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Bangkok

grand palace bangkok In 1782, King Rama I decided to move Thailand's capital to Bangkok from Thonburi, just across the river. The Grand Palace was built to serve as the official royal residence and has served in this capacity ever since, although the current king (Rama IX) makes Chitralada Palace his home these days. Easily toured on foot, the palace is most interesting for its unique Thai architecture, but be aware that you cannot enter any of the government buildings. On the grounds of the Grand Palace, you will also find Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Bangkok is, in fact, home to a plethora of temples and shrines, and there are several you should visit, no matter how crunched you are for time. Once you've seen the Emerald Buddha, visit Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn; Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha; and Wat Traimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha.

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If you're intrigued by Thai architecture, silk and a good mystery, a visit to the Jim Thompson House is in order. Thompson was the "best known foreigner in Southeast Asia" from the late 1940's through the 1960's. An architect by trade, he joined the U.S. Army during World War II and was the OSS station chief in Bangkok after the war ended. He decided to stay in Thailand and founded the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. He also purchased land in the city and built an exquisite Thai-style home. In 1967, he mysteriously disappeared while on vacation in the jungle of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Today, you may tour his fascinating home.

vertigo bar bangkok banyan tree hotel skyscraper roof view panorama If you feel like you've seen and done all there is to do at ground level in Bangkok, take a break and visit a rooftop bar in one of the city's many skyscrapers. Here you can enjoy a drink as well as an eye-popping view. A few of our favorites include the Sky Bar at Sirocco at the top of the State Tower, the Long Table on the 25th floor of the Column Tower, and Vertigo on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel.

Bangkok is an incredible metropolis, but it's important to understand that many Thais still live the old way in various fishing villages outside the city. Take a Tour with Tong to a typical fishing outpost, where you'll spend the day with a local fisherman and his family. You'll arrive by Thai long-tail boat, visit the fisherman's bamboo stilt home, eat a traditional seafood lunch and meet wild monkeys along the way.

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You will either love or hate Tiger Temple, a Buddhist monastery that's also home to tigers and other wildlife. Here you can pet a tiger and have your picture taken with creatures that probably shouldn't be close to humans. The monks say they are saving these wild tigers from poachers; conservationists say the monks' methods are not sound. You'll need to decide for yourself.
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