Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and, with a population of over eleven million inhabitants, by far its largest city. Its high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife do not immediately give you a warm welcome — but don’t let your first impression mislead you. It is one of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya River, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned it into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders. Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house and functions as Thailand’s spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
Just under 14 degrees north of the equator, Bangkok is a tropical metropolis that is also one of the most traveller-friendly cities in Asia. A furious assault on the senses, visitors are immediately confronted by the heat, the pollution, unpleasant smells, and the irrepressible smile worn by many Thais. Despite the sensationalised international news reports and first impressions, the city is surprisingly safe (except for petty crimes) and more organised than it initially appears, and is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
The high relative humidity and warm temperature favour the growth of tropical plants — you’ll find exotic orchids and delicious fruit everywhere. Thai cuisine is justifiably famous, varied, and affordable. Bangkok for many represents the quintessential Asian capital. Saffron-robed monks, garish neon signs, graceful Thai architecture, spicy dishes, colorful markets, traffic jams, and the tropical climate come together in a happy coincidence. It is difficult to leave with only lukewarm impressions of the city.
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