Thailand is a country with rich cultural history and refined traditions, and is well known for its individuality and uniqueness. Thai culture has been passed down through the centuries, starting from the early Lanna period through to the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods to the current ‘glorious era’ of Rattanakosin. Bangkok, as the capital during some of the Kingdom’s most prosperous eras, is seat to some of Thailand’s finest cultural sites, which form one of the highlights of visit to the city.
The explosion of colour that makes up Thai culture includes graceful classical dance, traditional music, beautiful costumes, striking architecture, as well as Buddhism, art, and a long tradition of handicraft. They can all be seen in most tourist places in Thailand. Perhaps one of the most memorable cultural norms in Thailand is the gracious gesture of the wai greeting; akin to praying hands.
Bangkok for culture vultures
Bangkok is a city of two distinct characters, blending together traditional values and a modern metropolitan atmosphere.
Most tourists stay in the Sukhumvit or Silom areas, where trendy coffee shops, plush shopping centres and urban city developments predominate. But, take a taxi over to the Grand Palace and you’ll discover an altogether different Bangkok, dating from the middle of the 18th century when the new capital was founded.
Here you will find a charming old Asian city of shop houses, canals, and low-rise neighbourhoods that appear unchanged in decades. The oldest and most attractive of the temples and sites are found here, along with museums and aspects of true Thai culture that have yet to be overrun by Western brand names.
Visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and you’ll soon discover Thailand’s proud heritage in religious art, including murals, Buddha statues, and architecture that is distinctly Thai – you’ll reaching for your camera endlessly. There are specific Rattanakosin styles here, which differ from other parts of the country but benefitted from Siam when it was at its wealthiest in the region.
Thai classical dances, performed by beautiful ladies in traditional costumes, can be seen at special events, while Thai traditional music is still popular among older generations. The Bangkok National Museum, near the Grand Palace, showcases the history of Thailand with a prize repository of antiques.
Nearby, you will find the National Theatre, hosting authentic traditional Thai dance and music, and the National Gallery, which displays art pieces from the 17th century and beyond. There are also numerous colourful, and often fun, festivals that occur periodically through the year and its worth planning your visit to coincide with some of the most popular, such as the Songkran water festival, or the Loi Kratong festival of light.