BANGKOK : General Information

Bangkok 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" canal 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 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 Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Palace is a large walled complex comprising several buildings dating back 200 years that are used for specific occasions. The royal temple houses the most revered Buddha image in Thailand, exquisitely carved from a 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 of Bangkok's numerous canals. The market is open daily in the mornings and interesting wats and daily life can be seen off 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 view 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 one. A large, artificial lake with row boats, well manicured gardens and walking path makes it a great escape. Get there early in the morning and join in the T'ai chi exercises.