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BANGKOK Travel Guide

Brief information that help you get the most of your travel to Bangkok

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Welcome to the metropolis of Bangkok, one of Southeast Asia's most thriving commercial centres. Bangkok has been voted Asia's No 1 and world's No's 4 destination by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Reader's Choice Awards. Scoring high for scenic beauty, unique arts and and culture , good restaurants, hospitality, value-for-money and shopping facilities. Many first-time visitors to Bangkok have little idea of what they will actually encounter. Bangkok metropolis, home to around eight million residents, is a sophisticated, fast-growing and, on occasions, traffic-clogged city. Referred to today as the City of Angels (Krung Thep in Thai) Bangkok was once called the Venice of the East because of its many canals. Although many canals have been filled-in, taking away some of the city's old-world charm, it is still one of the most intriguing places worth visiting in Southeast Asia. Many visitors keep coming back to the city, some for business, some for vacations and some even to settle down here. With out doubt, modern-day Bangkok is a tourist mecca of the East offering a greater variety of things to see and do than any other city in Southeast Asia.

Bangkok lies on both banks of the Chao Phya, the main river of Thailand, 20 kms upstream from the Gulf of Thailand. King Rama 1, the founder of the present Chakri Dynasty built the present capital in Bangkok in 1782. The Royal Founder took great care to build palaces and temples of the new capital in the same style of Ayuthaya, the previous capital, which in turn had its origin from Sukhothai, the first Thai capital built in the 13th century. Both former capitals, now national historical parks, have been placed in the UN's list of world cultural heritages. The name Bangkok appeared on international navigation charts as far back as the 15th century as an outpost port of Ayuthaya, the former capital where western merchant ships made frequent calls. However, Bangkok has got an official name, so auspicious and long that it goes into the Guinness Book as the longest in the world for a city. In short, the official name is "Krung Thep" meaning "The City of Angels", the same name as Los Angeles, which incidentally has a sizable Thai community numbering over 300,000 ethnic Thais, the largest outside Thailand.

More than anywhere else in the country, Bangkok expresses Thailand's uncanny ability to blend the old with the new. This lends a thrilling sense of discovery to one's sightseeing and adds an element of surprise when exploring what is the Orient's most fabled city. Joyfully exuberant, Bangkok embraces modern development and presents an initial picture of thrusting office towers; of world-class hotels offering deluxe comforts; of glittering shopping plazas packed with treasures of the East such as silks and gemstones; of restaurants serving Thailand's acclaimed spicy specialities and virtually every other national cuisine worthy of the name; of neon-lit entertainment spots where the fare ranges from classical dance to laser disco.

Incredibly amidst this sybaritic world Bangkok manages to preserve its cultural heritage to an amazing degree. In the rich splendour of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the Temple of the Dawn and other historic shrines, you see images of medieval Oriental wonder, the very stuff of Eastern fairy tales.

The influence of the past is not limited to major monuments and it continues to colour daily life. Files of saffron-robed monks making their early morning alms round, for example, present a scene unaltered in essentials by the passing of time. Today's backdrop of highrise buildings only adds wonder to this and other enduring sights from which the city continues to draw definition.

Ultimately it is from the people that Bangkok derives its unique flavour. Fun-loving and easy going, they possess a rare tolerance which imbues the city with a real sense of freedom. It may appear at times hectic, yet what finally comes across is Bangkok's good natured acceptance of life with all its idiosyncrasies.

Thailand's "City of Angels" is, indeed, a magic place where possibilities are limited only by the imagination. You'll marvel at past glories, delight in present opportunities and love every minute of it.

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