Here, bubbling in the crucible of a city 23 times larger than its next in line, Chiang Mai, west meets east, frantic meets tranquil and traditional meets modernity in an assault on the senses that gives Bangkok an unbeatable buzz.
It’s certainly not easy to get around – this is the city that defines the phrase traffic chaos, and boasts some of the highest pollution levels of any in the world.
On the east bank, Bangkok proper is a world away from the fluid peace of Thonburi.
At first glance the city seems resolutely modern; buses, tuk-tuks and taxis honk and speed, sun glitters off the concrete and glass skyscrapers in Silom, Siam Square and Sukhumvit and shopping malls and stalls hum with trade.
It’s this commercial enthusiasm that has made Bangkok a shopping paradise, for everything from silk to fake designer handbags.
In the sois of Patpong, the infamous red light district is the distasteful side of Bangkok’s commercial enterprise – and something that continues to blight the city with a reputation as one of the sex capitals of the world.
Most of the city’s interest lies well within the city limits, and the sights of Greater Bangkok are few and far between, although the famous Chatuchak weekend market on the outskirts is not to be missed.
Accommodation is plentiful in Bangkok, with good options in all price ranges – hotels along the river are generally the most luxurious, with the best views and the easiest transport options from river boat piers along the banks.Sukhumvit Road and Siam Square in the east of the city offer a good range of keenly priced, well-located guesthouses and smaller hotels, while for the lowest priced options, Khaosan Road, also known as Banglamphu, has long been the backpackers ghetto.
Bangkok is the main entry point for visitors to Thailand, many of whom go on to explore other parts of the country, including the beaches of Southern Thailand and islands of Phuket and Koh Samui.
Closer to the city, trips can be made to the ruins of Ayutthaya, the former capital, 90 minutes by train to the north of Bangkok, the floating markets of Damnoen Saduak to the southwest and the town of Kanchanaburi to the northwest, site of the real-life Bridge over the River Kwai.