Bangkok
  Bangkok
Exploring

Grand Palace
Thanon Sanam Chaï, www.palaces.thai.net
Visitors flock to the Grand Palace for its inner and outer courtyards, but especially for its Wat Phra Kaeo, the sumptuous royal temple that is home to the famous Emerald Buddha. Legions of faithful come here regularly to lay offerings at the Buddha's feet.

Wat Arun
Thanon Arun Amarin
Also known as the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun stands on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Its luminosity stems from the millions of pieces of china that adorn its facade. The temple's architectural style has become a veritable symbol of the city over the years.

Royal Barges National Museum
Khlong Bangkok Noi
As its name suggests, this museum is just the place to admire a few of the royal fleet's opulent vessels. The sheds in which the barges are housed are located near the Chao Phraya River, on the Bangkok Noi Canal.

National Museum
Thanon Na Phra That, tel. (2) 224-13-33
Housed in the former Wang Na palace, Bangkok's National Museum, the largest in the country, is dedicated to Thai art. The museum's north and south wings showcase remarkable items from the royal collections, such as terracotta Buddha heads dating from the late sixth century. A visit to this museum provides a good introduction to the history of Thai art.

Wat Benchamabophit
Thanon Sri Ayutthaya
Surrounded by gardens, this splendid Marble Temple is a blend of eastern- and western-style architectures. It features magnificent stained-glass windows, a lovely cloister and collection of 50-odd bronze Buddhas from Thailand as well as India, Pakistan and Myanmar.

Wat Mahathat
Th. Maharat
This temple is home to the International Buddhist Meditation Centre (Mahathat Rajavidyalaya), which attracts monks from across Southeast Asia. Wat Mahathat is renowned in Bangkok as a major centre of Buddhist learning, as well as for its meditation classes.

Wat Pho
Th. Thai Wang
Built during the 16th century, this is Bangkok's oldest wat. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, it harbours a colossal (46m long by 15m high) statue of Buddha on his deathbed. The recumbent statue is entirely covered in gold leaf and the soles of its feet are beautifully inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

Wat Saket
Th. Chakkaphatdi
The summit of the Golden Mount, at the base of which stands Wat Saket, affords a breathtaking view of the Chao Phraya River and Old Bangkok. The superb gold chedi, an artificial hill crowned with a gilded pagoda nearly 80m in height, harbours Buddha relics.

Wat Suthat Thepwararam
Th. Bamrung Mueang
Another magnificent Bangkok wat, the Temple of the Giant Swing is renowned for its superb murals. It also features an 8m-tall Buddha, one of the few such bronze figures from Sukhothai. The temple is nicknamed after its huge exterior red-teak arch, all that remains of a huge swing that was once used in an annual Brahmin ceremony honouring Shiva.

Wat Traimit
Th. Charoen Krung
Wat Traimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha, derives its name from its solid-gold statue of Buddha. The seated figure is 3m high and weighs over five tons.

Vimanmek Palace
Th. Ratchawithi, tel. (2) 628-63-00
A monumental golden teak manor built in the early 20th century for Rama V, Vimanmek Palace (or Vimanmek Mansion, as it is also known) comprises more than 80 rooms spread over several floors. Some 30 rooms of the "Celestial Residence," set in a quiet park just outside the city, are open to the public. On display throughout the house are artworks, photographs and furnishings that once belonged to the royal family.

Jim Thompson House
Soi Kasemsan 2, tel. (2) 216-73-68
Once home to an American who revitalized Thailand's silk industry after World War II, the Jim Thompson House harbors an exquisite collection of Asian art and is open to the public. The house is in fact made up of six traditional Thai teak structures.

Noteworthy among Bangkok's great markets are Chatuchak (Th. Phahonyothin), a huge, 85-stall market that draws thousands of shoppers of every weekend; Pak Khlong (Th. Chakkaphet), a canalside flower market that also trades in fruits and vegetables; and Bangrak (New Rd.), a bustling market that is renowned for its orchids.