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Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is one of the world's top tourist destination cities. MasterCard ranked Bangkok as the global top destination city by international visitor arrivals in its Global Destination Cities Index, with 15.98 million projected visitors in 2013. It has topped the MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index as the most visited city in the world in 2012, 2013, and 2016. The city is ranked fourth in cross-border spending, with 14.3 billion dollars projected for 2013, after New York, London and Paris.Euromonitor International ranked Bangkok sixth in its Top City Destinations Ranking for 2011. Bangkok has also been named "World's Best City" by Travel + Leisure magazine's survey of its readers for four consecutive years since 2010.
As the principal gateway for arriving visitors, Bangkok is visited by the majority of international tourists to the country. Domestic tourism is also prominent. The Department of Tourism recorded 26,861,095 Thai and 11,361,808 foreign visitors to Bangkok in 2010. Lodgings saw 15,031,244 guests, who occupied 49.9 percent of the city's 86,687 hotel rooms. Chinese visitors spend a lot of money and most goes to retailers in Bangkok. Chinese visitors stayed an average of one week in Thailand, spending US$1,000-1,300 each or US$167 per day each.
Bangkok's sights, attractions, and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its nightlife. Although Bangkok's reputation for sex tourism is well established, it is downplayed by the government.
Bangkok, the centre of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, has been the capital of Thailand since 1782, when the seat of government was moved across the Chao Phraya River from the Thonburi (west bank) side of the river. There are many palaces in the city, some still used by the Thai royal family, while others are now open to the public. A number have become government or academic buildings as well as museums. The king's official residence is the Grand Palace, which has housed Thailand's monarchs for over 200 years. Before the 1932 Revolution ended absolute monarchy, the complex was the home of Thai government: it included royal courts and administrative branches, similar to the earlier capital at Ayutthaya. It houses Chakri Mahaprasat Hall and Wat Phra Kaew, which contains the Emerald Buddha, considered the most important temple in Thailand. However, the more modern Chitralada Palace is the actual Bangkok residence of the reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), and his Queen Sirikit.
Of the hundreds of Buddhist temples (or wats) in Bangkok, only a few are of much interest to tourists. When King Taksin led his troops out of Ayutthaya and into Thonburi in 1767 CE, they took refuge in Wat Arun. The most prominent feature is a tall chedi built in the 1820s that stands 85 meters (279 ft). It was tallest structure in Bangkok until modern skyscrapers were built a few decades ago.[when?]
Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is south of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. It is Bangkok's largest temple and contains a huge reclining Buddha figure that is 46 metres (151 ft) long and is covered with gold leaf. The feet alone are 3 metres (10 ft) in size.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temples and the site of the Giant Swing, formerly used in an annual Brahman ceremony. A huge teak arch from which the swing was hung still stands in front of the temple.
Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong in Thai), houses relics of the Buddha in a 58-metre-high chedi surmounted by a golden cupola. Built by King Rama I just outside the new city's walls, the temple served as the main crematorium. In the century after its construction, some 60,000 plague victims were either cremated there or placed outside for vultures to devour.
Queen Sirikit Park (?): It was built to commemorate the 60th birthday of HM Queen Sirikit. A big pool in the park contains three fountains and a fine collection of both Thai and foreign lotuses.
Lumphini Park (?): This was a huge open space once belonging to King Rama VI, who issued a royal command to turn the area into a public park as a gift to Bangkok residents.
Princess Mother Memorial Park (): It was built near the Wat Anongkharam community where Somdej Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, HRH the Princess Mother, had resided during her childhood. The park includes a full-scale model of the Princess Mother's house and old buildings renovated as exhibition halls displaying the life of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother as well as the history of the Wat Anongkharam community.
Chulalongkorn University () comprises several museums located around the university such as Museum of Human Body, Museum of Imagery Technology, Museum of Animal Parasitology, Museum of Geology, Museum of Natural History, Snail Museum of Thailand and more.
The National Gallery Museum ( ) is the former location of the Royal Thai Mint and exhibits collections of both traditional Thai and contemporary art. A number of oil paintings made by His Majesty the King in his earlier years are exhibited here.
Royal Thai Elephant Museum symbolizes how important elephants are to the Bangkok. Elephants are the symbol of prestige to the people of Bangkok. This museum houses beautiful sculptures of white elephants which are supposed to be the property of monarchs.
The National Museum ( ) is housed in former palace of the Wang Na or second king, Kromphraratchawangbowon Mahasurasinghanat, the designated heir to the throne in former years. Built simultaneously with the Grand Palace for Rama I's brother, the complex contains several major throne halls: Phra Thinang Siwamok Phiman, Phra Thinang Phutthaisawan, and Phra Thinang Itsara Winitchai.
Suan Pakkad Palace () is a complex of five Thai-style houses was once the residence of one of Thailand's leading art collectors, Prince Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga. It contains an extensive collection of Asian art and antiques, including items from the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilisation, and an impressive collection of rare seashells. The Khon (classical Thai masked dance) Museum and the Traditional Thai Music Museum are also here.
The Vimanmek Mansion Museum () is the world's largest golden teak. It was built on Ko Chang by King Rama V, but was moved to the compound of the Dusit Palace on Ratchawithi Road when 19th century French imperialists threatened the original location. The three-storey royal mansion has 81 rooms, halls, and ante-chambers, all containing royal memorabilia from the fifth reign. Royally-sponsored Thai art masterpieces are also on display near Vimanmek at the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall () as part of the "Arts of the Kingdom" exhibition.
The Siriraj Medical Museum, in the Siriraj Hospital on the west bank of the Chao Praya, is a large six-section medical museum with diverse exhibits on medicine in general, forensic medicine, and the history and present state of medical profession in Thailand. Often overlooked by tourists, the exhibits are a valuable resource for both medical professionals and interested laypersons.
The Museum of Siam, on Chanamchai Road, focuses on the provenance of people of Thailand with a focus on the people of Bangkok.
Khaosan Museum, The history of Khaosan Road and its environs. The museum depicts the way of life and history of Khaosan Road in the days before it became a byword for backpackers from around the world. It is on the 2nd floor of Kraichitti's house.
The Chao Phraya River & Bangkok's Canals (khlongs): Nineteenth-century Bangkok was laced with canals, giving the capital the appellation "Venice of the East". Surviving canals and the Chao Phraya River provide a glimpse of a traditional waterborne way-of-life that has remained essentially unchanged over centuries. The river and canals may be explored by chartered boat or cruise.
Dinner Cruise: Riverine Bangkok offers some of the capital's most arresting sights, particularly at night when the weather is cooler and reflections dot the Chao Phraya River with flickering lights.
Jim Thompson Museum (? ) was constructed by American expatriate Jim Thompson from several traditional Thai-style houses, dismantled and assembled into one dwelling. Thompson helped restore and promote the Thai homemade silk industry after World War II. Following his mysterious disappearance in Malaysia in 1967, his home was turned into a museum to display his priceless collection of Asian art.
Chaloem Krung Royal Theatre () is on Charoen Krung Road (New Road) near the Old Siam Plaza. Thai dramas and plays are staged, while "khon", Thai musical dance dramas, are occasionally performed here.
The Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre ( ) hosts the Hun Lakhon Lek puppet show. It was inspired by Master Sakhon Yangkhieosot (also known as Joe Louis), named a National Artist in 1996. Hun Lakhon Lek usually performs episodes of the "Ramakian", the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Sakhon Nattasin is currently the only performing troupe of Hun Lakhon Lek in Thailand, and in 2000 received a Thailand Tourism Award in Recreational Attraction from the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Patravadi Theatre () Renowned for its lavish productions, this outdoor theatre has gained popularity through its modern adaptations of classical Asian literature, with each play demonstrating an ingenious blend of various theatrical techniques.
Siam Niramit (?) has state-of-the-art cultural performances which have achieved international standards. Located in the centre of Bangkok, it opens everyday, presenting one of the world's largest stage productions. It uses special techniques integrated with drama to depict the history of each region of Thailand including depictions of hell, the forest of Himmaphan, heavens, and lands beyond imagination from Thai literature. There is also a spectacular performance of Thailand's arts and cultural heritage. The show is staged by more than 150 performers with as many as 500 costumes in a luxurious theatre with a capacity of more than 2,000 seats.
A number of deluxe hotels can be found in Bangkok, such as the Peninsula Bangkok, which in 2006 made the top 10 in Travel and Leisure magazine's top 100 hotels list, coming in at number 4, while the Oriental Hotel claimed the ninth spot.Sukhumvit Road hosts a series of international chains such as JW Marriott, The Landmark, InterContinental, Sheraton, and many boutique hotels such as Tenface Bangkok, The Davis, Unico Grande Sukhumvit. The Banyan Tree on Sathon, one of Bangkok's tallest hotels, featured the highest bar and restaurant in the city, Vertigo, until the launch of Sirocco Restaurant on top of State Tower, 247 m (810 ft) up from the streets of Bang Rak.
Bangkok offers a number of smaller boutique hotels for travelers seeking uniquely designed lodgings and personalized service. There are large numbers of inexpensive hotels scattered throughout the city such as Yaowarat Road, most notably in the backpackers' paradise of Khaosan Road. Motels are uncommon in Bangkok. Bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) adapted to the Asian lifestyle are a fast-growing segment. A variety of these small houses can be found in Phloen Chit, Watthana, and Khlong Toei.
Thailand has a variety of shopping experiences from street markets to world class luxury malls. Tourists have historically always preferred markets and bazaars to the other forms of shopping. The Chatuchak weekend market is one of the largest shopping destinations in Bangkok. Water markets are gradually disappearing, but remain strong tourist attractions as many tours are offered through the canals the markets are located on.
Bangkok includes over 15 world class malls situated around Bangkok, many centered around Sukhumvit Road and Ploenchit-Ratchaprasong. There are approximately 25 shopping malls, 35 lifestyle shopping centers, 40 department stores, 55 superstores, and 1,100 convenience stores around Bangkok.
Shopping in Bangkok is not limited to one or two major streets. There are many areas throughout Bangkok affording ample choices and easy access. The following is just a selection of some of the principal shopping areas.
Phloen Chit-Ratchaprasong (-?): Top department stores and luxury shopping malls are concentrated in the area, namely Gaysorn Plaza, Isetan, Erawan Bangkok, Peninsula Plaza, all of which together make the largest shopping promenade in Bangkok. Furthermore, Central World Plaza and Narayana Phand Pavilion, host the official handicraft centre selling items from all parts of the country. Ratchaprasong intersection is the gateway to several shopping areas such as Phloen Chit-Sukhumvit, Siam Square-Mahboonkrong, Silom and Pratunam-Phetchaburi.
Silom-Surawong-Patpong (?-?-?): Silom Road is the main artery of Bangkok's commercial heart and is paralleled by Surawong Road, while Patpong runs crosswise between the two. In addition to housing dozens of specialist shops and boutiques representing all the major buys, this area also boasts many branches of well-known retailers and several shopping plazas. Street stalls also abound, most notably at Patpong's famous night market.
Pratunam-Phetchaburi (-): A highlight in the district is Pratunam market, one of Bangkok's biggest centres for ready-to-wear clothing.