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Updated: February 2009. Click on an image to see the FULL size with a caption.
Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep (city of angels), is the capital of Thailand and is its largest city with a population of somewhere between 7 and 10 million, maybe even 15 million. The city is exotically set on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, which provides a welcome transportation alternative to the hot congested city streets.
After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Kingdom in 1767, the newly declared King Taksin established a new capital in the area of then-Bangkok, which became known as Thonburi.
For those of us going to the mountains of Nepal and from Nepal to Tibet, Bangkok is one of the main gateways, and deserves a few days. I found it's a bit better at the end of a trek or trip, when the lively city seems to provide a welcome respite from the rigors of cold, altitude and solitude.
There are some great day trips near Bangkok. My favourite is Ayutthaya. From its establishment in 1350 by King U-Thong (Ramathibodi I) until its fall to the Burmese in 1767, Ayutthaya was Thailand's capital and home to 33 kings and numerous dynasties. At its zenith and until the mid-18th century, Ayutthaya was a majestic city with three palaces and 400 splendid temples on an island threaded by canals -- a site that mightily impressed European visitors. Then, in 1767, after a 15-month siege, the town was destroyed by the Burmese and today there are but groups of crumbling ruins and rows of headless Buddhas where once an empire thrived. The temple compounds are still awe-inspiring even in disrepair and a visit here is memorable.
You can also visit the famous Bridge Over The River Kwai immortalized in the 1957 World War II war film based on the historical construction of the Burma Railway in 1942-43. On the same tour you can stop at Nakhon Pathom to see the very large 120m Phra Pathom Chedi.