There’s a host of top Historic Sites in Thailand to visit and among the very best are Temple of the Reclining Buddha, The Grand Palace – Bangkok and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Other popular sites tend to include Ancient Siam, Ayutthaya and Kwai River Bridge.
We’ve put together an experts guide to Thai cultural places, landmarks and monuments, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic Sites in Thailand, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best Historic Sites in Thailand?
Ayutthaya was an ancient city in Thailand whose beautiful ruins stand as a testament to this once thriving port settlement. Visitors can still view Ayutthaya’s many Buddha statues, its giant complex of temples which once numbered an estimated four hundred and three palaces.
Perhaps the best way to get around in Ayutthaya is by bicycle, with its many cycling routes providing a natural itinerary. Ayutthaya is usually an entire day’s trip, particularly for those coming from Bangkok and tours are available.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok has been a royal residence of the Chakri Dynasty since the reign of that house’s first monarch, King Rama I. With its beautiful Thai-style architecture and spanning over 200,000 square metres, the Grand Palace is one of the foremost tourist attractions in Thailand.
The Grand Palace is actually made up of a series of buildings, including government offices, monasteries and a museum and a visit can last three or four hours. The rest of the complex is divided into two sections called the inner and outer courts, most of which are out of bounds to the public. It can help to hire a guide beforehand if you want to learn about the Grand Palace history and make absolutely sure you abide by the strict dress code (no shorts, mini skirts, short sleeves, sandals or tight trousers).
Ancient Siam is a privately owned museum and reportedly the world’s largest outdoor museum. Shaped like Thailand, Ancient Siam is almost an entire recreation of the country with miniature replicas and reconstructions of most of its important sites in the correct locations.
Whilst Ancient Siam does contain some original artifacts, the appeal of this little known attraction lies not in its authenticity, but in the overview it provides of Thai history and the attention to detail in recreating national treasures. Amongst its recreations, visitors can see The Tiger King’s Palace of Phetchaburi, The Ancient Theatrical Pavilion, The Royal Stand and many more.
The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is one of the oldest sacred temples in Bangkok in Thailand and is a first grade royal monastery. Located next to the Grand Palace, the current Temple of the Reclining Buddha was built in 1788 by King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty, whose ashes are in the temple.
The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is endowed with over a thousand images of Buddha, but is probably most famous for housing the Reclining Buddha which, with its gold-plated body measuring 46 metres long and 15 metres high, is the largest portrayal of Buddha in Thailand.
The Kanchanaburi War Cemetary – known locally as the Don-Rak cemetery – is located on the main road in the town of Kanchanaburi.
There lies close to 7,000 former POWs prisoners of war, mostly British, Australian and Dutch but other Commonwhealth servicemen as well, who sacrified their lives building the Death Railway during WWII. This was the notorious 258 mile long Burma-Siam railway, which the Japanese forced POWs to construct during the war.
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a sacred monastery in the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Made up of a series of incredible gold buildings, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha contains a legendary two-foot statue of Buddha in its assembly hall or ‘Ubosoth’.
The Emerald Buddha, which is actually made of jade, is thought to date back as far the fourteenth century and was said to have been kept in plaster casing in a Chiang Rai monument until it was uncovered when the monument was struck by lightning. It was discovered in 1464 and has since been the subject of many disputes and even wars.
As with the Grand Palace generally, it can be beneficial to have a guide with you which you can book in advance. Note the strict dress code in the Grand Palace.
The Kwai River Bridge was part of the meter-gauge railway constructed by the Japanese during WWII. It is famously known as the setting for the a 1957 World War II epic Bridge over the River Kwai. The railway ran for 250 miles from Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma and is now known as the Death Railway. It was built using POWs and Asian slave laborers who were kept in awful conditions.
Nowadays, the bridge can be crossed on foot or with a small tourist train that runs back and forth. A light and sound show takes place each year on November 28, to commemorate the bombing. The remains of some 7,000 POW labourers who sacrificed their lives in the railway construction lie in the nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. Another 2,000 are laid to rest at the Chungkai Cemetery.