(SPOT.ph) Bangkok has no shortage of historic landmarks and famous places: There are the ever-popular temples and open-air markets, shopping malls and street-food vendors. But, did you know that Bangkok also has a forensic museum and an amulet market that are worth swinging by?
Whether you’re a repeat visitor or if you’ve run out of ideas for what to do in this city, you’ll find that there’s more to Bangkok than just the Grand Palace, Wát Pho, and Wát Arun. We’ve dug up a wealth of lesser-known spots that will surprise and amaze any kind of traveler.
Here’s a rundown of under-the-radar destinations in Bangkok, Thailand:
Jim Thompson House
Named after its late American owner, the Jim Thompson House is actually a complex of six traditional Thai-style teakwood houses. It features Thai art and antiques that are all in impeccable condition. The house also boasts rare Chinese porcelain along with Burmese, Cambodian, and Thai artifacts. Built in 1959, this remarkable house nestles within its grounds a typical Thai garden featuring tropical plants and lotus ponds.
Jim Thompson dedicated three decades of his life to reviving the popularity of Thai silk, a dying art during his time, and turned it into what is now a hugely successful export business. He disappeared in the jungles of Malaysia in 1967, but his legacy lives on in the house he left behind and in the Thai silk business he revived.
The Jim Thompson House is at 6 Rama I Road, Wang Mai, Pathumwan, Bangkok, Thailand. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fee is at 100 baht.
Pak Khlong Talad Flower Market
Bangkok’s biggest flower market, Pak Khlong Talad, is a visual and olfactory feast. Located within the Ko Ratanakosin (Old City) district and just a stone’s throw away from Wát Pho, this charming flower market is home to local merchants selling a wide array of colorful and fragrant flowers like orchids, carnations, chrysanthemums, roses, daisies, and the ever-popular marigold which locals use as offerings in temples.
The flower market is open 24/7, but is most alive just before dawn, when the trucks and boats from nearby provinces trickle in with their produce. Aside from fresh flowers, you can also buy floral-related items and souvenirs, and even fruits and vegetables.
Pak Khlong Talad Flower Market is at Chak Phet Road, Memorial Bridge, Bangkok, Thailand.
Sure, Bangkok has its fair share of open-air markets that sell just about anything—food, clothes, toys, but what is perhaps the city’s most fascinating is its Amulet Market. As the name implies, the market is a maze of stalls selling all sorts of religious charms, exotic talismans, and ancient amulets.
Clients from all walks of life flock to this market—you have taxi drivers buying charms to keep them safe on the road, monks purchasing what they perceive as powerful talismans, the usual amulet collectors, and even the occasional sketchy figure buying a charm to protect himself from shady dealings. It’s a dizzying smorgasbord of all kinds of charms serving all imaginable purposes: luck, love, fertility, money, or even ones that supposedly cause misfortune.
The Amulet Market is at Th Maha Rat and Th Phra Chan, Ko Ratanakosin, Bangkok, Thailand. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok
Visitors to Bangkok don’t normally associate the city with museums, but Bangkok is home to some really good ones, one of which is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok. It’s home to an impressive collection of modern painting and sculpture in Thailand. The five-storey museum houses over 800 pieces of art collected by communications magnate Boonchai Bencharongkul, showcasing the intermingling of Thai fine art and modern Western concepts.
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok is at 99 Kamphaeng Phet 6 Road, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission fee is at 180 baht.
Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum
Another interesting—but also disturbing—museum is Bangkok’s bizarre Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum. It's packed with all sorts of preserved body parts, strange weapons and other kinds of evidence from crime scenes, including the bloodied shirt of a stabbing victim. Another curious “artifact” is the preserved cadaver of Thailand’s most notorious serial killer, Si Ouey, who not only slaughtered but also ate 30 children. Be warned: it’s a morbid place, so be sure to prep for what you’re getting into.
Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum is at 2 Wanglung Road, Bangkok Noi, Bangkok, Thailand. It is open from Wednesday to Monday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fee is at 200 baht.
Fantasia Lagoon Waterpark
If you want to take a day off from humid Bangkok and have a blast splashing about the pool, then make a beeline for Fantasia Lagoon. This large waterpark built on the roof of The Mall Shopping Center (yep, it’s on top of a mall!) in Bang Khae is quite popular among locals, but is largely unknown to tourists. This waterpark is fun for both kids and adults alike with its huge pools, slides, and themed zones.
Fantasia Lagoon Waterpark is at The Mall Shopping Center, Ngamwongwan Branch, Bang Khae, Bang Kapi, Bangkok, Thailand. It is open from Monday to Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and from Saturday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Admission fee is at 100 baht.
Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine (The Penis Shrine)
Phallic symbols of all imaginable sizes and colors dot the grounds of this one-of-a-kind temple. The sight of hundreds of penises might make you giggle, but they are there for a sacred purpose. In Thailand, they are considered a symbol of good luck and fertility, and are even considered to have cosmic powers. In fact, women from all over the country who have a difficult time conceiving visit the shrine.
Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine is at Wireless Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok (behind Swissôtel Bangkok).
The restored 19th-century Chinese mansion Lhong 1919 is quite popular among locals, but not as much with tourists. Here you can find a bevy of restaurants, art shops, galleries, and vibrant street art which are perfect for the 'gram. The most important part of this impressive mansion is the large shrine to Mazu, the Chinese goddess of seafarers, where worshippers light incense and kneel to say a prayer.
Lhong 1919 is at 248 Chiang Mai Road, Khlong San, Bangkok. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
With all the buildings, traffic jams, and crowds in Bangkok, you'd be surprised to know that there's still an expansive green space for taking a break from all the walking, shopping, and eating out. This public park, which is a sprawling 500,000-square-meter of space, features paddleboats in a man-made lake, an outdoor gym, and a basketball court. You can also hang out under the trees or have a picnic on the grass.
Lumphini Park is in Pathumwan District, Bangkok, Thailand. It’s open daily from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Ko Kret is not technically in Bangkok, but lies just 12 kilometers north of the Thai capital. Locals flock to this lush man-made island during weekends for its distinctive pottery products. Street food in the village is also a must-try, such as deep-fried flower petals (from bougainvillea to purple orchid), hor mok (steamed Thai fish custard), and khanom thuai (Thailand's "dessert in a bowl"). It’s hard to imagine that this laid-back getaway is less than an hour away from the bustling concrete jungle that is Bangkok.
To get to Ko Kret, take bus 33 from Sanam Luang, bus 166 from the Victory Monument or a taxi to Pak Kret, before boarding a cross-river ferry that leaves from Wat Sanam Neua. You can also hop on the Chao Phraya Express Boat’s "green flag" express which runs from Pak Kret to Saphan Taksin (Tha Sathon or Central Pier) on weekdays.