I spent less than two full days in Thailand during my 1997 trip to Asia while in transit to other places. Naturally, I didn't have enough time to see anything except part of the city of Bangkok. Nevertheless, what little I saw encouraged me to return someday.
Most of my available time was devoted to a tour of Bangkok's Grand Palace, which is certainly worth seeing. The architecture is quite distinctive and very colorful. There are also a great many statues and other works that reflect the unusually pure style of Thailand, a nation that has never been occupied or colonized by a foreign power.
The Grand Palace is actually a sprawling complex of royal palaces, temples, chedis (stupas) and shrines. Construction began in 1782 under King Rama I when the capital was moved to Bangkok from Ayutthaya. Over the years, succeeding kings added new structures. The Grand Palace complex is also the home of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand's most revered religious symbol. According to tradition, lightning struck a chedi in Northern Thailand in 1434 and a stucco Buddha statue was revealed inside. The abbot of the temple noticed that some of the stucco on the nose was flaking off. He removed the rest of the stucco and discovered the Emerald Buddha, which is actually carved from a single piece of green jade. Although the Grand Palace is Bangkok's most popular tourist attraction, it also remains a sacred religious site for Thais who come to worship amidst the foreign tourists.
I also spent a few hours walking around Bangkok. Unfortunately, for this page, I did not have my camera with me much of the time. One thing that struck me, however, as I roamed around was the many small shrines built along the busy city streets. Thais would stop and worship briefly at these shrines even as the hectic pace of the city continued around them.