BANGKOK (Laem Chabang)
A voyage of flavour, and an all-out sensory assault, Bangkok is one of the world's most fascinating cities, and a place to plunge right in at the deep end. Immense tradition and relentless modernity combines, and it's these contrasts and collisions that make Bangkok the remarkable, all-encompassing experience it is. One second you can be dodging whizzing hordes of mopeds, the next, absorbed into the blissful tranquillity of a silent temple courtyard.
Ornate towers and places of worship blend in alongside cathedral-like shopping malls and skyscrapers, while the streets hum with bartering from the markets that spill out wherever you walk. Part of Bangkok's allure is that Iife is well and truly played out on its streets. Stalls of flowers, spices and silk fabrics fill bustling alleyways with colour and exotic fragrances. You can find fine dining hidden away here - including Michellin-starred restaurants - but the real Bangkok is the feast of flavours on street level - where authentic Pad Thai is cooked up alongside spicy papaya salad.
To truly know Bangkok you must sail the waters of the Chao Phraya river, which provides a cooling thoroughfare through the city. You'll sail through Bangkok's soul, with glorious temples leaning up against the river's banks, filled with intricately decorated Buddha statues. One of the country's most sacred sites - the Temple of the Emerald Buddha - rises in a river bend, while the beautiful Grand Palace, and the skyscraper-like tower of the colourful Wat Arun temple, also watch out over the water.
It's hard to leave the intoxicating fizz of the city behind, but the journey north to Ayutthaya is an incredible voyage, where you can see the extraordinary ruins of the former capital Kingdom of Siam, which was destroyed in 1350.