From our hotel take a walking tour to discover the marvels of Bangkok without getting so tired, is by having a leisure walk to visit a group of attractions which are near each other.
Walking Tour of Rattanakosin Island
Few are aware that Old Bangkok, where the city's oldest temples and palaces are located, is in fact an island, called Ratanakosin, it is surrounded by water by the Chao Phraya River on the west, and by an inner city moat and canals on other sides. Ratanakosin became the country's capital in 1782 when King Rama I decided to move his palace from Thonburi, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, to the eastern side as a defense strategy. The move triggered the construction of new buildings, including forts and temples. Many of these ancient structures remain intact, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha among them, and have become the city's main historic and cultural attractions.
Rattanakosin Island is the area around Sanam Luang, the most well-known open ground in front of the Grand Palace, which is surrounded by water and houses the Grand Palace, several famous temples and important government buildings.
The first place to visit is the National Museum on the West side of Sanam Luang, which is the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia. Next to the museum is one of Thailand's most famous universities, Thammasat University.Walking through the campus, you will reach Tha Phrachan Road. Then turn onto the nearby Maharat Road, on the left of which is Mahathat Temple, where the Buddhist Meditation Centre is located.
Next to the temple is Silpakorn University, the country's centre of fine arts study. Turning left onto Na Phra Lan Road, you will reach a must-visit place for every visitor to Thailand. It is the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo) where you can catch a glimpse of Thailand's traditional arts and splendid architecture. To the left of the front gate of Wat Phra Kaeo, you will find Tha Chang (tha = pier) where you can take a ferry to Wat Rakhang, a famous old temple with traditional architecture. Next to Tha Chang is Tha Ratchaworadit, a royal pier containing a Thai-style pavilion exclusively used for royal ceremonies.
Walk on a few hundred metres you will see another pier - Tha Tian, from which you may take a ferry to Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. This renowned temple is attractive in its striking pagoda decorated with multicoloured porcelain fragments.
Opposite the rows of shophouses around Tha Tian is Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon, another famous temple in the area. In addition to a large number of pagodas, the temple also houses a huge reclining Buddha. On the opposite side of Sanamchai Road, the road beside Wat Pho, is Saranrom Garden where you can take a break under shady trees. Then continue your walk along this road, you will pass the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence which is marked by some old cannons displayed in front of the building.
City Pillar Shrine
Going a little way farther, before arriving back at Sanam Luang, you will see the City Pillar Shrine with the roof in the form of a pagoda. Here is where a lot of people come to worship the city's guardian deity.
Going further on Bamrung Muang Road for a few hundred metres after crossing Sao Chingcha Intersection, you will catch the sight of the Giant Swing. This giant swing was used in the past in an annual Brahmanic ceremony. However, the old red swing aged 45 years was already removed. The replacement of the brand-new one, comprising the four well-selected logs of the golden teak, was just completed in December 2006. Wat Suthat behind the giant swing is attractive for its large cast bronze presiding Buddha and the splendid carved door leaves which are replicas of the masterpiece of King Rama II (1809-1824), who was an all-round artist. The original ones are now kept in the National Museum.
From Wat Suthat continue northwards along Din So Road you will find Bangkok Metropolitan Administration on your right hand side. At the end of this short road is Ratchadamnoen Avenue or the Royal Avenue, on which the Democracy Monument is located. Then walk further to the right and you'll see a beautiful pavilion newly built for receiving guests of state, and the nearby Statue of King Rama III (1824-1851). Behind the pavilion is the unique Loha Prasat (Metal Castle) Pagoda. The pagoda is in the shape of a square with 3 storeys and 36 small pagodas along the edges of the floors and one at the centre of the top floor. Despite its name, there is no metal part in the whole structure except the lightning rods fixed to the pagoda tops. Presently, it is the only one of its kind left in the world. (The two other formerly built in India and Sri Lanka were already in ruins.) It is part of Wat Ratchanatda, a beautiful temple which was built by King Rama III.
Then go out of the temple through its gate on Mahachai Road, turn right and walk a few steps to another temple, Wat Thepthidaram, which was constructed in the same reign. The influence of China is reflected through the designs and decorations of porcelain and Chinese stone statues. Walking back to Ratchadamnoen Avenue, at the corner where Mahachai Road and the avenue meet is Mahakan Fort with a short section of the old city wall. Both were built by King Rama I. The fort was among the 14 erected to guard the capital.
Phukhao Thong (Golden Mount)
After crossing Phan Fa Bridge just outside the fort, you will see at a short distance away on your right, a resplendent and magnificent golden pagoda on top of a mount called Phukhao Thong (Golden Mount). It is located in the compound of Wat Saket. Built by King Rama IV, this gilded chedi houses a Buddha relic from India. The golden chedi can be reached by a 318-step spiral stairway. While on top, you'll have a wide view of the older part of Bangkok.
Walking Tour of the Marble Temple and Dusit Zoo
Marble Temple or Wat Benchamabophit
Near the northern end of Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue where it meets Si Ayutthaya Road, we begin our walking tour of several nearby spots related to King Chulalongkorn or Rama V (1868-1910), who contributed immensely to the well-being of the Thai nation. From the starting point facing the Equestrian Statue of King Rama V, turn right onto Si Ayutthaya Road and walk straight a little, you will find on your right hand side the Marble Temple or Wat Benchamabophit, built by King Rama V in 1899.
The prime attraction of the place is the main temple (bot) built of white Carara Italian marble. Enshrined in the building is the presiding Buddha image, Phra Phutthachinnarat. It is a bronze replica of the original statue of the Sukhothai period (1238-1438) which is enshrined in Wat Mahathat in Phitsanulok province in the North. There are several other things of great interest to tourists, e.g. Buddha statues in different postures and styles and small beautiful buildings in the compound.
After admiring the elegance of the temple, walk back to the starting point and go across the Phitsanulok Road. In front of you now is the Equestrian Statue with a magnificent dome building Ananta Samakom Hall on the background, both of which were constructed during the reign of King Rama V. While the former was built with donations by ordinary people, the latter was erected of marble by the King to receive state guests and conduct meetings about state affairs. It once served as the site of the National Assembly. Presently, it is used for royal and important state ceremonies.
Ananta Samakom Hall
On the west of the Ananta Samakom Hall is Ambara Garden (Suan Amporn) with a large compound. It provides a location for fairs and graduation ceremonies. Take Uthong Road on the east of the Equestrian Statue. A short way ahead on your left is the Parliament Building, in front of which is a statue of King Rama VII (1925-1935) who granted Thailand's first modern constitution in 1932.
On the opposite side of the road is Dusit Zoo in shady and pleasant surroundings. After a long walk under the glaring sun, you can relax yourself here, ride a boat and enjoy watching a great variety of animals. Actually, there is another famous attraction located nearby - Vimanmek Mansion, a palace of King Rama V turned museum. However, since it offers a large number of priceless antiques and splendid architectural styles for exploring, you are recommended to spend a whole day there instead of including it in the above itinerary.
Walking Tour in Chinatown
Besides the above three famous routes, there is another new appealing walking route for foreign visitors, especially those who are interested in Chinese lifestyles and shopping -- that is Chinatown.