Bangkok, Thai Krung Thep, is Thailand’s capital city and largest port. It is Thailand’s cultural and economic hub and the only cosmopolitan metropolis in a nation of tiny towns and villages.
About 25 miles (40 km) from the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok is situated on the delta of the Chao Phraya River. Krung Thep on the east bank and Thon Buri on the west were the two municipalities that made up its previous division; they were connected by a number of bridges. The two were combined in 1971 to form a city-province with a single municipal administration. In 1972, the city and its two neighboring provinces were combined to form Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok Metropolis). Temples, industries, businesses, and residences are positioned side by side along the city’s highways and canals in this lively, packed metropolis. It is a popular tourist destination as well, known for its plethora of cultural activities and a lively nightlife that includes a thriving sex industry.
According to one view, the name Bangkok, which is frequently used by Westerners, comes from a name that was used before the city was built: the hamlet or district (bang) of wild plums (makok). The first part of the lyrical and lengthy official name of Thailand’s capital, Krung Thep, is translated as “the City of Gods,” “the Great City,” “the Residence of the Emerald Buddha,” “the Impregnable City (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra,” “the Grand Capital of the World Endowed with Nine Precious Gems,” “the Happy City Abounding in Enormous Royal Palaces Which Resemble the Heavenly Abode Where Krung Thep is frequently translated as “City of Angels” when written in shorthand.
Climate The average annual precipitation is 60 inches (1,500 mm), with four-fifths of that falling in brief, heavy downpours in the late afternoons of the rainy season, which lasts from mid-May through September; the dry season, which lasts from December to February, lasts for the same period. The average monthly relative humidity ranges from less than 60% in the cold season to over 80% in the rainy season.
Since the 1960s, the government has attempted to control the tremendous growth of modern Bangkok through a number of master plans. The once-walled-in city center has long since undergone extensive development. Later expansion has spread into the nearby agricultural areas, far outside the administrative bounds. As the inner city has become more institutional and commercial and the outer city more residential and industrial, some districts have developed into useful units. Wats, which are walled Buddhist temples and monasteries that are frequently lavishly embellished, are important hubs for the city’s religious, cultural, and even commercial activity.
Typical tourist destinations
The city’s administrative and commercial areas are located in their traditional locations. Government offices were first located inside the Grand Palace’s walled compound in the 18th century, but by the late 19th century, they had moved to neighboring palaces and homes. The bureaucracy then grew into surrounding residences and office buildings in colonial or Thai architecture along Ratchadamnoen Road. In order to accommodate the growing need for space, multistory buildings have been constructed, overcrowding the conventional government facilities. The military region is made up of a number of sizable camps to the north and west of the National Assembly Hall.
Chinese traders and businessmen who had been residing at the site migrated a short distance southern to the region now known as Sam Peng when Bangkok became the country’s capital in the 18th century and its citadel was moved to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. At initially, business was conducted in one-story thatched and wood homes. Many streets were lined with two-story masonry shop-houses during the early 1900s. There are now rows of shop-houses in this constantly growing neighborhood, some of which are five stories or higher. While industry is centered at Sam Rong, south of the port, warehouses line both banks of the river just south of Sam Peng. Pat Pong Road has a thriving nightlife. Silom Road and the banking district are adjacent.
A variety of goods and cuisines are sold every day from boats on the canals close to Wat Sai in the Floating Market. Previously, a number of these marketplaces and countless door-to-door floating sellers provided for the everyday necessities of the city’s inhabitants.
Small, detached, one- or two-story timber dwellings or row homes make up most homes. Because there are far too few of them to accommodate the growing population, the majority of them are crowded. Government initiatives alone will not be adequate to address the housing shortfall, thus the World Bank has provided funding for the construction of low-income housing projects like the Din Daeng and Hua Mak complexes. Squatters are permitted to inhabit vacant public land by the government. Squatters are few in number, and the majority of them are gathered in the Khlong Toei neighborhood close to the harbor.
Housing in the city grew quickly starting in the 1960s. Over 100,000 additional units were erected from the middle of the 1970s to the middle of the 1980s. In inner-city regions, renewal was also prioritized. Homes for middle-class families are provided by private real estate developers, and many government organizations also provide housing for their staff. Homes could be crammed onto tiny lots with bare-bones sanitary facilities. The edges of the city have seen the unplanned expansion of these developments.
Luxury housing typically takes the shape of spacious, contemporary, two-story masonry buildings situated in private complexes and outfitted with separate servants’ rooms and kitchens, mostly for the wealthy international population. Perhaps the wealthiest neighborhood is Bang Kapi. Condominiums, hotels, and office buildings in the sky are becoming more prevalent.
The Bangkok population
The population’s standout demographic traits—its youth and the low percentage of non-Thais—can be attributed to both the country’s strong rate of natural population growth and the stringent international immigration restrictions put in place following World War II. Approximately 25 percent of the population is under 20. Following the implementation of a birth control program, the birth rate has decreased. Additionally, there has been a significant growth in the net in-migration of young adults, especially females, and as a result, migrants from all regions of Thailand now make up more than 25% of the city’s resident population.
Thai people make up the majority of the city’s population. There are considerable groups of other Asians, North Americans, and Europeans, but the Chinese make up by far the majority of the minority population. Despite being small, the immigrant communities have a tendency to reside in particular places. Chinese people tend to congregate in the Sam Peng commercial district, while Indians congregate around mosques in the Wang Burapha neighborhood and Western and Japanese people live in the wealthy, up-to-date eastern part of the city.
The Chinese integrate into city life the most deeply of all the immigrant ethnic groups. Intermarriage happens frequently, and they seem to assimilate easily. Many Chinese families adopt Thai surnames and become naturalized citizens; their descendants are Thai nationals.
Although there are many factories in the urban region, the majority run on a small scale. Larger plants are situated close to the port, close to the warehouses that hold imported goods. Food processing, textile manufacture, electronic equipment assembly, and the creation of building materials make up the bulk of manufacturing. Beginning in the middle of the 1970s, the government placed a strong emphasis on finding industrial parks outside of Bangkok in order to ease traffic in the city. Nearly half of all businesses are situated in the metropolitan area, where around one-third of the nation’s output is created. Bangkok today relies heavily on tourism as a key source of income.
About one-third of the nation’s banking institutions are located in Finance Bangkok, which also holds three-fourths of all deposits. The city also houses the Board of Investment, the Securities Exchange of Thailand, and the Industrial Finance Corporation of Thailand.
The initial foundation of Bangkok’s transportation system was maritime travel. The term “Venice of the East” refers to the city’s network of canals that link to the river. But when the automobile was invented, everything changed dramatically. There was a shortage of road space as the number of vehicles in the city expanded, including three-wheeled taxis, personal automobiles, and buses that were color-coded according to the service area.
The majority of the smaller and a few of the larger canals were filled in as a first step to solving the issue. The waterway system had helped to drain the swamped delta, so this turned out to be more than just an aesthetic loss as flooding in the lower-lying areas of the city increased. The lack of space issue was also not resolved by the measure. Movement became increasingly challenging as traffic got backed up. In order to address these issues, the city inaugurated the Skytrain elevated rail system in 1999 and established an authority to manage bus transit in the 1970s.
From the metropolis, communication channels extend outward. Roads connect Laos and Chiang Mai in the north, Kampuchea in the east, and Malaysia in the south. Rail connections exist to Chiang Mai in the north, Laos and Malaysia’s borders, Ubon Ratchathani and the border with Cambodia in the east. One of the busiest airports in Southeast Asia is Bangkok International Airport.
Bangkok’s port, situated at Khlong Toei on the Chao Phraya River, is linked to the ocean by a channel that was carved out of the sandbar at the river’s mouth, some 17 winding miles (27 km) downstream. Nearly all of the country’s imports and exports are handled by the port.
Social and administrative conditions
A governor and deputies oversee the administration of Bangkok Metropolis’ government. Numerous governmental organizations are in charge of development. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific has its headquarters in Bangkok (ESCAP). Other UN organizations with offices in the city include the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (World Bank).
The majority of the city’s water supply is obtained via purifying facilities and is obtained from deep wells and the Chao Phraya. Pumping water from wells has enhanced flooding in some areas of the city by causing subsidence. Many people use contaminated streams to get their water. Sewers, storm drains, and canals are examples of sanitation infrastructure; some sizable structures have septic tanks.
More over half of the nation’s electricity is used in Bangkok.
Most of the nation’s hospitals and clinics are located in Bangkok. There are government homes for the elderly, the crippled, and the impoverished, as well as special facilities for people with STIs and tuberculosis. Vaccines are provided by the Pasteur Institute and WHO. The number of family planning clinics has increased recently. Prostitutes and drug users in Bangkok experienced a rise in AIDS incidence in the 1990s. The government has implemented further steps to stop the spread of HIV infection, including the establishment of dedicated wards in hospitals to treat persons suffering from the condition.
Bangkok has a large population of people who are old enough to attend school, which strains its educational infrastructure. Too few schools exist, and the quality of education varies. But the rate of literacy is really high. On the grounds of monasteries are many of the government-built preschool and elementary schools. The children of the rich attend private primary and secondary schools established by foreign religious missions. Chinese elementary schools and night schools are widely available privately. There are many universities in the city. One of the oldest and biggest temples in Bangkok, Wat Pho has long been a traditional center of learning and is frequently referred to as the city’s first university.
The wat is Bangkok’s primary cultural landmark. These temples, which number more than 300, are outstanding specimens of Thai design. Walls contain the majority. A lot of wats have leased out a section of their property for private or public use.
The National Museum is home to royal artifacts from the sixth century AD as well as prehistoric and Bronze Age artifacts. The National Library and the Thai National Documentation Department are both located in the city. The country’s largest collection of Thai religious paintings from the 17th century may be seen at Jim Thompson’s Thai House, which has the name of a U.S. businessman and enthusiast of Thai culture. Along with samples of Thai and Chinese pottery and porcelain, there are collections of Dvaravati and Khmer sculpture. To honor the king’s 60th birthday, the 200-acre (80-hectare) King Rama IX Royal Park and its magnificent botanical gardens were inaugurated in 1987.
The majority of the nation’s weekly and monthly publications, as well as all of the daily newspapers, are printed in Bangkok. Newspapers are published in Chinese, Thai, and English. Military and government organizations control radio and television. Bangkok is home to the majority of the country’s radio stations as well as all of its television stations. Although most shows are in Thai, there are a few exceptional ones that are also in English and Chinese. Movies are incredibly well-liked. Thai cinema is a vibrant business, although movies are also imported.
The parks host fairs, festivals, and “kite-fighting” competitions. Professional boxing matches utilizing Muai Thai, a highly ceremonial form of boxing, are held at the Ratchadamnoen and Lumphini stadiums. The Silapakorn National Theatre performs theatre, music, and dancing.