Founded only in 1782, Bangkok is one of Asia’s youngest, and fastest growing, capitals. Phalanxes of skyscrapers tower over the Chao Phraya River where Rama I originally erected his splendid palace, dwarfing the gilded finials of Buddhist wats, boat-jammed klongs and wood-fronted bazaars of the old quarter. Gleaming air-conditioned malls stand cheek by jowl with polychrome temples, while on the sidewalks saffron-clad monks jostle for space with besuited businessmen and street food stalls belching clouds of spicy aromas.
However long you plan to spend in the capital, it’s always worth setting aside time for its great showpieces: the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, seat of Thailand’s most revered Buddha image, and nearby Wat Pho, one of the city’s oldest religious complexes. In the National Museum, a superb collection Asian antiquities provides the perfect introduction to Thai history and culture. With another day to spare, you could visit Jim Thompson’s House, an exquisite traditional Thai mansion holding another world-class museum. In the evenings, indulge in a spot of souvenir shopping at one of Bangkok’s atmospheric night markets before donning your glad rags for a cocktail and gastronomic dinner at the glamorous Lebua Hotel, whose Sky Bar on the 63rd floor boasts a matchless panoramic view.