Thailand’s glittering capital, Bangkok, is a high-energy, cosmopolitan metropolis that serves as the nation’s spiritual, cultural, diplomatic, commercial and educational hub. Rich with culture and history, Bangkok is home to an almost-endless supply of attractions and adventures. Winding its way through the middle of the city, the famed Chao Phraya River (or “River of Kings”) is both a peaceful respite as well as a source of ever-changing entertainment. Bangkok’s diverse landscape is made up of both ultra-luxurious hotels and dining, as well as more budget conscious experiences such as tasty meals served canal-side from peddler’s boats. Bangkok’s unsurpassed variety of traveler experiences all serve to make the city one of the most popular visitor destinations in the world.
Jim Thompson Museum
Jim Thompson’s exquisite collection in a traditional Thai house stands as a museum to the man who revived the Thai silk industry after the Second World War. The story of James H.W. Thompson is one upon which legends are made. After serving in the U.S.A. armed forces, Jim Thompson settled in Thailand and found the tremendous opportunity to re-establish the Thai silk industry. In recognition of his services to the country, he was bestowed the royal award of The Order of the White Elephant.
The company he founded, Jim Thompson Thai Silk, is recognized worldwide for its brilliant creations. He was an avid collector of Asian artifacts and antiques and The Jim Thompson House is possibly the epitome of his collection.
Before his mysterious disappearance in the Cameron Highland in Malaysia in 1967, his house was the talk of the town where he entertained his friends and visitors including the likes of Somerset Maugham. The house sits on approximately a half acre of land on Mahanak Canal. Ban Khrua, the village where his silk weavers lived and worked, is just on the other side of the canal. To build the house, he gathered 6 original traditional teak structures from different parts of the country and brought a carpenter from Ayutthaya, who completed the house in 1959. The gardens are equally impressive with a lush tropical jungle imitating nature’s haphazard beauty right in the center of the city. Jim Thompson’s connoisseur collection of antiques and artifacts is on permanent exhibition, making this a magnificent museum of the lifestyle of the legend.
King Prajadhipok Museum
It was during the reign of King Prajadipok as King Rama VII that Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. This museum presents the life and tumultuous times of The King’s reign. The building, constructed in 1906, was initially an imported clothing store called John Simpson Store designed in the Neo-classical style by Charles Beguelin, a French-Swiss architect. It later became a hardware store and then headquarters of the Public Works Department.
The museum has nine permanent exhibition halls covering various subjects in a specific sequence. The first hall introduces you to the line of succession under the Chakri Dynasty from King Rama I up to H.M. King Rama IX, the current King.
King Prajadipok’s life before his accession to the throne in the second hall, informs about his youth, education, ordination, marriage and government service. His coronation is shown in photographs and royal activities in areas of national development and foreign relations are shown in the next exhibits. The preparations for and the celebrations marking the 1932 150th anniversary of the founding of the Chakri Dynasty are next. King Prajadipok’s personal effects are displayed including items on films, music, sports and writings, revealing his personal tastes. The final exhibition shows his life after abdication and his final years in England.
This is possibly the most interesting temple in Thailand as it combines history, medical science and is a center for meditation and traditional massage training. Its official name is Wat Phrachetuphon Vimon Mangkararam Ratchaworamahawihan, although it is commonly called Wat Pho. Founded during the 16th century, Wat Pho is most famous for the golden reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters and has feet inlaid with mother-of-pearl. This is the main attraction that draws visitors to the temple.
In more modern times, Wat Pho has gained international recognition as a meditation center and for the traditional Thai massage that is both practiced and taught here.
The National Museum, located on the opposite side of Sanam Luang to The Grand Palace, was established in 1887 by King Rama V. The foundation collection was previously stored at The Grand Palace.
The original building was formerly the palace of a vice-ruler. King Rama VII placed it under the administration of the Royal Institute of Literature, Archeology and Fine Arts which has evolved to be the Fine Arts Department.
New buildings were constructed in 1967 and other historical buildings relocated to the museum grounds. The Buddhaisawan Chapel was built in 1787 to enshrine a revered northern Buddha image called Phra Buddha Si Hing. The interior has exceptional murals, while the building itself is a fine example of Rattanakosin religious architecture. Tamnak Daeng is another building that has been moved to the Museum. This Red House was originally the residence of an elder sister of King Rama I.
Siam Niramit is a one-of-a-kind cultural theme complex offering a world-class spectacular performance in a 2000-seat theatre.
The 80-minute show features three stories of Thailand’s cultural heritage: Journey Back into History, Journey Beyond Imagination, The Three Realms and Journey Through Joyous Festivals, with the magic of state-of-the-art technology and special effects.
The show starts nightly at 8 pm. but visitors should arrive at 7 pm. to join a free guided tour to a Thai village in the compound. Restaurants and souvenir shops are also available.
The Grand Palace
The main buildings within the Grand Palace compound were built for King Rama V, who was the first Thai King to travel to Europe. Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat, built in 1877 by King Rama V as his Royal Residence, is the most highly recognized architectural landmark of the Nation.
The central Throne Hall, which was formerly used for the reception of foreign envoys, is flanked by reception areas decorated with galleries of portraiture. The central room on the second floor is used as a shrine for the reliquary ashes of Kings Rama IV, Rama V, Rama VI, Rama VII and Rama VIII.
Borom Phiman Mansion was also constructed during the reign of King Rama V. When his son, King Rama VI ascended to the throne, he had it improved for use as his residence. The three succeeding Kings also resided here at one time or another. The Siwalai Gardens, where the office of The Royal Household Bureau is located, were used for receptions as well as a recreation area for the royal women and children. Maha Monthien Prasat houses The Audience Hall of Amarin Winitchai where ceremonies of the Court usually take place in front of the throne surmounted by its canopy of nine tiers of white cloth.
Operating time: 08.30 – 15.30 daily.