Known as Krung Thep, which translates to "City of Angels," Bangkok was established in the 15th century as a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. After facing the turmoil of Japanese occupation during World War II, Bangkok boomed in the 1960s and 1970s, as the United States came to rely on Thailand as a staging area for the Vietnam War effort.
Today, Bangkok has blossomed into Thailand's most populated city, with 12 million residents as of 2012. The city is rich with cultural heritage and plays a leading role politically, socially, and economically in the country as well as southeast Asia. The city offers a wide range of attractions to satisfy varied tastes, including temples, nightlife, shopping, museum, palaces, and much more.
Must-see activities and sites in Bangkok include the poetically-named Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn, a beautiful, ornate structure overlooking the Chao Phraya; Wat Pho, home to a giant Buddha and perhaps one of the most renowned temples in Thailand; the Grand Palace, which once housed Thailand's kings; and the famous floating markets, where merchants in canoes sell fresh, natural produce.
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Drive to Bangkok’s Noi District where you can see how the locals live in greater Bangkok’s authentic canal-side neighborhoods, with homes and gardens dotted along the waterfront of the klongs, or canals. Board a local “rocket boat” – long, canoe-like traditional vessels with outboard motors on the back – to zip up and down the canals.
Take a boat trip up the Chao Phraya River, the city’s main artery, to meet a curator at the National Museum, which houses three permanent galleries: the Thai History Gallery, the Archaeological and Art History Collections, and the Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection. Tour the museum with the curator, who will share the highlights of the collection with you.
With over 10,000 stalls, Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market is perhaps the largest weekend market of its kind. A rambling maze of crowded alleys, Chatuchak’s stalls sell a wide variety of trinkets, souvenirs, clothing, food, and even live animals. Additionally, the food is first-rate – ranging from skewers of grilled pork, sliced vegetables, and squid eggs to plates of pad kee mao, or wide, flat rice noodles stir-fried in a wok with vegetables, meat, and scallions.
Visit the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak, one of the iconic sights and activities of the Thai capital. The market operates each day between 06:00 and 11:00, though it is best to arrive as early as possible to avoid the tourist crowds. Traditional Thai homes built on stilts line canals that are packed with canoe-like boats selling local vegetables, fruits and flowers; many such boats are operated by women vendors, who dress distinctively in blue shirts and high straw hats, the classic attire of Thai farmers.
Have a private tour of the Jim Thompson House, a living history of traditional Thai architecture assembled by the silk magnate and former American OSS officer who mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967.
Visit Pak Klong Talaat, a popular fruit and vegetable market. Boats on the Chao Phraya River and trucks from nearby provinces arrive with immense quantities of fresh cut flowers, vegetables, spices, and fruits, all piled high inside the market and along nearby streets. All the flowers, particularly the orchids, are sold under fluorescent lighting – making for bright, polychrome photos.
Continue your discovery of traditional Thai architecture with a private tour of Suan Pakkad Palace Museum. This is a collection of homes bequeathed by Thai royalty, and features a vast collection of art and antiquities belonging to the Prince and Princess.
Try your bargaining skills at Suanlum Night Market, which has over 3,000 stalls of everything from local crafts to antiques. Browse food stalls hawking delicious satays, all the manner of skewers, and fresh fruit juices.
Discover the secrets of homestyle Thai cuisine with a private cooking class at a renowned cooking school located beside the Chao Phraya River. You will have a chance to explore the school’s traditional herb and spice garden, and select from its organic ingredients for your hands-on lesson, for which you will have your own cooking station and utensils.
Directly across the Chao Phraya River from Wat Pho is the landmark Wat Arun, the “Temple of the Dawn.” Wat Arun’s central “prang,” or tower, is a representation of Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu cosmology; surrounding the central tower are four shorter, satellite prangs, decorated with with seashells and bits of porcelain previously used as ballast by trading ships arriving from China. Visitors may wish to climb the steps of the central prang for an excellent view of the city.
Built in the 16th-century, Wat Pho is the oldest and among the most active Buddhist temples in Bangkok. Wat Pho’s giant reclining Buddha is one of Bangkok’s iconic sights; behind the statue are 108 bronze bowls, into which people drop coins for good luck. In addition to being a religious center, Wat Pho is also regarded as Thailand’s first public university and the founding place of Thai massage. Arrive in time for the resident monks’ morning chanting at 08:30.
Explore the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, or The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. While the Buddha itself is small, the vast temple complex of gilded shrines is an impressive sight – with tiled roofs of bright orange and green, and mosaic-covered pillars. The Gallery of Murals features a vast, incredibly detailed depiction of the Ramayana, one of Asia’s most famous epic tales. While Thailand’s Kings stopped living in the palace around the turn of the 20th century, the palace complex is still used to mark all the manner of ceremonial events and auspicious occurences.
Visit Wat Suthat, one of Bangkok’s most important Buddhist temples, which was founded in 1807 by King Rama I. Afterwards, continue around the large temple complex as your guide explains the history behind the 25-foot tall bronze Buddha statue, the temple’s remarkable series of wall paintings, the landmark giant red swing, and more.
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With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
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