Bangkok manages to preserve its cultural heritage to an amazing degree. In the rich splendor of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Temple of the Dawn and other historic shrines, you see images of medieval Oriental wonder, the very stuff of Eastern fairytales. Architecturally inspiring and a fascinating insight into Thailand’s rich culture, Bangkok’s heritage is reflected in it’s palaces and mansions.
The influence of the past is not limited to major monuments and it continues to colour daily life. Files of saffron-robed monks making their early morning alms round, for example, present a scene unaltered in essentials by the passing of time. Today’s backdrop of highrise buildings only adds wonder to this and other enduring sights from which the city continues to draw definition.
You don’t have travel far in Bangkok to find the trappings of modern civilization giving way to historical treasures. The Grand Palace, a fantastic complex with gilded stupas (domelike shrines to Buddha), is a living monument where people go to pay homage to the Buddha and their king. The Thailand National Museum houses Thai art and artifacts from Neolithic times forward. Performances of traditional religious and court dances take place at the Thai Cultural Center, a polished modern venue.
Air-conditioned buses and taxis are convenient ways for Bangkok sightseeing. But consider cruising the river and canals on a modest long-tail boat, or go for broke on the five-star yacht The Oriental Queen. If you’re walking — which may be the best way to experience Bangkok — wear comfortable shoes and take a good map.
The National Theatre
Thailand’s National Theatre is on Na Phra Lan Road next to The Thailand National Museum. Thai Classical dramas and other types of international arts are periodically staged here.
The National Museum
Within walking distance of the Grand Palace, across the Pramane Ground, is one of the largest and most comprehensive museums in Southeast Asia. The National Museum over one thousand artifacts ranging from neolithic times to the present Bangkok period. The complex, also begun m in 1782, consists of several old hut beautiful buildings of colourful Thai architectural design.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo
This city landmark should be the first place on any visitor’s itinerary. It is a huge compound on Na Phra Lan Road near Pramane Ground is surrounded by high white walls and occupies an area of about a square mile. The palace, begun in 1782, consists of several buildings with highly decorated architectural details. The Royal chapel, Wat Phra Kaeo, which is in the same compound, houses the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand. Photography inside the building housing the Emerald Buddha is forbidden. The complex is open daily from 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
Thailand Cultural Centre
Located on Ratchadaphisek Road, it is fully integrated venue for social education and cultural activities. Thai Life Permanent Exhibition can be seen on Mondays through Fridays from 9.30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.. Call 247 0028 ext. 109 for a current program. .
Wat Trai Mit
Located at the end of Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road near the Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lam Phong), this temple is known for its famous Golden Buddha. The beautiful image of solid gold is three meters high and weighs five and a half tons. The temple is open everyday from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
Jim Thompson’s Thai House
This remarkable Thai-style house was the work of Mr. Jim Thompson an American who came to Thailand at the end of the Second World War and revived the Thai Silk industry. His later disappearance in the Malaysian jungles remains a mystery to this day. The house now a museum is at the end of Soi Kasemsan 2 opposite the National Stadium on Rama I Road. On permanent display are Mr.Thompson’s collection of Asian artifacts such as blue-while China ware Cambodian stone figures benjarong (a multi-couloured porcelain made in China) wooden Burmese statues and many other fabulous antiques. It is open everyday from 9.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.