Oct 1, 2014

Great things to do in Bangkok

John and I have been to Bangkok many times.  It is a great
destination but also a connecting city to other destinations in Asia. There is no city quite like Bangkok.  We have several favorite things to see and do. The Temple of Dawn, Wat (Thai for temple) Arum is located on the “other side” of the river so it is not always on a typical tour as it is located across the Chao Phraya River from most of the favorite tourist destinations. It was built in the 17th century and was the first place to catch the sun but the views in the evening are just as stunning. It still has sweeping views from its higher terraces where it catches the morning sun.
It is different from other temples in that the 230-foot spire is decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain arranged in beautiful patterns. It is a Buddhist temple and a place of worship so visitors need to keep that in mind and be respectful. 

Across the river is Wat Po, Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The
Buddha is nearly 50-feet high and 141-feet long. Of special interest are the soles of Buddha’s feet which are inlaid with mother-of-pearl designs that are associated with Buddha. Nearby are 108 bronze bowls that refer to the characters on the soles. People drop coins in the bowls which is believed to bring good fortune and help the monks maintain the temple. The temple complex is considered Thailand’s first public university. The murals that are spread throughout the complex explain a wide variety of topics from geography to science to religion. It is famed as the birthplace of Thai massage and, of course, massages are available. Thai massages can be gentle or intense.  John says a traditional Thai is like being beaten up in slow motion. 

On the must-do list is the expansive grounds of the Grand Palace that are awash with golden temples and glittering mosaics. We have been several times and it is actually best to go when there is nothing special going on as it can be very crowded or in some cases closed to the public. The most revered temple in Thailand is the one that houses the Emerald Buddha. The small Buddha is actually made of jade and has a fascinating history of being captured and recovered, then lost and found.  While there are many incredible things to see and do I am always impressed with the Yaksha which are the guardians of the temple based on the Thai benevolent nature-spirits even though the faces do not look kindly to me. They are impressive is size and design. 

I love rivers and the Chao Phraya that winds through the city with many side canals (klong) is a great place for a tour on a classic long-tail boat. There are tours of the river, klongs, to a floating market and also dinner cruises. 

Shopping is not my favorite thing to do but there many malls, street stalls, and wet markets. I did enjoy the home of the American Jim Thompson where silk is sold. Thompson was the Thai silk entrepreneur who mysteriously went missing in 1967. The house is a traditional Thai-style building with Thompson’s collection of Thai paintings and rare Buddhas on display. Bangkok is a good base for day trips to the River Kwai, the Death Railway; or to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital.