Travel Destinations

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Day in Historic Bangkok, Thailand

Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn, Grand Palace
Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn (The Royal Pantheon) in the Grand Palace
Our first day in Bangkok had given us a glimpse of the splendors we were going to encounter on our Thailand vacation.  But we were still not prepared for the colorful and awe inspiring sights to come.

We traveled by sky train and express boat to the historic center of Bangkok.  At the end of this post is more detail about using these modes of public transportation. 

Our first destination was Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace.  The Grand Palace is a huge complex of buildings including the royal residence, throne halls, government offices, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  There are so many beautiful buildings and bright colors, it is hard to absorb it all, and it is extremely difficult to capture the grandeur in a photo.  We spent the entire morning exploring the complex.

Phra Siratana Chedi, Grand Palace
Phra Siratana Chedi in the Grand Palace
The complex is 218,000 square meters completely surrounded by four walls.  It is huge, meaning it is important to know where the entrance is located, or one might end up walking around the entire complex.  Oh yes, that is what happened.  In fact, we encountered two fellow travelers walking the opposite direction also attempting to locate the entrance, so at least I wasn’t the only one.  What we should have done after getting off the boat at N8 Tha Thien Pier was to turn left on the street that runs parallel to the water, walking along the wall of the Grand Palace, and then turn right where the wall turns to find the entrance.  Walking the opposite direction, we encountered something warned about in our guidebooks.  We passed a group of tuk tuk drivers, one of whom approached.  My husband (who does not read the guidebooks ahead of time) asked him where we could find the entrance.  The driver told us the palace was closed until 2:00 p.m., but he would be happy to take us to a number of sites throughout the city until that time for a very reasonable price.  As I tried to drag my husband away (I’m pretty sure I had warned him about this very scam), he told me he really thought the driver was truly trying to help us out.  We walked away without taking the tuk tuk driver up on his offer, eventually did find the entrance, and found it was of course not closed.  The tuk tuk driver really was one of the nicest scammers I have ever encountered.

Street Food
Delicious Street Food
We decided to try street food and ate lunch at a food market across the street from the northwest corner of the Grand Palace.  Unfortunately I don’t know the names of what we ate, but our meal consisted of ball-shaped snacks similar to takoyaki, a flavorful spicy soup, and coconut water straight from a coconut.  Lunch was inexpensive and delicious.

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
We next headed to Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha.  Wat Pho is also a large complex with multiple beautiful and colorful structures.  Also within the complex is the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical Science School and Body Massage.  If a massage at Wat Pho is on the itinerary, go to the massage building first to get a number and be put on the waiting list, then explore the temple grounds.

Wat Pho
Wat Pho
We then crossed the river by boat, which cost a few cents, and visited Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn.  The temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the Buddhist center of the world.  There are tall steep stairs that can be climbed up the monument, which provides a great view.

Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand
Close-Up of Wat Arun
Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Arun
Our second day in Bangkok required two modes of public transportation, the
BTS Sky Train and the Chao Phraya Express Boat.  Traveling on the sky train is very simple and economical.  At each station, there is always someone on duty to provide change.  There are machines which display an easy to read map of the sky train transit system, and each stop lists the cost to travel there from the station.  Fares range from 20 to 40 baht.  There are buttons to push for the various fare amounts, and after pushing the appropriate button and depositing coins into the coin slot, a ticket is dispensed.  The ticket is then used at the turnstiles to access the train, and also to depart the station at the final destination.  The sky train has a station that is within a few short steps of the dock.  There are two options for river transportation, the tourist boat and the express boat.  The tourist boat is expensive, 150 baht for the day, and unless the plan is to hop on and off all day long, the express boat, used by the locals, is a much more economical choice, at 20 baht per trip, plus it runs longer hours and is more frequent.  Traveling the Chao Phraya River by boat is a wonderful way to see Bangkok, and is the best way to get to the historic center.  The fare is collected on the boat.

BTS Sky Train and Chao Phraya Express Boat
BTS Sky Train and Chao Phraya Express Boat
The Grand Palace and Wat Pho require long pants and shirts with sleeves.  While it is possible to rent appropriate attire at the Grand Palace, that means standing in an additional long line.

I used Lonely Planet Discover Thailand to plan our Thailand trip.

To Mo Chit
This way to mo - stuff -
Sorry, but this sign made my husband giggle every time.

Travel the World: Spend a day touring Bangkok’s historic center where you’ll find the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho.  Bangkok Thailand.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.


  1. Wow! I love this place! I had to cancel my trip to Thailand some years ago! :-(

    1. I hope you will be able to reschedule it soon and spend a few quality days in Bangkok. Even with all the research, I really was not prepared for the bright colors and beauty. I love it too.

  2. Sounds and looks wonderful! Hope to make it to Thailand one day.

    1. I hope you do Kathryn! I was excited to go, and yet I loved it more than I even thought I would. Bangkok really surprised me with its colorful beauty, easiness to navigate, and friendly people.

  3. Thailand a spiritual place,these areas comes with host of mind blogging attractions. Thailand is truly amazing, a country that has something for everyone. With Bangkok as its capital city, Thai culture can be found in sculpture, architecture, music, dance and cuisine.

    1. I agree Brian. Thailand is amazing, and the culture should be experienced by all.


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