Traveling into Bangkok for the first time is a dizzying assault on the senses. Ride a tuk-tuk through the city center and you will pass neon-lit streets packed with clubs, ancient alleys and grandiose temples. Breathe in the scents of a thousand street food stalls. Listen for the chants of praying monks mingled with the voices of market vendors and shoppers haggling with one another.
Visit the Bangkok National Museum and the Bangkok Folk Museum to learn about the multifaceted history of the city. It used to be two separate cities, Krung Thep and Thon Buri, located on either side of the Chao Phraya River. Although Krung Thep has been the capital of Thailand since the late 18th-century, when the Grand Palace was built, the two municipalities were only recognised as one city in the 1970s.
Make the palace your first stop when exploring Bangkok, before visiting the spectacular temples that line the riverbank. Hop on a boat and drift along the Chao Phraya River for unbeatable views of Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Arun, recognizable for their towering stupas. Explore the temples on foot to encounter gigantic Buddha statues and golden Thai architecture.
Experience modern Bangkok in the sleek, air-conditioned malls in the districts around Siam Square. For a different, typically Thai shopping experience, pound the pavements of the city’s many markets. Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the best, offering antiques, handicrafts and quick eats.
Don’t leave without trying some street food. Wander through the old town of Banglamphu or Chinatown and snack on bowls of noodles or green curry and rice.
Visit Thailand’s exhilarating capital in any season to experience its sights, smells and sounds. In low season, between May and October, the weather stays hot and humid but offers the chance to save money on accommodations. Come in mid-April to join in with the water fights and colorful festivities of Songkran, Thailand’s new year celebrations.