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Heritage walk of Rattanakosin Island, Exploring Bangkok’s Royal Legacy

Heritage walk of Rattanakosin Island

Exploring Bangkok’s Royal Legacy

Also see: FAM tour of Thailand

The island of Rattanakosin has the Chao Phraya River on the west an on the other three side is the ring canal of Khalong Maha Nak. The canal was dug by Rama I (Reign 1782 – 1809) the founder of the Rattanakosin Kingdom (Also see: Fortification of Bangkok).

Golden Mount 1

Bird’s eye view of Rattanakosin Island from Golden Mount, Bangkok

Today Rattanakosin is the hub of built heritage in Bankok and also house the Grand Palace, the royal residence of the Rattanakosin Kingdom. The canal measures 7.2 km and the island covers an area of 4.142 km2, so the best way to explore the Rattanakosin Island is on foot. 

Map of Rattanakosin Island, Bangkok (click to enlarge)

Map of Rattanakosin Island, Bangkok (click to enlarge)

For those not staying in Rattanakosin the best way of reaching the island is to take the canal boat. The boat service is broken up into two segments the NIDA Line (eastern part) and Golden Mount Line (western part). Panfa Leelard, the western most stop on the Golden Mount Line, is right on the north – eastern edge of the Rattanakosin Island serves as an entry point to the heritage walk

Saen Saep Express Boat 7

A boat approaches the the Panfa Leelard Pier with Golden Mount Temple on the right corner

During my FAM tour of Thailand, I stayed at the Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 Hotel and the Nana Chard Pier on the NIDA Line was just 5 minutes walk away.

The boat trip from Nana Chard to Panfa Leelard took about 15 minutes (15 baht), including a change over at Pratunam. (Also see: Kholong Saen Saep express Boat).

Panfa Leelard lies at the junction of the Sean Saep Canal and the ring canal of Khalong Maha Nak.

From the Panfa Leelard pier climb up the steps to reach the main road and then cross the ring canal by the Phan Fa Lilat Bridge to enter the Rattanakosin Island. Immediately after crossing the bridge on the left is the Mahakan Fort, one of the four surviving forts of Bangkok. (Also see: Fortification of Bangkok).

Mahakan Fort 2

Mahakan Fort, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

On the right is the Memorial of King Rama III and behind the memorial is the Wat Ratchanatdaram.

The King Rama III Memorial consists of a huge bronze (1824 – 51) statue of Ring Rama III seated on a decorated throne.

On the other hand Wat Ratchanatdaram is a Buddhist Temple built by King Rama III in 1846 and houses the Loha Prasat (Iron Palace). It is composed of five towers, of which the outer, middle and the center towers contain large black iron spires.

From the King Rama III Memorial head west along the Ratchadamnoen Klang Road on the road on a traffic Island stands the Democracy Monument, a public monument to commemorate the Siamese Revolution of 1932 which led to the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in what was then the Kingdom of Siam.

King Rama III Memorial 1

King Rama III Memorial and Wat Ratchanatdaram, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

It was commissioned in 1939 and consists of four wing-like structures extending 24 meters skyward surrounding a central monument featuring a stone-etched constitution.

Democracy Monument 1

Democracy Monument, Bangkok

Continue westward along the Ratchadamnoen Klang Road. Cross the Old City Moat (Khlong Khu Mueang Doem) by the Phan Phiphop Lila Bridge and turn left and head for the Grand Palace along the Ratchadamnoen Nai Road.

The Grand Palace was once the official residence of the King, and contains within its grounds Wat Phra Kaew (also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha).

The palace was originally built together with the establishment of Bangkok by King Rama I and has been expanded ever since. While the King no longer lives here, a large part of the complex is used for royal residences and ceremonies and is off-limits to visitors.  (Entry fee: 500 baht) (A detailed post on the Grand Palace of Bangkok will be comming soon in my blog).

Royal Palace 1

Chakkri Maha Prasat Throne Hall, Grand Palace, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

Just south of the Grand Palace is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha officially known as Wat Pho. It is the oldest temple in Bangkok and predates the foundation of Rattanakoshin by two centuries. It houses the largest reclining Buddha image in Thailand and possibly the largest in the world. It is gold plated and is 46 m long with a height of 15 m.

Wat Pho 1

Reclining Buddha, Wat Pao, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

The Reclining Buddha shows the passing of the Buddha into nirvana, the Buddha’s final state of enlightenment before his death. The reclining Buddha is not the only attraction of Wat Pho. It is home to more than one thousand Buddha images, more than any other temple in Thailand. (Entry fee: 100 baht) (A detailed post on the Wat Pho will be comming soon in my blog).

Wat Arun 1

Approaching Wat Arun across the Chao Pharya River, Thonburi, Bangkok

Next stop is the Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn, named after the Hindu Sun God Arun. It is located in the Thonburi region of Bangkok, which lies on the west bank of Chao Pharya River.

Pig Memorial 1

Pig Memorial, Bangkok

One has to take a ferry (4 bhat one way) to reach Wat Arun and technically it is outside the Ratanakosin Island. Today the shinning white prang (spire) of Wat Arun dominates the Bangkok sky line.

It is flanked on the four sides with similar smaller prang. Apart from the prang (spire), the Wat Arun complex contains several other shrines complete with pavilions and gateways. (Also see: Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn).

After getting back to the Ratanakosin Island take the Thai Wang Alley, which runs between the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Next stop is the Pig Memorial located next to the Pi Kun Bridge, which spans across the Old City Moat (Khlong Khu Mueang Doem).

Giant Swing 2

Buddha Statues, near Giant Swing

Pig Memorial is Bangkok’s most unusual memorial. The memorial consists of an oversized metal cast pig was built in 1913 to commemorate the 50th birthday of Queen Phatcharinthra, wife of King Rama V.

The memorial located next to the Pi Kun Bridge, which spans over the Old City Moat. (Also see: Pig Memorial, Pi Kun Bridge and Old City Moat).

Next stop is the Giant Swing, a swing towering to a height of 30 m it is made of teak wood. It belongs to the nearby Bishnu Temple. It is located on a traffic island in front of Wat Suthat. Constructed in 1807 it is one of the 10 (27 in Thailand) first grade temples in Bangkok. (Entry fee: 100 baht).

Giant Swing 1

Giant Swing and Wat Suthat, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

After the Giant Swing and Wat Suthat continue west and turn left to reach Wat Thepthidaram. Apart from being an active Buddhist Temple it served as the residence of Thailands national poet, who was also a monk, Sunthron Phu (or Sunthon Phu)and stayed in the temple. The temple houses a small memorial in his memory. (Entry fee: 50 baht)

Wat Thepthidaram 1

Wat Thepthidaram, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

From Wat Thepthidaram walk south wards and then turn left to cross the canal Khalong Maha Nak, the western boundary of Rataankosin Island. Then walk northwards to reach Wat Saket and the Temple of Golden Mount.

Golden Mount 2

Golden Chedi (Stupa) of Golden Mound, Wat Saket, Bangkok

Technically located outside the Ratanakosin Island the The glittering golden chedi (stupa) of the Golden Mount towers above the sky scrapper infested skyline of , and provides a bird’s eye view of the surrounding including the Ratanakosin Island.

Old City Wall 1

Portion of Old City Wall, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok

A stairway leads to the top of the mound housing the small shrine crowned with the golden chedi, standing above a Lord Buddha Relic. (Entry fee: 50 baht)

From Wat Saket cross the Sean Saep Canal on a narrow bridge followed by the crossing of the Maha Nak Canal on Phan Fa Lilat Bridge to re enter the Ratanakosin Island.

After entering Ratanakosin take the Phra Sumen Road, walk past the remains of the old city fortification wall built by King Rama I a little bit ahead on the opposite side of the road lies the temple of Wat Bowonniwet. has been a major temple of patronage for the ruling dynasty. It is where many royal princes and kings studied and served their monkhood, including the present king, King Rama X.

Wat Bowonniwet 1

Wat Bowonniwet, Bangkok

The road finally leads to the banks of the Chao Pharya River, to the Phra Sumen Fort. Phra Sumen Fort is the northernmost of Rattanakosin’s original forts, located at the mouth of Khlong Rop Krung (outer moat) where it meets the river.

The octagonal fort is built of masonry on a 2-metre (6 ft 7 in)-deep spread footing foundation. It is 45 metres (148 ft) in diameter, and has a height of 10.5 metres (34 ft) measured to top of the sema-shaped battlements of the upper level. (Also see: Fortification of Bangkok).

The area around the fort falls under the Santichaprakan Park, a beautifully landscaped park with a pavilion and offering great views of the river front. This marks the end of the Heritage Walk of Ratanakosin Island in Bangkok.

Phra Sumen Fort Pano

Phra Sumen Fort, Ratanakosin Island, Bangkok (Photo edit Deepanjan Ghosh)

For the return journey take the Chao Pharya River boat from the Phra Arthit Pier, located next to the Phra Sumen Fort and get down at Sathorn Pier (45 mins, 25 baht).(Also see: Chao Phraya Express Boat)

Next to the Sathorn Pier is the BTS (Silom Line) station of Saphan Taskin. From Saphan Taskin I took the train to Siam and changed to the Sukhumvit Line and traveled to Nana station. From Nana my hotel Mercure Bangkok Sukhumvit 11was just 10 minutes walk away.


  • The walk takes about 10 hours, excluding the aproach and return journey
  • Street Food is available almost through out the route but is concentrated at areas like the Grand Palace & Wat Pho, Wat Saket and Phra Sumen Fort

Note: I visited Thailand as part of a FAM trip organized by Tourism authority of Thailand (TAT) and Thai Airways.

Special Thanks:

  • Aso Lori (TAT, New Delhi) and Sajid Khan (Thai Airways, Kolkata)
  • My fellow FAM participants Amit Sachdev (Unique Air Travels), Sanjay Kr Kothari (Just Holidays), Vandana Arya (Gainwell Leisure Holidays), Piyush Banerjee (Discovery Holidays), Asif Alim (Neptune Holidays) and Nandini Gangully (T2, The Telegraph)
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