What to See on Rattanakosin Island in Bangkok, Thailand

The Giant Swing — cool, eh?


Thailand’s current capital city, Bangkok, was founded in 1782 by King Rama I on an island named Rattanakosin on the Chao Praya River. In a few years time, the capital on Rattanakosin Island had expanded and eventually became what is now the modern-day city of Bangkok. Rattanakosin Island is still part of Bangkok and it’s also the old, historic part of town. Full of beautiful buildings, wide avenues and historic sites, there are so many must see places here it’s often hard to choose. Every tourist to Bangkok though should visit Rattanakosin Island and these incredible places.

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew – The top tourist attraction in Bangkok, you cannot go to the Rattanakosin Island area without visiting The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. Spectacular in their beauty, The Grand Palace is no longer the home of the King of Thailand, but is still used for royal ceremonies and Wat Phra Kaew is Thailand’s most sacred temple and home of the famous Emerald Buddha. Even if you’ve traveled all over the world, you will never have seen anything as stunning as this 218,000 square meter temple and palace complex. It takes your breath away.

Wat Arun – Not as rich and spectacular as Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun is still beautiful in its own right. Another must see, not actually on Rattanoksin Island but directly opposite it, it was actually built even before the first buildings went up for Thailand’s new capital in 1782, so is one of the oldest places in Bangkok. Wat Arun, which means Temple of the Dawn, is fascinating to see by day but it’s even lovelier at night. The temple is right on the banks of the river and, as day turns to night, the temple is lit up and can be seen for miles. Take a boat on the Chao Praya River and make sure it goes past Wat Arun at night. Lovely, just lovely, and so exotically Thai.

The National Museum – Just up the street from the Grand Palace is another Rattanakosin Island must see, Thailand’s National Museum. Located in what was once a palace during the reign of Rama V, the National is split up into several buildings with different eras of Thai history represented in each. The exhibits from just about every era of Thai history are fascinating and, as it’s a little bit run down and not slick like western museums, this adds to the authentic appeal of the place.

The Giant Swing – Not really much to look at, you must see the Giant Swing simply for its history. It’s really nothing more than an enormous red teak wood frame that, once upon a time, used to hold a large swing. During rice harvest festivals, several men would climb up the poles high off the ground and sit in the swing. The swing would move and the men would try to get it so high they could grab the bag of gold suspended high above them. The Giant Swing’s festivities though were eventually banned, as so many men were killed or maimed falling from such a great height.

The Deck by the River – Number five on the list of must see places on Rattanakosin Island is The Deck by the River. Simply known as The Deck by Thais, it’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in Bangkok. Situated right across the river from Wat Arun, at night, looking out over the water across to Wat Arun, you’ll really feel like you’re in heaven. The food at The Deck is phenomenal too, as is the residence and boutique hotel The Deck is situated in, yet prices for dinner are extremely inexpensive.

Rattanakosin Island is one of the loveliest places in Bangkok. If you enjoy history, you’ll love exploring Rattanakosin as it’s everywhere you turn.