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Categories: Asia Pacific > South East Asia > Thailand > Bangkok


Bangkok is the city of contrasts. This is where ornate golden temples meet an exuberant, colorful nightlife while designer malls and bustling street stalls compete for your attention. It is a city that never seems to sleep and travelers will marvel at the amazing combination of traditional and modern cultures. This is the city to enjoy endless shopping and indulge in exotic gastronomical delights. With an extensive metropolis of style and sophistication, Bangkok can proudly claim to be one of the world's most exciting cities.

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Categories: Asia Pacific > South East Asia > Thailand > Bangkok



Bangkok, Thailand, can soothe or ruffle, and it often does both. While contemplating the sunrise at a temple or monks collecting alms, you'll marvel at what peace can be found in the midst of such a chaotic metropolis.

A cultural hub in Southeast Asia, Bangkok is a collage of urban squalor, gleaming affluence, mass consumerism and pollution. Most certainly, the city will assault your senses. It's fascinating and indulgent, but it requires time and patience.

Comfort of one sort or another is never far away: When your feet tire of wandering through the Grand Palace, head over to neighboring Wat Pho for an hour-long foot massage; if you exhaust your meager supply of Thai words bargaining for souvenirs, pop into an air-conditioned movie theater and take in an English-language film; if you are overwhelmed by the density of people along Sampeng Lane in Chinatown, drop into a coffee shop or open-air restaurant and enjoy a cool drink; if you are looking for excitement, you can watch Muay Thai (kickboxing) at Lumpini Boxing Stadium or hang around with backpackers at the bars on Khao San Road.

Upon arrival, you may find the constant din shocking, the geography impossible (no map does justice to the city's meandering lanes), and the traffic absolutely unbelievable. But stay more than a night or two and the city's bewildering kaleidoscope begins to make sense. Although the cacophony will never melt away, soon it will transmit the excitement and vibrant charm of one of the world's greatest cities.

Must See or Do

Sights—The Grand Palace; Wat Pho; Chatuchak Market; the sunset over Wat Arun; the Chao Mae Tubtim.

Museums—The National Museum; the Royal Barges Museum; Jim Thompson House and Museum; the BACC (Bangkok Art and Culture Centre); Kamthieng House.

Memorable Meals—A dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River and canals aboard the Manohra; seafood and fabulous views at Supatra River House; fine Japanese food at Koi; pad thai, the country's quintessential noodle dish; delicious street food at the many food stalls in Chinatown; award-winning Thai cuisine at Nahm.

Late Night—Jazz at the Saxophone Pub and Restaurant or Brown Sugar; eating at one of the top international restaurants on the trendy Soi Thonglor; bar-hopping along Sukhumvit's bustling Soi 11; hanging out with the backpackers in the bars on Khao San Road; a taste of the risque nightlife in Patpong or Soi Cowboy.

Walks—Traversing Sukhumvit Road; exploring the little shops of Chinatown; strolling through Lumpini Park in early morning; exploring the green oasis of Bang Kra Jao.

Especially for Kids—Venom-milking demonstrations at Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute Snake Farm; Siam Ocean World.

Bangkok Travel Agents


Old Bangkok sits on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. It encompasses many government buildings, as well as important landmarks such as the Grand Palace, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).

Many businesses and hotels are located in the city center, east and southeast of Old Bangkok in the Silom and Sukhumvit areas. The Sukhumvit Road district is the tourist heart of the city, with many fine restaurants, department stores, world-class business hotels such as the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, and the city's hippest bars and clubs. Nightlife thrives in Sukhumvit and Silom (Silom is where you'll find Patpong, the infamous red-light district). Around the intersection of Rama I and Phayathai roads is Bangkok's major shopping hub with many blocks of shops.

Another area for posh hotels and fine shopping is along the river north of Thaksin Bridge; look for the River City Shopping Complex, a great source of Asian antiques.

Be aware that some addresses include a soi number at the end. A soi is a side street or alley. In such cases, the first numbers usually indicate a street address, followed by a street name and then the soi number. Example: 21/3 Sukhumvit 11 would mean that the building 21/3 is off Sukhumvit Road and down Soi 11. You may also see this written as 21/3 Sukhumvit Soi 11. Outside the center, "road" is written on the signs as thanon, for example Thanon Sriyan. Don't look for consistency in spelling of street names or tourist spots—there are no hard and fast rules for transliterating Thai into English. For example, you'll soon find out that Rajadamri Road and Ratchadamri Road are one and the same, as are Chitlom and Chid Lom, and Triamit and Tri Mitr.


Until the late 1700s, the area now known as Bangkok was a small village across the river from the then-capital of Thonburi. In 1782, under the threat of a Burmese attack, the capital and its inhabitants moved to the village, which was named Krung Thep. (The Burmese attack never came.)
It was not until the late 1800s that Bangkok took off as a trade center in the region.

Bangkok's rise as a trading power owed much to the enterprising King Mongkut and his son King Chulalongkorn, who both developed relations with the West. By positioning itself as a Western ally, Thailand was the only country in the region never colonized, and to this day, the country has a mutually beneficial relationship with the West.

After a revolution in 1932, Thailand's monarchs lost their absolute power as the government adopted a constitutional monarchy. After protests brought down a military government in 1992, the military stayed out of politics, and a constitution promulgated in 1997 was seen as a major step toward democratic rule.

In the 1960s, soldiers on leave from the Vietnam War flooded into nearby Thailand, using the country as a place for rest and recuperation. In the decades that followed, a significant economic boom and the development of a strong tourist industry transformed Bangkok into a bustling, smoggy, skyscraper-filled metropolis.

Bangkok spent two decades trying to recover from major health and financial crises. The HIV/AIDS explosion in the 1980s hit Thailand especially hard because of the widespread prostitution throughout the country. Likewise, the Thai economy suffered a violent shock in 1997, when the national currency lost much of its value.

Thailand's successful efforts to fight HIV/AIDS have been recognized internationally, and the economic woes of the 1997 crash were recovered from, though development has not returned to the booming growth rates of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Tourism has quickly become one of the country's chief sources of foreign capital.

In September 2006, the military ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai government in a bloodless coup d'etat. In late 2006 and early 2007, the military-appointed government wrote a new constitution. In December 2007, in a move to return the country to democracy, a general election was held and was won by the People's Power Party (PPP), led by Samak Sundaravej and sympathetic to deposed Prime Minister Thaksin. Samak won the election, but not with an overall majority. A coalition government led by the PPP was formed.

Thaksin returned to Thailand in 2008 but fled again. Violent demonstrations and court rulings led to Samak's dismissal. The Thai parliament elected Somchai Wongsawat (PPP) as prime minister, which led to an escalation between Thaksin's supporters (sporting red shirts) and anti-Thaksin royalists (yellow shirts). Thailand's Constitutional Court found the ruling PPP guilty of electoral fraud on 2 December 2008 and the party was dissolved, ending Somchai's term. Shortly afterward, protestors blocked Bangkok airports, leaving travelers stranded and causing Thailand's winter tourism season (typically its high season) to suffer. Unfortunately, the situation remains at least partly unresolved.

In 2010, violence flared again after red-shirt protesters set up stockades in central Bangkok that were eventually smashed in by the Thai military. During the protests and the military crackdown, there was street-to-street fighting and a large department store, Central World, was partly gutted by fire (although it has since re-opened). Nearly 100 people, including some foreign journalists, died. While the protests were removed, the underlying issues remain unaddressed.

In late 2013 and early 2014, a series of protracted demonstrations and sit-ins by opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, and her Pheu Thai Party caused severe disruption in Bangkok. An election held in February 2014 was also boycotted by the opposition.

This crisis ended in 2014 with another coup d'etat, the second in a decade. The National Council for Peace and Order, a military junta headed by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, then led Thailand. Opponents claim civil and political rights were restricted.

The much loved King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, died at 88 years of age on 13 October 2016 after a long illness. A year-long mourning followed where the King's body lay in state in the Grand Palace and the Thai people led a somber life. The king's body was cremated over a five-day period in late October 2017 and mourning officially ended on 30 October 2017.

The king's son officially ruled the country from 13 October 2016, but it was not until 4 May 2019 that an elaborate, globally telecast coronation ceremony was held, where he became King Maha Vajiralongkorn (King Rama X). Just prior to the coronation, his marriage to his Palace Security Chief was registered, making her the official consort and Queen Suthida.

The referendum and adoption of Thailand's current constitution occurred under the junta's rule. In 2019, the junta agreed to schedule a general election. With the results in, Parliament convened in May 2019 and on 5 June 2019 voted in Prayut as the nation's prime minister.

Visitors to Bangkok should work to remain informed of developments and take heed of travel advisories issued by their country's embassy.


Bangkok has the longest official city name in the world: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amorn Rattanakosin Mahintara Yudthaya Mahadilok Pohp Noparat Rajathanee Bureerom Udomrajniwes Mahasatarn Amorn Pimarn Avaltarnsatit Sakatattiya Visanukram Prasit. Usually Thais refer to it as Krung Thep, meaning "city of angels."

Bangkok has one of the world's largest Chinatowns. According to local superstition, the long winding Yaowarat Road resembles a dragon's body and is therefore an auspicious place to conduct business. More than 130 gold shops are found there.

Spread across 8 acres/3 hectares and seating up to 5,000 guests, the Royal Dragon restaurant in Bangkok was the largest restaurant in the world until it was bumped off the top spot by a restaurant in Syria. Its 1,000-strong staff is capable of turning out 3,000 dishes per hour.

Wat Pho, thought to be one of the city's oldest temples, houses a massive reclining Buddha. Covered in gold leaf, it is 151 ft/46 m long and 49 ft/15 m high.

It wasn't until 1941 that the Thai Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram declared that 1 January would become the official start of the New Year. Today, both 1 January and 13-15 April, the period of the old New Year known as Songkran, are public holidays.

Suvarnabhumi International Airport was built on a marsh called Cobra Swamp 15 mi/24 km east of Bangkok. The name Suvarnabhumi, chosen by the King of Thailand, means "Golden Land."

Chatuchak Market covers 27 acres/11 hectares, making it one of the largest markets in the world.

Traditionally, each Thai person has a birth color, depending on what day they were born. Born on a Monday, the king is represented by the color yellow, hence the yellow flags flying atop almost every wall and building in the city.


Because of traffic and limited capacity at Bangkok's main port, most cruise ships dock in Laem Chabang, an industrial port city about 80 mi/125 km south of Bangkok. From there, companies offer shore excursions into the capital, usually via air-conditioned bus, a journey that takes about two hours each way, depending on traffic. Smaller ships dock directly at Khlong Toei Port, also known as Bangkok Port, on the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok's main waterway.

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