Bangkok (The City of Angels) is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities. Created as the Thai capital in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, Bangkok is a national treasure house and Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.

Bangkok exceeds 1,500 square kilometres in area and is home to one-tenth of the country's population. Major tourist attractions include glittering Buddhist temples, palaces, timeless " Venice of the East" canals and river scenes, classical dance extravaganzas, and numerous shopping centres.

:: Attractions

Also called the Castle in the Clouds, Vimanmek Palace is the summer palace built entirely out of teakwood and commissioned by King Rama V. The 3-story, 81-room mansion houses impressive furniture and royal jewelry and objects of interest that were actually used by the king.

The most important landmarks in the City of Angels are the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Palace is a large walled complex comprising several buildings dating back 200 years, that are still used on specific occasions. The royal temple houses the most revered Buddha image in Thailand, exquisitely carved from a solid block of jade.

Close by is the Wat Pho , one of Bangkok's oldest and largest temples, made popular by housing the gigantic, gold-plated reclining Buddha. The temple has the largest collection of Buddha images, and is the center for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine. You can study massaging techniques or get one here.

Across the Chao Phraya River is the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). The temple predates the city's founding and is beautifully adorned with glass and ceramic mosaics.

Jim Thompson's House
retains the remarkable Thai style architecture, and contains a valuable South East Asian art collection. Jim Thompson was an American who revived the Thai silk industry after WWII and later disappeared mysteriously into the Malaysian jungles. The house has been left the same since his disappearance.

Muay Thai is Thailand's indigineous sport where contestants' every body parts can be used as weapons. Fights are regularly held at two venues - Lumpini Stadium and Ratchadamnoen Stadium.

Rent a long-tail boat and tour the Floating Market off Bangkok's numerous canals. The markets are open daily in the mornings, and interesting wats and daily life can be seen along the banks of the canals.

Dine on the 77 th floor of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the world's tallest hotel, at the Observation Deck. Spectacular views of the city that can't be topped.

The Royal Barge Museum houses the elaborate barges that are used for royal and governmental functions. The most beautiful and famous one is the Suphanahongse, a golden swan barge used solely by the king.

Amidst high-rises, Bangkok has ample space for parks, with Lumphini Park being one of the largest. A large, artificial lake with row-boats, well manicured gardens and walking paths makes it a great escape. Get there early in the morning and join in the T'ai Chi exercises.

:: City Attractions

:: Thai Traditional Massage

Thai Traditional Massage This therapeutic and highly soothing form of massage purportedly evolved from rishis (forest-dwelling Brahmin hermit asetics) who relieved the physical stress of extended periods of meditation by adopting certain postures. Wat Pho is the best known centre for massages and massage tuition. Major hotels also offer Thai massage services. Modern Spas, traditionally, were towns where public baths, hospitals or hotels were built above mineral springs so that people could come and make use of the healing properties found in the water and its mud for medical purposes.

These days, a spa doesn't have to be a town built on natural thermal springs. It can be a place anywhere that anyone can go to, to relax in tranquil surroundings with a variety of treatments administered to recontour and rejuvenate the body and mind.

Modern spas usually focus on a holistic approach - tending to the mind, body and soul and promoting quality in terms of lifestyle. There are four such places in Bangkok.

:: Thai Spas Address list

Banyan Tree Spa , 51 st to 54 th floor of Thai Wah Tower II, South Sathon Road. Tel: 0-2679-1052, 0-2679-1054.

Grand Spa & Fitness Club , Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit Hotel, 250 Sukhumvit Road. Tel: 0-2653-0282.

JW's Health Club & Spa , JW Marriott Hotel, Soi 2 Sukhumvit Road. Tel: 0-2656-7700.

Oriental Spa Thai Health & Beauty Centre
, 48 Oriental Avenue. Tel: 0-2439-7613-4.

Swiss Perfection , in the Regent Bangkok Hotel, 155 Ratchadamri Road. Tel: 0-2255-5519, 0-2255-8218