Bangkok is a modern metropolis merging old and new, sacred and profane.
Straddling the Chao Praya River, hectic Bangkok is a colossal contradiction: bustling street markets peddle bargains alongside high-end shopping malls, trendy nightclubs and restaurants that tempt devotees, while serene Buddhist temples and majestic palaces stud the riverbanks and boulevards.
Throughout Bangkok's urban theatre the futuristic push of neon, glass and steel performs alongside a tradition of chanting monks and street touts in a narrative of poverty and wealth.
Don't forget Bangkok is home to some of the best hotels and spas in the world, offering sheer luxury and pampering to visitors, coupled with warm Thai hospitality and charm.
The Old City is Bangkok's ancient heart, filled with palaces and temples, or wats.
Situated on the banks of the Chayo Praya River, the Grand Palace is the most spectacular complex in Bangkok. Built to mark the founding of the new capital in 1782, it houses Thailand's holiest shrine, Wat Phra Kaeo, resting place of the sacred Emerald Buddha.
Wat Phra Chetuphon, or Wat Pho, is Bangkok's oldest, largest and most famous temple;
‘The Temple of the Reclining Buddha' houses one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand.
The soles of the 46m-long golden image are decorated with intricate mother-of-pearl displaying the 108 auspicious signs, or lakshanas, of the true Buddha.
Wat Pho is now a centre of learning for traditional medicine and also houses the most respected massage school in the city.
Chao Praya River
One of the best ways to discover Bangkok is to explore its main waterway, the Chao Praya River, aboard a narrow long-tailed boat, or hang yaaw.
There are plenty of tours, usually at breakneck speed, around the Khlongs (canals) of Thonburi. The first stop is usually at the Floating Market, or Talaat Nam, but you will find a genuine and fully functioning floating market at Damnoen Saduak, around 100km southwest of Bangkok.
Back in Thonburi, the famous Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is the highest prang (tower) in Thailand.
The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson's House is one of the best preserved Thai houses in Bangkok and one of Thailand's finest museums, full of atmospheric and attractive treasures.
Thompson, a former CIA agent, was an avid collector of antiques and art (his collection spans 14 centuries) and also played a hand in reviving the art of silk weaving. In 1959 he dismantled six teak houses in Ban Khrua and Ayutthaya and reassembled them in their current location, before mysteriously disappearing in the Malaysian jungle.
Shopping in Bangkok
Bangkok is a shoppers' paradise with many luxury boutiques, modern malls, large department stores and plenty of bargain-filled outdoor markets spread throughout the city.
Whether you're after this season's designer fashions, the latest electronics, traditional arts and crafts, antiques, or gems and jewellery, in Bangkok you're sure to find what you're looking for.
Boutiques and markets are scattered through Bangkok, but the main concentration of shopping outlets are around Siam Square, Silom, Phloen Chit, and Sukhumvit Roads.
CentralWorld Plaza is South East Asia's largest shopping centre, but Siam Paragon and Mahboonkrong are also popular. The sprawling Chatuchak Market, said to be the world's largest open-air market, sees more than 200,000 shoppers on the weekend, while the vendors at the Wat Mahathat Amulet Market carry on a spiritual tradition stretching back hundreds of years.
Top itineraries in Bangkok
The Gulf of Thailand offers fine beaches, superb snorkelling and world-class diving in clear, warm seas. You'll explore two of its most popular islands – Koh Phangan and Koh Samui – on this tailor-made trip, which also includes a city stay in Bangkok.
If ever there was proof that long-haul travel doesn't have to cost the earth, Thailand is it. It's classic combination of history, culture, city and beach, alongside quality, affordable accommodation, is showcased in this tailor-made tour.
A crowd-pleasing concoction of culture, city and beach, has made Thailand one of the most popular destinations for travellers the world over. Wonderful food, almost guaranteed sunshine and a wealth of accommodation options to suit almost every budget has ensured Thailand's appeal.
Top places to stay in Bangkok
Within the heart of the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, look no further for a sanctuary for the senses than the Banyan Tree luxury hotel.
The Shangri-La hotel, Bangkok is a centrally located 5-star luxury hotel in the Silom business district of Bangkok, close to the shopping and entertainment districts.
The legendary Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, is situated in a stunning setting on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the River of Kings in Bangkok.
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