Aug 19 2011
Missing one of the holy trinity of Bangkok sites would be like missing the Statue of Liberty in New York or the Eiffel Tower in Paris or… well you understand where I’m going. So if you have only 24 hours in Bangkok, it will be a whirlwind of a day, but here are the three knockouts from among all that’s on offer that everyone goes to see. Next week we’ll feature a few of the best Bangkok spots to see that nobody has ever heard of (well, almost).
Fortunately Thai kings of yore anticipated the touristic future, and your tight backpacking schedule, and were kind enough to build these three spots all within easy access of one another. A word from the wise: ignore all touts telling you that the sites are closed and that you are dressed inappropriately. Just head to the entrance and figure things out with the ticket office employees.
Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace
If you only have time for one activity while in Bangkok, make sure it involves exploring what is surely the capital’s heaviest hitter. A massive place, with more than 100 mesmerising buildings in the temple and palace complex, Wat Phra Kaew is the temple to which all other Bangkok temples are compared. Built during the first year of Bangkok’s rule, 1782, this is a site of Buddhist pilgrimage as well as a tourist attraction. Inside the temple is the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most sacred Buddha images. As Wat Phra Kaew gets both extremely hot and extremely crowded, it’s best visited when it first opens at 08:30. If you spend around two hours here, you will still have plenty of time to explore the next two sites on the must-see list.
Wat Phra Kaew is located on Thanon Na Phra Lan. Open daily 08:30-15:30, the price of admission is 300 baht. The temple is near the Chao Phrara Express stop Tha Chang.
About a 10-minute walk from Wat Phra Kaew is the impressive Wat Pho. This temple is most famous for the 46-metre long Reclining Buddha that lives here. So large that it almost spills out of its home, the Reclining Buddha is perhaps my favourite of Bangkok’s celebrity attractions. Aside from this massive Buddha there is plenty else to see. The grounds are sprawling with dozens of beautiful chedis and interesting Buddha images. Also located on the grounds is the famous Wat Pho massage school that trains masseuses who are then sent all over the country. After an hour or so wandering Wat Pho, stop in for an hour-long Thai massage before making your way to the last spot on the must-see tour.
Wat Pho is located on Thanon Samachai just south of the Grand Palace. Open daily 08:00-17:00, the price of admission is 50 baht. The temple is near the Tha Thien Chao Phraya River Express stop and is about a 10-minute walk from Wat Phra Kaew.
Located across the river, Wat Arun is one of Bangkok’s most ornate wats. Sitting right on the river banks, the thing to do at Wat Arun is climb the incredibly steep steps to the top of the prang to take in the views of the city and river. The entire temple is covered in shattered Chinese porcelain which spends all day showing of for visitors by glistening in the sun. About an hour at Wat Arun should be sufficient and if you’ve been moving at the speed of light then it is time to reward yourself with a pre happy-hour cocktail. If you go back across the river to Arun Residence on Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, there is a posh rooftop bar and river restaurant, both ideal for watching the sun set over Wat Arun.
Wat Arun is located in Thonburi on Thanon Arun Amarin. Open daily 08:30-17:30, the price of admission is 50 baht. Take the cross-river ferry from the Tha Tien Chao Phraya Express stop which will drop you right at the wat.
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