Have you visited Rattanakosin Island? If you have been to Bangkok before, you probably have, but not realized it. You may have heard of the famous Grand Palace and popular Khao San Road, both which are located in this district. Why is it called an island? Because there were huge moats dug around the Grand Palace in the past for defense, which are now the canals!
But is that all to this historic district? If you have the time, we recommend spending a day or two just walking around, as there are plenty of lesser known, but equally as interesting places to visit. Here are some places that you must visit if you find yourself in the area!
Wat Pho is located right beside the Grand Palace complex, and is known for it’s giant reclining Buddha. Translated to Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho has a large compound, as in addition to the 46-meter long reclining statue, it was the center of public education in Thailand.
Also within the compound is the school of Thai medicine, which is the birthplace of traditional Thai massage and is still taught and practiced to this day. If you wish to get a massage here, it is recommended to go early as the wait time for the queues can be quite long.
Wat Saket is a temple that you might have seen even before entering the Rattanakosin area or from a high enough structure as it’s on a man-made hill. Dating back to the Ayutthaya, it takes 344 steps to reach the top. It While it sounds like quite a climb, there are plenty of rest points, which offers a little more insight on the temple, as well as a progressively better view of the surroundings as you get higher.
When you reach the top, you will get a great view of the city, which goes as far as the eye can see!
As you make your way down, there will be a fork; one way goes back the way you come from, and the other, an alternate path. If you choose the alternate path, you will see sculptures of vultures, as well as a somewhat gruesome diorama. Unlike what most people think, it does not depict a hell, rather, it is a memorial to the darker days. Find out exactly why at the temple!
Wat Ratchanatdaram and Loha Prasat are often only glimpsed when passing by.
The temple has some great views, but the highlight would be Loha Prasat. Featuring 37 spires, each one represents the 37 virtues needed to attain enlightenment. Upon entering, you will be greeted with a maze-like area. Around the area, you will find various displays about the history of the temple.
There are a total of 6 floors, 5 which are accessible from the central staircase. Each floor is significant to the monks, as the higher their status, the higher the floor they can meditate in. At the top of the 5th floor, you can access the sixth via steep stairs to the highest point. There, you will be able to see a sacred relic, along with a great view of the surround area!
Another prominent temple that isn’t visited as often, Wat Suthat Thepwararam is the temple which the Giant Swing is across from. The temple has a large complex that covers over 10 acres, one of the largest in Bangkok! Inside, you will find an 8-meter high Buddha image made of bronze, and beautiful murals which tell the story of the different lives of Buddha and how life was back during the Rattanakosin era.
The Giant Swing is a tall religious structure, over 30m in height, and was used in a religious Brahmin ceremony.
In the past, there was a yearly event where a bag full of gold coins were hung from the top, and participants would use teak poles to sling themselves up for a chance to grab the prize. But after a number of injuries and even deaths, it was discontinued.
Perhaps as interesting as the various places mentioned above are the streets themselves that connect all these locations together. Roads are usually flanked by 2 or 3 story shop-houses, a popular concept back in the day. A unique sight would be shops that has huge images of Buddha on display outside their shop! As you stray further from the main tourist area, you will also find plenty of alleyways and sights great for that next Instagram picture, or just a photo for the memory.
There are plenty more to see and do in Rattakosin, and this is just a taste of what there is to offer. We will certainly revisit Rattanakosin again in the future, and feature other locations like scenic river-side cafes and of course, Khao San Road!