Context of Bangkok

Bangkok, officially known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon and colloquially as Krung Thep, is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in central Thailand and has an estimated population of 10.539 million as of 2020, 15.3 percent of the country's population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) lived within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region at the 2010 census, making Bangkok an extreme primate city, dwarfing Thailand's other urban centres in both size and importance to the national economy.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew and became the site of two capital cities, Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of the modernization of Siam, later renamed Thailand, during the late-19th century, as the country fac...Read more

Bangkok, officially known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon and colloquially as Krung Thep, is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in central Thailand and has an estimated population of 10.539 million as of 2020, 15.3 percent of the country's population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) lived within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region at the 2010 census, making Bangkok an extreme primate city, dwarfing Thailand's other urban centres in both size and importance to the national economy.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew and became the site of two capital cities, Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of the modernization of Siam, later renamed Thailand, during the late-19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was at the centre of Thailand's political struggles throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule, and underwent numerous coups and several uprisings. The city, incorporated as a special administrative area under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in 1972, grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s and now exerts a significant impact on Thailand's politics, economy, education, media and modern society.

The Asian investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s led many multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Bangkok. The city is now a regional force in finance, business and pop culture. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and has emerged as a centre for the arts, fashion, and entertainment. The city is known for its street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its red-light districts. The Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. Bangkok is among the world's top tourist destinations, and has been named the world's most visited city consistently in several international rankings.

Bangkok's rapid growth coupled with little urban planning has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure. Despite an extensive expressway network, an inadequate road network and substantial private car usage have led to chronic and crippling traffic congestion, which caused severe air pollution in the 1990s. The city has since turned to public transport in an attempt to solve the problem, operating eight urban rail lines and building other public transit, but congestion still remains a prevalent issue.

More about Bangkok

Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 5676648
  • Area 1568
History
  • An engraved map titled "A Map of Bancock", showing a walled settlement on the west of a river, and a fort on the east 
    Map of 17th-century Bangkok, from Simon de la Loubère's Du Royaume de Siam

    The history of Bangkok dates at least back to the early 15th century, to when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, under the rule of Ayutthaya.[1] Because of its strategic location near the mouth of the river, the town gradually increased in importance. Bangkok initially served as a customs outpost with forts on both sides of the river, and was the site of a siege in 1688 in which the French were expelled from Siam. After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese in 1767, the newly crowned King Taksin established his capital at the town, which became the base of the Thonburi Kingdom. In 1782, King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) succeeded Taksin, moved the capital to the eastern bank's Rattanakosin Island, thus founding the Rattanakosin Kingdom. The City Pillar was erected on 21 April 1782, which is regarded as the date of foundation of Bangkok as the capital.[2]

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    An engraved map titled "A Map of Bancock", showing a walled settlement on the west of a river, and a fort on the east 
    Map of 17th-century Bangkok, from Simon de la Loubère's Du Royaume de Siam

    The history of Bangkok dates at least back to the early 15th century, to when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, under the rule of Ayutthaya.[1] Because of its strategic location near the mouth of the river, the town gradually increased in importance. Bangkok initially served as a customs outpost with forts on both sides of the river, and was the site of a siege in 1688 in which the French were expelled from Siam. After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese in 1767, the newly crowned King Taksin established his capital at the town, which became the base of the Thonburi Kingdom. In 1782, King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) succeeded Taksin, moved the capital to the eastern bank's Rattanakosin Island, thus founding the Rattanakosin Kingdom. The City Pillar was erected on 21 April 1782, which is regarded as the date of foundation of Bangkok as the capital.[2]

    Bangkok's economy gradually expanded through international trade, first with China, then with Western merchants returning in the early-to-mid 19th century. As the capital, Bangkok was the centre of Siam's modernization as it faced pressure from Western powers in the late-19th century. The reigns of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, r. 1851–68) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, r. 1868–1910) saw the introduction of the steam engine, printing press, rail transport and utilities infrastructure in the city, as well as formal education and healthcare. Bangkok became the centre stage for power struggles between the military and political elite as the country abolished absolute monarchy in 1932.[3]

     
    Engraving of the city from British diplomat John Crawfurd's embassy in 1822

    As Thailand allied with Japan in World War II, Bangkok was subjected to Allied bombing, but rapidly grew in the post-war period as a result of US aid and government-sponsored investment. Bangkok's role as a US military R&R destination boosted its tourism industry as well as firmly establishing it as a sex tourism destination. Disproportionate urban development led to increasing income inequalities and migration from rural areas into Bangkok; its population surged from 1.8 million to 3 million in the 1960s.[3]

    Following the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, Japanese businesses took over as leaders in investment, and the expansion of export-oriented manufacturing led to growth of the financial market in Bangkok.[3] Rapid growth of the city continued through the 1980s and early 1990s, until it was stalled by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. By then, many public and social issues had emerged, among them the strain on infrastructure reflected in the city's notorious traffic jams. Bangkok's role as the nation's political stage continues to be seen in strings of popular protests, from the student uprisings in 1973 and 1976, anti-military demonstrations in 1992, and frequent street protests since 2006, including those by groups opposing and supporting former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from 2006 to 2013, and a renewed student-led movement in 2020.[4]

    Administration of the city was first formalized by King Chulalongkorn in 1906, with the establishment of Monthon Krung Thep Phra Maha Nakhon (มณฑลกรุงเทพพระมหานคร) as a national subdivision. In 1915, the monthon was split into several provinces, the administrative boundaries of which have since further changed. The city in its current form was created in 1972 with the formation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), following the merger of Phra Nakhon province on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya and Thonburi province on the west during the previous year.[2]

    ^ Cite error: The named reference Tipawan was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b Cite error: The named reference 200 years was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b c Baker & Pongpaichit 2005, pp. 37–41, 45, 52–71, 149–150, 162, 199–204. ^ Beech, Hannah; Suhartono, Muktita (14 October 2020). "As Motorcade Rolls By, Thai Royal Family Glimpses the People's Discontent". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 14 October 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
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Stay safe
  • Stay safe

    Given its size, Bangkok is surprisingly safe, with violent crimes like mugging and robbery unusual. One of the biggest dangers are motorbikes who ride on pavements at speed, go through red lights, undertake buses as they stop to let passengers off and generally drive far too fast especially through stationary traffic. If you are going to hire a bike, make sure you have insurance in case you are injured. You may be the world's best driver but you'll meet many of the world's worst drivers in Thailand.

    Bangkok does have more than its fair share of scams, and many individuals in the tourist business do not hesitate to overcharge unwary visitors. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to decline all offers made by someone who appears to be a friendly local giving a hapless tourist some local advice. Short-changing tourists is reasonably common as well, don't hesitate to complain if you are not given the correct change.

    Never get in a tuk-tuk if someone else is trying to get you into one. Most Bangkok locals do not approach foreigners without an ulterior motive.

    Scams

    What to do if you fall for the gem scam

    As long as you're still in Thailand, it's not too late. Contact the Tourist Authority of Thailand, ☏ +66 2 694-1222 or the Tourist Police, ☏ 1155 immediately, file a police report, and return to the store to claim a refund — they must, by law, return 80%. If your gems have been mailed, contact the Bangkok Mail Centre, ☏ +66 2 215-0966 (-195) immediately and ask them to track your package; they'll find it if you act fast, and know the name, address and date it was mailed.

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    Stay safe

    Given its size, Bangkok is surprisingly safe, with violent crimes like mugging and robbery unusual. One of the biggest dangers are motorbikes who ride on pavements at speed, go through red lights, undertake buses as they stop to let passengers off and generally drive far too fast especially through stationary traffic. If you are going to hire a bike, make sure you have insurance in case you are injured. You may be the world's best driver but you'll meet many of the world's worst drivers in Thailand.

    Bangkok does have more than its fair share of scams, and many individuals in the tourist business do not hesitate to overcharge unwary visitors. As a rule of thumb, it is wise to decline all offers made by someone who appears to be a friendly local giving a hapless tourist some local advice. Short-changing tourists is reasonably common as well, don't hesitate to complain if you are not given the correct change.

    Never get in a tuk-tuk if someone else is trying to get you into one. Most Bangkok locals do not approach foreigners without an ulterior motive.

    Scams

    What to do if you fall for the gem scam

    As long as you're still in Thailand, it's not too late. Contact the Tourist Authority of Thailand, ☏ +66 2 694-1222 or the Tourist Police, ☏ 1155 immediately, file a police report, and return to the store to claim a refund — they must, by law, return 80%. If your gems have been mailed, contact the Bangkok Mail Centre, ☏ +66 2 215-0966 (-195) immediately and ask them to track your package; they'll find it if you act fast, and know the name, address and date it was mailed.

    You should always be on the look-out for scammers, especially in major tourist areas. There are dozens of scams in Bangkok, but by far the most widely practiced is the gem scam. Always beware of tuk-tuk drivers offering all-day tours for prices as low as 10 baht. You may indeed be taken on a full-day tour, but you will end up only visiting one gem and souvenir shop after another. Don't buy any products offered by pushy salespeople — the "gems" are pretty much always worthless pieces of cut glass and the suits are of deplorable quality. The tuk-tuk driver gets a commission if you buy something — and fuel coupons even if you don't. Unless the idea of travelling by tuk-tuk appeals to you, it's almost always cheaper, more comfortable and less hassle to take a metered taxi.

    Be highly skeptical when an English-speaking Thai at a popular tourist attraction approaches you out of the blue, telling that your intended destination is closed or offering discount admissions. Temples are almost always free (the main exceptions are Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Pho) and open just about every day of the year. Anyone telling you otherwise, even if they have an official-looking identification card, is most likely out to scam you, especially if they suggest a tuk-tuk ride to some alternate sights to see until the sight re-opens. At paid admission sites, verify the operating hours at the ticket window.

     
    Tuk-tuks in Bangkok

    If you entered one of these tuk-tuks, touts will often drop you off at a certain place, such as a genuine Buddhist temple. Here you will find a man that claims to be an official, and he guides you in a certain direction. There you will find another "official" who also claims that a certain attraction is closed. This way, a tourist hears the same statement by multiple people, and is more eager to believe that his or her intended destination indeed is closed. Never get involved with these scammers or believe any of their statements.

    When getting a taxi, it is a good idea to hail a moving taxi from the main road, or to walk a short distance out of a major tourist area before looking for one. This is no guarantee of honesty, but greatly increases your chances of finding an honest driver, of which there are plenty in Bangkok, even if it sometimes seems that every driver is on the make. There are some taxi drivers who switch off their meters, and insist on an unreasonable price. Most of the untrustworthy drivers are the ones standing still in tourist areas. Another important rule of thumb is to insist on the meter for taxis and agree on a price in advance for tuk-tuks. If they refuse, or quote unreasonable prices, just walk out and get a different one as they're rarely in short supply. The Thai phrase to ask a driver to use the meter is mee-TOE, khap if you're male and mee-TOE, kha if you're female.

    Beware of tuk-tuk or taxi drivers who approach you speaking good English or with an "I ♥ farang" sign, especially those who mention or take you to a tailor shop (or any kind of business). They are paid by inferior tailor shops to bring tourists there to be subjected to high pressure sales techniques. If at any point your transportation brings you somewhere you didn't intend or plan to go, walk away immediately, ignore any entreaties to the contrary, and find another taxi or tuk-tuk.

    In general, never ask a taxi driver for a recommendation for something. They will likely take you to a dubious place where they get a commission. In particular, do not ask a taxi driver for a restaurant recommendation. An infamous place taxi drivers take unsuspecting tourists is Somboon D, which is a terrible seafood restaurant in a seedy area under the train tracks on Makkasan Road (☏ +66 2 6527-7667). A typical meal there costs 800 baht per person and it comes with little seafood, no service and complaints are not taken by the management.

    Also beware of private bus companies offering direct trips from Bangkok to other cities with "VIP" buses. There are a lot of scams performed by these private bus companies. The so-called direct VIP trips may end up changing three or four uncomfortable minibuses to the destination, and the 10-11-hour trip may well turn into 17–18 hr. Instead, try to book public Transport Co. buses from the main bus terminals. It's worth the extra shoe-leather, as there have been reports of robberies on private buses as well.

    Go-go bars

    Bangkok is known for its go-go bars and the prostitution that comes along with it. Some aspects of prostitution are illegal (e.g. soliciting, pimping), but enforcement is rare, and brothels are common. It's not illegal to pay for sex or to pay a "barfine" (a fee the bar collects if you want to take an employee away).

    The age of consent in Thailand is 15, but is 18 for prostitutes. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh. All adult Thais must carry an identity card, which will state the year of their birth according to the Buddhist calendar. Many hotels retain the ID cards of prostitutes for the duration of their visit. Whilst most prostitutes are employed by bars or similar businesses, some are "freelancers". Petty theft and other problems, such as slipping the customer sleep drugs, are allegedly more common with these freelancers (although still relatively rare). HIV and AIDS awareness is better than it used to be, but infection statistics among entertainment industry workers remain high; freelancers are the highest risk group. Almost all sex workers insist on using condoms.

    While walking in go-go bar areas is generally safe, you have to be cautious of touts who try to drag you into the upstairs bars with offers of ping-pong shows and 100-baht beer. The beer may well be 100 baht, but the "show" you'll be treated to will be 1,000 baht or more. The rule of thumb is that if you cannot see inside from street level, avoid the establishment.

    Animal abuse

    Elephants are a large part of Thailand's tourist business, and the smuggling and mistreatment of elephants for tourist attractions is a widespread practice. Be aware that elephants are often separated from their mothers at a young age to be cruelly trained under captivity for the rest of their lives. It is advised to take an elephant ride only at animal friendly organisations.

    A depressingly common sight on the congested streets of Bangkok is elephant begging. During night hours, mahouts (trainers) with lumbering elephants approach tourists to feed the creatures bananas or take a photo with them for a fee. The elephants are brought to the city to beg in this way because they are out of work and are mistreated and visibly distressed under the conditions of the city. Please avoid supporting this cruelty by rejecting the mahouts as they offer you bananas to feed the elephants. This is especially common in Silom and Sukhumvit.

    Due to its location, lax laws, and resources, many illegal animal products come through Bangkok. Rare and endangered species are often sold at markets for pets, especially at Chatuchak, and many other animal products are sold as luxury items. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, ivory, talons, dried sea creatures (such as starfish), fur, feathers, teeth, wool, and other products since they are most likely the result of illegal poaching, and buying them contributes greatly to animal endangerment and abuse.

    Political unrest

    Thai politics are a rough sport and when tensions boil over, protests in Bangkok inevitably ensue and can turn violent. While tourists are rarely if ever targeted, in 2008 one faction managed to close down both of Bangkok's airports for a week, wrecking many travel plans.

    The latest round of tension kicked off in 2020 when the reformist Future Forward Party was banned, sparking mass protests by young protesters opposed to the military junta and, even more controversially, the Thai monarchy itself. Hundreds were arrested and many charged with crimes including sedition and lèse-majesté, with one protester handed a sentence of 87 years in jail. While the COVID situation put a damper on the protests, the underlying tensions are far from resolved. Follow the independent press for the newest political developments and stay away from demonstrations.

    Food and water

    As elsewhere in Thailand, be careful with what you eat. Outside of major tourist hotels and resorts, stay away from raw leafy vegetables, egg-based dressings like mayonnaise, unpackaged ice cream and minced meat as hot weather tends to make food go bad faster. In short, stick to boiled, baked, fried or peeled goods.

    Tap water in Bangkok is said to be safe when it comes out the plant, but unfortunately the plumbing along the way often is not, so it's wise to avoid drinking the stuff, even in hotels. Any water served to you in good restaurants will at least be boiled, but it's better to order sealed bottles instead, which are available everywhere at low prices.

    Take care with ice, which may be made with tap water of questionable potability as above. Some residents claim that ice with round holes is made by commercial ice makers who purify their water; others state that it is wise not to rely on that claim.

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Where can you sleep near Bangkok ?

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