As I quote in the introductory post to the trip report, Bangkok is described as a “town of juxtapositions.” The sprawling metropolis, also affectionately referred to as “The Big Mango,” is well deserving of its characterization. It sits at the crossroads of the jungle and the sea, and between ancient traditions rooted in Buddhism and recent efforts to globalize. These four key influences all blend together in the city, and both visitors and residents alike are all in for a dynamic treat. Some might find it all to be a bit too stimulating and overwhelming, and don’t get me wrong, being on your feet in Bangkok can soon become exhausting, but it truly is a spectacle in a nearly otherworldly way.

bangkok tour street chaos
There is always so much going on in the streets of Bangkok. Notice the thick trees to the right, the nest of wires and cables above the storefronts, and the various details, like ornate tuk-tuks and varied architectural features.

Many of the photos that I’ve chosen to feature focus largely on the antique; there’s a lot from the Grand Palace.

bangkok tour royal palace skyline
Three stupas are the central focal points of the Grand Palace.
bangkok tour royal palace temple tops
The three stupas are quite imposing, and are of distinctly different styles.
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One of the stupas.
bangkok tour royal palace golden stupa
A second stupa, dwarfing smaller, ornate structures.
bangkok tour royal palace mosaic stupa
A third stupa, with another smaller “companion.”

Nearby the Grand Palace is another impressive temple.

bangkok tour royal palace street sign
Wat Pho, home of “Reclining Buddha,” as seen from the street.

The complex pictured above, known as Wat Pho, houses the famous “Reclining Buddha.”

bangkok tour royal palace reclining buddha mid knee
Buddha stretches really far out.
bangkok tour royal palace reclining buddha
Profile view of “Reclining Buddha.”
bangkok tour royal palace reclining buddha fisheye
There were small shrines and offerings to the “Reclining Buddha” occupying small alcoves along the length of the statue.

The entirety of the two complexes (The Grand Palace and Wat Pho) is amazing; even though there are four primary attractions, it seems that there is a stupa everywhere you look.

bangkok tour royal palace golden stupa 3
Another golden stupa at the Grand Palace.
bangkok tour royal palace grecian stupas
Many of the smaller stupas, as shown here, are just as detailed as their larger counterparts.
bangkok tour royal palace grecian stupa close up
These stupas featured interesting, mosaic-like textures.
bangkok tour royal palace mini temple
A tiny shrine in the shadows of a bigger temple. Also, that sun was hot!

Contrasting these massive works of art are much smaller, yet intricately designed figures.

bangkok tour royal palace golden stupa statue
A figure positioned by one of the stupas in the Grand Palace.
bangkok tour royal palace golden guard 2
He doesn’t seem to be welcoming to visitors…
bangkok tour royal palace bronze eagle guard
A mystical being offering protection.

Even some of the “medium sized” figures are pretty imposing…

bangkok tour royal palace mystical wiseman
A stone guard, closely inspecting whoever walks by.
bangkok tour royal palace dragon guard
A different guard.
bangkok tour royal palace ornate guard
This dude was easily 20 feet tall.
bangkok tour royal palace golden guard
Thou shall not pass!

There even were some more, uh, traditional animals represented here too.

bangkok tour royal palace elephants
Elephants on alert!

But of course, most of the statues were of Buddha. There were hundreds, if not thousands of icons located at the Grand Palace alone.

Southeast Asian Vacation Cover Photo
Sitting Buddhas
bangkok tour royal palace black buddha
Black Buddha
bangkok tour royal palace standing buddha
Tall Buddha
bangkok tour royal palace buddha shrine
Many Buddhas

Even outside of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, Buddha’s image appeared everywhere all over the city, as did shrines and other small offerings to him. Another popular tourist spot, the Golden Mount, is a few miles away and has its fair share of religious statues.

bangkok tour golden mount
Buddha with some flamingos and the “see, speak, and hear no evil” monkeys. Found on a path leading to the Golden Mount.
bangkok tour golden mount buddha statue fisheye
A small Buddhist shrine at the Golden Mount.

The real attraction of the Golden Mount is that it sits up high and offers vast panoramas of the Bangkok Cityscape. I tried to take a panorama, but a storm was coming in…

bangkok tour golden mount panorama
Too bad the weather wasn’t very good. You can see the “old town” in the foreground, and downtown Bangkok’s skyline off in the distance.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I like to explore new places aimlessly and take pictures of what I find. It seems like the most interesting subjects in Bangkok were the ones that simultaneously incorporated various elements of the rich Thai culture, the tropical environment, and rapid economical and technological advancements. For example, you have wide, airy boulevards accentuated by ornate Siamese structures.

bangkok tour street democracy monument
This monument celebrates Thai democracy.

Right by the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, there’s a pedestrian bridge over looking what appears to be a combination of a jungle and a prosperous urban environment.

bangkok tour street overpass
The view from a passenger bridge in downtown Bangkok.

And even quaint side streets looked clean and economically vibrant… although not a lot of people were out all the time.

bangkok tour street market
A side street in a western Bangkok neighborhood.

Bangkok is, by all accounts, a coastal town, and it has a number of canals running throughout the city. Correspondingly, water taxis, as old fashioned as they may seem, are popular means of transportation.

bangkok tour river taxi
Riding in a water taxi on Bangkok’s main river hearkens back to when shipping dominated the Thai economy. The contemporary skyline tells a different story with its hotels and high rises.

Conventional land taxis are popular too. They’re accessible, and can get you through Bangkok’s notoriously congested streets. At night time, you can cruise through hip neighborhoods that never seem to stop buzzing.

bangkok tour street view from taxi
Bangkok’s Chinatown by night, from the backseat of a taxi.

Despite the gleaming buildings, you will inevitably be reminded that you’re in the developing world, trying to navigate both an oppressive jungle climate and an overpolluted city.

bangkok tour street millipede
This creature crawled out in front of me as I was waiting for a bus. I would’ve been better if I didn’t see that…
bangkok tour street temple
An intricate Buddhist shrine, surrounded by urban squalor. Notice the garbage, the cluttered power lines, the graffiti and chipped paint.
bangkok tour street skytrain
Above the streets is the hub of Bangkok’s SkyTrain system. Below is a loud, congested, and dark space with not a lot of fresh air.
bangkok tour street bikes
Scooters under the SkyTrain station. The air is polluted at the street level.
bangkok tour street bikes 2
Traffic is notoriously bad in Bangkok; the streets are overcrowded.

The city has been built up around the humble waterways, and they look like they might soon be forgotten amidst the hyper-development.

bangkok tour river taxi canal
A water taxi departing a pier in downtown Bangkok.

I found the street signs throughout Bangkok to be rather interesting, and also indicative of the Thai culture and its values. For example, it’s clear that monks are treated with a special kind of reverence that priests in the West don’t typically receive. For example, on the SkyTrain…

bangkok tour sign skytrain reserved for monks
Monks get reserved seats on public transportation.

And in various spots throughout the metropolis…

bangkok tour sign monks only
Near the Grand Palace

While the monks get preferential treatment, tourists are (rightfully) segregated, especially in holy places.

bangkok tour sign foreigners this way
Upon entering the Grand Palace

The signage also suggests that tourists sometimes get a little bit touchy in otherwise religious spots…

bangkok tour sign no pda
OOH! Called out, right by the “Reclining Buddha.”

And lastly, Thais are famously superstitious. Consecutive numbers are considered to be good luck, especially if it consists of multiple 7s, 8s, and/or 9s. Phone numbers are traded as commodities, and numbers with lots of 7s and 8s and 9s sell for a lot more than “random” ones.

bangkok tour sign 17000usd phone number
Phone numbers for sale in a Bangkok mall. The most expensive of these costs over $17,000!

Those were some of my favorite pictures from Bangkok. Stay tuned for some more from Angkor Wat and Siem Reap, coming later in this trip report. Check out my social media accounts for more content too!

If you want advice on which sights to see in Bangkok, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to provide tips based on my experiences.

“Southeast Asian Summer Vacation” Trip Report