Bangkok is the mega-metropolis, and the ancient capital just can't keep visitors away.
And for good reason. Its whirligig of street markets, unrestrained nightlife and gastronomic choices all whisper of endless possibilities. Bangkok’s business is all about bustle. Rising towers of concrete and glass compete to be the biggest, best, hippest and slickest. Down below, the multitudes feed on megamalls and floating markets. The climate is sometimes an abomination of choking haze. And tales of the city's traffic nightmares are enough to scare off small children for life.
Yet this frenetic is also rooted in a deep sense of its own traditions and its moments of quiet beauty. At 3 a.m., as go-go girls work the clubs of Patpong, flower sellers in Pak Khlong Talat will lure you to their sweet smelling stalls with fresh garlands of marigold and jasmine. An hour later, you can offer alms to the saffron-robed monks as they do their morning rounds beneath clouds of incense and temple spires. And then, as dawn comes, you are thrust back into the modern diesel rush of honking tuk-tuks and taxi-cabs.
But you always have the river. No sensible person calls Bangkok the Venice of the East anymore—though the Chao Phraya is still the soul of the city. Whether you're hopping on a long-tail boat over to Wat Arun temple, or just floating through the back canals past rice farms, you can see why they call this the City of Angels.