Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep, is the capital and biggest city of Thailand, with an estimated population of about 9,000,000. Bangkok began as a tiny trading center and port community, called Bang Makok, which in Thai means "place of olive plums", serving Ayutthaya, which was the capital of the nation until it fell to Burma in 1767. After that a new capital was established at Thonburi (now part of Bangkok) on the west side of the river. Then King Rama I built his palace on the east bank in 1782 and renamed his city Krung Thep, which means the "City of Angels". The name Bangkok now refers only to an old district on the Thonburi side of the river, but continues to be used to refer to the entire city by foreigners.
One place to visit to learn more about Bangkok and its unique culture is the Bangkok's National Museum. It is located in old Bangkok is the biggest of its kind in Asia and holds a wonderful collection of Thai art. All styles and periods are represented, from Dvaravati to Ratanakosin, and good English-language descriptions are available. Permanent collections focus on traditional musical instruments from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia, Chinese weaponry, woodcarving and textiles.
If you are in the mood for shopping then visit Th Khao San. The main strip in Banglamphu, has itself become a shopping bazaar offering cheap audio tapes, used books, jewelry, beads, clothing, Thai axe pillows, T-shirts, tattoos, body piercing and just about any other product or service you can think of. At night, it fills up with vendors selling inexpensive clothing, and watches.
444 Tarua Road, Klong Toei