The bustling city of Bangkok is home to an incredible 9.1 million people, making it even more densely populated than London. Perhaps surprisingly for such a busy place, Thailand was only a small trading centre until relatively recently. During the era of the Autthaya Kingdom (1350-1767) Bangkok was just a small port town, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. It did rise in importance during this time, but was still quite small when it was declared capital of the new Burmese Kingdom by King Taksin in the late 1760s. In 1782 the next King, Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, established his court on the river's east bank, and from this point Bangkok expanded on both sides of the river into the metropolis it is today.
Bangkok is known for a number of fascinating buildings and sights. These include the Wat Traimit Temple, which is most famous for being home to the world's biggest solid gold statue. The Golden Buddha is 9.8 feet tall, and weighs five-and-a-half tons! Incredibly, the statue is thought to have been made in the 13th century, but was not discovered until 1955. It was when the Buddha was being moved to allow building work to take place that it was dropped by the crane carrying it. The workers fled, believing this to be a bad omen - and that night, a storm flooded the area around the temple. When the temple's abbot came to survey the damage the next day, he noticed that the plaster had cracked. After removing the outer layer, he discovered that the Buddha was made of solid gold, and since then the statue has been displayed for all to admire.
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is the official residence of the Kings of Thailand, a position it has held since it was completed in the late 1780s. The opulent complex covers an area of 2,350,838 square feet (218,400 square metres), and King Rama IX - the current King - performs many royal rituals here every year. Although Rama IX chooses not to live here, it is where all of the state ceremonies, such as weddings, are held. Adjacent to the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, a magnificent temple that is one of the oldest and largest in Bangkok. It is perhaps best known for being the temple of the Reclining Buddha.
Decorated with a gold plated body and mother of pearl for his eyes and feet, the Reclining Buddha is 46 metres long and 15 metres high. Wat Pho is also renowned for being the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage, and a school for time-honoured medicine and massage was set up in the temple in 1962. Both the temple and the school attract many visitors every year.