Bangkok Old Town: The Road Less Travelled

My adventure to Bangkok’s Old Town began from Phanfah pier, a starting point for many eager worshippers on a pilgrimage to visit the temples. A short stroll along Boripat Road will bring you to Wat Saket, the starting point for our day of discovery. If the MRT is your preferred mode of transport, I suggest making your way to Hua Lamphong. From there, a taxi will get you to Wat Saket in 20 minutes.

Wat Saket

Opening hours: 7:30am-5:30pm
Admission fee: 20 baht for foreigners, free for Thai nationals</em.

Wat Saket Bangkok
The view from Golden Mount, Wat Saket

The many steps leading to Wat Saket may seem daunting. However, the reward upon reaching the summit is all the incentive one should need. Sitting atop the Pom Prap Sattru Phai district, Wat Saket stands as one of Bangkok’s finest trophies. Dating back to the Ayutthaya era, a visit here will enable one to feel as if they’ve travelled back in time but the highlight is, undeniably, the dazzling Golden Mount where visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. En route, you’ll find an array of attractive statues, traditional Thai beauties bathing in the miniature waterfalls that surround them. The antique bells and colourful fauna add splendour to your journey as the birds provide a worthy soundtrack. It’s no wonder that Wat Saket has remained a sanctuary for Thais and tourists alike throughout all these years.

A short distance from Wat Saket is the Royal Pavillion Mahajetsadabodin, a beautiful park located at the junction of Maha Chai and Ratchadamnoen. Don’t waste an opportunity to take a picture here on the way to the stunning Wat Ratchanaddaram and Lohaprasart.

Wat Ratchanaddaram and Lohaprasart

Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Admission fee: 20 baht for foreigners, free for Thai nationals

Wat Ratchanatdaram Bangkok
Wat Ratchanatdaram

Fewer places, if any, can boast a more peaceful atmosphere than Wat Ratchanaddaram. Translating directly to ‘Royal Niece’, this spectacular piece of architecture, accompanied by Lohaprasart (Iron Palace), was built in honour of Somanass Waddhanawathy, princess granddaughter to King Nangklao (Rama III). Although currently under construction, the temple still welcomes many visitors each day who wish to meditate inside its serene halls. Upon entering, you will be greeted by the Lord Buddha’s relics and a splendid visual timeline of the temple. The hypnotic chimes accompany your climb up the narrow stairway towards the library, walking meditation area, and seated meditation area. Wat Ratchanaddaram is a true peace-lovers paradise.

A mere five minute walk back along Maha Chai Road will bring you to the Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan.

Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan

Opening times: Not specified
Admission fee: Free

Wat Thepthidaram Bangkok
Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan

Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan may be one of the lesser-known temples in the Old Town; the lack of fame will not distract you from her beauty. This hidden gem is draped in exquisite traditional Thai wallpaper with spectacular chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The smell of incense graces the air adding an immediate sense of calm while the various golden statues are a jaw dropping spectacle. My timing on this particular day was impeccable as I managed to arrive on time for daily prayers. As the senior monk led the way, his apprentices gazed on in admiration, eager to learn from their master. Local Buddhists presented offerings to the senior monk; it was clear to me that I had stumbled upon one of Bangkok’s hidden treasures.

With the abundance of beauty bestowed upon me all morning, I had forgotten my human instinct to find food. Temples are far from the only famous attraction in the area, a fact I learned upon my first visit to Thip Samai.

Thip Samai

Opening hours: 5pm-2am Daily
Price: 80-250 baht
Call: +66 22216280

Thip Samai Pad Thai Bangkok
Thip Samai

The first thing you’ll notice is the queue. This may span up to 20-30 metres outside the door, depending on the time of day you arrive. Credited as the creator of Thailand’s world famous Pad Thai dish, Thip Samai’s fame is undoubtedly deserved. Their Pad Thai is among the best I have ever tasted, a feat which is not easily achieved in a country that specialises in food. Each dish reflects the mannerisms of the chef’s on display as you can see their obvious pride in what they serve. The countless awards and trophies decorating the walls are testament alone to one of the great ambassadors of Thai food.

A brisk walk along Bamrung Muang Road will bring you to Sao Chingcha, or as it’s known to many ‘The Big Swing’. Originally constructed in 1784, it has gone through many phases of operation and an eventual relocation. To this day, it remains one of Bangkok’s major landmarks and sits directly outside our final destination of Wat Suthat.

Wat Suthat

Opening times: 8:30am-9pm
Admission fee: 20 baht for foreigners, free for Thai nationals

Wat Suthat Bangkok
Wat Suthat

As with Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan, I felt as if I had strayed off the beaten track and emerged among the lesser-known treasures of Bangkok. Although small in size, Wat Suthat boasts an amazing atmosphere as one inevitably drifts into an uncontrollable state of relaxation. A giant gold statue of Buddha overlooks his worshipers here as the numerous mediators line the walls.

Having spent almost a year in Bangkok before my first visit to the Old Town temples, I felt disappointed, almost ashamed that I hadn’t come sooner. In a city of madness, who knew that such beauty and tranquillity lay only a few miles away from my home? I felt like a new man at the end of my day’s adventure and eagerly await my return to these magnificent structures.

Top Image: Wat Suthat

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