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Bangkok is a fast-paced, densely populated capital city that offers tourism ranging from the very highest end to rock-bottom cheap. In the backpacker mecca of Khao San Road, you can find a crash pad for US$20, while in the Chidlom-Ploenchit District, luxury brands reign. Meals range from quick $2 bites off a street vendor cart (if you dare) to the nine-course Manohra Dinner Cruise. And popular tourist activities range from visiting the floating market to watching youths go hand to hand in a (highly stylized) Muay Thai match.The city has countless temples, gardens, and other landmarks, but two that you can't miss are the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace home to Thailand's beloved king. Another great photo op is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha... and if you still want more temple photo ops, visit Wat Trimitr, home of the 10,000-pound Golden Buddha.
First impressions of this teeming, tropical metropolis can be an assault on the senses: heat, traffic, noise and general chaos. But these are far outweighed by the abundant charms, gracious people and never-ending activity that make the cosmopolitan “City of Angels” one of Southeast Asia’s most popular hotspots. Thailand’s cultural and commercial heart overflows with enticements: colorful street markets and upscale malls, architectural gems like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho temple, boat excursions on the Chao Phraya River to explore the floating markets and other waterfront attractions, and vibrant nightlife and entertainment ranging from tame to stimulating to unmentionable.
Once known as the Venice of Asia for the network of canals or klongs crisscrossing the city, Bangkok is one of the most vibrant capitals of Southeast Asia. The city is in the midst of an economic boom that has brought all the excitement as well as the headaches of rapid growth, most notably its legendary traffic jams.
The landscape of Bangkok is an awesome mix of centuries-old Buddhist wats, emerald green canals, floating markets, tall, cool, metal and glass skyscrapers, teak houses on stilts, and luxury cars trapped in traffic.
About 400 wats are scattered throughout the city, and the most famous include the Wat Phra Keo, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, located within the royal palace grounds, the Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and the Wat Traimit, or Temple of the Golden Buddha (five tons of solid gold). The Wat Arun, with its golden spire rising some 200 feet in the sky and the marble Wat Benchamabophit are splendid examples of Buddhist architecture.
Anything can be had in Bangkok. Luxury hotels cater to the wealthy, while small guest houses and bungalows accommodate backpackers. Entertainment is rich and varied, and range from enjoying a traditional Thai dance or sightseeing among the wats, to going to the notorious red-light district.
Food can be as simple as a bowl of tom yum kung soup (lemon grass shrimp soup) prepared before you at a floating market, or as ceremonious and complex as a five-course French meal at one of the city's many exclusive restaurants. Shopping can also range from Chanel boutiques to night markets and handicrafts stalls.
Taking a ride along the Chao Phraya River to the older sections of the city, you'll get a hint of what it might have been like when Bangkok was accessible only by canals. (The first road was built in the mid-19th century). The oldest of the city's klongs are shaded over by banyan trees and jasmine vines, and are cool, dark retreats from the more hectic pace of the city.