US President Barack Obama has begun a three-country Asian tour with a visit to Thailand.
Mr Obama's itinerary will also include a landmark visit to Burma and an East Asia summit in Cambodia.
He is seeking to recalibrate US economic and security commitments to counter China's influence at a time when America is disentangling itself from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
However his attention will be divided during his travels as he faces a simmering crisis in Gaza, plus economic problems at home.
In Bangkok, a monk in bright orange robes gave Mr Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a private tour of the centuries-old Wat Pho temple, taking them past its massive reclining Buddha.
From there, he left for an audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 84, the world's longest-reigning monarch, at the hospital where he has been recovering from an illness since September 2009.
He later had talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and held a joint news conference with her.
The US administration regards Thailand as a key ally for advancing an "Asia pivot" that Mr Obama announced last year.
Mr Obama, who was born in Hawaii and spent part of his youth in Indonesia, has called himself America's first "Pacific president".
His choice of Southeast Asia for his first foreign trip since winning re-election on 6 November is meant to show he intends to make good on his pledge to boost ties with one of the world's fastest-growing regions, a strategy his aides see as crucial to his presidential legacy.
It is his second extensive trek through Asia in little more than a year.
In the centrepiece of his three-day tour, Mr Obama will make the first US presidential visit to Burma, officially known as Myanmar, tomorrow.
Mr Obama’s aides said the trip was meant to lock in progress so far and that he will speak forcefully on the need to do more on human rights, especially to curb sectarian violence.
He will meet President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Mr Obama said the visit to Burma was not an endorsement of the government, but rather an acknowledgement of the progress it has made in moving towards democracy.
"We understand it's a work in progress," he told a news conference in Thailand.
But he added: "I'm not somebody who thinks that the United States should stand on the sidelines and not want to get its hands dirty when there's an opportunity for us to encourage the better impulses inside a country."