Little can prepare you for the frenetic pace and sensory overload of Thailand’s largest city. Markets are crowded, the traffic erratic and the hawkers relentless in their offers of cut-price clothes and watches. All this activity mixes with the pungent aroma from the hundreds of food carts frying pad thai and other tasty dishes.
Spend a little time in Bangkok, however, and you’ll find spots of serenity among the bustle. This is a city where religion is deeply rooted in daily life. The smell of incense often signifies a nearby shrine where you’ll see people from all walks of life stop to make an offering before they go about their business.
Known to locals as Krung Thep (City of Angels), Bangkok is home to almost 10 million people. It covers more than 570 square miles (1,500 square kilometers) and encompasses two former capitals: Thonburi and Rattanakosin. The latter is Bangkok’s historic center and where you’ll find most of the main attractions. These include the National Museum and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, on the grounds of the showy Grand Palace. Nearby, see the huge reclining Buddha at the Wat Pho temple. Remember to dress modestly when visiting any temple.
In the Banglamphu district, prepare for an onslaught of sights and sounds at the notoriously busy Khao San Road. Haggle for counterfeit clothes and accessories, or simply perch on a stool in one of the many bars and watch the colorful characters pass by.
For some relaxation, join a free, outdoor yoga or tai chi class at Lumphini Park, or indulge with a spa treatment, available at most hotels. A short boat ride north of Bangkok you’ll discover the community of the Mon people. They have made the tiny, artificial river island of Ko Kret a haven for their culture.
While tuk-tuk rides are all part of the Bangkok experience, the city is well connected for those times you feel like traveling in comfort. The excellent Skytrain (BTS) and underground (MRT) rail systems run between all the major shopping and entertainment districts of the city. For a different view of Bangkok, take a trip on the Express boats that constantly churn the waters of the Chao Phraya River.
shopping, temple and culture
The majestic European/Asian-style complex was once the home of the kings of Siam and is now both a place of worship and a must-see Bangkok landmark.
The “Temple of the Reclining Buddha” is the largest temple in the country and has more Buddha statues than any other Thai temple.
A small but extremely important Thai religious icon sits on a golden pedestal within the ornate Wat Phra Kaew structure on the grounds of the Grand Palace.
This “anything goes” street is a hot spot for budget travelers who want to buy cheap clothes and souvenirs, people-watch or party all night.
Known by locals as the “Lung of Bangkok,” this green breathing space provides a quiet haven for rest, sport and recreation to residents and visitors alike.
Admire the house and art collection of an American expat who became one of Thailand’s most renowned “farangs” before he mysteriously disappeared in the 1960s.
Take an adventure into the wilderness of Bangkok on a visit to the inner city of the oasis of Bang Kra Jao. Best reached by boat, this island is often referred to as the “green lung” of Bangkok and incredibly, has been left untouched by city developers.
Visit the house of Jim Thomson—founder of the Thai Silk Company—and pay a visit to the magnificent Suan Pakkard Palace. See the Thompson house, which has been transformed into a splendid museum full of Southeast Asian art, and tour Suan Pakkard Palace, the former home of Prince Paripatra.
Discover the rich history, fascinating architecture, and iconic buildings of Ayutthaya, an ancient royal capital. Visit the former royal residence at Bang Pa-In Palace, marvel at the Wat Mahathat and Wat Na Phra Men temples, and cruise the waters of Chao Phraya River while enjoying a delicious lunch.
Step into Bangkok's exciting nightlife and witness Thai boxing, the biggest and loudest entertainment among Thai locals. Feel your adrenaline pumping as you watch this exhilarating traditional event from a VIP ringside seat.
Being ancient Siam's capital many years ago, Ayutthaya has a rich history. And much of the fascinating architecture and iconic buildings in the ancient royal capital still exists today (mostly as incredibly interesting ruins).
With a small group of 10 people, spend a day exploring Chinatown, stop at the massive Sampeng Market, and take a boat along the Chayo Praya River. As you ride in a tuk-tuk, pass Little India and see Wat Tien Fa, one of the oldest Chinese temples in Bangkok.
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