Bangkok City Guide & Overview
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and by far its biggest city with an estimated population of approximately twelve million. Bangkok is among Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities. Bangkok was founded in 1782 by the 1st monarch of the present Chakri dynasty. Bangkok is a national treasure house and Thailand’s spiritual, cultural, governmental, commercial, educational and politic centre.
Bangkok is nowadays the country’s spiritual, cultural, politic, commercial and educational hub. It covers up a region of more than 1,500 square kms, and it’s home to approximately 10 million people or more than 10% of the country’s population. Over the last few decades, Thailand’s capital city, Bangkok, has changed into a modern, exciting and sophisticated city. It offers to visitors not only the cosmopolitan amenities they would expect from other big cities, but also a unique treasure trove of cultural attractions.
Thailand, in the heart of Southeast Asia, was never colonised and thus kept its unique culture and heritage intact. Bangkok offers visitors the opportunity to experience fascinating glimpse of Thailand’s gentle culture amidst the bustle of a great and dynamic metropolis. This great city has had astounding success in combining the ancient and modern world.
For tourists, Bangkok has a feast of attractions to offer. The city is dotted with 400 glittering Buddhist temples of great beauty and fascination, magnificent palaces, classical dance extravaganzas, numerous shopping centres and traditional ways of life, especially along the “Venice of the East” timeless canals and the Chao Phraya River of the “River of Kings” winding through the city. It is worth taking a trip along its waters before exploring further into different canals to take a glimpse of old Bangkok.
Just under 14 degrees north of the Equator,
Bangkok is a tropical metropolis that is also one of the most traveller-friendly cities in Asia. A furious assault on the senses, visitors are immediately confronted by the heat, the pollution and the irrepressible smile that accompanies all Thais.
Despite the sensationalized international news reports and first impressions, the city is surprisingly safe and more organized than it initially appears, and full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. The high relative humidity and warm temperature favor the growth of tropical plants — you’ll find exotic orchids and delicious fruit everywhere.
Bougainvillea and frangipani bloom practically everywhere. Thai cuisine is justifiably famous, varied, and affordable. Bangkok for many, represents the quintessential Asian capital. Saffron-robed monks, garish neon signs, graceful Thai architecture, spicy dishes, colourful markets, traffic jams, and the tropical climate come together in a happy coincidence.
It is difficult to leave with lukewarm impressions of the city.Â
Â photo credit:Â mari.francille
Bangkok, , was a small village on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, until a new capital was founded on the west bank (present-day Thonburi) after the fall of Ayutthaya. In 1782, King Rama I built a palace on the east bank (now Rattanakosin) and renamed the city as Krung Thep, as it is now known to Thais and which in English is translated to the originally Bang Makok ‘City of Angels’.
The full name “Krungthep mahanakhon amorn ratanakosin mahintharayutthaya mahadilok popnoparat ratchathani burirom udomratchanivetmahasathan amornpiman avatarnsathit sakkathattiyavisnukarmprasit” is listed as the world’s longest location name by the Guinness Book of Records; an English rendering goes like this: “The city of angels, 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 an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn”.Â
The original village has long since ceased to exist, but for some reason foreigners never caught on to the change. Modern-day Bangkok is predominantly Thai-Chinese and they make up the majority of the population, but the city is also a second home to millions of upcountry “Thai-Thai” folk who come to make a living.
The city is also home to a remarkable array of expats from all over the world, with districts inhabited by Chinese, Indians, Japanese, Koreans, Arabs and many more.Â
Â photoÂ credit:Â RenÃ© Ehrhardt
Addresses and Navigation
Addresses in Bangkok use the Thai addressing system, which may be a little confusing to the uninitiated. Large roads such as Silom or Sukhumvit are thanon, often abbreviated Th or glossed “Road/Avenue”, while the side streets branching off from them are called soi. Sois are numbered, with even numbers on one side and odd ones on the other.Thus, an address like “25 Soi Sukhumvit 3″ means house/building number 25 on the 3rd soi of Sukhumvit Road. While the soi numbers on each side will always advance upward, the numbers often do not advance evenly between sides – for example, Soi 55 could be across from soi 36. Many well-known sois have an additional name, which can be used instead of the number. Soi 3 is also known as “Soi Nana”, so the address above might thus also be expressed as “25 Soi Nana”.
The extension /x is used for new streets created between existing streets, as seen in Sukhumvit’s soi pattern 7, 7/1, 7/2, 9, 11. Note that some short alleys are called trok instead of soi. Bangkok To make things a little more complex, some large sois like Soi Ekamai (Sukhumvit Soi 63) and Soi Ari (Phahonyothin Soi 7) have their own sois. In these cases an address like “Soi Ari 3″ means “the 3rd soi off Soi Ari”, and you may even spot addresses like “68/2 Soi Ekamai 4, Sukhumvit 63 Road”, meaning “2nd house beside house 68, 4th soi off Ekamai, the 63rd soi of Sukhumvit”. In many sois the house numbers are not simply increasing, but may spread around.
. photo credit: Fredrik Thommesen
To further bewilder the tourist who doesn’t read Thai, the renderings of Thai street names in the Latin alphabet are not consistent. The road running towards the (former) airport from the Victory Monument may be spelled Phahon Yothin or Pahon Yothin or Phahonyothin or Phaholyothin depending on which street sign or map you consult. It’s all the same in Thai, of course, only the romanisation varies. And if that’s not confusing enough, most of the larger streets tend to change names altogether every few kilometers. Sukhumvit is called Sukhumvit on one side of the tollway (roughly east), but it becomes Ploenchit just before you cross Thanon Witthayu (aka Wireless) going towards the river. Keep going just a few more streets and it becomes Thanon PraRam Neung (usually said as just Rama I) after you pass Thanon Ratchadamri. But if you were to turn right onto Ratchadamri, in just a few blocks you’ll find yourself on Thanon Ratchaprarop (past Petchaburi, aka New Phetburi, which is called Phitsanulok closer to the river).Got it? But wait, there’s logic to these name changes: most of them are neighborhoods. It wouldn’t make sense to call the road Sukhumvit if it’s no longer running through the
Sukhumvit area, would it? Thus, Sukhumvit becomes Ploenchit where it runs though the Ploenchit area. It’s when you’re able to grasp the city in terms of its neighborhoods that it both becomes more navigable and more charming. Likewise, Pratunam and Chatuchak are much more than just markets; they’re boroughs, each with its own distinct character. Related to this last point, compass directions are not widely used by Thais to navigate in Bangkok. That’s probably because they aren’t very useful; the city’s Darwinistic layout, the changing street names, the winding river, and the lack of obvious landmarks all conspire to confuse your internal compass. bang
photo credit: pchweat
Thus, asking for directions in terms of “Is that west from here?” will probably earn you little more than a confused look from a local. You’re better off to familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods and navigate to and from them. “How do I get to Thonglor?” will get you there faster than asking for directions to Sukhumvit Soi 55. One exception: the Chao Phyra River is the landmark in Bangkok, and many directional references can be made as “toward the river” or “away from the river”. If you aren’t too close, that is: since the river winds around the most popular tourist areas, river references tend to be most helpful when you’re wandering farther afield than Banglamphu or Sanam Luang or Rattana. And wander you should.
Districts of Bangkok
Bangkok is a large city, modern and Westernised and humming with nightlife and fervour. Administratively, it is split up into 50 khet (districts), which are further split into 154 khwaeng, but these are more often used in official business and for addresses. Visitors will find the conceptual division below of the main areas more useful for getting around.
Sukhumvit – The long Sukhumvit Road, which changes its name to Ploenchit Road and Rama I Road going west, is Bangkok’s modern commercial core, full of glitzy malls and hotels. The Skytrain intersection at Siam Square is the closest thing Bangkok has to a centre. dropper
photo credit: permanently scatterbrained
Ratchadaphisek – The district north of Sukhumvit centered around Ratchadaphisek Road (part of which is called Asoke) and reaching from Phetchaburi Road to Lat Phrao. This area has really opened up recently as the new metro line follows Ratchadaphisek Road.
Silom – To the south of Sukhumvit, the area around Silom Road and Sathorn Road is Thailand’s sober financial center by day, but Bangkok’s primary party district by night when quarters like the infamous Patpong come alive.
Rattanakosin – Between the river and Sukhumvit lies the densely packed “Old Bangkok”, home to Bangkok’s best-known wats. Yaowarat (Chinatown) and sights around the Chao Phraya River are also included here. Bangkok’s backpacker mecca Khao San Road and the surrounding district of Banglamphu are located on the northern part of Rattanakosin.
Thonburi – The quieter west bank of the Chao Phraya River, with many small canals and some offbeat attractions.
Phahonyothin – The area around Phahonyothin Road and Viphavadi Rangsit Road is best known for the Chatuchak Weekend Market and Don Muang Airport.
Around Bangkok are the provinces of Pathum Thani to the north, Nonthaburi to the northwest, Chachoengsao to the east, Samut Sakhon to the southwest, and Samut Prakan to the southeast.
Source: Wikitravel – Content is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0.