Bangkok, known as the City of Angels (Krung Thep), is a city of extremes.
The splendor of the huge guard statues at the Grand Palace stands in contrast to the ugly and maddening traffic jams along Sukhumvit Road.
The dazzling Temple Of The Emerald Buddha is as unsubtle as the tackiness and squalor of the sex bars along Patpong Road, where young girls entertain Thai and European men alike. Bangkoks weather is equally extreme with its tropical climate its always hot and humid, with the rainy season from June to September.
Dynamic and exuberant, Bangkok is a vast sprawling web of a metropolis, with glittering shopping plazas, bustling canals, golden artifacts, neon-lit bars, and rickety slum shanties. The city is an international center for business and commerce, drawing business travelers all year. It is also a repository of an ancient imperial heritage with some of the most ornate and interesting art and architecture in the East.
Dominating all activity in the city is the Chao Phya River, ending its 200-mile journey through Thailands central plains before dumping its usually polluted water into the South China Sea. This is the nations lifeline, congested and noisy, the most important highway in the city and often the only thoroughfare not clogged with traffic.
Although it may seem like an ancient city, Bangkok is, in fact, relatively new. Founded in 1782 by an ancestor of the present and much revered King of Thailand, Bangkok replaced the former imperial capital Ayutthaya, which had been destroyed by invading hordes in 1767. Like Bangkok, Ayutthaya is on the Chao Phya River and luxury excursion boats regularly visit this waterway 50 miles upriver but three centuries back in time. The citys most important neighborhoods include Old Town and Chinatown, with the ancient wats, two universities, and the floating market; and Pinklao with vibrant shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. Ratchadaphisek, with several big department stores, office buildings, and hotels and Siam-Ratchadamri, one of the biggest and busiest shopping districts in Bangkok, are also bustling. Silom-Surawaong is one of the most important business and financial centers of Bangkok and Banglamphu is a shopping area that used to be almost all Thai, but has become a popular place for tourists, especially backpackers.
Unlike many Asian cities, Bangkok was never a bombing target, not in World War II, nor during the Vietnam War, when Thailand allowed the United States to use its airbases against the enemy. As a result of this adroit statesmanship, the only evidence of destruction you will see in Bangkok is the wreckers ball leveling another 19th century edifice to make way for a glistening high-rise.
The citys highlights include visiting the Grand Palace, shopping along Khao San road, having clothes made by the citys fine tailors, going to a Thai kick-boxing match, exploring China Town, visiting the National Museum, and sampling the delicious Thai cuisine. The wats that are imperative to explore are Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Traimit, where the Temple of the Golden Buddha rests. The floating market in Thonburi is a wonderful sensory experience and the world-reknowned Oriental Hotel is worth checking out for a drink if a stay there is out of your budget.