Exotic, fast-paced, and cosmopolitan, Bangkok is a feast for the senses and a wonder to behold. Home to an estimated 10 million of Thailand’s 67 million residents, it is the urban and political center of one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.
Though many visitors assume Bangkok is an ancient city, in truth the city is not even 250 years old. And its history and relevance to the rest of the world are still being made—since 2006, Bangkok has been the site of a coup and two serious civil uprisings, though visitors to the city won’t end up in hot spots unless they go out of their way to find them.
The heart of the city begins to beat even before the sun rises, with hundreds of thousands of commuters making their way by car, boat, or train to the country’s financial and political center.
The pace increases through the day and won’t let up come dusk either, as going out to dinner is a national pastime: Once evening mealtime rolls around, the streets will again be filled with people from all walks of life navigating their way around and food vendors setting up stands on even the smallest bit of sidewalk. After dinner, city life continues well into the wee hours, in the nightclubs and bars as well as the all-night markets.
Though many visitors see only the modern or well-touristed sides of the city, behind the shiny office towers, glitzy malls, backpacker ghettos, and throngs of visitors from around the world is a city full of gilded Buddhist wats, bustling markets, quiet communities, and lush bits of jungle that seem to peek out from every corner.
Bangkok also has an intimate connection to the water around it. The meandering Chao Phraya River flanks the city’s west side, and a series of canals, called khlong in Thai, crisscross the city.
One of Bangkok’s many charms is its ability to be so many things to so many people. If you venture just a couple steps off the beaten path, you may find yourself in a neighborhood where not a word of English is spoken one minute, and the next you’ll be eating at five-star restaurants and partying with an international crowd.
The streets seem to flow seamlessly between glistening skyscrapers, posh mega shopping malls, shophouses, and wooden shacks. Bangkok can be overwhelming with its confused identity, ever-present traffic, and incomprehensible script. But once you get your bearings, you’ll find its charms hard to resist.
Dive into Bangkok’s Best…
© Suzanne Nam from Moon Bangkok, 5th Edition