Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok is awash with fantastic attractions and activities to suit almost all tastes and interests. Many visitors to the city head to the headline attractions like the sparkling, elegant, and impressive Grand Palace, Wat Pho, with its enormous reclining Buddha, and the gorgeous intricate riverside temple of Wat Arun with its colorful pagodas inset with porcelain. Visitors will probably also spend some time hunting for bargains and checking out dazzling modern malls such as Siam Paragon, CentralWorld, and Terminal 21, as well as soaking up the sights and atmosphere in bustling markets like the enormous Chatuchak weekend market and Patpong’s lively night market. In addition to electric and eclectic nightlife across the city, visitors can watch exciting and traditional Muay Thai fights, visit a cultural show with beguiling dancing, dine on a delicious array of street food … and more!
But, what to do once you’ve hit the highlights and experienced all the top things to do in Bangkok? Head off the beaten track a bit and explore some of the city’s more offbeat destinations, of course! If you want to see something a bit different to the norm and really get under the skin of this amazing city, here are some of Bangkok’s more unusual sights to stir your imagination… …
Mae Nak Shrine
Just a short walk from On Nut BTS sky train station, you will find Maha But Temple. A pretty regular Thai temple in many respects, it is still worth having a quick look around, especially for people who are not already familiar with traditional Thai temples. There are colourful and ornate buildings that house the grand Buddha images in an assortment of postures. There are several small shrines throughout the temple grounds, with the highlight being a shrine dedicated to Nak – a well-known ghost from Thailand’s rich folklore. According to local legends, Mae Nak was a young pregnant lady whose husband was sent off to war. She and her child died during childbirth, but the husband eventually returned home completely unaware. He resumed family life with his wife and young child, blissfully ignorant that he was, in fact, living with ghosts!
Upon finding out, he ran away taking shelter in Maha But Temple. Mae Nak, in her anguish, vented her rage on local villagers, before finally being exorcised and her soul tossed inside a jar into the canal. The jar was subsequently opened and her soul was freed. A shrine was erected to both appease her spirit and also for people to visit, make offerings to her and ask for blessings. It is common today for people to pray at the shrine to avoid military service and also for women to ask for a smooth childbirth. Outside of the main shrine is a collection of photographs of Mae Nak when she was a beautiful young woman. Mainly visited by Thais, this is a fascinating place to catch a glimpse of Thai superstitions and beliefs related to ghosts.
The area around the temple is home to numerous fortune tellers, flower sellers, and people selling lottery tickets!
Bangkok’s large Amulet Market, known locally as Talad Phra Chan, can be found in the historic heart of the city. People have been trading in amulets and other spiritual and religious talismans for more than 100 years. Although an interesting place for visitors, it is also an important place for regular Thai people looking to secure the perfect protective and lucky charm. Tables covered with interesting trinkets, amulets, and decorative objects line the pavement and many Thais can spend ages searching out the item that is best for them.
Rifling through small pendants, don’t be surprised if you see people with magnifying glasses to check out the finer engraved details. For many Thai people, the wearing and owning of symbolic objects is an incredibly important part of their everyday life. There are amulets that relate to specific events, such as having educational and career success, being lucky in love, enhancing fertility, encouraging crop growth, and promoting harmony in the home. There are also those that offer general protection against malevolent forces and enhance health, wealth, and overall fortunes. And some have been cast by particular temples, which people may have strong links to, or relate to certain famous monks.
There are numerous Buddha images, statues of various Hindu deities, sacred daggers, wooden and stone phalluses, images of Khmer icons (from Cambodia), lucky beads, and much more as well. You might even spot bizarre talismans that have been made from old sets of false teeth! It is an interesting place to appreciate how strongly animist beliefs and influences from other religions and ideologies have become intrinsically woven alongside traditional Buddhism into the fabric of Thai life.
Located within Wat Traimit in Chinatown, the Golden Buddha is not really off the beaten track. What makes it unusual, however, is the fact that it is the biggest Buddha constructed from solid gold across the whole world. Weighing five and a half tons, it stands at around three metres tall. Shining in all its golden glory, it is a very impressive sight. The simple room in which it is kept helps to showcase the statue’s magnificence.
It is normal to see Thai people praying and making offerings, and there are several flower incense sellers close to hand. Only housed in its current building since 2010, the statue has a long and interesting history. Believed to have been made during the Sukhothai period, at some point between the 12th and 13th centuries, the gleaming statue was previously covered in cement. This was thought to prevent the valuable and sacred statue from being stolen. It wasn’t until the 1950s when some of the cement was accidently chipped away that people re-discovered the revered Golden Buddha.
Amongst Bangkok’s many markets is the colourful and sweet-smelling Flower Market. Known locally as Pak Klong Talad, visitors can admire the wonderful blooms that occupy tables, benches, and floor space all along the pavement. Enticing scents fill the air and you can see almost any colour of flower imaginable. There are numerous types of flower, including roses, lotuses, lilies, daisies, jasmine, sunflowers, tulips, and orchids. There are imported flowers as well as those that are grown around the country. If the array of blossoms outside isn’t enough, you can also step inside the traditional shop houses to see even more!
The main flower market in Bangkok, it attracts many local businesses looking to take care of all their floral requirements. Restaurant owners, shops, guest houses, local florists, wedding organizers, and offices are amongst the market’s customers, as well as regular people looking to buy something special for a friend or family member. A small assortment of other produce can also be found at the historic and vibrant market.
Even more unusual attractions in Bangkok
This is just a small selection of Bangkok’s offbeat attractions. Others include a temple with a small golden statue of world-famous footballer David Beckham (Wat Pariwat), eerie and ghostly abandoned skyscrapers, the stand of a historic giant swing, Tub Tim Shrine, which is surrounded by all sizes and colours of phallic offerings, the former home of Jim Thompson, an entrepreneur who mysteriously vanished never to be seen again, snake farms, and even museums that contain dead corpses!
Visit some of Bangkok’s more unusual and quirky attractions when staying in the Thai capital and gain a different perspective on this legendary and popular city.