Bangkok has a charm that makes it worthwhile. Home to famous temples, floating markets, and a rich vibe for cuisine and tourism, the Thai capital is swarming with life. It is an urban center home to 10.7 million people, expected to increase even further (4). But what actually is Bangkok best known for?
Historical landmarks, religious customs, brands, cuisine, shopping, nightlife, language, and tourism make up the majority of Bangkok’s fame. Today, the city has something for everyone, despite your age, gender, or hobbies. Unconventional activities make for an exciting, modern, and vibrant culture.
Bangkok’s fame traces back to its roots in the Ayutthaya Kingdom during the 15th century. Bangkok has now become home to more than just Thai communities by combining tradition with modernity.
What Is Bangkok Famous For?
Let’s look into some of the main reasons why Bangkok is well-known.
1. Historical Traditions
The first aspect notable about Bangkok is its startling love for culture, history, and art. Influenced by Southeast Asia as a whole-India, Chinese, Laos, Burma, Indonesia, and Malaysia all take inspiration from each other (1).
In this way, Thai culture and Buddhism are based on Indian epics of the Ramayana, which allows for Indian-Hindu traditions to play a significant role in Thai art and culture (1). One of the most prominent examples is the Garuda, prominently displayed in paintings and sculptures. In the same way, the Ayutthaya Period (1351-1767) shines a light on Thai or Siamese Culture and its influence from the neighbors on early Chakri kings and theatrical arts (1).
Amongst this history lies Bangkok’s famous museums that display contemporary galleries with memorable artifacts. Let’s look into some of these museums and why they remain top destinations for your next visit to the Thai capital.
The Bangkokian Museum is a hidden gem located in Ket Bang Rak. It is made of tiny, charming houses from the 1930s; visitors will feel they have stepped into a middle-class Thai neighborhood from 100 years ago (3). Full of artifacts and objects, you can spot pottery, furniture, cameras, and picture frames of those who used to live there long before. However, all flooring and artifacts have been polished and displayed modernly.
If you are one for surprises, then Museum Siam Khet Phra Nakhon is the most interactive and exciting visit for you. As soon as you step foot inside, you will be welcomed by modern-day art and technology (3). The museum itself is made of 14 rooms that take you through Thai history, culture, and evolution. Alongside pictures, you can also interact with particular objects, watch videos, or listen to old audio (3).
Bangkok National Museum:
The Bangkok National Museum was the first-ever museum in Thailand. It is home to some of the oldest Thai relics and artifacts in the entire country (3). Located near the Grand Palace, the museum, built in the 1800s, has three permanent exhibition galleries: Thai History Gallery, Archeological and Art History Collection, and Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection (3).
Art in Paradise:
If you are looking to go somewhere more exciting for children, then Art in Paradise is the first option for you. It is known as Bangkok’s first-ever 3D art museum. Consisting of six exhibition spaces on two floors of the Esplanade Shopping Mall, you will find 150 intricate paintings and designs (3). What makes this place most unique is that you can use their application feature to make the portraits come to life.
2. Religious Customs
Thailand’s official religion is Theravada Buddhism and is practiced by 95% of the population. Additionally, the religion is prominent through its neighbors in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos (2). Known as the essential identity of many Thais, Buddhism is taken seriously and with respect.
At the moment, over 300,000 monks reside in Thailand, many of whom are from the central city of Bangkok (2). Alongside theories of karma, Thai people believe that those who worship Buddha and commit good deeds will get good karma, while those who misbehaved in the previous life will thus get bad karma (2). Alongside these rituals, Thai people welcome tourists from other religions but ask that they respect Buddhist traditions when visiting temples or taking part in Thai practices.
If you want to attend such religious festivals or visit Thai temples in Bangkok, then here is the top list for you:
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew:
The most famous landmark in Bangkok is the Grand Palace. However, it is a startling structure built in 1782 and is no longer used as a monarchal residence. The palace serves ceremonial events and is the center of all other temples (5). The complex, Wat Pra Kaew, also called the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is made from Thai architecture and 19-century European designs (5).
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn):
Wat Arun is considered the most stunning temple in Bangkok. Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, it is 70-meter high (5). The temple was constructed of Khmer design in the 19th century and contained elaborate floral patterns and colored glass taken from Chinese relics. Tourists are allowed to climb up the temple’s stairs to get a stunning view of Bangkok’s skyline (5).
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha):
If you are looking for something extra attractive, you should visit Wat Pho. This intricate statue is one of the largest and oldest temples in the city. It is 46-meter long and 15-meter high (5). Referred to as the Reclining Buddha, the gold plating symbolized the passing of Buddha into nirvana, which is known as the final stage of enlightenment (5).
3. Jim Thompson’s House
Bangkok is also known for being one of the leading exporters of Silk. Jim H.W. Thompson is the “Thai Silk King” (5). He was an American architect and businessman who lived in Thailand from the late 1940s. The Jim Thomspon house, built-in 1959, depicts his Asian art collections (5).
Known to be a central figure of fashion and hand weaving of silk, he took inspiration from an extensive collection of Southeast Asian paintings and statues. While he mysteriously disappeared in 1967 while visiting Malaysia, Thailand still remembers the legacy he left behind.
4. Detectable Cuisine
You can not forget Bangkok is more than just history and monuments; it is also famous for its food. I mean, food is pretty much an integral part of Thai identity.
Whether sweet or spicy, Bangkok is home to the most popular and well-known Thai dishes!
Mango Sticky Rice:
Also referred to as Khao Niao Ma Muang, Mango Sticky Rice is a popular Thai street food. Bangkok is commonly known as sweet mango served with glutinous rice and coconut milk. You can also add other topics as you wish (5). This is popular street food, but it is also served in fancy restaurants with unique presentations.
Thai Fried Noodles, also known as Pad Thai, is one of the world’s most loved dishes. The dish is made of stir-fry noodles, beef, tofu, chicken, prawns, eggs, beans, and peanuts, garnished with fish sauce, tamarind juice, chilis, and sugar. (5). As mouth-watering as it sounds, this dish is also considered street food + a luxury option depending on where you eat in Bangkok.
You might have heard of this one a lot as Tom Yum is a famous Thai hot and sour soup, which is eaten worldwide. The soup has a salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavor as it takes on a unique aroma. The dish’s ingredients include chili, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, lime leaves, fish sauce, lime juice, and fresh prawns. Some even should add coconut milk for a creamier texture (5).
Thai Milk Tea:
Thai Milk Tea, also known as Cha Yen, is a popular drink brewed from Assam tea, sugar, and milk. The drink can be found around street vendors and different cafes. You can purchase the glass as hot or cold, including a large amount of condensed milk and evaporated milk. Cha Yen is most commonly served in different colors by adding tea mix and food coloring (5).
Khanom Bueang, known in English as the Crispy Crepe, is commonly found amongst the streets in Bangkok. It is a crispy sweet taco, topped with meringue cream and salty options such as fried eggs or chopped scallions. This is the number one dish known to take you back to the Ayutthaya period (5).
You definitely can’t leave Bangkok without the discussion of shopping. Thailand is known as one of the world’s top shipping destinations, from air-conditioned malls to local outdoor stalls.
Let’s look into some of these areas and how you can make the best of your Bangkok shopping experience:
Bangkok is home to hundreds of malls, unique to their name and variety. The main city malls include Icon Siam, Central World, Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Emquartier, Emporium, and Central Chidlom. Home to luxury outlets such as Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, the malls also have local Thai stories and middle-ranged international outlets like H&M and Zara. Additionally, MBK and Platinum are two famous malls unique for their low prices and knock-off designer brands.
Chatuchak Weekend Market:
If you are more of an outdoor explorer, Chatuchak is the place to learn more about Thai culture. The market is home to over 15,000 stalls and is spread across 14 hectares of land. Over 200,000 visitors travel to the market every weekend, close to the famous JJ Market and mall. (5). You can find all kinds of products from home decorations, clothes, antiques, books, art, and food.
Bangkok is also home to one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world. Located on Soi Wanit 1, the area is known as Sampeng Lane and is 230 years old (5). You can find a range of different Chinese goods from food, silk, jewelry, home decor, appliances, and fresh produce.
If you are not a fan of shopping but wish to take pictures, Thailand’s floating markets are the best option. You can have a seat on a boat as you paddle through different stalls while eating local food. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is known as the official floating market of Bangkok and is the largest in the city (5).
Another factor to Bangkok’s fame is the vibrant nightlife. Full of rooftop cocktail bars, DJ nights, and cultural shows, you can get the true experience of the Thai lifestyle throughout the night. Here are some popular areas that you can consider visiting:
If you are into drinking, then the Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower in Bangkok is the best open-air bar to hang out and meet new people. Located on the 63rd floor, you will get the actual skyline experience (5). Other famous bars include Moon Bar on the 61st floor of Banyan Tree Bangkok and Zoom Skybar at Anantara Sathorn (5).
Khao San Road:
Khao San, also known as “milled rice,” is a famous backpacker hotspot. It is famously known for its appeal in the favorite movie “The Beach” (5). Although it is a rather busy street, you will get the smells, energy, and lively vibe of Thai party culture. The road is full of clubs and bars playing EDM music and selling clothes, souvenirs, and knock-off goods at low prices.
Red Light District:
Another popular nightlife attraction is the Red Light District, a neon-lit adult street full of vibrant culture. The most prominent districts in this location are Soi Cowboy, Neon Plaza, and Patpong, full of go-go bars, basement clubs, and casual bars (5).
Bangkok is also famous for its live shows and performances. Ladyboy cabaret, theater shows, and puppet shows are all popular attractions. One of the most popular shows is Siam Niramit, a 90-minute production that showcases 700 years of Thailand’s history (5). The event is held in the colossal Ratchada Theater and was once featured in the Guinness Book of World Records (5).
7. Thai Massage
One of the main reasons people come to Thailand is popular massages. Many people believe that there are benefits to Thai massages for lowering anxiety and stress and improving athletic performance. Thai people use exercise and techniques that date back to 2,500-7000 years ago (6).
For example, Thai massage can promote both blood and lymph circulation by using gentle stretching. One study showed that people with peripheral neuropathy, a cause of diabetes, found this exercise helpful for improving balance. Moreover, the Thai massage enhances the range of motion (6).
There is no guidance as to how many times you can get a massage; just listen to your body, relax, eat healthily, and learn to incorporate the ideology behind Thai massage into your own life as well.
In conclusion, Bangkok is well-known for its variety of different components. Unique to its own culture, identity, language, and religion, Bangkok already serves as an independent and exciting travel destination. You will be intrigued by the Land of Smiles and the knowledge they bring from the landmarks, religious customs, cuisines, shopping, nightlife, and performances.
1. FACTS AND DETAILS. CULTURE AND ARTS IN THAILAND. FACTS AND DETAILS. [Online] May 2014. [Cited: January 26, 2022.] https://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Thailand/sub5_8e/entry-3251.html/.
2. Iverson, Kelly. Everything You Need to Know About Buddhism in Thailand. The Culture Trip. [Online] October 27, 2017. https://theculturetrip.com/asia/thailand/articles/everything-you-need-to-know-about-buddhism-in-thailand/.
3. Lockhart, Katie. 10 Best Museums In Bangkok. Condé Nast Traveler. [Online] October 15, 2018. www.cntraveler.com/gallery/best-museums-in-bangkok/.
4. Statista Research Department. Number Of Inhabitants In Bangkok In Thailand From 2012 To 2021 (In Millions). Statista. [Online] October 2021. [Cited: January 25, 2022.] https://www.statista.com/statistics/910999/thailand-population-in-bangkok/.
5. Sallegue, Joy. 30 Things Bangkok Is Famous For. Hey Explorer. [Online] September 11, 2020. https://heyexplorer.com/what-is-bangkok-famous-for/.
6. Eske, Jamie. What Are The Health Benefits Of Thai Massage? Medical News Today. [Online] November 14, 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323687/.