Essential Bangkok: Antiquity meets the 21st century
With thousands of years of history tucked under its arm, the city of Bangkok, Thailand, is an enlightening destination for travelers fascinated with Buddhism. Dozens of temples - including Wat Pho, the city's largest - seem to reverberate with the ancient spirits whom locals believe still reside within their walls.
Like so many ancient cities, Bangkok has blossomed in the 21st century, making room for a growing number of contemporary bars and top-of-the-line spa centers where you can happily enjoy the convergence of two separate, but no less equal, time periods.
Take in the sights at a rooftop bar
After a day on a tour of Thailand, a delicious cocktail at a rooftop bar in Bangkok might be the perfect nightcap. According to Mason Florence, the founder and publisher of Bangkok 101 magazine, these open-air lounges have become a growing trend in the city that he calls the Venice of the East.
"Just a waist-high rail between you and the rest of Bangkok; you can't do this anywhere else," Florence wrote.
The Vertigo and Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Bangkok hotel is Florence's top pick, probably because it's prime location in the heart of the city lets patrons enjoy 360-degrees views.
Escape the concrete jungle at Lumpini Park
Often overlooked by visitors, Lumpini Park is located in the heart of the city's business district and beckons anyone looking for a way to escape from the busy streets of Bangkok. You can easily spend the entire day here, especially if you bring along a picnic lunch, walking along the well-maintained paths that weave through tranquil ponds and bamboo groves.
If you're in the mood for some early morning Tai Chi sessions, you can make your way to the park before dawn and find groups of people practicing the ancient martial art. As you channel your chi, try to follow the locals' intricate motions as they perform a slow dance to ensure spiritual and physical circulation throughout their bodies.
Spend an afternoon at a spa
If you've never had a Thai massage, then you're in for a real treat in Bangkok, where there are literally hundreds of spas that will put most other luxurious treatment centers to shame. Luckily for you, you'll only have to pay a few bucks to get one of the best massages of your life. Be sure to find a place where strong, older Thai women are the masseuses - they'll give you an incredible massage.