Bangkok Travel Guide

Bangkok seethes on the east side of the Chao Phraya River, drawing rural Thai folk into its cluttered fold daily. The city is reportedly sinking at a rate of 5cm every year, but there's too much fun going on for that to get anyone down. Bangkok has dominated Thailand's urban hierarchy as well as its political, commercial and cultural life since the late 18th century.

Bangkok's worth putting up with the coronary-inducing traffic jams, pollution, annual floods and sticky weather to experience the contrasts of the city: glass and steel buildings shaped like cartoon robots standing next to glittering temple spires; wreaths of jasmine flowers dangling from the rear-view mirrors of buses and taxis; shaven-headed, orange-robed monks walking barefoot along the street beneath a bank of giant Sony screens blasting MTV Asia.

Facts in a glance

Area: 1,569 sq km
Population: 8 million
Country: Thailand
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +7 (Bangkok Standard Time)
Telephone Area Code: 02


1767: After Ayutthaya was burned by the Burmese army in 1767, the Thai army established Thonburi, a community of Bangkok as the new capital. Bangkok began as a small trading center and port community, called Bang Makok ("place of olive plums"), serving Ayutthaya, which was the capital of Siam until it fell to Burma.

1782: King Rama I built a palace on the east bank and made Bangkok his capital, renaming it Krung Thep, meaning "city of angels". The village of Bangkok ceased to exist, but its name continues to be used by foreigners.

The full ceremonial name of Krung Thep is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit, which means
"The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn."

The great reform occurred in the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910) who brought the nation into modernization in various aspects, including administration, education, justice, communications and public health. For the convenience of administration, the country was divided into several monthon, and Bangkok was one of them.

1932: A revolution was staged and the political system was changed into constitutional monarchy. Bangkok on the east bank known as Krung Thep or Phra Nakhon became a province and Thon Buri on the west bank became another province.

1971: The two provinces were merged under the name of Nakhon Luang Krung Thon Buri or Bangkok-Thon Buri Metropolis. One year later, the form of local government in the metropolis was reorganized and the province obtained a new name as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or popularly called Krung Thep for short. The name is still used among the Thais today as always, while the foreigners know Krung Thep as Bangkok. It is noteworthy that the name "Bangkok" formerly referred to a small fishing village which later expanded into communities on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. It is so named because the village (called bang in Thai) was full of wild olive (called makok in Thai which was shortened to kok) groves, and the name has been internationally used up to now.

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