Attractions and Places to Visit in Thailand
Bangkok is the capital, largest urban area and primary city of Thailand. Known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, meaning "city of angels" for short, it was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom. It came to the forefront of Siam when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya. However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom did not begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river by Rama I after the death of King Taksin. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called "Phra Nakhon" pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis' core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.
Since its inception as the capital of Siam, it was a target of European colonial plans, but due to its strategic location in Indochina, it acted as a buffer-zone and brokered power between the European forces. Through this, it gained notoriety in the world as an independent, dynamic and influential city. And in the span of over two hundred years, Bangkok has grown to become the political, social and economic centre of Thailand, Indochina and one of Southeast Asia.
Khao San and Silom are the epicentres of Bangkok’s pulsating nightlife scene and both offer an extensive lineup of hotels that cater to a wide range of budgets. If culture and history is a major part of your trip, then stay close to the riverside for easy access to the Old City’s attractions, including Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun, the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
Don’t Miss the Grand Palace which ranks among the best places to start for anyone exploring Bangkok city. More than a century and a half after the Grand Palace was first built, this magnificent Bangkok complex is still the Thai royal family's spiritual home. The public is free to enter two of the palace's exquisite throne halls as long as they follow the proper dress code.
Wat Phra Kaew, a stunning attraction in its own right, is also located within the Grand Palace. The small, yet revered, 14th century emerald Buddha after which this temple was named was actually once displayed in another famous Bangkok temple, the riverside Wat Arun.
Of the hundreds of Buddhist temples (or wats) in Thailand, only a few are of much interest to tourists. When King Taksin led his troops out of Ayutthaya and into Thonburi in 1767 CE, they took refuge in Wat Arun. The most prominent feature is a tall chedi built in the 1820s that stands 85 meters (279 ft). It was tallest structure in Thailand until modern skyscrapers were built a few decades ago.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temples and the site of the Giant Swing, formerly used in an annual Brahman ceremony. A huge teak arch from which the swing was hung still stands in front of the temple.
Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong in Thai), houses relics of the Buddha in a 58-metre-high chedi surmounted by a golden cupola. Built by King Rama I just outside the new city's walls, the temple served as the main crematorium. In the century after its construction, some 60,000 plague victims were either cremated there or placed outside for vultures to devour.
Despite being a booming, modern capital, Bangkok still manages to retain its unique Siamese heritage in the wonderful food, culture, exotic architecture, Buddhist tolerance and Thai hospitality. The new "Skytrain" a symbol of Bangkok's rapid development, provides not only a convenient way to get around the main areas, but also some great views over a capital in constant change. No longer the "Venice of the East" nor the city of Angels, Bangkok is, without doubt, one of the most exciting cities in the world. A trip to Thailand would not be complete without at least one visit.
Bangkok, the centre of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, has been the capital of Thailand since 1782, when the seat of government was moved across the Chao Phraya River from the Thonburi (west bank) side of the river. There are many palaces in the city, some still used by the Thai royal family, while others are now open to the public. A number have become government or academic buildings as well as museums.
It's difficult to believe that Bangkok was a tiny trading post when it first became Thailand's national capital in 1768. Today, in this bustling metropolis, there are over eight million people in Thailand and a never ending stream of modern skyscrapers alongside its sacred temples, Ko Rattanakosin Old City district, and other historic landmarks. A river cruise along the Mae Nam Chao Phraya River through the heart of Bangkok, comes with the best views of the city's modern and ancient sides.
The city's wealth of cultural landmarks and attractions in addition to its notorious entertainment venues has made it synonymous with exoticism. Its historic wealth coincides with its rapid modernization, reflected in the cityscape and the urban society. The Grand Palace, Vimanmek Palace Complex, its thousands of temples, and the city's notorious red-light districts combine draw in 11 million international visitors each year, trailing just Paris and London.