Ports: Laem Chabang Cruise Port, Klong Toey Cruise Port
Often referred to as the “Venice of the East”, Bangkok is one of Southeast Asia's most fascinating cities. Not only is it rich in history and home to awe-inspiring architecture, but it is also a vibrantly cosmopolitan city. The colorful markets, vibrant nightlife and legendary shopping of Bangkok combine to make it an urban oasis, with some of the best Thai cuisine found in its street stalls and local restaurants.
Most large ships will dock at Laem Chaban Port in the Gulf of Thailand, which is around 2 hours drive southeast of Bangkok and an hour to the north of Pattaya. Smaller ships may dock at Klong Toey Port on the Chao Phraya River which is within a stone's throw of Bangkok's bustling city centre.
If you have 6 hours in Bangkok, then the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun are the city's major highlights. The sprawling Grand Palace complex deserves at least half a day's visit, with Thailand's most sacred temple, Wat Phra Kaew, located within its grounds. It is here that the highly revered Emerald Buddha is housed, surrounded by highly ornate buildings and painted decorations.
Just to the south lies Wat Pho, home to the world's largest reclining Buddha image and a famed massage school. After exploring this extensive temple complex, take the ferry across the Chao Phraya River to visit the outstanding Wat Arun. This is one of Thailand's most picturesque temples and engraved on all ten baht coins. Its main building is surrounded by four smaller prangs, and as you climb to its expansive lookout point, take note of the broken Chinese porcelain pieces which beautifully adorn the temple.
Aside from temples, there are plenty of other palaces and museums around Bangkok that make this city so culturally rich. Dusit Palace, situated in a leafy neighbourhood, was built by King Rama V, and its main building, the Vimanmek Mansion, is touted as the largest golden teakwood house in the world.
If you have time, explore the intriguing selection of Rattanakosin's museums, most of which are dedicated to local history and culture. Marvel at the archaeological remains and artifacts at the National Museum, or witness some of Thailand's most impressive artwork at the National Gallery or the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre in Siam. Another museum of note is Jim Thompson's House near Siam Square, which served as the CIA-operative's mansion and was assembled by combining six traditional Thai-style houses that he collected from across the country.
Not only is Bangkok overflowing with sights, but you can also venture into the surrounding countryside where small rural villages and floating markets await. Damnoen Saduak is the largest of Thailand's floating markets, located around 100km from Bangkok. Each day, hundreds of vendor boats, piled high with fruit, vegetables, homewares and local Thai dishes, ply the waters, and the photographic opportunities are endless. Alternatively, the Maeklong Railway Market and Tha Kha Floating Markets are equally fascinating destinations.
Whether you want to escape to the sprawling landscaped gardens of Nong Nooch, or immerse yourself in Thailand's ancient history at the UNESCO World Heritage listed Ayutthaya Historical Park, there are plenty of shore excursions to keep you busy in and around Bangkok.