Thailand’s vibrant capital dazzles visitors with its array of contrasts – serene temples, gardens, and royal palaces amid ultra-modern skyscrapers and bustling city crowds.
Arriving Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport lies 18 miles (29 km) east of the city. A highspeed rail link reaches various parts of the city, and there are plenty of taxis. Don Muang Airport, north of Bangkok, handles budget carriers.
Moving on Flights to Chiang Mai leave from both airports, buses from the Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit) and trains from the downtown Hua Lampong Railway Station.
Morning Bangkok is huge, but its best sights are found within a fairly small area along the Chao Phraya River. Wat Phra Kaeo holds one of Thailand’s most esteemed cultural artifacts, a small jade Buddha image. Ornate pavilions and gil ded chedi (pagodas) fill the compound, which is surrounded by a walk way decorated with scenes from the Ramakie.
Residence of the first six kings of the current Chakri dynasty, the Grand Palace is a mixture of traditional Thai and European NeoClassical architecture. Most impressive is the Dusit Throne Hall, which contains the original teak throne of the dynasty’s founder.
Afternoon As a counterpoint to the intense atmosphere of Wat Phra Kaeo, explore sprawling Wat Pho. The magnificent central bot (chapel) contains a bronze Buddha image salvaged from the former capital, Ayutthaya, and the immense Reclining Buddha exudes serenity. After absorbing the atmosphere here, try a therapeutic massage in the temple’s traditional medical school.
Morning Jim Thompson House is the former home of an American entrepreneur who revitalized the Thai silk industry after World War II. The six traditional teak houses within the shady compound contain superb collections of Asian art, including sculpture from the 7th century, antique Thai ceramics, Burmese wood carvings and Ming porcelain.
Afternoon Near Jim Thompson House are a wide choice of modern shopping malls, from the elegant Siam Paragon to the bazaarlike atmosphere at Mahboonkrong, which sells gadgets and clothing at bargain prices. More shopping on nearby Ploenchit Road can be followed by a visit to the Erawan Shrine, where traditional Thai dancers perform in honor of the Hindu god Indra, held holy by Buddhist Thais.
To extend your trip…
Enjoy some fresh air and greenery at the elegant Dusit Park (pp106–7) or the popular and central Lumphini Park