Bangkok is the capital of the Asian kingdom of Thailand. With a population of more than 8 million and more than 15 million inhabitants in the entire metropolis, Bangkok is by far the largest city in the country. Bangkok is a first introduction to this tropical destination for many foreign visitors. A tour of Thailand often starts and ends with a day or a few days in Bangkok. The chaos and bustle you experience here is a clear contrast to many other destinations in Thailand. Anyone who travels back to Europe from a tropical beach via Bangkok will really have to get used to the noise, many people and the exhaust fumes.
The full name of Bangkok is one that you will not be able to remember, actually. The official Thai name for Bangkok is officially the longest place name in the world. We first heard it during a bicycle tour through Bangkok. The guide told us about this name and that it also took her a few days to memorize it. Bangkok’s full name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit .
Why visit Bangkok?
Like many other Asian metropolises, Bangkok is not a romantic or beautiful city. While beauty is of course subjective, functionality in this Thai capital has clearly been more important than trying to create a beautiful city. You can see that space is scarce and that it is used as well as possible. This has resulted in quite a few high buildings in the enormous heart of the city and an accumulation of houses, shops and offices in between. Every square meter has a function and whoever walks through very narrow paths of the residential areas literally walks through the backyard of the locals.
However, Bangkok also has a number of beautiful sights such as beautiful temples, the Royal Palace and a number of monuments. The main reason to visit Bangkok is to be overwhelmed by the crowds, to enjoy the friendliness of the people, and to get to know the purest form of Thai cuisine: street food. Nowhere in the world is street food as natural as here. Many smells that meet you when you walk through streets or alleys will undoubtedly tempt you to occasionally eat on the street just like the Thai.
Venice of the East
Bangkok has the romantic nickname ‘Venice of the East’. Anyone who walks through Bangkok nowadays may wonder where this name comes from. Although there are certainly some waterways in the city, the comparison with the Italian city of Venice seems a bit exaggerated. That is because some of the once constructed canals have disappeared. In the past, water transport was still essential, but in the twentieth century there was much more need for normal roads. A reasonable part of the waterways have therefore been filled in, and now serve as a road for cars, tuk-tuks, buses, scooters and motorcycles.
The water is still a good way to avoid the many traffic jams that plague Bangkok. The ferries on the Chao Phraya are therefore frequently used by both locals and tourists. You can use the busy public ferries, but most tourists choose to take the hop-on hop-off tourist boat. You can buy an affordable day ticket, but there is also the option to buy a separate ticket.
Who wants to see how the waterways still serve in the busy metropolis today can book a boat trip. Boat tours are very popular in Bangkok.
Districts and neighborhoods in Bangkok
Bangkok does not have a structure like you are used to in European cities. There is not really a center, but there are several interesting neighborhoods that are mainly located in the central part of the city. That sometimes makes it a bit difficult to orientate yourself, because we Europeans like to use a central heart as a starting point for a city trip. The fact that the easiest forms of public transport, the metro and the sky-train, do not cover part of the center does not make it any easier.
Bangkok has a fairly short history. For years, the place was nothing more than a trading place for the former Thai capital Ayutthaya. Its location on the Chao Phraya River was actually Bangkok’s only right to exist until the eighteenth century. After the Burmese army attacked Thailand and almost completely burned Ayutthaya in 1767, the situation changed. After General Taksin expelled the Burmese from Thailand a year later, he was crowned king. That happened in Thonburi, which lies on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. This made Thonburi the new capital of the country. In 1782 a coup took place after which General Phraya Chakri became the new king. He ascended the throne as King Rama I and was the founder of the current royal house of Thailand.
King Rama I moved the throne across the river. The city of Bangkok was formally founded on April 21, 1782. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo were built. Over the years, Rattanakosin Island became the heart of the new city. City walls and watchtowers were built, which have now disappeared from the cityscape. A period of prosperity arose under the new regime. During the nineteenth century, increasingly closer trade relations developed with America and Europe. As a result, Bangkok became increasingly rich and influential. The city grew and new neighborhoods emerged. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Bangkok had grown to more than three hundred thousand inhabitants. At that time it was already quite a big city.
Because Bangkok offered more economic prospects than the many smaller places elsewhere in Thailand, more and more people moved from the countryside to this big city. In the twentieth century, this ensured that the city continued to grow at a rapid pace. The dragging factor has often been the rising price trend for housing in Bangkok. Politically, the twentieth century was not the most stable for Thailand and therefore also the capital Bangkok. The abolition of the absolute monarchy in 1932 led to political instability. Democracy and sham democracy have alternated since then. Bangkok is still the scene of power struggles from time to time.