit two places of interest at once. This is the most important temple in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha (so named for the color, not the precious stone) was carved from a single piece of jasper in the 1300’s and stands about 30 inches high. Visit early otherwise, like everywhere else that is popular, it will be crowded. It is also cooler earlier in the day.
Royal Palace with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Wat Pho near the same area is home to the Reclining Buddha which is a massive 140 feet long and covered in gold leaf, and decorated in parts with inlays of mother-of-pearl. You can purchase a bowl of coins at the entrance which can then be dropped into a series of 108 brass bowls at the temple (108 is the number of actions that led to perfection for Buddha). These “wishing” coins are used to maintain the structure. Interestingly this place is also considered to be the birthplace of Thai massage, and you can purchase a traditional massage at the complex which also houses the College of Traditional Medicine.
Of course there are other sites to see in Bangkok, some wondrous, some unusual and some bizarre, and the city has a vibrant night life. A short visit will only whet your appetite to see more of this complex but marvellous city.
Rama VIII bridge, another modern contrast to “old” Bangkok
Article written for Set Sail, a blog from Cruise Holidays of Burlington, by D.MacIntyre of compassmedia.us.