Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. Bangkok offers the following points of interest for tourists and photographers;
- Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and the Emerald Buddha
- Wat Arun
- Markets of Chatuchak (JJ), MBK and Pratunam
- Lumphini Park (and view of the city)
- Wat Saket (and view of the city)
- Jim Thompson House
- Wat Pho and reclining Buddha
- Shopping Malls including Siam Paragon, Emquartier, Siam Center, Terminal 21 and Central World
- Wat Trimitr and the golden Buddha
- The infamous Patpong market and nightlife
- Wat Benchamabophit
- Baiyoke Tower II (and view of the city)
- Kao San Road
Bangkok is huge, the traffic can be terrible and it’s too hot to walk around, so you need to choose the location of your hotel carefully. I would recommend staying in the Asok area which is close to the skytrain, underground train and 1 stop away from the airport link. The sky train runs down Sukhumvit road, so you can check hotels anywhere on Sukhumvit, just make sure it’s within walking distance of the Skytrain as you don’t want to get sat in traffic in a taxi.
The Grand Palace is the former residence of the King of Thailand, when he sadly passed away recently this is where the Thai people came to mourn. The coronation of the next King of Thailand will happen here at the Grand Palace. On visiting the Grand Palace you’ll see Thai soldiers and guards protecting the palace. The Palace is a beautiful structure with colorful gardens and surrounding buildings.
Wat Phra Keow is the most sacred of temples in all of Thailand. It houses the Emerald Buddha (above), the Emerald Buddha is sculpted from a single Jade stone, emerald refers to the color. Legend has it that the Emerald Buddha will bring prosperity to the country that it resides in, it’s probably the most important Buddhist statue in Thailand. You cannot go inside the building that houses the Emerald Buddha so to photograph it you’ll need a camera with very good zoom, also be aware that you will be photographing a dark room from the strong sun shining outside.
To enter the Wat Phra Keow complex you must wear conservative clothes and cover your body, so come prepared.
To get to Wat Arun you need to cross the famous Chao Phraya river which runs through Bangkok (above). To cross the river you’ll be encouraged to take a boat which costs around 200 baht, this sounds a decent price but if you check where the local boat over the river leaves from, this boat will cost less than 5 baht. In the near future the Chao Phraya river could become the first UNESCO world heritage site in Bangkok.
Wat Arun, known in English as ‘Temple of Dawn’ dates back to the 17th century but the spires were not added until the 19th century. You can climb the spires to take a wonderful city shot over the Chao Phraya river (above). It is said that the best time to go is sunrise when the sun reflects off the spires and it’s extremely quiet. Wat Arun is also a good place to get a good monk shot, you’ll see plenty here going about their daily routines.
Wat Pho is famous for its reclining Buddha, at 46 meters in length it one of the biggest in the world (above). The temple houses the largest collection of Buddha images in the world, so be ready to see Buddha images! Wat Pho is the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage, many foreigners learn how to massage here.
There are 3 famous markets in Bangkok, Chatuchak (JJ weekend market), MBK Center and Pratunam. If you want the Thai market experience then any of these locations should meet your requirements, they each sell virtually the same things at the same prices. Each of the markets can be reached by skytrain (Pratunam by airport link).
The biggest of the markets in Bangkok is Chatuchak Weekend Market, it’s actually open during the week too but during the weekend there are much more stalls (and people).
You should consider MBK if you want to stay inside in the air conditioning whilst exploring a market, your energy will last longer. MBK is also conveniently located within walking distance of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Central World.
Pratunam is a huge market located close to the airport link but you could also walk there from the Sky Train (and Central World). Located in Pratunam is the Baiyoke Tower II, which was until recently the tallest building in Bangkok, you can pay to reach the observatory on the top floor.
An alternative market to these is the infamous Patpong night market, this often features in movies, such as The Hangover 2 and Bangkok Dangerous. The market is expensive, rife with pick pockets and very seedy.
Bangkok has more recently become famous for it’s modern shopping malls. Along Sukhumvit road you’ll find countless shopping malls, almost every stop on the Sukhumvit line of the Skytrain is connected to a shopping mall. My favorite malls were, Siam Paragon, Emquartier and Central World which is one of the biggest in Asia. In Siam Discovery you’ll find this waxwork of the most famous Thai actor, Tony Jaa. Tony Jaa has recently starred in the Hollywood action movies, Furious 7 and xXx. He is famous for his Thai boxing skills and rose to fame in the Thai movie Ong Bak, which features a Tuk Tuk chase through the streets of Bangkok.
Lumpini Park is the Bangkok equivalent to Central Park in New York. It’s hot in Bangkok so I recommend visiting the park early morning or in the evening. Lumpini is famous for it’s monitor lizards (above), you’ll see these walking around the park, swimming in the water and climbing in the trees. They are not dangerous and are scared of you, I recommend being quiet and walking slowly when you want to take their photo, or they will run off.
The Jim Thompson Houses are traditional Thai buildings and gardens in the center of Bangkok. They are the former residence of American businessman, Jim Thomson who mysteriously disappeared into the jungle of Malaysia in 1967. He built the residence in the 1959 to show off his art collection. He had a huge silk business based in Bangkok which is why he chose to build his residence here.
There are Jim Thompson Silk shops in most of the shopping malls in Bangkok so if you don’t make time to visit his house you can still see traditional Jim Thompson silk clothes in his shops.
Thailand is also known as the land of the smiles (above).
From Bangkok I drove south to Hua Hin, on leaving Bangkok you’ll cross the famous Rama VIII Bridge (above). The bridge was constructed between 1999-2002 to relieve traffic congestion. Although the traffic in Bangkok can be bad, imagine what it would be like if they hadn’t dramatically improved the infrastructure over the past few years. The road between Bangkok and Hua Hin is motorway the whole way which means you should get there between 2-3 hours. You may be tempted to speed but there are police speed check along the way so be careful!