In Thailand, all roads lead to Bangkok. The capital is the nation’s political center, its spiritual and cultural hub, and a magnet for migrants from all over the country. The country is 95 percent Buddhist, and Bangkok is blessed with hundreds of temples, from humble pagodas to grand, gold-spired complexes. Thais do a fine job of balancing the spiritual and the earthly, however, and just as strong as these religious beliefs is the emphasis on sanuk, the idea that life should be fun.

Traditional Thai festivals are a highlight for visitors to Bangkok. The river festival, Loy Krathong, takes place in the twelfth month of the Thai lunar calendar (it usually falls in November) and involves fireworks, lanterns, and thousands of floating offerings to the river spirits on the Chao Phraya river. Songkran, or Thai New Year, occurs in April and is a raucous celebration in which locals and visitors drench each other with water in the name of good fun.