City description

Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, has two different faces, each more fascinating than the other. This vibrant megacity in Southeast Asia manages to combine its authentic, traditional way of life with a resolutely forward-thinking energy. On the one hand, there are the sampans and the floating market of Taling Chan that drifts along the Chao Phraya. On the other, there’s the glass, concrete and steel of the impressive Central World Tower. Thankfully, there’s no need to choose between the two.

As a result of the unstoppable quest for modernity that has overcome Bangkok, futuristic districts and shopping centres like Siam Paragon and Terminal 21 have sprung up around the ultra-modern aerial metro. However, Thailand’s identity is still omnipresent and not about to disappear any time soon thanks in no small part to its many temples. On the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, is particularly well known for its architecture and exquisite sculptures. A bit further away, in the heart of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the best known and most sacred in the country. It is home to a 15th century sculpture of Buddha carved out of jade. A stone’s throw away, still within the confines of the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, or Wat Pho, is the largest place of worship in the city, with its magnificent statue of Buddha that’s 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf.

In this amazing urban landscape, studded with skyscrapers, khlongs, narrow alleys and wide, regular streets, pockets of tranquillity are few and far between. You will find some peace and serenity in the lush green Lumphini Park. Stretched around a huge artificial lake, it’s the perfect setting for water sports and a spot of exercise. Bangkok is however packed with beautiful reminders of its cultural identity. The Silk Road is remembered in the Queen Sikirit Museum of Textiles, which pays tribute to Thailand’s age-old expertise when it comes to textiles. A genuine declaration of love from its owner for his adopted homeland, the Jim Thompson House is a rare example of traditional architecture that has been preserved. The building that houses the Museum of Contemporary Art is the antithesis of the former home of the Thai Silk Company’s founder. Its contemporary architecture boasts around 800 avant-garde works of art including paintings and sculptures by Thai talents. The Songkran Festival sums up this combination of tradition and modernity perfectly. This Buddhist New Year festival was originally about paying tribute to your elders by pouring fragrant water over their hands. Today, it is celebrated by holding huge festive water fights in the streets of Bangkok. Then there’s Makha Bucha, during which the whole city reflects on the Buddhist principles of kindness and compassion. Despite the hustle and bustle of the city, they are more relevant today than ever before.

If it’s shopping you’re after, head to Sukhumvit. The most vibrant and busiest shopping street in Bangkok epitomises the whole of Thailand. You can feel the essence and energy of a city that never sleeps here. The cosmopolitan city of Bangkok is right at the crossroads of Asia. So in Yaowarat, the local Chinatown, colours and flavours jostle for attention with the nearby Thai shops. This cocktail, inspired by all sorts of different influences, can be found in the restaurants and on all the streets of Bangkok, the ultimate culinary capital. Nahm, whose head chef, David Thompson, is Australian, is the perfect illustration of this. Voted best restaurant in Asian in 2014, it takes its inspiration from the best that street food and fine cuisine has to offer.  
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