Bangkok is a city that’s on the go 24/7. The Thai capital is loaded with ancient temples, modern shopping malls, and steamy nightclubs. It’s no wonder it was the favorite recreation spot for American soldiers on leave during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. Throughout the 1970s and 80s it gained a reputation for being a wild and chaotic place infamous for traffic jams. Today, Bangkok is more sophisticated and a major hub for tourism and business, illustrated by the new office towers situated across town.
In 2013, Bangkok was the most visited city in the world by international visitors. Plan to stay for at least five days to sample the exotic aromas and visual delights. Begin a sightseeing tour at the Grand Palace Complex, the former home of the Thai Royal Family. It was built in 1782 and inside is the famed Emerald Buddha. Afterwards, check out the majestic Wat Pho (The Reclining Buddha) directly south of the Grand Palace.
If you’re keen to buy souvenirs in Bangkok, a great place to go is Chatuchak Weekend Market. The place is so big and there is so much for sale that you’ll probably come out of the market with more than just a few items. Even though Chatuchak is a major draw for tourists, Bangkok doesn’t lack indoor shopping malls. These centers for commercial activity are similar to what exists in North America and Europe, but with a Thai flavor. The biggest mall is MBK (Maboonkrong), a shopper’s delight!
For an authentic taste of Thai culture, how about watching a professional kickboxing match? Muay Thai is the ancient art of self-defense, and local and foreign spectators gather in droves at Lumpini Stadium to watch muscled fighters use punches, elbows, and knee strikes to achieve victory.
An interesting attraction in Bangkok is Jim Thompson House. He was an American entrepreneur who worked in the silk industry in Thailand, and his garden enclosed house is now a museum filled with fine Southeast Asian art, which he loved to collect. Unfortunately, Thompson disappeared in 1967 while hiking in the Cameron Highlands, and he hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
All images in this article have been taken by Scott Hayden.