Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or Krung Thep for short, is the capital, largest urban area and primate city of Thailand. It was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom and came to the forefront of Thailand when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayuthaya. However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom didn't begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river after being sacked by the Burmese. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called "Phra Nakorn", pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis' core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.
In the span of over two hundred years, Bangkok has been the political, social and economic center of not only Thailand but for much of South East Asia and Indochina as well. Its influence in the arts, politics, fashion, education, entertainment as well as being the business, financial and cultural center of Asia has given Bangkok the status of a global city. The city's mix of Thai, Chinese, Indian, Buddhist, Muslim and Western cultures combined with the driving force of the Thai economy makes it increasingly attractive to foreigners both for business and pleasure and has made the city one of the world's top tourist destinations.
Bangkok is the world's 22nd largest city by population with approximately registered 8,160,522 residents (July 2007), but due to large unregistered influxes of migrants from the North East of Thailand and of many nations across Asia, the population of greater Bangkok is estimated at nearly 15 million people. This has in turn shifted the country from being a rather homogenous Thai population to increasingly a more vibrant mix of Western, Indian and Chinese people. The capital is part of the heavily urbanized triangle of central and eastern region of Thailand which stretches from Nakhon Ratchasima along Bangkok to the industrialized eastern seaboard.
The Bangkok Province borders six other provinces: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom and all five provinces are joined in the conurbation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area.
The town of Bangkok() began as a small trading center and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River serving the Ayutthaya Kingdom, the precursor of modern Thailand which existed from 1350 to 1767. It is believed that the town's name derived from either Bang Makok, bang being the Central Thai name for towns or villages situated on the bank of a river, and makok (มะกอก) being the Thai name of either Spondias pinnata, Spondias mombin or Elaeocarpus hygrophilus (plants producing olive-like fruits), or Bang Koh, koh meaning "island," a reference to the area's landscape which was carved by rivers and canals.
After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Kingdom in 1767, the newly declared King Taksin established a new capital in the area of then-Bangkok, which became known as Thonburi. When Taksin's reign ended in 1782, King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke reconstructed the capital on the east bank of the river and gave the city a ceremonial name (see below) which became shortened to its current official name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (which, similarly to "Los Angeles" means "city of angels"). The new city, however, also inherited the name Bangkok, which continued to be used by foreigners to refer to the entire city and became its official English name, while in Thai the name still refers only to the old district on the west bank of the river. The city has since vastly modernized and undergone numerous changes, including the introduction of transportation and utility infrastructure in the reigns of King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn, and quickly developed into the economic center of Thailand.
Local school children are taught the full name, although few can explain its meaning because many of the words are archaic, and unknown to all but a few. Most Thais who do recall the full name do so as a result of its use in a popular song, Krung Thep Mahanakhon (1989) by Asanee-Wasan Chotikul and will often recount it by recalling the song at the same time, much in the same way that English speakers might sing the alphabet song while reciting the English alphabet.
The Bangkok special administrative area covers , making it the 68th largest province in Thailand. Much of the area is considered the city of Bangkok, therefore making it one of the largest cities in the world. The Chao Phraya River, which stretches , is Bangkok's main geographical feature. The Chao Phraya River basin, the area surrounding Bangkok, and the nearby provinces comprise a series of plains and river deltas that lead into the Bay of Bangkok about south of the city center. This gave rise to Bangkok's appellation as the "Venice of the East" due to the number of canals and passages that divide the area into separate patches of land. The city once used these canals, which were plentiful within Bangkok itself, as divisions for city districts. However, as the city grew in the second half of the 20th century, the plan was abandoned and a different system of division was adopted.
Bangkok lies about two meters (6.5 ft) above sea level, which causes problems for the protection of the city against floods during the monsoon season. Often after a downpour, water in canals and the river overflows the banks, resulting in massive floods. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has recently installed higher planks alongside some canals to keep water levels from reaching street level. There are however some downsides for Bangkok's extensive canal routes, as the city is rumored to be sinking an average of two inches a year as it lies entirely on a swamp. Some reports say that the city is sinking as much as four inches (102 mm) a year, and this combined with the rising sea level will leave Bangkok under to of water by 2025.
Bangkok has a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification system. Average temperatures in the city are about higher than the ones shown for the Don Mueang Airport at 1960-1990 period. Absolute maxima is and absolute minima is . The coldest temperatures were recorded in January 1924, January 1955, January 1974 and December 1999. The coldest daytime maximum temperature was , recorded in December 1999. Hailstorms are virtually unheard of in the city, with only one having been recorded in the past fifty years
Bangkok has 50 districts or khet, which mark the administrative subdivisions under the authority of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. These are further subdivided into 154 khwaeng (แขวง), roughly equivalent to sub-districts tambon in the other provinces.
However, these district areas might not accurately represent functional divisions of Bangkok's neighborhoods. Throughout the years, Bangkok has grown from a city scattered along the river to a metro area that spans as many as six provinces. The city's main business districts and residential areas are continuously expanding. The influx of foreigners from Western countries as well as immigrants from neighboring Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and many other Asian countries along with the growth of the Thai population has stemmed hundreds of housing projects around the metro area, developing communities along the outskirts. Within years, these communities are engulfed by the greater Bangkok and become another part of this urban jungle.
As the city expanded on the outskirts, the inner city has nowhere to grow but up. The city has a registered 1,000 skyscrapers and ranks 17th as the world's tallest city. This does not include hundreds of new buildings predicted as part of the construction boom in 2007 and the coming years. Areas such as Silom-Sathon and Asok have for decades been Thailand's business center. From 1985 to 1996, Thailand experienced the world's highest growth rates and underwent an economic transformation, Bangkok went through dramatic changes. The Ratchadaphisek area was turned into a business district which continued through the Asok area up north for five kilometers (3 mi). The Sukhumvit area, stretching 15-20 km (9–12 mi), gradually turned into a mixed commercial and residential area. Wireless Road and Chitlom are where some of Bangkok's most expensive land plots exist. Part of the British Embassy on the corner of Wireless and Rama I Roads, nine rai or approximately in area, was sold for USD 92 million or THB 3.24 billion, and is the most expensive single sale of land in Thai record.
Bangkok's Phra Nakhon district alongside Dusit is where most governmental agencies and ministries have their offices. Most of the well-known tourist attractions are also in this particular area due its cultural & historical heritage. It is a no-skyscraper designated zone to preserve the area where some buildings are as old as Thailand itself. This part of Bangkok is perhaps the most popular for tourists as most notable attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, the Democracy Monument, the Giant Swing, Sanam Luang and other venues are located here. Thon Buri also has its fair share of historic monuments mainly located near the river, such as Wat Arun. The Victory Monument in Bangkok is one of the city's biggest bus destinations. Although not officially a bus depot, its location in the centre of city transits as many as 20 bus lines as well as a BTS Skytrain station. Starting from Victory Monument , Phahonyothin road early sois are occupied by Ministries, Government agencies, commercial buildings as well as upper-middle class residential areas. Further to the north, after the Lat Phrao/Phahonyothin intersection, the Northern Corridor is an expanding business district, where the famous Elephant Building can be found.
Bangkok's north and eastern areas are primarily residential areas for middle class residents of Bangkok. Whereas the inner city often has small apartments and low rises for poor immigrants, Lat Phrao and Si Nakharin offer residential compounds and townhouses. The two areas cover as much as to each, and have turned into what is now part of Bangkok as more suburban housing developments sprawl further out to the east and north. The west of Bangkok in Thon Buri is another growing area, approaching the degree of development experienced by the north and east. Suvarnabhumi Airport in the east is seen as a jump start for the eastern expansion of Bangkok as Don Mueang was for the north.
Ratchaprasong is at the forefront of Bangkok's shopping scene. The newly renovated Central World Plaza intends to serve as a square to Bangkokians. Just up the street is Siam Square, similar to Shinjuku in Tokyo and Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus in London. The Sukhumvit area also serves as a shopping district for foreigners. The popular Chatuchak Weekend Market in the north of the city is where many people head for cheap, used and high quality products.
Bangkok's poorest districts are spread throughout the city. However, the most concentrated area is just north of the Port of Bangkok at the turn of the Chao Phraya River. For an area of , the Khlong Toei district houses one of the poorest areas in the country with half-built houses and midrises for immigrants and workers from the northeast Isan provinces.
Bangkok has large sections of greenery either preserved by the Department of National Forestry or designated as green zones. The city however, continues to lack a green belt development as economic activity continues to pour into the capital, resulting in massive housing projects along the suburbs. However, in recent years, there has been a stronger voice towards preserving the environment containing population within the city.
Bangkok is known for its large green sections within the city centre, including the large forest park between Yannawa and Samut Prakan. This part of the city covers an area of over . and is intended to buffer the CBD from the large industries of the west and south of Metropolitan Bangkok. Other areas include Bung Makkasan, an urban city buffer for residences, sections of many major roads which have unbuilt swamps and green fields. Some of these areas are intentionally undeveloped for protecting against urbanization, while others are land lost during the Asian Financial Crisis.
Lumphini Park is regionally famous. Renowned as Bangkok's Central Park, it was built in the early 1920s by Rama VI with this intent. It has since been used to hold grand pageants, ceremonies of the Thai constitution, and was a camp for Japanese soldiers during World War II. The park's primary function is now for recreational purposes, and it is one of the most visited parks, especially on weekdays. On Sundays, the western gates are open for runners to run on to Silom Road. The park is normally closed at night due to the incidences of vandalism, robberies and murders reported. Chatuchak Park and Rama IX Park are two of Bangkok's largest parks. The two, built in the past 50 years cater to Bangkok's suburban population are enormous and include botanic gardens, sports clubs and complexes, English/French/Japanese gardens and parks as well as large ponds and lakes. Other famous parks include Queen Sirikit Park near Lat Yao, Benchasiri Park on Sukhumvit, Saranrom Park across the Grand Palace, Sanam Luang, Suan Romaneenat, and Dusit Park.
Bangkok is home to the headquarters of all Thailand's large commercial banks and financial institutions; 27 financial institutions hold at least USD 1 billion in total assets. Their bank deposits totaled approximately THB 9.6 trillion (USD 314 billion) at the end of the third quarter in 2007. Many transnational companies operate regional headquarters in Bangkok because the cost of operation in the city is less than in most cities in Asia. Thirteen Bangkok-based companies are on the Forbes 2000 list, including the largest Thai bank, Bangkok Bank, and the country's largest energy company PTT.
Tourism is a significant contributor to Thailand's economy, providing about 5 percent of GDP. Bangkok is Thailand's principal international gateway and a destination in its own right.
Income inequality of Bangkok's residents is significant, especially between relatively unskilled lower-income immigrants from rural provinces in Thailand and neighboring countries and middle class professionals (45% of registered residents), business elites, and retired and working foreign expats. About 7 percent of Bangkok's population (excluding illegal immigrants who constitute about 5-8 percent of population) lives below the poverty line compared to the national average of 9 percent.
The urban sprawl of the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Area extends beyond the borders of Bangkok province, spilling into the neighbouring provinces of Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. The province as it is today was created in 1972 when the previous Bangkok province, changwat Phra Nakhon, merged with Thonburi province.
The seal of the city shows the god Indra riding in the clouds on Erawan, a mythological elephant-shaped creature. In his hand Indra holds a lightning bolt, which is his weapon to drive away drought. The seal is based on a painting done by Prince Naris. The tree symbol of Bangkok is Ficus benjamina.
Bangkok is subdivided into 50 districts (khet, also sometimes called amphoe in the other provinces), which are further subdivided into 154 kwaeng (แขวง, equivalent to tambon in other provinces). Each district is managed by a district chief appointed by the governor. District councils, elected to four-year terms, serve as advisory bodies to their respective district chiefs.
There is also an elected Bangkok Metropolitan Council, which has power over municipal ordinances and the city's budget. The last elections for local councils in Bangkok were held on 23 July 2006.
Bangkok also includes many shopping and business roads like the Sukhumvit Road which includes highrise business buildings, apartments, and shopping malls, Sukhumvit Road is where many foreigners like to come shopping. The Wireless Road or Thanon Wittayu include the Stock Exchange of Thailand and many business buildings like the All Seasons Place Complex which includes the Conrad Bangkok, a shopping mall, and many other business offices. The Thanon Khaosan or Khaosan Road is also well-known by foreigners. One of the popular shopping roads for teenagers is Rama I road, which has the Siam Paragon, Siam Square, and the Siam Discovery Center.
Bangkok may be known as one of the worst cities in the world for traffic, but it has built an expressway or second-level road on almost every road in the city center, and there continue to be plans for new expressways monthly. The government has also tried many times to improve the state of the traffic in the city center, which can sometimes take an hour just to move one kilometer.
A regular bus service is provided by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and it operates throughout Bangkok as well as to adjoining provinces around the clock on certain routes. Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 7 baht to most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 11 and 24 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht all routes. A Bus Route Map is available at bookshops.
On the birthday of HM King Rama IX, 5 December 1999, an elevated two-line Skytrain (officially called BTS) metro system was opened. The remains of a failed elevated railroad project (the Hopewell project) can still be seen all the way from the main railroad station out towards Don Mueang Airport. Due to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 construction was halted and the concrete pillars were left unused.
The MRT subway system opened for use in July 2004. The MRT connects the northern train station of Bang Sue to the Hua Lamphong central railway station near the city center, while also going through the eastern part of Bangkok. It connects to the BTS system at BTS stations Mo Chit, Asok, and Sala Daeng. Many stations have various designs and concepts with many to install retail shops and transit malls to draw more income from commuters.
Political bickering and profiteering also has stalled many promised and planned urban rail projects including Skytrain and subway extensions, initially planned to open by the end of 2002 (for Skytrain), and projects that are completed often are very much delayed. Currently, transit and development projects initiated by ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin are gaining in popularity with the currently elected government, and have a possibility of being resumed and extended.
A new high speed elevated railroad called the Suvarnabhumi Airport Link, currently under construction, will link the city with the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. The announced opening date has been pushed to back to 2009. Along with the airport itself, the Suvarnabhumi Express was a Thaksin pet project. The Airport Express railway is to be operated by the State Railway of Thailand. It will provide a link between the new airport and the City Air Terminal (CAT) at Makkasan with connections to the BTS at Phaya Thai and MRT at Petchburi. There are plans to extend the line to Don Mueang and Rangsit, but again, this is very dependent on the political situation.
Plans have been approved for a further extension of the BTS Silom line from Wong Wian Yai to Bangwah Sumrong to Samut Prakarn Mo Chit to Saphan Mai and the National Stadium to Phran Nok (). This includes five underground stations in the Rattanakosin area. The State Railway of Thailand has also been given approval to complete the Dark Red and Light Green lines. Alongside, MRT has also begun construction on two new lines, the Purple line from Bang Yai to Bang Sue, and the Blue line from Hua Lampong to Bang Khae and Ta Pra. Much of this is part of a government effort to reduce reliance on personal vehicles in the hope of linking the city within ten years by a ring road of rail systems.
For intercity travel by train, most passengers begin their trips at Hua Lamphong at the southern end of the MRT. Here, trains connect Bangkok to Malaysia in the south, Chiang Mai to the north, and Nong Khai to the northeast and beyond to Laos which due to open within 2008.
Bangkok is one of Asia's most important air transport hubs. In 2005, more than ninety airlines served Don Mueang International Airport (IATA: DMK; ICAO: VTBD) and over 38,000,000 passengers, 160,000 flights and 700,000 tons of cargo were handled at this airport per year. It was the 18th busiest airport in the world, second busiest in Asia by passenger volume, 15th busiest in the world and fourth busiest in Asia in international passenger volume. Don Mueang consistently ranked 19th in the world in cargo traffic, and seventh in the Asia-Pacific region. Don Mueang is considered to be one of the world's oldest international airports, its opening in March 1914 making it almost twenty years older than London Heathrow. It has three terminals and is located about north from the heart of Bangkok.
On 28 September 2006, Suvarnabhumi Airport (IATA: BKK; ICAO: VTBS), became Bangkok's official international airport, replacing Don Mueang. Pronounced Suwannaphum (RTGS), or loosely Su-wan-na-poom, the airport is located southeast of the city center in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province.
The progress of Suvarnabhumi Airport dates back to the early 1970s when a large plot of land 8,000 acres (32 km²) was bought. A student uprising in October of the same year prevented further progress with the development when the military government of Thanom Kittikachorn was subsequently overthrown. After several military coups and the Asian financial crisis of 1997, construction finally began in 2002, after five years of clearing the site. The first flights landed in September 2006, shortly after another military coup. Its two parallel runways are connected by the five concourses of the main terminal building. The airport features a -tall control tower, the tallest in Asia and one meter (3.2 ft) taller than Kuala Lumpur International Airport control tower. It is the tallest stand alone purpose built control tower in the world. Airports of Thailand Plc. (AoT) have announced another terminal to accommodate a further fifteen million passengers. This will be part of Phase 2 of the airport, which is expected to begin construction in three to five years. The main airline of Suvarnabhumi is Thai Airways International.
Much of the construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport took place during the premiership of Thaksin Shinawatra, who took personal responsibility for its timely completion. Despite a "ceremonial" opening on the planned date, construction was over a year late. Continuing controversy surrounds the quality of planning and construction; accusations include cracks in the runway, overheated buildings, a severe shortage of toilet facilities and lengthy passenger walks to departure gates. The fact that the airport is already overcrowded and near its maximum capacity less than a year after opening is another concern.
Don Mueang remains in use as a base of the Royal Thai Air Force. Thai Airways and most of the low-cost airlines now use the airport for domestic flights, in an effort to ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi, until the next terminal is opened.
Taxis cruising city streets are metred. They charge a minimum of 35 baht for the first 3 kilometres, and approximately 5 baht per kilometre thereafter. However, as of June 2008, there are plans to raise the minimum fair to 40 baht. Passengers must pay tolls in the case of using an expressway.
There is a taxi scam at the airport. Tourists are advised to not follow the advice of anyone who approaches and offers ‘their’ taxi service – they are scammers. Visitors usually queue up and use the airport taxi service, anyone who is unsure where this is, may approach a security guard.
These three-wheeled ‘open-air’ motorised taxis are popular for short journeys. Fares must be bargained in advance. Minimum fares, for journeys of up to 3 kilometres, are approximately 30 baht. River Taxis
Taxis that are even more unusual, though equally convenient, are the river taxis that ply the Chao Phraya River. Some are just cross river ferries, but others serve the many landing stages on both banks and cover a route that goes up as far as the northern suburb of Nonthaburi. There is also a canal boat taxi along the Saen Saep Canal.
These are very popular in Bangkok and especially for travel within the long Sois (lanes). For longer distances, the cost is roughly the same as taxis.
These can be found in some areas of Bangkok usually from short distance to long distance depending upon the area and the fixed route. They are cheap and reliable.
The majority of the country's universities, both public and private, are located in and/or around the capital. Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University are at the forefront of tertiary education. The two are both public universities and have been a foundation for young thinkers for nearly a century. Over the past few decades however, the general trend of pursuing a university degree has prompted new universities to crop up and meet the needs of the Thai people. Bangkok became not only a place where immigrants and provincial Thais flock to for job opportunities, but a chance to receive a university degree. Ramkhamhaeng University emerged in 1971 as the only open university then, it has the highest enrolment of students compared with any other Thai university. Ramkhamhaeng was one of the Thai governments ways to deal with the rise in a demand for tertiary education. The growth of universities has stemmed tens and hundreds of other universities and colleges in the metropolitan area. Vocational/technical colleges have recently seen their fair share of success. In recent years, a large number of private institutions primarily with western ties and exchange programs have made their way to the capital. The rise in the number of schools offering English teaching have raised the bar for many state-owned institutions to meet up with private standards.
Despite such competition, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat remain the nation's leading institutions. Kasetsart University, Mahidol University, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi,Assumption University among others were ranked in the top 500 of THES - QS World University Rankings for 2007. Bangkok also plays host to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), built as an international co-operative institute between Asia-Pacific nations. There are also many Buddhist universities branching into the realm of religious studies in which Bangkok has taken a leading role.
Amidst all this however, the tertiary education scene in Bangkok is still over swamped with non-Bangkokian's. Officials currently stress the need for a revamping of the Thai educational system. Education has long been a prime factor in the centralization of Bangkok and will play a vital role in the government's efforts to decentralize the country.
Bangkok has a large number of hospitals and medical centers, which include eight of the country's fifteen medical schools. Many hospitals in Bangkok act as tertiary care centers, receiving referrals from distant parts of the country. Lately, especially in the private sector, there has been much growth in medical tourism, with many hospitals providing services specifically catering to foreigners.
The acclaimed Bumrungrad Hospital is the main international class hospital on Sukumvit Road, and is popular with expats, wealthy Thais and medical tourists. Its closest competitors are Samithivej Hospitaland and Bangkok Hospital Medical Center. All 3 of which have achieved accreditation from the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI), ensuring therefore that their standards are of the highest in the world.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Area is home to two capitals of Thailand: the area historically known as Rattanakosin, and the modern Bangkok. There are a large number of palaces in Bangkok. Several are still in use by the Thai royal family, while others are now open to the public and some have become government buildings or universities.
The king's official residence is the Grand Palace, which dates to 1782 and has housed Thailand's monarchs for over 150 years. Up to the early 20th century and before the 1932 Revolution, the complex was key in Thai government: it included royal courts, administrative branches, and was similar in layout to that of previous Thai capitals. Today, it is one of the most visited locations in Bangkok. Within the complex is the Chakri Mahaprasat Hall and Wat Phra Kaew, which houses the Emerald Buddha and is considered the most important temple in Thailand. Chitralada Palace is the Bangkok residence of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit.
Of the hundreds of wats located in Bangkok, only a few are notable. When King Taksin led his troops out of Ayutthaya and into Thon Buri, they took refuge in Wat Arun. This pre-Thon Buri era structure rises to and has held the status of tallest structure in Bangkok for longer than any other modern skyscraper.
Wat Pho, which houses the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and named for its huge reclining Buddha measuring long and covered in gold leaf. The Buddha's feet alone are long.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temples and the site of the original Giant Swing. A huge teak arch, all that remains of the original swing, stands on the grounds in front of the temple. The swing was used in a ceremony to give thanks for a good rice harvest.
Within Wat Saket is the Golden Mount, or Phu Khao Thong, an unusual temple that houses Buddha relics within its 58-metre-high chedi surmounted by a golden cupola. Built by King Rama I just outside the new city walls, the late-18th century temple served as the capital's crematorium. During the next hundred years, the temple became a dumping ground for some 60,000 plague victims.
National Gallery Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ หอศิลป) is a former location of the Royal Thai Mint and now exhibits collections of both traditional Thai and contemporary arts by past as well as present famous artists of Thailand. Oil paintings by His Majesty the King are also exhibited here.
National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถานแห่งชาติ พระนคร): A former palace of the Wang Na or second king – Kromphraratchawangbowon Mahasurasinghanat – built simultaneously with the Grand Palace, the complex comprises several major throne halls such as Phra Thinang Siwamok Phiman, Phra Thinang Phutthaisawan and Phra Thinang Itsara Winitchai.
Suan Pakkad Palace (วังสวนผักกาด) this complex of five Thai-style houses was once the residence of one of Thailand’s leading art collectors, Prince Chumbhot of Nagara Svarga. It houses an extensive collection of Asian art and antiques, including items from the prehistoric Ban Chiang civilisation, and also an impressive collection of seashells. Khon (classical Thai masked dance) Museum and Traditional Thai Music Museum are also established here.
Vimanmek Mansion Museum (พระที่นั่งวิมานเมฆ): This is the world’s largest golden teak building located in the compound of the Dusit Palace on Ratchawithi Road. The three-story royal mansion has 81 rooms, halls and ante-chambers containing fin de siecle royal memorabilia.
Lumpini Park (สวนลุมพินี): This was a huge open space once belonging to King Rama VI, who issued a royal command to turn the area into a public park as a gift to Bangkok residents.
Princess Mother Memorial Park (อุทยานเฉลิมพระเกียรติสมเด็จพระศรีนครินทราบรมราชชนนี): It was built near the Wat Anongkharam community where Somdej Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, HRH the Princess Mother had resided during her childhood. The park comprises a full scale model of the Princess Mother’s house and the old buildings renovated as exhibition halls displaying the life story of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother as well as the history of the Wat Anongkharam community.
Dusit Zoo (สวนสัตว์ดุสิต): Bangkok’s oldest zoo contains a collection of popular African and Asian mammals and birds in an ornamental garden.
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (Snake Farm) (สถานเสาวภาสภากาชาดไทย): Located near Chulalongkorn Hospital, this institute contains a collection of poisonous snakes which are “milked” daily for their venom in order to produce invaluable anti-snakebite serum.
Siam Ocean World (สยามโอเชี่ยนเวิลด์): The largest aquarium in Southeast Asia, exhibiting over 30,000 marine animals from all over the world and featuring a wide range of rare and exotic species.
Shopping in Bangkok is not limited to one or two major streets. There are many areas throughout Bangkok affording ample choices and easy access. The following is just a selection of some of the principal shopping areas.
Ploenchit-Ratchaprasong (เพลินจิต-ราชประสงค์): Top department stores and luxury shopping malls are concentrated in the area, namely Central, Gaysorn Plaza, Isetan, Zen, Erawan Bangkok, Peninsula Plaza, all of which together make the largest shopping promenade in Bangkok. Furthermore, Central World Plaza and Narayana Phand Pavilion, host the official handicraft centre selling items from all parts of the country. Ratchaprasong intersection is the gateway to several shopping areas such as Phloenchit-Sukhumvit, Siam Square-Mahboonkrong, Silom and Pratunam-Phetchaburi.
Silom-Surawong-Patpong (สีลม-สุรวงศ์-พัฒพงษ์): Silom Road is the main artery of Bangkok’s commercial heart and is paralleled by Surawong Road, while Patpong runs crosswise between the two. In addition to housing dozens of specialist shops and boutiques representing all the major buys, this area also boasts many branches of well-known retailers and several shopping plazas. Street stalls also abound, most notably at Patpong’s famous night market.
Pratunam-Phetchaburi (ประตูน้ำ-เพชรบุรี): A highlight in the district is Pratunam market, one of Bangkok’s biggest centres for ready-to-wear clothing.
The Chao Phraya River & Bangkok’s Canals (Khlongs): Nineteenth-century Bangkok was laced with canals, giving the capital the designation ‘Venice of the East’. Surviving canals, and the Chao Phraya River provide memorable vignettes of traditional waterborne way-of-life that has remained essentially unchanged over the centuries. The river and canals may be conveniently explored by chartered boat or cruise.
Dinner Cruise: Riverine Bangkok offers some of the capital’s most arresting sights, particularly at night when the weather is cooler and light reflections bestow the Chao Phraya River with flickering lights.
Jim Thompson Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์จิม ทอมป์สัน): This collection of traditional Thai-style houses, fashioned into one dwelling, belongs to the man who helped restore the Thai silk industry after World War II, and today, preserved as a museum, contains a priceless collection of Asian objects d’ art.
Chalerm Krung Royal Theatre (เฉลิมกรุงรอยัลเธียเตอร์) is located on Charoen Krung Road (New Road) near the Old Siam Plaza. Thai dramas and plays are usually held while Khon or Thai musical dance drama is a special event that is staged occasionally.
Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre (นาฏยศาลา หุ่นละครเล็ก) presents the Hun Lakhon Lek puppet show. The establishment of this theatre was inspired by the intention of Master Sakhon Yangkhieosot or Joe Louis, a National Artist of 1996, who wishes to preserve the art of operating Hun Lakhon Lek puppets. Hun Lakhon Lek usually performs the story of Ramakian, the Thai version of the Ramayana epic. Sakhon Nattasin is currently the only performing troupe of Hun Lakhon Lek in Thailand. The troupe received the Thailand Tourism Award presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 2000 in the category of Recreational Attraction.
Patravadi Theatre (ภัทราวดีเธียเตอร์) Renowned for its lavish productions, this outdoor theatre has gained popularity through its modern adaptations of classical Asian literature, with each play demonstrating an ingenious blend of various theatrical techniques.
Siam Niramit (สยามนิรมิต) has state-of-the-art cultural performances which have achieved international standards. It uses special techniques integrated with drama to depict the history of each region of Thailand including depictions about hells, the forest of Himmaphan, heavens and lands beyond imagination from Thai literature. There is also a spectacular performance of Thailand’s arts and cultural heritage. The show is staged by more than 150 performers in a luxurious theatre with a capacity of more than 2,000 seats.
Bangkok also offers a number of smaller boutique hotels for discerning travelers seeking uniquely designed lodgings and personalized service. There are large numbers of inexpensive hotels scattered throughout the city such as Yaowarat Road, most notably in the backpackers' paradise of Khao San Road. Unlike Western cities, motels are uncommon in Bangkok. However, a fast and growing business is bed and breakfasts adapted to suit the Asian lifestyle. A variety of these small houses can be found in Phloenchit, Watthana and Khlong Toei.
Thailand has a variety of shopping experiences from street markets to world class luxury malls. Tourists have historically always preferred markets and bazaars to the other forms of shopping. The Chatuchak weekend market is one of the largest shopping destinations in Bangkok. Water markets are gradually disappearing, but remain strong tourist attractions as many tours are offered through the canals the markets are located on.
The huge new shopping complex known as Siam Paragon and CentralWorld on Rama I Road in Bangkok's city center are among the biggest and most luxurious malls in Southeast Asia. Bangkok also includes over 15 world class malls situated around Bangkok, many centered around Sukhumvit Road. There are approximately 25 shopping malls, 35 lifestyle shopping centers, 40 department stores, 55 superstores, and 1,100 convenience stores around Bangkok.
Chinese New Year Festival January or February
This is the most important event on the Chinese calendar. The Chinese New Year is not on the same day as the western New Year. The Chinese New Year is consistent with the Chinese lunar Month. It falls on the twelfth lunar month. Or according to the Chinese calendar, it falls on the first, second and third waxing moon of the second lunar moon month. These dates are equivalent to approximately the month of January or February. At present, the Thai-Chinese descendants have got together to create a new legend for China Town as “The biggest celebration of Chinese New Year - China Town a place that never sleeps”. During this grand festival, the whole of Yaowarat road will be closed and many stores and food stands will crowd the road. This is the opportunity for many Thais and foreigners to gather and walk to taste all the authentic Chinese food. And last but not least, are the grandiose and colourful Chinese lion and dragon processions.
Bangkok Songkran Festival 12 April-14
The traditional Thai New Year is an occasion for merriment all over the city, but most notably at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, where the revered Phra Phuttha Sihing image is displayed and bathed by devotees. In the Wisutkasat area, a Miss Songkran beauty contest is held and accompanied by merit-making and entertainment. Khao San Road, Bang Lamphu area is also one of the high-spots in the city where locals and tourists play water by the water-throwing activities.
Royal Ploughing Ceremony May
An ancient Brahman ritual, conducted at Sanam Luang, in which farmers believe, is able to forecast the abundance of the next rice crop. The event is a result of a series of ceremonies that are conducted by Phraya Raek Na, portrayed by a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives who wears colourful traditional costumes. This ceremony was re-introduced in 1960 by H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is considered the official commencement of the rice-growing season.
H.M. The Queen’s Birthday Celebration 12 August
To display their loyalty and to honour Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on the occasion of her royal birthday, the Thai people decorate their houses and public buildings. Around Bangkok, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the area around the Grand Palace and other well-known locations are bedecked with coloured lights and magnificent adornments.
Trooping of the Colours December
Their majesties the King and Queen preside over this impressive annual event, held in the Royal Plaza near the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn. Dressed in colourful uniforms, amid much pomp and ceremony, members of the elite Royal Guards swear allegiance to the King and march past members of the Royal Family.
H.M. The King’s Birthday Celebrations 5 December
H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch is well beloved and deeply respected by all Thais old and young. The occasion of his royal birthday provides his loyal subjects the opportunity to express their reverence for him. All over the country, buildings and homes are elaborated and the area around the Grand Palace is spectacularly illuminated.
Many gossip and fashion magazines are also published in Bangkok, especially after the launch of the Bangkok Fashion City project in 2004. Since then, United Broadcasting Corporation (UBC, or now True Visions), the Thai cable operator, has launched a new channel devoted to Thai fashion as well as a Thai edition of E! Entertainment television.
There is a large amount of television media in Bangkok. Six television stations operated and controlled by the government and many major cables TV operators such as True Visions (formally UBC) , MTV, TTV, PTV, ASTV are based in Bangkok. They broadcast a total of 100 channels to viewers with including many Thai television stations such as TITV, Nation Channel, ETV, DLTV, Royal TV, Money Channel, SMe TV, six sports channels, and Channel V, among others. There are more than 50 FM radio stations within the Bangkok metro vicinity and 50 AM channels including international brands such as Virgin Radio. Radio stations mainly broadcast in Thai, although some broadcast solely in English due to the growing expat population and the growing number of locals who enjoy learning English.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy Bangkok through the performing arts. Clubs featuring jazz and other live music line major districts of town, Victory Monument, the entire BTS Sukhumvit line, and Phra Nakorn. Chalerm Krung Theater and the National Theater have been in operation since the early 20th century whereas the newer Thailand Cultural Center hosts a variety of plays and events.
The Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and Bangkok Opera are gradually earning recognition among international critics and regularly host performances of international performers. There is also a large number of "cafes", or nightclubs, which host comedy acts along Rama IX Road.
The National Gallery located near Sanam Luang is the number one venue for art in Thailand.
The arts in Bangkok have well developed almost exclusively and anonymously in the services of Theravada Buddhism since the golden age in Ayutthaya period and continuing to the present day by incorporating Western elements which is called the Rattanakosin or Bangkok style. Nowadays, modern art scene is centred around Bangkok as the capital of contemporary art in the region while, traditional art can be found in many commercial areas in the old city as well as temples and palaces throughout the city, there are a number of artists who prefer to live and work outside the metropolis. The number of artists is constantly on the rise, so an increasing variety of works are available on the art market. Many art galleries in Bangkok tend to sell work restricted to traditional rural motifs. The artists creating this type of art are often influenced by traditional Buddhist beliefs and motifs, and are popular among the general Thai public. Nevertheless, some Thai artists are breaking away from these norms by addressing more controversial issues in their work, for example the loss of traditional values and the obsession with money in today's society.
Several of Bangkok’s Universities have prominent art schools with a high reputation and international recognition. Silpakorn University stands out as the most reputable of them all. It was established at the beginning of the 19th century by the inspiration from the Italian teacher and artist, Corrado Feroci. Feroci was invited to Thailand by the Thai Government in 1923. He eventually remained in Thailand taking on the Thai name Silpa Bhirasri. Professor Bhirasri is regarded as the one who paved the way for Thai modern art and constructed a framework for it by promoting westernisation and at the same time striving to preserve the traditional Thai arts.
Bangkok is home to the National Gallery of Thailand, Bangkok Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art and Thailand Creative & Design Center or TCDC as well as many other museums, concert halls, theatres, and art galleries. It is home to the Thailand Cultural Centre and the National Theatre.
Modern sports have been introduced to the people of Bangkok dating back a century by King Chulalongkorn. Horse racing followed by golf began in Bangkok 100 years ago when the king bestowed land for the first race course. The objective of His Majesty was to introduce and promote the quality of horse racing and breeding in Thailand, while providing sporting facilities of international standards for Thais and expatriates. Today, horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the capital and one of the most famous sport events in the region. Bangkok has hosted the Asian Games four times, in 1966, 1970, 1978 and 1998. Bangkok was also the host of the first SEA Games in 1959 and Summer Universiade in 2007.
Bangkok's popular modern sports are football, golf, bowling and horse racing. The city has many famous league football clubs with a number of international class football stadiums as well as many golf courses and bowling alleys throughout the city, while the popular traditional sports are Muay Thai, which is held in two major boxing stadiums in the city: Rajadamnern Stadium along with Lumpini Stadium, Takraw, which is played in open spaces throughout the city, and kite fighting, which is easy to see in the centre of the old city. Sanam Luang, on the north side of Wat Phra Kaew, is transformed each year around February from a sedate little patch of greenery in the midst of a concrete jungle into an ongoing kite festival as locals come to the park to practice the art of flying kites.
Rajamangalakeelasathan Stadium is Bangkok's new national stadium. It can seat more than 65,000 and has a huge LED screen.
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is both a sport and means of self defence. Contestants are allowed to use almost any part of their body: feet, elbows, legs, knees, and shoulders, are all weapons. The playing of traditional music during bouts makes for even greater excitement.
Boxing StadiumsThere are two venues in Bangkok for this type of sport.
Thai Boxing Schools
Turf Clubs: Horse racing in Bangkok is at the Royal Turf Club and Royal Bangkok Sports Club. Tennis: Since the success of former Thai tennis star Paradon Srichaphan, many middle-class Thais have took the game up and lots of courts are scattered around the city.
Bangkok is a home to numerous cinemas, again many of which are of a very high standard.
These days, a spa doesn’t have to be a town built on natural thermal springs as compared to the traditional spas. It can be a place anywhere that anyone can go to, to relax in pleasant surroundings with a variety of treatment administered to rejuvenate the body and mind. Many of the top hotels in Bangkok offer spa service.
Meditation: It has been said and written by even monks that it’s impossible to become enlightened in Bangkok. Bangkok is not haven for meditators but there are a couple of centers which offer practice. It is possible to reside and at one of the capital’s temples, but permission needs to be sought prior. Thai Traditional Massage: This therapeutic and highly soothing form of massage purportedly evolved from rishis (forest-dwelling Brahmin hermit ascetics) who relieved the physical stress of extended periods of meditation by adopting certain postures. Wat Pho is the best known centre for massages and massage tuition. Major hotels also offer Thai massage services.
The top ten most popular Thai dishes with foreigners are:
There is also virtually every kind of foreign cuisine available in Bangkok, and foreign food restaurants are in abundance in downtown Bangkok and around the tourist areas.
Yaowarat (Chinatown): This area is clotted with cheap restaurant and stalls dishing up Chinese food. Due to the area once being the epicenter of Chinese immigrants, the Chinese food sold is probably the most authentic in Thailand
Phahurat (Little India): This district, since it is the home to countless families of Indian origin, is the best place in Thailand for Indian food.
Siam Square / Sukhumvit Road / Silom / Soi Lang Suan Plenty of international restaurants are situated in these areas. Most however, are quite trendy and up-market.
Banglamphu: Banglumphu caters predominantly for budget backpackers. Besides just cheap Thai food, innumerable international restaurants have sprung into business over the past few years.
Bangkok offers a widely varied nightlife. The city is famous for their massage parlours, go-go bars, host bars and karaoke places, with Patpong, Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza being the main areas catering mainly to male tourists. There are Westernized clubs and cafes for the rich, and lower-cost bars and pubs that are very popular with the locals. The city's Phra Nakhon district is home to probably the most profound worldwide example of a "backpackers' ghetto", Khaosan Road. Sukhumvit Road boasts some of Asia's most crowded clubs along the section between Ekamai and Withayu.
Types of nightlife in Bangkok include:
Bangkok has the biggest gay scene in Thailand. More than 200 bars, clubs, discos, saunas are concentrated in the Bang Rak Area around Patpong and Phaya Thai; they are found randomly distributed along Sukhumvit Road and around Ramkhamhaeng University (mainly local crowd). A growing number of female visitors are attracted to the male show bars and gay clubs.
Although it is one of Asia's most important cities economically, the urban pace of Bangkok is somewhat relaxed, as the city offers enormous amounts of getaway locations. Most residents tend to stress over the amount of traffic in the city. Peak hours are between 6:30 am to 9:30 am and 4:30pm to 8:00 at night on weekdays, with a general state of traffic on Monday morning and Friday night.
A good number of Bangkokians leave town on weekends to visit seaside resorts such as Hua Hin and Pattaya. Others return home to visit elderly relatives in Isan and the northern provinces. Bangkokian youth tend to stay within the city and use the weekends to relax. A good majority of them however, utilize Saturdays like their parents as a work day, visiting a large amount of extra learning centers open on Saturdays as well as private tutors. Saturday is somewhat considered a work day to a good number of Bangkokians.
Religion does not play a very influential role in the capital as it would compared to other cities. However, a good proportion of the population remains devout and offers daily alms to the monks who walk their neighbourhoods. Muslims are often either assimilated entirely by the Thai or live in remote parts of the city such as the Nong Chok district where tradition Thai Muslims still live.
Environmental issues such as air pollution, a large part of which is caused by the traffic and dirt left on streets from construction projects, was a major problem. However, with cooperation between the local government and the residents and the increase in new parks, gardens and open spaces around the city, today Bangkok has cleaner air quality than in the past. Industrial pollution has also contributed to poor air and water quality. Though sulfur dioxide and ozone levels have fallen substantially, PM (particulate matter) still exceeds health standards in some areas. There have been efforts to clean up Bangkok's canals, many of which are dangerously polluted, through biological means, such as by using water hyacinths, a plant commonly found in the waterways, to cleanse the water of pollutants. However, the large volume of trash in the canals must be cleaned out by other means. Mold growth is ubiquitous in Bangkok, as the wet tropical climate makes it grow, and many residents simply ignore it.
As in many other Asian cities, the sale of illegally copied copyright-protected material, mostly software and DVD movies, is widespread in Bangkok, but technically illegal. One of the most popular locations in Bangkok for purchasing unauthorized copies of software is Pantip Plaza. Although many attempts have been made at cracking down on illegal copying over the years, as with the sex industry, police corruption and cooperation have made it largely ineffective and illegal copying of copyrighted material is still a booming business.
Another issue which has given the city a reputation is the sex industry. Prostitution in Thailand is technically illegal, but can be found all over Bangkok in vast numbers of massage parlors, saunas, parks, and hourly hotels, serving foreign tourists as well as locals. Organized sex work in Bangkok alone involves a minimum of many thousands of workers, and possibly in the tens of thousands. Although in rural Thailand prostitution holds a strong stigma, in Bangkok locals, hotel workers, and officials often turn a blind eye towards such behavior and allow it to continue to flourish.
Armed robbery and violence against tourists is rare, but murders involving tourists and long term foreign residents do occur. A dramatic increase in the number of illegal immigrant workers in Thailand has resulted in many of the crimes being committed by these illegal immigrants. However, Bangkok is generally considered safe from the standpoint of violent crime. The rates for violent crimes such as murders and muggings are fairly low when compared to other large Asian and international cities.