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Laem Chabang (Bangkok), Thailand

Laem Chabang is a major commercial port city and gateway to Bangkok, capital of Thailand and one of the world's most visited cities. And, also one of the hottest. Thailand was originally called Siam under an absolute monarchy that dates from the 1200s. That changed for the first time in 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy. In 1939 Siam was renamed Thailand for the majority ethnic group in the country, the Thai. Thailand was never colonized like its Southeast Asian neighbors but has remained independent. Since the 1930s, there have been several military coups. Today, Bangkok is a large modern city, frenetic with cars and tuktuks (popular 3-wheel motorized taxis).  


Many important historic sites are near Bangkok. About an hour south of the pier is the coastal city of Pattaya, a popular beach resort and home to the Pattaya Elephant Village sanctuary. Some 70 kilometers north of Bangkok lies Ayutthaya , the former capital of Thailand from about 1350 to 1767 when it was destroyed by the Burmese. General Phra Buddha Yoddea organized the kingdom and moved the capital to Bangkok. He was crowned in 1782 as King Rama I of the Chakri dynasty, still in existence today.  Ayutthaya is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to two important temples–Wat Chai Wattanaram, modeled on Angkor Wat, and Wat Mahathat. 



Some of the most popular tourist sites are on the grounds of the beautiful Royal Palace in Bangkok. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is considered by many to be the most ornate temple in Thailand, and the Buddha itself is carved from a single piece of jade.  Located close to the Grand Palace is Wat Pho, home of the reclining Buddha, whose feet alone measure a good 36 inches, and whose entire figure is covered in gold leaf. See the golden chedi (pagoda), dedicated to the first four Chakri kings, and stunning mosaics  and inlaid mother of pearl that date from the late 1700s. Across the river is Wat Arun, which means Temple to the Dawn. (Visiting any temple in Thailand requires conservative dress. Shoes must be removed before entering the temple, and no bare feet are permitted, so socks are recommended.)  Other popular tours include visits to the Snake Farm which is run by the Red Cross to make snake anti-venom. Another popular site is Jim Thompson's house and museum. Jim Thompson was a US businessman who became enchanted with Thailand after World War II and established the Thai silk industry. He mysteriously disappeared in 1967, but his home today is a museum of the history of the Thai Silk Company, with a fine collection of Asian art and a tranquil garden, an oasis of peace and quiet in the bustle of Bangkok. Other popular tours include a river cruise through the city's river and canals and a visit to the floating flower markets. Bangkok's Museum of Modern Art contains more than 400 modern artworks. If in Bangkok over the weekend, the Chatuchak Weekend Market boasts some 8000 stalls.


Bangkok has an array of renowned restaurants. Favorite Thai dishes include coconut-based curries, pad thai noodles, and beef satay. Popular souvenirs include lacquerware, wooden carvings, baskets, spices, silver jewelry, silk, and ordering tailored clothes. It also is well known for gemstones, such as sapphires and rubies, but seek out reputable companies.