With magnificent temples, imposing Buddhas and the remnants of a fascinating system of "khlongs" (canals), this “City of Angels” is a balance between chaos and calm.
Home to 10 million people and covering more than 1,500 square kilometres, Thailand’s largest city is a feast for the senses. Bangkok is a 24-hour city and its crowded markets, outrageous nightlife and congested roads exist harmoniously alongside peaceful temples, orange-robed monks and historic monuments. You’ll never be far away from the delicious aroma that emanates from the food carts cooking up scrumptious Thai food.
Scratch the surface of the city’s bright lights and modern ways and you’ll discover a gentler Bangkok. One where religious faith plays a big part in the daily lives of its people. Incantations and incense drift from Buddhist temples and mix with the Muslim call to prayer, and people from all walks of life take time to pray or pay a visit to a shrine.
Bangkok is home to some of the best food in Thailand. Street carts jostle for space outside internationally-acclaimed restaurants, and vendors sell fresh produce in markets all over the city, day and night.
The locals know their city as Krung Thep, which translates as City of Angels. It is actually made up of the two former capitals of Thonburi and Rattanakosin. Rattanakosin is Bangkok’s historic home where you’ll find the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the National Museum and the impressive reclining Buddha at the Wat Pho temple.
When you’ve spent enough time visiting temples and shrines, head to the famous Khao San Road in the Banglamphu district. A favourite with budget travellers, hippies and backpackers, you can bargain for fake designer goods, sample a portion of fried grasshoppers from one of the street vendors, or simply find a roadside bar, grab a beer and watch the show.
Lumphini Park offers some respite from all the inner-city madness. Take a free yoga or tai chi class or if even that’s too much effort, walk into a hotel for a relaxing Thai massage or spa treatment. North of Bangkok, there is the cultural haven of Ko Kret, a tiny river island.
Considering its size and population, Bangkok is remarkably easy to get around. The fast and efficient Skytrain (BTS) and underground (MRT) rail networks run through all the major districts of the capital, and cheap and cheerful tuk-tuks are available at every turn. Don’t miss a trip down the Chao Phraya River on the Express boats which run from early morning until dark.