For years, Bangkok has served as an eye-opening introduction to the splendors of the Orient. Locals call it Krung Thep, or City of Angels, and that isn’t its only similarity to America’s Los Angeles. Unlike Hong Kong or New York—dense, modern cities with well-defined skylines and central cores—Bangkok is a sprawling, chaotic place that sometimes seems to lack any focus or order. The sense of mayhem is only amplified by the noise, bustle, and teeming traffic, common to cities across Southeast Asia. Yet this metropolis of 10 million is a warm, welcoming gateway to the Land of Smiles. And it’s increasingly more livable. The BTS, an overhead monorail, offers great views over the city, and the under-ground MRT subway makes navigation a cinch. Always ranked among the world’s best shopping cities, with scores of home-design and crafts emporiums, Bangkok has in recent years amped up its nightlife offerings and plays host to a vibrant arts scene.
All of this is well documented in Bangkok 101, the city’s hippest and most up-to-date visitor’s guide. Its publisher, Mason Florence, typifies Bangkok’s increasingly international profile. Articulate and enthusiastic, Florence bristles with energy and ideas. Born in New York, schooled in Boston and Colorado, he has been a writer, a ski instructor, a tour leader, and a rodeo cowboy. But his first love is photography. After living for a dozen years in Japan, where he co-founded and still runs the Chiiori Project, which is dedicated to restoring a historic rural farmhouse, Florence covered Japan and Vietnam for the Lonely Planet guide-book series. He moved to Bangkok in 2003, and a year later, opened Gallery F-Stop, Bangkok’s first photography-only exhibition center.