Known to locals as “Krungthep Mahanakhon,” a Thai phrase that means “City of Angels,” Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and home to nearly 10 million people. Although the rest of the country has gained notoriety for its beaches, wildlife and back-in-time culture, Bangkok contains enough variety within and just outside its city limits to keep you entertained.
As the only southeast Asian nation not to have been ruled by a Western power, Thailand has a long and unobstructed history and since 1782, Bangkok has been its capital. From monuments to Buddhism like the Wat Arun to the Grand Palace which is still the residence of the Thai king Bangkok is overflowing with reminders of the Kingdom’s heritage. To cap off a day of temple-going, climb the city’s historic Golden Mount or arrange a night cruise on the Chao Phraya River, which will provide you a wide-angle panorama of the city.
Shopping and Entertainment
Make no mistake: In spite of the pride locals have for their past, Bangkok is very much a metropolis of the 21st century. In shopping, nightlife and entertainment in particular, the Thai capital comfortably rubs shoulders with the great cities of the West. Whether you’re looking for designer digs at the Siam Paragon, bargain electronics and jewelry at the MBK center, world-class bars and restaurants in the commercial centers of Silom and Sukhumvit, or even one of the city’s famous “ladyboy” shows, Bangkok provides you ample opportunity for recreation of the contemporary sort.
Spas and Relaxation
With a population nearing 10 million and traffic that can make a Los Angeles freeway seem like a race track, Bangkok might not seem like a place to go to get away from the stress of your daily life. It might surprise you, then, that the city boasts a large number of award-winning spa and massage retreats, which blend traditional Thai massage and aromatherapy with today’s Western techniques. Visit the Deverana Spa in the five-star Dusit Thani Hotel near Lumphini Park, the S Medical Spa opposite the British Embassy in Sathorn or The Oasis on Soi Sawasdee in Sukhumvit.
The capital of a newly industrialized country, Bangkok offers several amenities of Western or near-Western quality at a fraction of the price you might pay in your home country. One example is the country’s medical tourism industry, for which residents of countries through the United States, Europe and Asia travel to the Kingdom to seek medical, dental and vision treatments. Whether you book a comprehensive checkup at Bangkok or Samitivej Hospitals, sign up for a teeth cleaning and scaling at one of the many dental clinics that dot the city or simply purchase contacts — no prescription required — from a vision center, you can travel to Thailand to take care of your medical needs.
Although the city presents a host of entertainment, leisure and cultural options within its limits, some Bangkok tourists opt to take one or two-day excursions to destinations just outside Bangkok. Coastal Pattaya, for example, is Bangkok’s de facto beach resort, a city with its own million-plus population replete with beach-side bars, nightlife and entertainment. Just two hours from the city and Suvarnabhumi Airport by bus or taxi, it’s ideally situated for a quick getaway. If you prefer a more cultural experience, on the other hand, you might head to Ayutthaya, a collection of ancient temples crisscrossed by canals, and enjoy a boat trip.