Bangkok is the capital of the fascinating country of Thailand. The city is at the same time a cultural phenomenon, a shopping heaven and a tourist treasure. It is one of the most cosmopolitan, contrasting and, above all, compelling of the Asian cities.
Because of its strategic location in Southeast Asia, Siam (later Thailand) acted as a buffer-zone between the French and British colonial empires. Bangkok itself has gained a reputation as an independent, dynamic and influential city. It is the political, social and economic centre of Thailand, and one of the leading cities in Southeast Asia. Due to the 1980s and 1990s Asian investment boom, many multinational corporations make their regional headquarters in Bangkok and the city is a regional force in finance and business. In 2009, it was the second most expensive city in South-east Asia behind Singapore.
Its rapid modernization, reflected in the cityscape and the urban society, has left untouched the historic Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Vimanmek Palace Complex, hundreds of Buddhist temples, which draw about 10 million international visitors each year.
Bangkok has an official population of about 9 million residents, while the greater Bangkok area is estimated at close to 12 million inhabitants.