Bangkok hums and throbs with the energy of its 8 million residents, sprawling across more than 1500 square kilometres of densely populated cityscape.
Neighbourhoods have distinctive personalities, from the grandeur of riverside hotels to the risqué bars of Patpong. Choosing the right nayb for your visit is an important consideration: grand palaces to the left, go-go bars to the right.
Well-heeled expats and high-society locals love Sukhumvit and the sky-high real estate prices reflect its popularity. Expect to find trendy restaurants, elegant stores, sophisticated wine bars and vibrant nightlife. Connected by Skytrain to the rest of the city, Sukhumvit is home to fashionable malls, including Terminal 21 and Emporium. The malls are open late, as are English-language bookstores and boutiques.
A number of the city's most glamorous hotels, including Oriental Residence Bangkok and Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit are found in this downtown area.
The powerhouse financial centre and business district of Bangkok slips into a different guise after dark when street food hawkers fire up the woks and the party people come out to play in Patpong. By midnight the LGBT-friendly bars and clubs on Sois 2 and 4 are hopping, while the Patpong girlie bars are teeming with international tourists in search of the naughty side of Bangkok. Silom is also home to Bangkok's biggest downtown park, great restaurants and upscale hotels, including Dusit Thani and W Bangkok.
The heart of downtown, Siam is a favourite with locals who love shopping at all hours in the city's mega-malls and street stalls. At Siam Discovery Center, pick up everything including the kitchen sink, or brave the humidity to shop outdoors for edgy street fashion and food. An artsy neighbourhood, Siam is the place to pick up original art and handmade souvenirs. Hip bars and nightclubs can also be found here.
You can't really know the Thai capital until you've spent time on, beside and above Bangkok's life-giving artery, the Chao Phraya River. Snaking its way through the city, the mighty riverside is home to ancient temples and modern high-rise hotels, community markets and grand royal residences. The river and its banks are best enjoyed at night, when the twinkling lights of the city dance on the water. Enjoy a leisurely dinner cruise or hop on a traditional long-tail boat to explore the khlongs (canals).
Locals call this part of the city Yaowarat, and they'll tell you it's the place to find authentic Chinese architecture, food, shopping and culture. An abundance of temples line the streets, nestled side by side stalls selling traditional medicine and Chang Beer T-shirts. Well-connected by public transport to other neighbourhoods, Chinatown is located north-east of Silom. It should come as no surprise that some of the city's best Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine is found here.
When you've had your fill of malls, skyscrapers and nightclubs, explore the history and origins of Bangkok in the Old City.
Ancient architecture and sacred temples continue to stand next to modern buildings, evidence of the city's "adapt or die" mentality. If you visit only one attraction, let it be the Grand Palace. Built in 1782, the Palace's golden grandeur must be seen to be believed. Nearby, Bangkok National Museum houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country. At Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is a priceless historic treasure.