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The ancient capital is steeped in centuries of culture and art. Dive into the past at these key spots.
The history of Krungthep, or what is known in the rest of the world as Bangkok, stretches back for centuries. Over the years, the city rose from a crucial trading post on the Chao Phraya River to the vibrant, modern metropolis it is today. Glancing around at the luxe shopping centres and hotels clustered around Sathorn and Sukhumvit Road, it’s sometimes easy to forget all the history behind this remarkable place. These sites can help travellers reconnect with the forgotten past, and understand more about the future.
Once known as the Silk King of Thailand, Jim Thompson remains one of Asia’s most compelling and enigmatic figures. What we know about the man is already enthralling—he almost single-handedly revived the floundering Thai silk industry and, thanks to their prominence in The King and I, his fantastic fabrics became renowned throughout the world and still command respect and attention to this day. What we don’t know or what remains in the realm of rumour, however, is even more intriguing. A number of experts have speculated that Jim Thompson was working for the CIA and the circumstances surrounding his mysterious disappearance in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia are most curious indeed. To this day, no evidence of a body has ever been found and no one has ever been able to solve the mystery. You can explore for yourself at his beautifully preserved teak house in central Bangkok.
Thai massage may be famous throughout the world for its therapeutic properties, but many believe that the practice can trace its origins back to this very spot. Today, it’s still possible to receive a massage or take a class from the expertly trained therapists on-site. The sacred Buddhist temple, one of the six most important in all of Thailand, also houses a school of Thai medicine and a spectacular reclining Buddha, among other noteworthy statues and relics.
Not so much a single site as a labyrinthine network of streets, Chinatown remains one of the last surviving pieces of the old Bangkok. Visit in the evening or after dark, when the punishing heat of the day subsides and the streets around Yaowarat and Charoenkrung Roads spring to life. It’s a riot of sounds, colours and smells. Many of the street food hawkers have been selling the same baan mee moo (egg noodles with roast pork) or khao man gai (chicken rice) for decades or even generations. Although these days, trendy art galleries, gin bars, and boutique hotels have been injecting new energy into the area, an amble down the old alleys will uncover amulet shops and stores selling Traditional Chinese Medicine.