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For Further Study
Founded: c. 1769
Location: Located in the Chao Phraya River basin, Thailand, in a region often called the "Rice Bowl of Asia"
Time Zone: 7 p.m. = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: Thai, 90%; Chinese, 9%; other, 1%
Latitude and Longitude: 13°45′N, 100°30′E
Coastline: Gulf of Thailand
Climate : Subtropical. Bangkok is hot all year, with temperatures ranging from an average of 25°C (77°F) in December to 30°C (86°F) in April. Bangkok has three distinct seasons: the hot season (March through May), the rainy season (June through October), and the cool season (November through February).
Annual Mean Temperature: 28°C (82°F)
Average Annual Rainfall: 150 cm (59 in)
Government: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. The city of Bangkok is designated as a province and governed by an elected governor.
Weights and Measures: Metric
Monetary Units: The baht is Thailand's basic unit of currency. In 1999, the exchange rate was approximately 40 Thai baht to one U.S. dollar.
Telephone Area Code: 02; 66 (Thailand country code)
Bangkok has been Thailand's dominant city since the eighteenth century. Established as the capital in 1767 after the fall of the ancient city of Ayutthaya, Bangkok is located on one of southeastern Asia's most important rivers, the Chao Phraya. In the 1980s and 1990s, Bangkok underwent rapid modernization, growing to approximately ten million people, making this the only major city in a country of villages and small towns. Bangkok's ancient palaces and Buddhist temples contrast with high rises and traffic jams. Dense air pollution blankets the city. In fact, police directing traffic are required to wear masks. Still, despite modern problems, Bangkok is a major tourist destination, drawing millions of visitors each year.
Bangkok is located in central Thailand along the Chao Phraya River. Most visitors to Thailand travel by air though travelers in neighboring countries can reach Bangkok by bus, rail, or boat.
Bus and Railroad Service
Traveling by bus into Thailand is not common for foreigners, though buses do enter the country from Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia. Due to past conflicts, much of Thailand's border with Myanmar (formerly Burma) is mined and unsafe for travelers.
The Hualamphong Railway Station on Rama IV Road is the city's main rail station, serving most long-distance routes. The Bangkok Noi, across the river from the Grand Palace, is used for shorter trips outside of the city.
Bangkok International Airport is the major gateway to all of Thailand. Located about 24 kilometers (15 miles) north of Bangkok, the airport is served by more than 35 airlines. Northwest Airlines is the U.S. carrier with the most frequent flights while Thailand's major airline is Thai Airways International, with flights to many international cities. Since the airport is located outside of the city, visitors traveling to Bangkok must arrange transportation into Bangkok. Buses, taxis, hotel minibuses, and a riverboat shuttle all connect the airport with downtown. Flight times from some major U.S. cities include New York, 22 hours; Chicago, 20 hours; and San Francisco, 17 hours.
Bangkok is Thailand's major port, handling nearly all of the country's exports and receiving over 70 percent of its imports. The Chao Phraya River connects the city to the Gulf of Thailand, 27 kilometers (17 miles) downstream.
Bangkok Population Profile
Area: More than 2,300 sq km (900 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 90% Thai; 9% Chinese; 1% other
World population rank 1: 28
Percentage of Thailand population 2: 12%
Average yearly growth rate: 2.0%
Nicknames: Venice of Asia, City of Angels, Divine City
- Bangkok's rank among the world's urban areas.
- The percent of Thailand's total population living in the Bangkok metropolitan area.
Originally, Bangkok's transportation system was based on the Chao Phraya River and a series of canals. With the advent of the automobile, however, many of the canals have been filled in to make way for roads, and water travel is most common on the Chao Phraya. Finding your way around Bangkok is a challenge. Bangkok is not a planned city, and its growth has often been chaotic. The city sprawls alongside the Chao Phraya River, with roads and alleys spiraling off in every direction. Rama I Road goes through the center of town. Further along, Rama I turns into Sukhumvit Road, an area with many hotels, restaurants, and bars. Most visitors to the city travel by taxi, river taxi, or tuk-tuk (cheap open-air, three-wheeled taxis).
Bus and Commuter Rail Service
Buses in Bangkok are cheap and convenient, with many routes and frequent stops. For a fare of less than 20 baht (less than 50 cents), riders can take an air-conditioned bus to popular destinations. For less than 20 cents, riders can take the more frequent, non-air-conditioned buses to just about anywhere in the city, though these buses tend to be crowded and very hot. Buses operate from 5:00 am until 11:00 pm. and though the routes are confusing, maps are available from most street-side book vendors.
An elevated rail system was projected to begin operation in early 2000. A subway system is also underway, though its construction is progressing slowly.
Water travel was once the main means of transportation in this city of rivers and canals. River taxis and ferries are still one of Bangkok's most popular means of travel although they are losing out to automobiles. Commuter boats run several routes along and across the Chao Phraya. The main jetty stops are located at the Oriental Hotel, the Royal Orchid Sheraton, the River City Shopping Center, and the Grand Palace. The fare is reasonable at about 15 baht (25 cents), depending on distance. For more leisurely sightseeing trips, long-tailed boats can be rented by the hour for about 400 baht (ten dollars).
Taxis and Tuk-tuks
In 1993 meters were installed in all city taxis, although most drivers refuse to use them. Drivers almost always charge much higher fares than the meters would tally, but taxis are relatively cheap by Western standards.
A tuk-tuk is a colorful three-wheeled vehicle. Passengers ride in an open-air compartment that offers little protection in an accident. Tuk-tuks are the cheapest—and most dangerous—way to travel within the city. Tuk-tuk drivers weave in and out of dense traffic. Despite the hazards, a ride in a tuktuk may be the most convenient way to travel for a short trip or during rush hour.
Thailand is one of the most racially homogenous countries in Asia, with more than 80 percent of its population being native Thai. The major minority group is Chinese, comprising ten to 14 percent, while all other ethnic groups combined, including Malays, Indians, Burmese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Europeans, account for approximately five percent.
In Bangkok these numbers are even more extreme, with native Thais making up as much as 90 percent of the population. The Chinese are again the largest minority group, at about nine percent, and they are the most integrated of the non-Thai populations. Intermarriage between Chinese and Thai is common and accepted, and the Chinese population has a long and historic presence in Bangkok. Because of restrictive foreign immigration quotas adopted after World War II (1939–45), Bangkok's population is becoming less, not more, diverse.
Bangkok is a rapidly expanding city, with the population growing from approximately five million in the early 1990s to more than ten million at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The population is overwhelmingly young, with as many as half of Bangkok's residents under the age of 20. Females slightly outnumber males.
The main language of Thailand is Thai (or Tai). In Bangkok and the southern regions of the country, a dialect of Thai is spoken that is faster and more abbreviated than other Thai dialects. English is the secondary language of the country's educated and elite, and English is spoken much more commonly in Bangkok than other regions of the country.
Buddhism is considered the country's official religion, and Bangkok is Thailand's Buddhist center, home to many of the country's most famous temples, called wats. Buddhism is also the city's largest religion, with close to 95 percent of all citizens being Buddhist. Four percent of Bangkok's population is Muslim while Christians, Hindus, Confucians, and Sikhs account for less than one percent.
|City Fact Comparison|
|Population of urban area1||7,221,000||10,772,000||2,688,000||12,033,000|
|Date the city was founded||c. 1769||AD 969||753 BC||723 BC|
|Daily costs to visit the city2|
|Hotel (single occupancy)||$125||$193||$172||$129|
|Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner)||$59||$56||$59||$62|
|Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.)||$15||$14||$15||$16|
|Total daily costs (hotel, meals, incidentals)||$199||$173||$246||$207|
|Number of newspapers serving the city||37||13||20||11|
|Largest newspaper||Thai Rath||Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar||La Repubblica||Renmin Ribao|
|Circulation of largest newspaper||700,000||1,159,450||754,930||3,000,000|
|Date largest newspaper was established||1958||1944||1976||1948|
|1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.|
|2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.|
|3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.|
While Bangkok as a whole is confusing—sprawling for over 2,331 square kilometers (900 square miles)—the city can be broken down into several major and distinct neighborhoods. Old Bangkok, on the west side of the Chao Phraya River, is the original site of the capital. Old Royal City is on the east side of the river and contains the major tourist attractions, including the Grand Palace, the Wat Pho Temple, and the National Museum. Southeast of Old Royal City is Sam Peng. Sam Peng has a large foreign population, including many Chinese merchants. Further east, Chinatown is another district with a large Chinese population. Chinatown offers many small shops and ethnic restaurants, as well as hotels catering to Chinese businessmen. South of Chinatown is Silom. Silom is the center of the city's financial district, and many of Bangkok's most expensive hotels are located there. Sukhumvit, which used to be considered the outskirts of the city, is northeast of Silom. Sukhumvit is a major tourist area, with many hotels, restaurants, and bars. Sukhumvit is also noted as having the city's best nightlife.
Houses consist mostly of one-or two-story wooden structures built closely together. Most of these homes are overcrowded, and the shortage of housing gets worse every year. Government housing programs barely address this shortage. Some government-sponsored concrete high-rises have been constructed, but the demand for housing continues to grow faster than new housing can be built. To make matters worse, real estate developers focus only on providing homes for middle-and upper-income residents. Squatters occupy unused public land, a practice permitted by the government.
Since the late 1700s, Bangkok has been Thailand's largest and most important city. In 1767, after the Burmese sacked and burned Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam (now named Thailand), the capital was moved down the Chao Phraya River to Thon Buri or Old Bangkok, on the west bank of the river. In 1782 King Rama I (1737–1809;r. 1782–1809), upon ascending to the throne, moved the capital to a village across the river. This move was strategic, putting the wide Chao Phraya River between the capital and the often-invading Burmese. The village across the river was then composed mostly of Chinese traders and was known as Bangkok, which translates as "Village of Wild Plums."
Rama I wanted his new capital to equal the splendor of Ayutthaya, which had served as the country's capital for more than 400 years. By the end of his reign, Bangkok was a thriving city, and King Rama I had established a walled palace complex, the Grand Palace, and a major Buddhist temple, the Wat Phra Kaeo. To fortify the new capital, Rama I ordered the construction of a seven-kilometer-long (four-and-a-half-mile-long), three-meter-high (ten-foot-high) wall along the river, which further protected the city from invasion.
During the reigns of King Rama II (1768–1824; r. 1809–1824) and Rama III (r. 1824–1851), many of the city's Buddhist monasteries (called wats ) were constructed. In addition to their religious functions, the wats served as centers of learning, medicine, and recreation. Major temples included the Wat Arun, the Wat Yan Nawa, and the Wat Pho. During this period, however, the rest of the city was neglected. The kings built few other major public buildings and almost no paved roads. Average citizens relied on a series of interconnected canals (khlongs ) for transportation.
Until the reign of Rama V (1853–1910; r. 1868–1910) public works were not a priority. The king foresaw the importance of the automobile and established a system of roadways and bridges. In addition, Rama V instituted a post and telegraph service, an electric tram service, and the State Railway.
Much of Thailand's history has been a battle for sovereignty, and while the country has suffered through many invasions, Thailand boasts that it is one of the few countries in Asia never conquered and colonized. This point is debatable. During World War II (1939–45), though Thailand was technically allied with the Japanese, troops from Japan controlled much of Thailand and were concentrated in Bangkok.
In the past 20 years, Bangkok has expanded rapidly. During the Vietnam War era, American soldiers used the city as a rest-and-relaxation destination. The city then had a population of 1.5 million, a population that has since ballooned to approximately ten million. The increase in population means congestion and pollution in the city. Air pollution in Bangkok is perhaps the worst in the world, and the overcrowding and lack of planning have impacted everything from transportation to drinking water to housing. In the 1990s, Bangkok had close to one million registered motor vehicles, along with an ever-expanding superhighway system. Most of Bangkok's canals were filled in and paved over to make new roads. This replacement caused parts of the city to sink, and annual flooding has become a problem.
Despite modern problems, however, the city retains much of its ancient charm. Bangkok's colorful markets, historic buildings, and ornate temples attract millions of tourists each year.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (b. 1946) formally rules over a highly centralized government, but real decision-making power in governmental affairs rests with the prime minister. The king signed a new constitution on October 11, 1997.
The city of Bangkok has provincial status, meaning it is run by an elected governor instead of a mayor. Up until 1985, Bangkok's governor and assemblymen were appointed by the central government. However, starting in November 1985, elections were instituted for the first time.
Bangkok is one of the world's most populated and crowded cities, and like most major cities, Bangkok has problems with crime. As Bangkok's population grew in the latter half of the twentieth century, so too did its crime rate. The number of murders, assaults, thefts, and armed robberies all increased. Smuggling is widespread in Bangkok, with drugs, endangered animal products, and stolen antiques all passing through the city.
International pressure has been exerted to urge Thailand to deal with two major criminal problems: child prostitution and the opium drug trade. With prostitution having a semi-legal status in Thailand, advocacy groups have been formed to address childhood prostitution and pornography. As for opium, rural Thailand is one of the world's major growers of poppies, used to make opium, and many nations have been pressuring Thailand to more aggressively combat the drug trade.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Police are responsible for providing law enforcement services for the city and its suburbs. The urban police force is operated by an appointed commissioner.
Bangkok is the center of Thailand's economy and the country's principal port. Bangkok is the country's financial center, home to over one-third of Thailand's banks, as well as the Bangkok Stock Exchange. Thailand's basic unit of currency is the baht, with the exchange rate at approximately 40 baht per U.S.$1.
Most of the factories in Bangkok are small, many of them family-owned. Food processing, textiles, and the production of building materials are the chief manufacturing enterprises. Other industries include cement, electronics, petroleum refining, and tourism.
Bangkok is a major regional city, but it has begun seeking foreign investment in an effort to increase its importance internationally. Recent events, however, have undermined this effort. Bangkok's crime rate remains high, with foreigners often the targets of violence, and widespread corruption continues to plague many business ventures. To make matters worse, the country is suffering through a severe and lingering recession. In the mid-1990s, the Thai economy virtually collapsed, with exports drying up and many banks hurt by bad loans and uncollected debt. Thailand's collapse helped trigger a financial crisis that engulfed nearly all of Asia. In August 1997, the Thai government applied for and received IMF loans. (The IMF, International Monetary Fund, is an organization that promotes worldwide economic stability.) In return for $14 billion of assistance, the country agreed to a series of banking and market reforms.
Being an urban area, Bangkok has few natural resources, with most of its land devoted to development. The Kingdom of Thailand, however, has many natural resources. Its major resources are tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, and fluorite.
Elephants receive considerable attention in Bangkok. Although it is technically illegal to bring elephants into the city, more are showing up on Bangkok's city streets. Because the elephants' natural habitat is being destroyed by development, handlers bring their animals into Bangkok to beg for food. Elephants are popular with tourists but unpopular with city drivers. Many elephants are involved in traffic accidents on Bangkok's overcrowded streets.
Bangkok has many colorful and crowded markets. Booths sell everything from fake Rolex watches to designer clothing. Bangkok's most popular exports are silks, jewelry, celadon pottery, lacquerware, masks, carvings, and antiques—all of which are relatively cheap by Western standards.
Bangkok's largest market is the open-air Weekend Market at Chatuchak Park. The Weekend Market is an authentic Asian-style bazaar. Silom Road has both booths and shops and is crowded almost every night. Throughout Bangkok there are many malls and chain stores. Haggling is common in the traditional Thai markets.
Because of its large school-age population, Bangkok's schools are grossly overcrowded. With too few teachers and schools, education in the city varies greatly, with the standard of education often depending on a student's social class. Children of upper-class parents usually attend private schools, many of which focus on English-language instruction. Poorer students often attend schools associated with Buddhist temples. Education is compulsory for children from the ages of seven to 14.
Bangkok is home to the majority of Thailand's universities. However, in Thailand a Western education is highly prized, and students who can afford to study abroad usually do. The overall literacy rate of the country approaches 95 percent.
13. Health Care
Public health in Thailand improved greatly in the second half of the twentieth century. In the late 1990s the life expectancy for men was 65 years; for women it was 73 years. In 1960 the life expectancy for both men and women had been only 51 years. Much of this increase was due to a successful struggle against malaria, which had once been the number one cause of illness and death. Citizens in Bangkok receive the best health care of anyone in Thailand. This is simply due to the fact that a disproportionate number of health care facilities are concentrated in the Bangkok area.
Of major concern to health officials is the issue of drinking water. Bangkok has the highest access to safe drinking water of any region in the country, but fully 40 percent of Bangkok's residents have little access to uncontaminated public water, forcing many of the city's poor to drink from rainwater pooled in shallow wells or collected from roof drainage. Others resort to drinking from the polluted rivers and canals.
Reported cases of AIDS were on the rise at the end of the twentieth century. Much of this rise was blamed on the fact that prostitution is accepted and widespread in Bangkok.
Thailand's constitution guarantees freedom of the press, and most outside observers agree that the Thai press enjoys a reasonable amount of freedom. Nevertheless, writers and reporters exercise a degree of self-censorship, due to unwritten but very real government constraints. Criticism of the monarchy is especially frowned upon. The majority of Thailand's newspapers are based in Bangkok; most of these are independent and privately owned. The Thai Rath and the Daily News have the largest readerships. Government agencies, including the Thai News Agency, issue many of their own reports.
The Office of the Prime Minister controls radio and television broadcasting. Hours, content, and programs all must be approved by government officials. The National Broadcasting Services of Thailand (NBT) is the official government broadcasting station, focusing on local and international news.
By the 1980s television had become Bangkok's dominant news medium, with nine out of ten households owning at least one television set. Computer and internet use are still mostly confined to the upper classes.
Thailand's national sport is Thai Boxing. Thai boxing combines traditional boxing with martial arts. Matches in Bangkok draw huge crowds, and betting is common in the stands. Besides boxing, Bangkok offers horseracing enthusiasts two tracks with races every Sunday. Soccer is growing in popularity, and Bangkok's National Stadium is host to many important matches.
Lumphini Park is Bangkok's most popular and oldest park. Lumphini is one of the few green spaces in this congested city. Restaurants and bars line the north side of the park, and, although not legal within city limits, elephant trainers often bring their elephants into the park and offer tourists rides for a modest fee.
King Rama IX Royal Park
This park opened in 1987 to commemorate the King Rama IX's sixtieth birthday. The park contains a public park, a water park, and botanical gardens.
Samphran Elephant Grounds & Zoo
Located on the outskirts of Bangkok, this is the best place in Thailand to see elephants. Shows reenact eighteenth-century Thai battles, with the elephants clad in armor. Elephants also perform in a circus and in polo matches.
Massage is one of Bangkok's most popular pastimes. In Thailand, and much of Asia, massage is considered a component of good health. Massage schools and businesses can be found all over the city.
17. Performing Arts
Classical Thai dance is Bangkok's performing art of note. Traditional dance blends a series of controlled gestures and movements with drama. The dancers wear elaborate costumes and masks, and performances are accompanied by woodwind and percussion instruments.
The National Museum
The National Museum is considered to be Southeast Asia's largest and most comprehensive museum. Founded in 1782, the museum's several buildings house artifacts representing more than 10,000 years of history. The museum gives visitors a thorough overview of Thai history and culture.
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace was founded in 1782 when Bangkok was made the nation's capital. It is still surrounded by high white walls that were originally used for protection. This is Thailand's most frequented tourist site. The Palace consists of more than 100 elaborately decorated buildings. Within the Palace grounds is the Wat Phra Kaeo temple, considered one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand.
The Wat Pho
The Wat Pho is one of Bangkok's oldest and largest temples. It is located just south of the Grand Palace. The temple houses the gigantic 35-meter-long (115-foot-long) gold Reclining Buddha. The Wat Pho also served as Thailand's first university.
The Pasteur Institute
The Pasteur Institute is also known as The Snake Farm. The Red Cross runs this farm as a center for snake venom collection. Handlers milk poison from cobras, black mambas, pit vipers, and other dangerous snakes, and then the venom is used to make an antidote for people bitten by poisonous snakes.
Thailand's National Theatre is located on Na Phra Lan Road next to the National Museum. Thai Classical dramas and other types of international arts are periodically staged here. Current programs can be checked at the theatre on weekdays between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. Special exhibition shows of Thai classical dancing and music are held on the last Friday and Saturday of each month.
Royal Ceremonial Barges
The King's royal ceremonial barges are housed in a shed on the west side of the Chao Phraya River, across from the Grand Palace compound. Dating from the early part of the twentieth century, the barges were carved to look like mythical creatures. They are considered a national treasure.
National Art Gallery
This gallery exhibits both modern and traditional Thai art, and it also schedules rotating and traveling exhibitions.
Thailand is one of Southeast Asia's major tourist destinations, and almost all visitors to Thailand pass through Bangkok. In the 1990s, an estimated six to seven million tourists visited Bangkok each year. While Bangkok is famous for its food and wild nightlife, it is probably best known for its history.
Historic buildings and temples are scattered throughout the city. The Grand Palace is considered one of Thailand's most important tourist sites. The Grand Palace dates back to 1782, established when King Rama I moved the capital to Bangkok. Bangkok's famous temples include the Wat Pho and the Wat Traimitr. The Wat Pho temple is home to the 35-meter-long (151-foot-long) Reclining Buddha, and the Wat Traimitr temple houses the world's largest solid-gold Buddha, weighing five metric tons (five-and-a-half tons) and standing three meters (ten feet) high. The Royal Ceremonial Barges are another popular attraction. These elaborately decorated, intricately carved longboats take the form of mythical creatures and are only used by the king on special occasions.
Chinese New Year (a two-day holiday based on a lunar calendar)
Magha Puja (a Buddhist Holiday commemorating the day when 1,250 Buddhist disciples spontaneously heard Buddha preach the cardinal doctrine)
Songkran (the Thai New Year, celebrated by setting birds and fish free)
Visakha Puja (celebrated on the full moon of the sixth lunar month, commemorating Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death. Monk's lead candlelight processions around temples.)
Queen's Birthday (August 12)
Loi Krathong (a time of atonement, celebrated to honor water spirits. After sunset people make their way to a body of water and float candles on small lotus-shaped boats.)
King's Birthday (December 5; Thailand's Royal Elite Guards lead a colorful procession.) Constitution Day
21. Famous Citizens
Bhumibol Adulyadej (b. 1927), highly respected King of Thailand (r. 1946–), born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, considered the embodiment of religion, culture, and history, respected for his skills as a musician and composer, also well known as a painter, sculpture, and photographer.
Queen Sirikit (b. 1932), wife of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, activist for rural women, the conservation of natural resources, and protection of forestlands and endangered animals.
Jim Thompson (b. 1906), an American who moved to Bangkok after World War II, credited with reviving Thailand's silk industry, mysteriously disappeared into the Malaysian jungles in 1967.
Mai Charoenpura (b. 1969), model and actress, as well as one of Thailand's most popular singers.
Venerable P. A. Payutto, Thailand's foremost Buddhist scholar and author, most famous for his book Buddhadhamma (1995).
Bangkok.com. [Online] Available http://www.bangkok.com (accessed October 12, 1999).
Bangkok, Thailand. [Online] Available http://bangkok.thailandtoday.com/index.shtml (accessed April 14, 2000).
CIA, the World Factbook 1999, Thailand. [Online] Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/th.html (accessed October 12, 1999).
Thailand the Big Picture. [Online] Available http://www.nectec.or.th/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
Thailand Travel Information Center. [Online] Available http://www.thaiinfo.com/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
Ploenchit Soi Lang Suan
Phone: (02) 221–6209
United States Embassy
95 Wireless Road
Phone: (02) 252–5040
Tourist Authority of Thailand
372 Bamrung Muang Rd.
Pom Prap, 10100
Phone: (02) 226–0060
Tourist and Convention Bureaus
Tourism Authority of Thailand offices in the United States:
303 E. Wacker Dr., Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 819-3990
3440 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Phone: (213) 382–2353
Bangkok's two major English-language daily newspapers are both available online:
The Bangkok Post. [Online] Available http://www.bangkokpost.com.net/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
The Nation. [Online] Available http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
Bailey, Donna. Thailand. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn, 1992.
Buckley, Michael. Bangkok Handbook. 2nd ed. Chico, CA: Moon Publications, 1995.
Cooper, Robert and Nanthapa Cooper. Culture Shock!: Thailand & How to Survive It. Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 1991.
Hoskin, John. Bangkok. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1991.
McNair, Sylvia. Bangkok. New York: Children's Press, 1999.
Ringis, Rita. Elephants of Thailand in Myth, Art, and Reality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.
Segaller, Denis , Thai Ways. Bangkok: Bangkok Post Books, 1998.
Bangkok (băng´kŏk´), Thai Krung Thep, city (1990 pop. 8,538,610), capital of Thailand and of Bangkok prov., SW Thailand, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, near the Gulf of Thailand. Thailand's largest city and one of the leading cities of Southeast Asia, Bangkok lies in the heart of the country's major commercial rice-growing region. The metropolitan area includes Bangkok proper, the industrial city of Thon Buri on the west bank of the river, and Klongtoi Wharf, c.5 mi (8 km) downstream, which, along with Bangkok's artificial harbor, handles the bulk of Thailand's foreign trade. The city is the hub of a continental Southeast Asian railroad network and has modern highways; congestion on its roads led to the opening of an elevated light-rail system in 1999 and subway system in 2004. Its nearby international airport (opened 2006) is one of the busiest in Asia. Bangkok's once numerous canals were formerly an integral part of its transport system, but development has resulted in many being filled in.
Processed food, wood, and textiles are leading exports. Industrial plants include rice mills, cement factories, sawmills, oil refineries, and shipyards. Textiles, motor vehicles, electrical goods, and food products are also manufactured. The city is a famous jewelry trading center, dealing in silver and bronze ware and precious stones. Ethnic Chinese dominate both commerce and industry in Bangkok, whose population includes sizable Indian, Pakistani, European, and American communities.
The city began as a small trading center and port community serving Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam until its destruction by Burmese invaders in 1767. Thon Buri became the capital in 1769, but in 1782, King Rama I, founder of the present Chakkri dynasty, built his royal palace on the east bank of the river and made Bangkok his capital. The vast, walled Grand Palace complex encompasses the Wat Phra Kaew, the royal chapel housing the sacred image of the Emerald Buddha. There are more than 400 other Buddhist temples in Bangkok. During World War II the city was occupied by the Japanese and was a target of Allied bombing raids. More recently the city has been endangered by subsidence; the sinking is due both to the effects of development (including the depletion of aquifers beneath Bangkok) and to natural geologic process.
Bangkok is home of the regional headquarters of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as well as many other international businesses and organizations. Bangkok's educational and cultural facilities include five universities, a fine arts academy, the national theater, and the national museum, which has a large collection of Thai antiquities. Of particular interest is the daily floating market, in which merchandise is sold aboard boats on canals.