Delighting all the Senses: Traveling to Bangkok

Welcome to the largest urban center and capital of Thailand, a place whose name basically means “city of angels,” the hottest city (regarding average annual temperatures) on earth, and a cultural and business mecca that attracts more than 11 million international visitors annually. Its true name boasts the length and eloquence of a poem.

Top Attractions and Landmarks in Bangkok

Make your way to Wat Pho, the Old City full of fascinating art, temples, and gardens. Head to the intricate Grand Palace, true to its name. Visit the Muang Boran, a 350-acre open-air museum that brings history to life with replications and demonstrations; top this off with a trip to Bangkok's National Museum. Be sure to visit the stunning Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), most beautiful at sunset, and the Wat Prakeaw (near the Palace) which houses Emerald Buddha. Wherever you go here, be sure to follow the rules of the locals; tread lightly and respectfully.

Admire the four-faced Phra Phrom at the Erawan Shrine, with its throng of tourists, dancers, and musicians. Pay tribute to a very special local animal at the Royal Elephant Museum. You'll also delight in the Khlongs (canals), trade and market communities on boat, a poor but colorful life in the watery lanes of Bangkok. A great way to experience them is at Floating Market Damnoen Saduak, a true immersing into local culture and lifestyle, or along the scenic Chao Phraya River and Waterways.

Family Fun and nightlife in Bangkok

You'll find the classic attractions: Children's Discovery Museum, Siam Ocean World, Water Parks, boat rides, Dusit Zoo, ten-pin bowling arenas, etc. But also partake in more locally ethnic amusements such as a journey through vibrant Chinatown district of Bangkok (the highest concentration of gold shops in the city). Take a tour to see temples ruins at Ayutthaya, catch the spellbinding informative five-hour performance Siam Niramit, or enjoy a day at Lumpini Park (you'll find everything from Frisbees to festivals, tai chi classes to concerts, weight-lifting to art shows).

In addition, there are spectacular festivals to be experienced every year, including the Bangkok Songkran Festival in April, celebrating the Thai New Year with merry-making, beauty contests, and water-throwing games; and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May, a Brahman ritual ensuring the abundance of rice crop. Nightlife in Bangkok is vibrant and varying. For culture and cuisine take a dinner cruise on Chao Praya River, or take in breathtaking vistas from the stratospheric heights of a rooftop cocktail bar. Dance beneath stormy wild soundtrack at the clubs, or dare to witness the naughtier face of the city at its Go-Go Trails and Ladyboy Shows. You may also enjoy sampling Bangkok's evolving drinking scene and live music blaring from hotel lounges such as that from the Admiral Premier hotel near central Bangkok.

Off the Beaten Path in Bangkok

Be sure that you'll find more than you expected to discover in Bangkok. Head over to the Wat Mahatat to find your fortune in the Amulet Market or Chatuchak Park in bangkok. Visit Monk's Bowling Making Village (Baan Bat) to find the last shop that hammers by hand the brass bowls that monks bang on. Skulls and gruesome autopsies fill the Forensic Museum and promise you goosebumps – as does the torture-displaying Corrections museum. Find the perfect flower at the perfect price at the biggest floral market Pak Khlong Talad. There's even a colorful phallic (Tuptim) shrine, open to those seeking to find fertility.

Bangkok Shopping and Restaurants

After-dark shopping is the city's secret specialty. For an all-night market, check out the cheap and busy Klong Thom Market and the underground Muay Thai. And, of course, Bangkok's market of all markets – the chaotic and lively Chatuchak Market (polite haggling encouraged).  Get a taste of everything from the latest music to roasted crickets by street vendors lining the famous Khaosan Road. There are also numerous shopping malls to choose from according to your taste; the endless bargains at MBK S, the trendiest Central World, the glamorous designer-clothing Siam Paragon, the technologic Pantip Plaza, or the classiest Emporium.  For a "haunting" experience – perhaps literally – don't forget to visit Mansion 7 before you go!

Thailand's cuisine has been renown worldwide for its profusion of wild fragrances and exotic flavors; a walk through any part of the city only solidifies this food's virtue. Be sure to try local favorites such as the spicy shrimp soup Tom Yum Goong, the fried-noodle Pad Thai, the tingling curry dish Gaeng Daeng, cashew-studded or coconut-soaked chicken, and the beef salad Tam Nua—all fresh and fiery; Bangkok: city of spice… and rice… and a myriad things nice. Highly acclaimed restaurants include Sala Rim Naam, Lemongrass, Maha Naga, and Baan Khanitha.

Photos by: MikeBehnken

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