A Buddhist temple sits next to the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand

Thonburi time out – exploring a little-visited side of Bangkok

You just can’t go wrong with Bangkok. The world’s most visited city for several years in a row, the Thai capital is as diverse as it is thrilling. LGBT+ travellers fly into town to explore the legendary nightlife of Silom, the marvellous temples of Ko Rattanakosin, and the mouthwatering delicacies on offer in the streets of Chinatown.

And yet, Bangkok has a more off-the-radar side to it, too. Just west of the majestic Chao Phraya River, Thonburi is where the capital is at its most authentic. The attractions here tend to be left out of many tourist guides (with the exception of Wat Arun, that is!), but they’re all the more interesting to check out…

Artist’s House ‘Baan Silapin’

The Artist's House 'Baan Silapin' in Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand
Getting creative: At Baan Silapin, it’s not uncommon to come across artists at work – and they love to have a chat with visitors. Photography courtesy of Baan Silapin via Facebook.

Tucked away deep within the labyrinth of ‘khlongs’ (canals) that give Thonburi its distinctive look, Baan Silapin offers local artists the chance to express themselves creatively. The actual teak building is over 200 years old and has been beautifully restored, though it’s the magic happening inside that’s worth writing home about.

Wander around its galleries to see paintings, sculptures, drawings and all sorts of other art, courtesy of the capital’s up-and-coming talent. On most days, you can even chat with the artists in the workshop, learning more about their craft and sitting down for an iced tea and a bowl of noodles with them. Visiting with children? Baan Silapin puts on a daily puppet show that’s hugely entertaining!


Wat Kalayanamit

The golden Buddha statue at Wat Kalayanamit, Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand
Go big or go home: the golden statue of a sitting Buddha at Wat Kalayanamit is the largest in all of Bangkok. Photography courtesy of Supanut Arunoprayote via WikiMedia (CC BY 4.0).

Whilst nearby Wat Arun sees throngs of visitors each day, this little-known but very pretty temple is a haven for those looking for contemplation. Though if you’re picturing a small, inconspicuous structure, you’re wrong. In fact, Wat Kalayanamit is home to the largest sitting Buddha statue in all of Bangkok – think 16 metres of gilded sublimeness towering over you!

When visiting, remember to act and dress respectfully, so as to not disturb the monks and locals praying here. With everyone being welcome at a Buddhist temple, this serene Wat isn’t just a feast for the eyes; it also offers an authentic opportunity to sit with the monks in a rare moment of calm in the bustling capital.

Royal Barges National Museum

Barges at the Royal Barges National Museum in Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand
Royal regalia: the barges at the Royal Barges National Museum are quite simply breathtaking. Photography courtesy of Kathy via WikiMedia (CC BY 2.0).

If you’ve only got a few days in the capital, there might be more essential museums to put on your bucket list. But for returning visitors, or anyone with a particular interest in boating or regalia, the Royal Barges National Museum is a must! A typical visit starts with a short, informative film explaining the importance of barges in Thai culture, before you enter the main complex.

A total of eight, incredibly intricate, gilded vessels are on display here – and it’s a privilege seeing them: in the past 70 years, they’ve only hit the waters 16 times… Some only spend half an hour here, but culture vultures should bring as much time as they can to study the barges’ fascinating details and skilled craftwork!

The ‘khlongs’

A 'khlong' (canal) in the Thonburi neighbourhood of Bangkok, Thailand
Idyllic escape: Thonburi’s ‘khlongs’ make for a nice change from the busy streets of Bangkok’s other districts. Photography courtesy of Baan Silapin via Facebook.

Once a city saturated with a myriad of canals (hence the nickname ‘Venice of the East’), modern-day Bangkok has long replaced its ‘khlongs’ with streets and highways. But in Thonburi, time has seemingly stood still. Here, travellers can hop on a boat for a tour around the neighbourhood, passing countless, charming sights on the way:

From old-established noodle shops to floating markets and families enjoying a meal on the terrace of their canal-side home, a ride around Thonburi’s canal network is a glimpse into a Bangkok of the past. Though not an attraction as such, it’s perhaps the most memorable experience to have west of the Chao Phraya River!