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Golden temples, buzzing streets, languid rivers and spiritual retreats – Bangkok is a city alive with the meaning of 'contradiction'.

At first glance, Bangkok can overwhelm. It's a city spilling with the bright colours of tacky tuk-tuks, saffron-robed monks and street vendors’ wares. The noise is exuberant, the smells are fragrant and the chaos infectious. It can seem a long way from the spiritual peace that the Thais like to claim as their own.

Delve a little deeper and Thailand's capital city will show you her other, calmer side; a weeping fig in a garden, casting shade from the sun; a monk sitting cross-legged in contemplation; the curl of incense from a temple door. Bangkok has been immersed in Buddhist tradition for centuries, and the trappings of modern society can't distract you from its quest for inner peace, for long.

But this is also a city full to bursting with showy sights that insist on being seen. None more so than the Grand Palace, home to the shimmering golden spires of the Wat Phra Kaew - Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It's also here, in Rattanakosin Island, the historic centre of Bangkok, that the similarly magnificent temples of Wat Arun and Wat Pho are to be found. For the 10 million inhabitants of the 'City of Angels' (as the local name 'Krung Thep' means), the Grand Palace is more than a tourist attraction – it is also the spiritual heart of the city.

The parks of Bangkok are also coloured by the quest for 'higher planes'. See the green splendour of the Lumphini Park, and you'll be very tempted to enrol in a tai chi or yoga class under the sun, or to jog around its pretty lakes. But once you have ridden those spiritual highs, you may want to descend to the material world – and in Bangkok that comes in the form of the cosmopolitan buzz of Khao San Road. A backpacker's paradise, it is home to a noisy profusion of stalls, bars and (allegedly) fabulous merchandise at exceptionally low prices.

Travelling around Bangkok is best done – for fun – in the ever-present tuk-tuks. But for efficiency and comfort, the Thais have excelled themselves in terms of their public transport systems. The Skytrain whisks you over and above Bangkok's swarming crowds, while the MRT underground system will speed you beneath its streets. And don't forget to explore the Chao Phraya river. Boats can quickly take you to many of the city's best locations. And one of the most interesting of those is the quiet river island of Ko Kret. This is home to the Mon people, an ancient culture distinct from the Thai culture. One that has somehow managed to evade Bangkok's endless tussle between bustle and calm.

Guide to Exploring Bangkok

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Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport

Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport

999 Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, Bang Phli
of 5, from 1,211 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Situated near the airport, this spa hotel is 2.7 mi (4.4 km) from Marketland and within 12 mi (20 km) of The Paseo Mall and Bangkok Chain Hospital Public Company Limited. Huachiew Chalermprakiet University and Suan Luang Rama IX Park are also within 12 mi (20 km).

lebua at State Tower

lebua at State Tower

State Tower 1055/111 Silom Road, Bangkok
of 5, from 2,278 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

From its prime location near the Chao Phraya River and expressway, lebua at State Tower is within comfortable distance to several city attractions. It is a 10-minute walk to the BTS Sky Train Saphan Taksin station and shuttle ferries, plus only a 15-minute drive to Asiatique The Riverfront.

Shangri-la Bangkok

Shangri-la Bangkok

89 Soi Wat Suan Plu, New Road, Bangkok
of 5, from 819 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

This family-friendly Bangkok hotel is located on a river, within 1 mi (2 km) of Sri Mariamman Temple, Asiatique the River Front, and Chao Phraya River. Patpong Night Market and Lumpini Park are also within 2 mi (3 km).

Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21

2, Sukhumvit Soi 19 (Wattana), Bangkok
of 5, from 1,635 reviews
5.0 out of 5.0

Situated in the city center, this luxury hotel is close to Terminal 21 Shopping Mall, Embassy of India, and Benjakiti Park. Also nearby are Benjasiri Park and Embassy of Pakistan.

Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok

Rembrandt Hotel Bangkok

19 Sukhumvit Soi 18, Klong Toei, Bangkok
of 5, from 769 reviews
4.5 out of 5.0

This family-friendly Bangkok hotel is located in the entertainment district, within a 15-minute walk of Dinosaur Planet, EmQuartier, and Benjasiri Park. Siam Paragon Mall and Pratunam Market are also within 3 mi (5 km).

The Kaze 34 Service Residences

The Kaze 34 Service Residences

66 Soi 34, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok
3.5 out of 5.0

Located in Bangkok Central Business District, this aparthotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of EmQuartier, K Village, and Benjasiri Park. Dinosaur Planet and Bangkok University are also within 2 mi (3 km).

Mandarin Hotel Managed by Centre Point

Mandarin Hotel Managed by Centre Point

662 Rama IV Road, Bangkok
of 5, from 1,538 reviews
4.0 out of 5.0

Located in Bangkok City Centre, this spa hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Snake Farm, Patpong Night Market, and Lumpini Park. MBK Center and Siam Square are also within 1 mi (2 km).

Baiyoke Sky Hotel

Baiyoke Sky Hotel

222 Soi Ratchaprarop 3 Rathaprarop Road, Bangkok
of 5, from 224 reviews
3.5 out of 5.0

Soaring 88 stories in central Bangkok's Ratchathewi district, Baiyoke Sky Hotel is adjacent to the Pratunam Clothing Market. Suan Pakkad Palace, Platinum Fashion Mall, and Siam Paragon Mall are within 1 km.

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