Bangkok Attractions

This blog is written to promote the hidden historic Bangkok attractions around the old town with the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha Image as the center. These attractions in old Bangkok are scattered around the Grand Palace and are located off-the-beaten-track. They are easy to get to from the palace by walking, Tuk Tuk or other public transports such as motorbike taxi. The Bangkok attractions close to the Grand Palace that I would like to talk about are Sanam Luang, Bangkok city pillar shrine, Khlong Khu Mueang Doem, Wat Ratchabophit, Chao Pho Suea Shrine, Sam Phraeng, and Wat Ratchapradit.

Sanam Luang

In 1977, the Fine Art Department registered Sanam Luang as one of the important historic sites in Bangkok. As a public space, it has been bonded with Thais’ lives for more than two centuries. As the capital’s center, it is the space where people from every social class could interact with each other.

Sanam Luang has been utilized for many purposes: it was the place for the royal funeral, and the place for the royal Rice Fiedl ritual in King Rama III’s period. It was also the amusement park; the place for kite flying competitions, horse racing and golf. It was the weekend market where there are goods for sale from toothpaste to warships; the place for family picnics; the platform for delivering political speeches and election campaigns; the center of public transit.

Currently, Sanam Luang is rearranged, scenically cleaned, with open and close times for visitors and only available for royal rituals. Although there are less colorful activities than in its old days, Sanam Luang is still one of Bangkok’s most important sports, since it is the location many historical event of Thailand took place.

Bangkok City Pillar Shrine

One of the closest hidden Bangkok attractions to the Grand Palace is Bangkok City Pillar Shrine. The City Pillar Shrine was built at the same time of the founding of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, more than two centuries ago. It’s very important to perform the ritual of the city pillar in the center of the capital, which is regarded as the strategic location that would bring blessing upon the kingdom. The pillars then became the symbol of security, which people could depend upon spiritually.

For Bangkok, there are two city pillars, which is different from other provinces. Since the first city pillar, built in King Rama I’s period, was ruined in King Rama IV’s period. the King then ordered the new city pillar to be built, moved the old one and put them together in the same place.

There is an appropriate order to worship the pillars. It proceeds from: Buddha Hall, Model City Pillar Buddha, City Pillar Buddha, Hal of Five Guardian Angels and finally, ends by pouring oil for Buddha that corresponds to your birthday, and participating in the exorcising of misfortunes ritual. You would receive the same amount of merits as visiting nine temples. Bangkok City Pillar Shrine is located in the northeast of the Grand Palace.

Bangkok city pillar shrineBangkok City Pillar Shrine. Photo credit: bangkokcitypillarshrine.com

Khlong Khu Mueang Doem (Khlong Lhord)

The capital canal consisted of three canals which was named in King Rama V’s period as “Khlong Rong Mai’, “Khlong Lhord’ and ‘Khlong Tald’. It was built in King taksin’s and King rama I’s period. There are two hundred year old iron woods near the canla on the rear side of Wat Ratchabophit, reflection of the old tradition of planting iron woods in the inner area of the capital.

Khlong Khu Mueang Doem is the location of crafworks from King Rama VI’s period. For example, “Saphan Hok”, the drawbridges that were built in the same model as the bridges in Netherland, “Saphan Charoen Rat 31”, “Saphan Charoen Sri 34” and other bridges, whose names were prefixed with ‘Charoen’ and ended with numbers, are beautiful Western-style plaster-works, and furthermore, there is “Uthokatan”, the plaster shrine, where located the statue of Phra Mae Thorani with drinkable water coming from her hair, which was designed by the maser of the period.

Wat Ratchabophit

Not far from the Grand Palace, you will find another unique Bangkok attraction. One of a kind temple design in the city is secretly hidden, Wat Ratchabophit. The temple’s official name is Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Ratchawora Maha Vihara. The temple was the last one which was constructed in accordance with royal tradition during King Rama V’s reign. It was planned in the style of the Ayutthaya period, with the blended architectural trait that was nicknamed, ‘Exterior is Thai and interior is Foreigner’. The exterior of the ubosot was decorated with handmade Thai golden glazed tiles, while the interior is decorated with Gothic gold in the same design as the Palace of Versailles. The designs at the arc of gates and windows are regarded as master craftwork.  In the Royal Cemetery, there are chedi, prang and vihara (in Thai, Khmer and European style). One of the remarkable features of the temple is the image of ‘Nai Tawarabala’ (the watchman), which is clothed differently, at the entrances.

Wat RatchabophitWat Ratchabophit’s Ordination Hall 

Sam Phraeng

The three princes of King rama IV once lived in the area. A historic neighborhood in old town. This quarter was a prosperous commercial district during the reigns of Rama V and Rama VI. Taking a walk in this quarter and being immersed in the old town’s atmosphere, and sighting the early Bangkok colonial-influenced buildings are recommended. Walk from “Phraeng Phuthon”, you would find the open ground inside the community. The buildings on Khlong Lhord side are well known as the gathering of musical instruments shops. Beside is “Phraeng Nara” where once was the site of “Pridalai Theatre”, Thailand’s first musical theater and then was utilized as Talaphat Suksa School, the beautiful wooden and lime building,  deserted. The last one, “Phraeng Sapphasat”, which is located near the Tiger God Shrine, located graceful old European arch. There are also a number of good food vendors such as Nattaporn Ice-cream, Chotichit Potchana Restaurant, nodle and pork brain soup, glutinous rice with coconut milk, Thai crepes, roast pork and crispy pork with rice, pa-thong-ko (youtia), etc. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

Chao Pho Suea Shrine

Located in Sam Phraeng neighborhood another favorite attraction in old Bangkok for the locals is Chao Pho Suea Shrine. (Suea Godfather Shrine). The shrine is known as ‘Tua Lao Yia’ among Thai people of Chinese descent and is an ancient Teochiu shrine. The original shrine was constructed in the reign of Rama III on Thanon Bamrung Mueang and relocated to the current site on Thanon Tanao in the reign of Rama V. The shrine houses various Chinese icons such as Huangtian Shangdi, Chao Pho Suea, Guanyin, Guan Yu, and Chao Mae Taptim. These gods are venerated by Thai and Chinese alike. It is widely believed that whoever venerates gods at the shrine will be blessed with prosperity. The shrine is often crowded by believers, especially during Chinese New Year and the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

Chao Pho Suea ShrineChao Pho Suea Shrine. Photo credit: Chao Pho Suea Shrine Facebook Page

Wat Ratchapradit

The royal temple of King Rama IV’s reign, even with its small capacity, contained many valuable Thai art and cultural heritage inside. There are the murals depicting the tales of ’12-month Royal Ceremonies’, the other depicting ‘Solar Eclipse’, and the wooden windows embellished with pearl in the style of Nagasaki craftwork, which is rarely seen even in Japan because the aftermath of WWII. Furthermore, there are Pasan Chedi, Tamnak Somdet, ho rakhang, sala rai, etc. Allo of which reflect the distinct architectural style of the period.

In old Bangkok, beside the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and other main attractions, Bangkok has many historic attractions that you can explore on your own. They are within walking distance from the main attractions. For those who are the travelers not tourists who have time to explore the other side of the city, this blog will help you go beyond the typical Bangkok experience and discover the different perspectives of this lovely city. But if you do not have much time and wish to see as much as possible, try our custom private guided tour. Our tour guides can help you navigate the city and make the most out of the time that you have.

Where to Stay in Bangkok?

I am sure this would be one of the very first questions coming up in your mind when planning your vacation in Bangkok. Your eyes will roll over when searching for hotels on those hotel online booking platforms. This blog is written to help you find the right hotel locations for you to stay. From years of experience being a tour guide, I went around the city to pickup my guests. Because of this part of my job, I can share my knowledge about my best areas for hotels in Bangkok to stay. In my opinion, the best areas to stay for hotels in Bangkok would be around Sathorn Pier, Phra Artit Road near Khao San road and hotels along sky trains and subway.

Sathorn Pier

This is a name of a boat pier along the Chao Phraya River. The pier is also known as central pier where “Chao Phraya Express Boats,” and Bangkok sky train (BTS) intersected. This intersection between the sky train and the ferry allows you to commute to both old and new town easily using the transports.

Surrounding the pier, there are many hotels situated nearby. These hotels have shuttle boat services transporting their guests from their hotels to the pier every 10-15 minutes. It’s so convenient for you to get around and avoid unexpected congestion in the city by these modes of transports.

Bangkok hotels along Chao Phraya River

Bangkok hotels along Chao Phraya RiverBangkok hotels along Chao Phraya River

Chao Phraya Express Boat

The ferry starts servicing from 06.00-19.00 every day. The fares range from THB 15-60 per person. There are a few types of ferry services categorizing by flag color; orange, yellow, green and blue flag. To go to old town for the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun etc, you need to take the orange and blue flags.

Chao Phraya Express Boat and Wat ArunChao Phraya Express Boat and Wat Arun

BTS Sky Train

From the pier, you only need to walk for a few minutes to Saphan Taksin BTS Station. There you take a train heading to “National Stadium BTS Station.” The train will take you to the new town where you can explore the modernity of the city.

Beside the transportation convenience, you will get a beautiful scenery of the river while staying at these riverside Bangkok hotels as well.  Where to stay for hotels in Bangkok? Now you know one area to focus your search on “Sathorn Pier.”

Phra Athit Road : old Bangkok

Located in inner part of old Bangkok, Phra Athit Road is another favorite area of mine to stay for hotels in Bangkok. The area is surrounded by the main attractions such as the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddah, Wat Pho, Golden Mount etc. Along the road, there are several nice and affordable riverside hotels for you to choose from. These hotels are the ones that I prefer to stay.

Phra Arthit Road, BangkokPhra Arthit Road. Photo credit: crownproperty.or.th

Nearby historic attractions

Staying at a hotel here, what I like the most is the ability to easily walk to many important historic sites within 15-30 minutes. Furthermore, in the evening, you can entertain yourself by walking to Khao San Road, the largest Backpacker hub in the Southeast Asia for dinner and evening relaxation such as massage and drinks

Phra Sumen Fort on Phra Artit RoadPhra Sumen Fort on Phra Arthit Road. Photo credit: crownproperty.or.th

Grab is good to get around

Although this part of old Bangkok doesn’t have sky trains or subway yet, I do not think this is a problem. If you want to go to shopping areas like MBK Mall or Chatuchak Weekend Market, I suggest you use “Grab” transport service if you do not want to deal with Taxi meter drivers who refuse to turn on their meter system.

From my experience taking a taxi from this area to MBK Mall (shopping center) at different times of day, I found that the traffic is not congested at all. If you compare it with congested Sukhumvit area, this area is much better for me.

Boat pier nearby

Or if you would like to enjoy more of the city, take “Chao Phraya Express Boat” and transit to BTS Sky Train at Sathorn Pier to go to new Bangkok. There is “Phra Artit Pier” nearby these hotels where you can walk to within a few minutes. With this way of commuting, you can be sure that you will avoid unexpected Bangkok traffic.

Bangkok hotels along sky trains and subways

As I mentioned earlier in the blog about the use of the sky train, any hotels close to the sky train and subway would be my top choice. These hotels will allow you to get around the city using the transport system.

To get to old Bangkok from the area and avoid traffic. You can do the followings.

Take the sky train to Sathorn Pier and transit to the ferry heading to old Bangkok.

Take the sky train and then get off at National Stadium Station and get a taxi or Tuk Tuk to old town. If you do not want to take a taxi or Tuk Tuk, you can do “Saen Saep Boat Service.” You need to walk to “Saphan Hua Chang Pier” to take the boat to old town. From the station to the pier, it will take 10-15 minutes walking. But this way, I do not recommend because it’s more difficult to navigate for first time visitors. Unless, you have a local guide who know the city accompanying you.

Bangkok hotels along sky trainsBangkok hotels along sky trains

My favorite stations

To give you a better idea of where to stay in Bangkok for hotels in the area, I will give you my favorite BTS Stations that you can use to search for hotels nearby.

National Stadium Station

Siam

Rachathewi

Phloenchit

Ratchadumri

Nana

Asoke

Why my favorite stations for hotels to stay?

Beside its connection to the ferry, the stations are centrally located in new Bangkok. These stations are surrounded by shopping malls, various types of restaurants; Thai, Western, Chinese, and Japanese and Korea and other important sites etc. After a long day tour, you can conveniently go to shopping malls and restaurants to spend your evening close to your hotels.

With all these reasons mentioned above, Sathorn Pier, Phra Artit Road, and hotels along sky train and subway would be my choice to stay in Bangkok for hotels.

After reading this blog, I hope you can narrow your hotel search down and be able to focus on the areas that would suite you the most.

However, if you would like to save and maximize your time efficiently in a big city of Bangkok, getting a private guide and customize your itinerary would help you a lot. Check out our custom tour experience or email us at services@explorenique.com for more information.