Newcomers to Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, can expect a culture shock. Home to some 10 million people, this lightning-fast-paced city never seems to sleep and offers few escapes from the perpetual hustle and bustle of urban life, as it did in the days of old Siam.
A simple stroll through the heart of the city around Sanam Luang (royal grounds) offers spectacular discoveries at every turn, including the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and the fascinating National Museum.
Bangkok is home to many temples (wats)-approximately 400, at last count. Setting off in search of the Temple of Dawn, the Marble Temple, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or the Temple of the Golden Buddha is a wonderful way to explore the city. Whether made of gold, bronze, stone or wood, Buddha always watches over the Bangkokian people.
Exploring Bangkok's various districts allows visitors to admire lovely villas such as the Jim Thompson House and the Vimanmek Palace, or the city's myriad colourful and lively traditional markets (talats). Be forewarned though: leaving a Bangkok market empty-handed is close to impossible!
Bangkok proudly bears the nickname of "Venice of Asia," and for good reason. No trip to the city would be complete without a stroll along the waterfront, a cruise on the Chao Phraya River or the city's khlongs (canals), or a visit to the Royal Barges Museum.