In the mid-1700s, Thonburi became Thailand’s capital city after Ayutthaya, the existing capital, was burnt to the ground by the Burmese army. In less than a decade though, Bangkok became the capital city and Thonburi, on the opposite side of the Chao Praya, became nothing more than a small town. More than 250 years later though, Thonburi is a wonderful place to visit, particularly if you like to get off the beaten tourist track. In fact, with so many must see and do things, it’s amazing Thonburi isn’t more visited by Bangkok’s tourists than it is.
Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) – Of course, the world-famous Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn, is visited by many of Bangkok’s tourists every year and is known as not only Thonburi’s but also one of Bangkok’s must see places. The temple lies on the river banks of the Chao Praya in Thonburi, and is easily accessible by cross-river ferry.
Wat Arun is a small temple but is one of Thailand’s most beautiful. Decorated with broken pieces of pottery that came from shipwrecked Chinese trade ships, but still less ornate than Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace directly across the river, Wat Arun is Bangkok’s most unique temple by far.
Pay the 50 baht entrance fee and climb up the steep steps of the main chedi, or prang. From here you get an amazing view across the river and over Bangkok, as well as get up close to see how the temple itself was built. You can also find Wat Arun on the back of the Thai 10 baht piece.
Siriraj Hospital’s Forensic Medicine Museum – Not only the most unique museum in the Bangkok area, but also its creepiest and most weird, Siriraj Hospital’s Forensic Medicine Museum in Thonburi is a must visit place for anyone that likes to see the unique.
Known for its exhibits of dead deformed babies displayed in jars of formaldehyde, for its preserved bodies of accident victims, authentic Siamese Twins (Siam being the original name for ‘Thailand;) amputated limbs and, of course, for having the preserved body of a Thai serial killer, if you’re at all squeamish or prone to nightmares, then the Forensic Museum may not be for you. If you enjoy creepy though, this is the must visit place in Thailand. Admission fee is 40 baht and includes admission to all the other museums at the hospital.
Royal Barge Museum – Also on the Chao Praya River in Thonburi, the Royal Barge Museum is an exhibit of the traditional royal boats only used nowadays in specific state ceremonies. The last time most of these boats were used in a state ceremony was in honor of the King of Thailand’s 80th birthday in 2007. At that time, the boat procession on the Chao Praya River was one of the most beautiful things most people in Thailand had ever seen.
The royal boats are carved out of enormous pieces of teak wood, and are decorated with gold leaf, gold paint and elaborate jewels. the most famous boat, the Suphannahongse, was carved out of just one piece of teak and, as the boat is 46 meters long, you can only imagine how big the piece of teak wood was.
Some of the most beautiful things in Thailand are here, and as they’re rarely seen on the river any more, you must see the Royal Barge Museum if you’re interested in authentic Thai history.
Long-Tailed Boat Tour – One of the most interesting ways to see a lot of Thonburi, all at one time, is to hire a long-tailed boat. The boat driver will take you around the small klongs (canals) next to the Chao Praya River, and here you’ll see traditional Thai life as it’s still lived in the wooden houses on stilts, at the floating market and in numerous other places. A wonderful way to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon, you will also get some amazing photographs here.
Hire a boat across the river at Tha Chang Pier. Agree on a price before you set off (in the region of 700-1,000 baht for approximately three hours on the boat), then climb in, lay back and enjoy the ride.