Bangkok, Thailand

Lotus at Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok. Photo Creative Commons License Heidi & Matt.

Thailand's capital city is known locally as Krung Thep, the "City of Angels," but foreigners know it as Bangkok. Home to 10 million people, one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and countless picturesque canals, Bangkok has also earned the nicknames "Big Mango" and "Venice of the East." Founded in 1782 when King Rama I moved his capital across the river from Thonburi, Bangkok is not a particularly ancient city, but it is a cool mix of modern and traditional. It is positively filled with fascinating temples (wats), which are adorned with priceless art and religious treasures, populated by orange-clad monks and frequently visited by the faithful.

Wat Mahathat
Dating from the 18th century, Wat Mahathat is one of Bangkok's oldest shrines and the headquarters of Thailand's largest monastic order.
Wat Phra Kaew
The holiest Buddhist shrine in Thailand, this large temple complex within the Grand Palace houses a revered statue of the Emerald Buddha.
Wat Arun
This beautiful Buddhist temple is a major landmark on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The central chedi, covered in shells and porcelain, represents mythical Mt. Meru.
Wat Suthat
One of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok, Wat Suthat is famed for its beautiful roofs, huge bronze Buddha, magnificent frescoes and giant red swing out front.
Wat Benchamabophit
Named for the white Carrara marble of which it's constructed, the Marble Temple is the most modern and one of the most beautiful of Bangkok's royal wats. It also has some interesting European influences.
Wat Saket
Wat Saket dates from the Ayutthaya era and was restored by King Rama I. Famous for its great golden stupa, it is used for cremation and burials due to its location outside the walls.
Erawan Shrine
This popular city shrine features the four-faced Hindu god Brahma. Built to appease evil spirits during the accident-prone construction of the Grand Hyatt in 1956, it still attracts worshippers day and night.
Wat Pho
This is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok, built in 1788 on the site of an even earlier temple. It is known as the birthplace of Thai massage and the home of the giant golden Reclining Buddha.