On day 2, we are going to delve a little deeper into Thai culture. Start the day by booking the evening’s entertainment in advance (depending on availability you might want to swap nights two and three around—go to Thai boxing tonight instead and see the culture show tomorrow night). If you would like to begin the day with an herbal Thai massage at Wat Pho, which has an excellent massage school on its grounds, have a very light breakfast. And remember there’s a dress code for Buddhist temples.
START: Express boat to Tha Tien pier (N8).
1. Wat Pho. Bangkok’s largest and oldest surviving temple is Wat Pho. In many ways, this temple is more impressive than those of the Grand Palace—less colorful and dazzling, certainly, but more tranquil, more spiritual, and more captivating. It is here in Wat Pho that you might discover your hidden Buddha. Dating as far back as the 16th century, the temple complex was favored by several Siamese kings who maintained their residence next door at the Grand Palace. Known to Thais as Wat Phra Chetuphon, the site includes nearly 100 towering chedi and some 394 bronze Buddha images, mostly retrieved from the ancient ruins of Siam’s previous capital, Ayutthaya, and the spiritual city of Sukhothai. Among the treasures in Wat Pho is the famous Reclining Buddha, a 46m-long, gold-covered statue of the Buddha in repose, apparently passing into nirvana. The soles of the Buddha’s feet are inlaid with intricate mother-of-pearl designs, while the walls of the room are lined with 108 collection bowls—believed to be the most auspicious number. Just outside the hall housing the Reclining Buddha is a Bodhi tree that is said to have grown from a cutting of the one in India under which the Buddha medi-tated. In the main pavilion you’ll find the centerpiece is a bronze meditating Buddha. It is another item that was salvaged from the ruins of Ayutthaya. You can follow a mural carved into the outer base and inner doors of the pavilion that depicts scenes from the epic tale, The Ramakien.
Take a stroll along Maharat Road and take in the aromas of lemongrass, Kaffir lime, green tea, pickled snake, and many other wild concoctions from the:
2. Traditional Chinese medicine stores. Fresh from your spiritual journey around Wat Po, you should be feeling healthy, soulful, and relaxed. Many of the pharmacists, or alchemists, can speak English and will be ready to offer a herbal remedy, whatever your ailment.
Make your way to 310–312 Maharat Rd.
3. Rub Aroon Cafe. This teak house used to be an herbal dispensary. Now a pleasant cafe, it’s a great spot to escape the heat either inside under the ceiling fans or on the footpath under a parasol, taking in the street atmosphere. It offers vegetarian and vegan dishes, as well as coffee, tea, and fruit shakes. [tel] 02 622 2312. Daily 8am–6pm.
Take the ferry to Tha Phra Chan pier and walk to 1 Na Phra That Rd, Rattanakosin.
4. National Museum. The Bangkok National Museum is host to perhaps the greatest collection of historical and archaeological artifacts, cultural art, and Buddhist exhibits in Southeast Asia. Two of the museum buildings—the Wang Na Palace and the Buddhaisawan Chapel—are architectural wonders in themselves, dating from the 18th century. Take, for instance, the black-and-gold motif lacquered doors to the palace or the murals in the chapel—stunning examples of Thai art. While historians will spend days in the museum, others can be inspired by just a quick inspection of some of the biggest attractions. Unfortunately, some parts of the museum have scant information about the exhibits in English. Most of the exhibits run in chronological order, from prehistoric earthen-ware and bronze items to early carvings, weapons, and relics, to modern Buddhist art. Inside the chapel you’ll find the Phra Buddha Sihing, a Buddha image shrouded in mystery. Some claim it comes from Sri Lanka, others that it was rescued from 13th-century Sukhothai, a religious center in central Thailand. The image is paraded through the streets of the capital every April during the Songkran Festival. Another exhibit worth looking out for is that of the royal funeral chariots, which are made of gilded teak.
Walk to the:
5. National Gallery. For a change, you'll see contemporary art here in a blissfully air-conditioned setting. This is the least compelling activity of the day (so it can be skipped if you're short on time), but it does offer a respite from the sometimes searing midday heat.
Walk five minutes to 56 Phra Sumen Rd, Banglamphu
6. Cafe Primavera. You can’t walk more than 10 paces without bumping into a noodle stall in this area. On nearby Khao San Road there are also the fast food joints we all recognize. But for a hearty lunch or just a coffee and a snack, Cafe Primavera gets my vote. It’s a stone’s throw from Phra Sumen Fort, and has great oven-baked pizzas, homemade ice-cream and lovely smiling staff.
Walk or take a tuk tuk to Rajvithi Road, Dusit
7. Vimanmek Palace. Still got your ticket from the Grand Palace? Good! You get free entry. The centerpiece of the immaculate Dusit Park is this magnificent golden teak mansion, which was reassem-bled here in 1901 by royal order after being shipped over from the island of Ko Sichang. Amaz-ingly, the entire three-story structure was built using wood-en pegs and no nails. It was the favorite retreat of King Chulalongkorn (1853–1910). The palace was the first building in Thailand to have electrici-ty and an indoor toilet. Follow the teak corridors around 81 royal rooms, taking in the exhib-its and furnishings and the distinctly “Victorian” sense of interior design. Compulsory guided tours leave every 30 minutes; try to time your visit to catch free performances of Thai dance and martial arts in the lakeside pavilion at 10:30am and 2pm daily. Remember, this is a royal palace, so dress respectfully.
Hop a ferry or the metro to:
 Thai culture show/dinner theatre. I’ll assume you’ve had a fulfilling day and have rested up at your hotel, booked your tickets, and scrubbed up in your finery for tonight. No trip to Thailand is complete without an evening of fine dining with delicious Thai food and stage performances of traditional Thai dance, song, mime, and drama. My suggested dinner theater venues is on the banks of the river, and is superb, so have a show with your meal! Natayasala: Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre, also known as Joe Louis, hosts traditional and modern interpretations of Thai puppetry (The Riverfront, S13 2194 Charoenkrung Rd [tel] 02 688 3322. www.joelouistheatre.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.