Created on Wednesday, 22 June 2011 00:00
Written by Nicole Ow Yeong
Bangkok started as a small trading centre and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River approximately 200 years ago. Today the grandeur and glory of its illustrious past remains, coexisting with the modern city. From spectacular palaces to a world-famous floating market and a colourful Chinatown, each of these places has an intriguing story to tell.
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it would undeniably the city's most famous landmark, the Grand Palace.
Built in 1782, it was the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of the government for 150 years. The Grand Palace of Bangkok continues to leave its visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate details. And today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
Within the palace complex are several impressive buildings including Wat Phra Kaew, which contains the small but greatly revered Emerald Buddha. The King of Thailand changes the robes on the Buddha with the seasons. That formed an important ritual in the Buddhist calendar. Now, the palace complex is still used to mark all kinds of other ceremonial and auspicious happenings.
The next place to visit is Chinatown Bangkok. Filled with market stalls, street-side restaurants, Chinese medicine stores and the greatest concentration of gold shops in the city, this is an experience not to be missed.
Chinatown in Bangkok is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock there after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine. Even in the day, it is no less busy as hordes of shoppers would patronize the area to get a day’s worth of daily essentials, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples.
The area never runs out of sights to see, and the energy that oozes from its traditional architecture and community activity will keep you wanting to come back for more. If you plan your visit during major festivals, like Chinese New Year and the annual vegetarian festival in October, you will see Bangkok Chinatown at its best.
The third thing that cannot be missed is definitely the famous floating markets!
Each of the floating market’s boat are piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens found right on the boat.
To enjoy the atmosphere without haggling over prices, try relaxing on a guided boat tour of the Damnoen Saduak market, pioneer of all floating markets. The place is chaotic as small 'klongs', or canals, are filled with small flat boats fighting for position, expertly paddled by matured women ready to stop and bargain in a snap. A boat ride down the river market is a once in a lifetime experience that cannot be felt anywhere.
The fourth must-do in Bangkok is to go for a Lady-boy show. While this is no Broadway show, Calypso Cabaret will definitely be a feast for your eyes and ears. An extraordinary evening at the Calypso involves stunning performances by talented troupes of transvestite dancers, entertainers and lip-sync singers. While some might say it is entertaining but strange, many agree that it is a mind-blowing evening with glistening stage design, extravagant costumes, thrilling soundtracks and simply extraordinary entertainment.
Last but not least, when you are in Bangkok, be sure to visit the Siam Oceanworld. It is a huge two-storey aquatic wonderland, a combined size of three Olympic swimming pools underneath Siam Paragon shopping mall.
This underground aquarium is one of the largest in Southeast Asia and you will be amazed with its innovative world-class exhibits and over 30 thousand peculiar-looking water dwelling creatures across the globe.
You will meet some of the world’s record holders, transported from the Amazon River, or survivors from the Jurassic period and the ocean’s deadliest predators in the 270-degree underwater tunnel. Patrons can peek into the open ocean from a glass-bottom boat, or have an opportunity to dive in and have a swim amid the sharks and rays.
The fun does not stop only in the deep blue sea. There is also a 25-minute virtual reality adventure to enjoy with the Sanyo 4D-Xventure. Using state-of-the-art technology, the virtual environment created by the theatre and its ‘4D Invader’ seats will definitely excite and thrill every viewer during the movie. For children, a few hours spent at the Siam Ocean World will be as educational as it is exhilarating and memorable for the adults.
So, whenever you are thinking of a wallet-friendly trip with family or friends, be sure to include Bangkok in one of your options. It will be a treat for all your senses.