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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Bangkok Culture Guide
Bangkok Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com

Bangkok has numerous traditional dances and theatre groups, which perform throughout the city, even though today they are more popular among foreign visitors than local people, who have commonly accepted Western imports. Bangkok has its own orchestra called "the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra". Western plays, with known actors from Britain and America, are put on for short seasons at some international hotels.

Thai and international cultural performances, as well as dances, classical music, ballet and pop concerts, are performed in Thailand Cultural Centre, Ratchadaphisek Road (telephone: (02) 247 0028); the National Theatre, Rachini Road (telephone: (02) 224 1342); and Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, New Ratchadaphisek Road (telephone: (02) 229 3000). Tickets are available to be purchased in advance from the venues or from Thai Ticketmaster (telephone: (02) 204 9999).

Dance and Music

Sala Rim Naam (telephone: (02) 437 3080 or 6211) is operated by The Oriental Hotel, located adjacent to the riverside of the Chao Phraya River, close to the Peninsula Hotel. The traditional music and dance performance begins at 8.30 pm every night, preceded by dinner at 7.00 pm. A number of traditional performances are played every day around the city, but this one is said to be the best in Thailand and attractively set in a traditional teak pavilion-style restaurant. Baan Thai (telephone: (02) 258 5403), situated on Soi 32 Sukhumvit Road, features a music and dance performance set in an old Thai house.

The Bangkok Symphony Orchestra shows in Thailand Cultural Centre (see above).

Theatre

The colourful classical dramas are performed on the last Friday and Saturday nights of each month at the National Theatre (see above). The Bangkok Playhouse (telephone: (02) 319 7641), located on Phetchaburi Road, has modern plays each Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The Chalerm Krung Royal Theatre (telephone: (02) 222 0434), located on Charoen Krung (New Road), has performances of plays and musical dance dramas.

For those intrigued by the little-known ‘ladyboys’ or katoeys of Bangkok, there are 2 shows each night at the Calypso Cabaret in the Asia Hotel on Phayathai Road (telephone: (02) 653 3960/216 8937), which are frequently full.

Film

There are many cinemas in Bangkok but not all have English-language films. Some show movies with English soundtracks but many have been changed into Thai. Cinemas that have films in English or with English subtitles include: EGV Multiplexes and Major Cineplexes, both with venues around Bangkok; Lido Multiplex, Rama I Road (telephone: (02) 252 6498), and United Artists, situated on Soi 24 Sukhumvit Road (telephone: (02) 664 8711) and Ratchadaphisek Road (telephone: (02) 673 6060).

19th-century Bangkok is featured in the film Anna and the King (1999). The filming didn't happen in Bangkok because the government banned the book on which it was based (see Literary Notes below), including the earlier film, starring Yul Brynner, claiming that they were historically imprecise. The James Bond movie, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) uses Bangkok and the dazzling Phang Nha Bay, as a backdrop. A 2001 epic Suriyothai is directed by Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol, representing life in the Ayutthaya period and the story of the heroic Queen Suriyothai, with some fabulous battle scenes.

Cultural Events

The birthdays of H. M. the King and Queen of Thailand are extensively celebrated around Bangkok. Preceding the King’s birthday in December is the Trooping of the Colour, where the Royal Guards renew their allegiance to the monarch in a ceremony at the Royal Plaza. The Royal Barge Procession happens only occasionally recently on the strength of the age of the barges, even though there is a smaller display on the King’s birthday. The last major procession was in November 1999 to mark the King's 72nd birthday and in 1996 to celebrate the King’s 50th year on the throne. The processions are extremely marvellous and the 1999 saw 52 of the tastefully carved barges rowed by thousands of costumed oarsmen.

Literary Notes

 A prolific writer of the darker side of ex-pat life is Christopher G Moore who always uses Bangkok as a backdrop. Renowned are Spirit House (1992) and Asia Hand (1993) which are the first two books in a series of seven titles featuring the private eye, Vincent Calvino.

 Jake Needham’s, The Big Mango (1999), shows the story of an ex-GI returning to Bangkok to search for money that was stolen from a Vietnamese bank.

 The King and I (1956) is maybe the most well-known movie about Bangkok and the royal court. The film is based upon the book Anna and the King of Siam (1944) by Margaret Landon, which itself is a novel adapted from The English Governess at the Siamese Court, the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, telling her time as a governess in the court of King Mongkut.

 A more historically precise account can be found in The Kingdom and the People of Siam (1857) by Sir John Bowring who was in charge of negotiating a treaty with King Mongkut.

 Based around the royal family, The Bangkok Secret (1990) by Anthony Grey investigates the mystery surrounding the murder of King Ananda in 1946 – an event that is often glossed over and the identity of the assailant is still unknown.

 One of the most renowned residents of Bangkok was Jim Thompson, who was in charge of developing a main industry – silk – and whose home is a Bangkok landmark (see Key Attractions). He mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967. William Warren wrote about his life and disappearance called Jim Thompson: The Legendary American of Thailand (1976).

Useful travel links
BKK-Culture about culture in Bangkok
Bangkok.com information on culture in Bangkok