The capital of Thailand is a city of many contrasts and whether visitors are staying for just a couple of nights and passing through on their way to Chiang Mai or one of the islands, or they are planning to make the most of what the city has to offer they won’t be short of things to do in Bangkok.

Combining all the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most energetic cities with a calmer, deeply Buddhist way of life, even the most casual of visitors can’t fail to notice the extremes: glittering shopping malls offering the latest designer handbags sit side by side in harmony with Buddhist shrines and spirit houses and whilst Bangkok, or The Big Mango, as it is fondly called is certainly a shopper’s paradise there are plenty more things to see and do in the city.

No trip to Bangkok is complete without paying a visit to at least one temple; these glittering testaments to the Thai peoples’ faith are truly works of art. Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, sits on the side of the mighty Chao Praya River and even if one doesn’t wish to visit it creates an unforgettable view of Bangkok when viewed from a river boat or from the opposite bank, especially at sunset when its glistening roofs and spires reflect the setting sun. Another ‘wat’ not to be missed is Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Wat Pho is situated in the old part of the city known as Rattanakosin and is directly adjacent to The Grand Palace which makes it a convenient place to take in alongside the palace complex.

Old city Grand Palace

Wat Pho houses a 43 meter long and 15 meter high statue of a reclining Buddha and is popular among locals and tourists alike. When visiting temples, females should ensure that their skirt falls below their knees and that their shoulders are covered. Men should be wearing long trousers and whilst it may be tempting to take photos of statues of the Buddha visitors should refrain.

The Grand Palace is also a must see; its scale and beauty can’t truly be appreciated until seen in person. Gold spires, intricately tiled stupas, giant columns, statues and temples abound inside the palace complex. Visitors can join one of the guided tours or are free to wander around at their own will although appropriate standards of dress are also required. A kiosk at the front gate provides sarongs and shirts for female visitors who may be showing a little too much flesh.

But Bangkok is not just about temples and palaces, as fantastic as they are. It is also great for kids. The Thais love children and there are a wealth of things to do in Bangkok for little ones. Dusit Zoo is a haven in the heart of the city which children will love. Open for over 65 years the zoo combines peaceful parkland and lakes with a collection of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals that includes giant pandas, lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, apes, tigers and more. There are places to eat and drink in the grounds although taking a picnic and enjoying the calm away from the noise and fumes of Bangkok’s infamous traffic is a great option. Similarly, Lumpini Park, also in the city center, is another rare open space of leafy green in which to relax, jog, cycle or rent a boat when the city streets become a little too oppressive.

Admirers of Thai art and culture will also find Bangkok’s attractions to keep them entertained and Jim Thompson’s house is a good place to start. Consisting of six traditional wooden Thai houses that have been lovingly decorated with objet d’art, classical furniture, paintings and sculptures, the stunning complex was the home of an American entrepreneur named Jim Thompson who started a Thai silk company and lived for 25 years in Bangkok. His house is open to visitors these days but sadly Jim is not there to welcome them to his sumptuous home, having mysteriously disappeared when out walking when on a holiday with friends in Malaysia in 1967.

Jim Thompson house

It would be remiss to talk about Bangkok’a attractions, however, and not mention one thing which is very dear to most Thai people’s hearts: eating. Eating is a national pastime and visitors to the Kingdom may well find themselves somewhat bewildered by the choice of food on offer – and the fact that Thai people seem to be constantly eating. From downtown fine dining to the ubiquitous road side joints and from hip cafes in leafy suburbs to hole in the wall mom and pop restaurants no visitor to the city should ever find themselves more than a few feet away from a plate of noodles, and they definitely won’t go hungry either!