Thailand’s capital, straddling the great Chao Phraya River, 12 miles (20 km) upstream from the Gulf of Thailand, is an exuberant, exhilarating metropolis of eight and a half million people. Founded by Rama I in 1782, this relatively young city is known to Thais as Krung Thep (“city of angels”), a shortened form of a full name in excess of 150 letters. Bangkok may be a lesson in the dangers of uncontrolled urban expansion, but it is also one of the world’s most exciting cities. It is highly regarded for its trendy nightclubs and cosmopolitan dining scene, and its markets, shops, magnificent wats, museums, palaces, and parks offer something for everyone.
The National Museum contains a wealth of treasures, such as this 7th–8th-century head of the Buddha
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo complex is Bangkok’s premier tourist attraction. The sacred Emerald Buddha, or Phra Kaeo, is housed in one of many splendid buildings.
Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in the capital, dating originally from the 16th century. It is also a famous center for traditional medicine and contains the much respected Institute of Massage.
Wat Arun, otherwise known as the Temple of Dawn, is one of Bangkok’s best known landmarks. Its Khmer-influenced prangs are encrusted with thousands of pieces of broken porcelain.
Dusit Park, with its leafy walkways, fascinating museums, Vimanmek Palace, and neighboring zoo, has enough attractions to provide a full day’s sightseeing.
Jim Thompson House, a beautifully decorated series of teak buildings, was once home to the famed American silk merchant.
Chinatown is one of Bangkok’s most hectic, colorful, and intoxicating districts. Narrow streets overflow with markets and shops, such as this religious goods emporium.
The Old Farang Quarter was the commercial hub for foreigners in the 19th century. Some colonial buildings, such as the Portuguese Embassy, survive.