Aug 23 2011

24 hours in Bangkok: Off the beaten track must-sees

Published by at 5:08 pm under Sightseeing & activities

Last week we talked about the three classic Bangkok must-sees, so this week let’s take a wander off the beaten track. Bangkok is one of those cities were many of the most memorable offerings are just below the surface. Amazing restaurants are tucked down back alleys, the best shops are hidden in the depths of a market, and that perfect food stall is probably smushed between a laundry lady and a 7-eleven. To save you on the search time, here are few must-see sites that are not on the typical Bangkok list.

Wat Leng Noi Yi 

A little Chinese charm.

Built in 1871, Wat Leng Noi Yi, also called Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, is the most important temple in Chinatown. Full disclosure: the temple is currently under re-construction but never fear the temple’s beauty is not only in the architecture but also in the scene. Worshippers are here at all hours, letting birds free from tiny cages, praying at altars and making offerings of burning paper. The last time I was there I arrived just in time for the start of a ceremony with dozens of monks chanting in unison. With so much activity going on, the most respectful thing to do is find a quiet corner and take it all in. This is a great window into Thai-Chinese life.

Wat Leng Noi Yi is on Charoen Krung Road near its intersection with Soi Itsara Nuphap. It’s a long walk from the MRT station at Hualamphong. Open daily 06:00-18:00. 

Museum of the Deparment of Forensic Medicine
You have to give points to a site that is seared into your memory, and hands down this is the grossest museum I have even been to. There is much to see here and none of it is pretty. (No photos are allowed inside so you’ll have to take my word for it.) Aborted foetuses, crushed skulls, horrifying accident photographs — this is not a place for the faint of heart. That said, if gore and grim is your thing then this spot cannot be missed. Hidden away in Siriraj Hospital this museum has displays of some of the most horrifying things imaginable, including the mummified remains of Thailand’s two most infamous serial killers. In true Thai style there is a cafe outside, in case you want a latte with that.

The museum is open from 09:00-16:00 daily and the price of admission is 40 baht. The hospital is on the Chao Phraya River, just off the Tha Wang Lang Chao Phraya Express pier. The museum is at the northern end of a dozen buildings huddled on the grounds. It’s a bit tricky to find — ask directions.

Monk Bowl Village

Pick a bowl, any bowl.

So nice that I’ve had to write about it twice, I previously posted on Monk Bowl Village, or Baan Bat, as a historic stop well worth your while. A tiny back alley that is the one and only place in Bangkok where alms bowls are still made by hand, Baan Bat really is one of the most unique places in town. A glimpse back to the Bangkok of yore, this little community has been making alms bowls for hundreds of years and if you’re adventurous enough to go find them they will show you just how they do it. Wood fired kiln, freshly hammered steel? My two favourite ways to start the day. Buy a bowl and you’ll receive a neighbourhood alley tour, and a pretty incredible souvenir for around 1,000 baht.

Baan Bat is located on Soi Baan Bat off of Thanon Bamrung Meuang. The bat makers are there daily from 10:00 until 18:00. The 508 bus stops nearby as does the khlong taxi to Tha Phan Fah. Follow the sounds of the hammers and make sure to hit up this particular spot, not the more tourist-ready bat makers on the main road. 

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