Bangkok 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 a population of over 8 million inhabitants.
Its high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife do not immediately give you a warm welcome — but don't let your first impression mislead you. It is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities with magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, busy markets and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.
For years, it was only a small trading post at the banks of the Chao Phraya River, until King Rama I, the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, turned it into the capital of Siam in 1782, after the burning of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders. Since then, Bangkok has turned into a national treasure house and functions as Thailand's spiritual, cultural, political, commercial, educational and diplomatic centre.
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 major regional force in finance and business. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and has emerged as a regional centre for the arts, fashion and entertainment.
The city is well known for its vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts. The historic 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.
|POPULATION :||City: 8,280,925 / Metro: 14,565,547|
|FOUNDED :||c 15th century|
|TIME ZONE :||ICT (UTC+7)|
|LANGUAGE :||Thai, English ( Widely spoken)|
|RELIGION :||Buddhist 92%, Islam 4.7%, Christian 2%, Other 1.3%|
|AREA :||1,568.737 km2 (605.693 sq mi) Metro: 7,761.6 km2 (2,996.8 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :||1.5 m (4.9 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||13°45′N 100°28′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.20% |
• Female: 49.80%
|ETHNIC :||Thai 80%, Chinese 11%, other 9%|
|AREA CODE :||02|
|POSTAL CODE :||10###|
|DIALING CODE :||+66 2|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
Bangkok is one of the world's top tourist destination cities. MasterCard ranked Bangkok as the global top destination city by international visitor arrivals in its Global Destination Cities Index, with 15.98 million projected visitors in 2013. The city is ranked fourth in cross-border spending, with 14.3 billion dollars projected for 2013, after New York, London and Paris.
Bangkok's multi-faceted sights, attractions and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as several museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a wide range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its dynamic nightlife. Although Bangkok's sex tourism scene is well known to foreigners, it is usually not openly acknowledged by locals or the government.
Bangkok has a reputation overseas as a major destination in the sex industry. Although prostitution is technically illegal and is rarely openly discussed in Thailand, it commonly takes place among massage parlours, saunas and hourly hotels, serving foreign tourists as well as locals. Bangkok has acquired the nickname "Sin City of Asia" for its level of sex tourism.
Shopping venues, many of which are popular with both tourists and locals, range from the shopping centres and department stores concentrated in Siam and Ratchaprasong to the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market. Taling Chan Floating Market is among the few such markets in Bangkok. Yaowarat is known for its shops as well as street-side food stalls and restaurants, which are also found throughout the city. Khao San Road has long been famous as a backpackers' destination, with its budget accommodation, shops and bars attracting visitors from all over the world.
Among Bangkok's well-known sights are the Grand Palace and major Buddhist temples, including Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. The Giant Swing and Erawan Shrine demonstrate Hinduism's deep-rooted influence in Thai culture. Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit Palace is famous as the world's largest teak building, while the Jim Thompson House provides an example of traditional Thai architecture. Other major museums include the Bangkok National Museum and the Royal Barge National Museum. Cruises and boat trips on the Chao Phraya and Thonburi's canals offer views of some of the city's traditional architecture and ways of life on the waterfront.
The history of Bangkok dates at least to the early 15th century, when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, under the rule of Ayutthaya.
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 became the site of a siege in 1688 in which the French were expelled from Siam.
After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Empire in 1767, the newly declared 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, which is regarded as the date of foundation of the present city.
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, 1851–68) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 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.
It was subject to Japanese occupation and Allied bombing during World War II, but rapidly grew in the post-war period as a result of United States developmental aid and government-sponsored investment. Bangkok's role as an American 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 unprecedented migration from rural areas into Bangkok; its population surged from 1.8 to 3 million in the 1960s. Following the United States' 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. 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 successive anti-government demonstrations by the "Yellow Shirt", "Red Shirt" and "Light blue Shirt" movements from 2008 onwards.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the world's hottest city. Just 14 degrees north of the equator, Bangkok is sunny at all times of the year with temperatures over 30°C (86°F).
The most pleasant time to visit is the cool season that lasts from Nov-Feb. It is both the coolest and driest period — the Emerald Buddha statue in Wat Phra Kaeo even wears a scarf during this period! Don't think that's necessary though — daytime temperatures still hover around 30°C (86°F), but it does cool down into the lower 20s as it gets dark (lower 70s in Fahrenheit). March and April represent the hot season, and hot it is — 35°C (95°F) on average, but don't be surprised to see heat indices rising into the 50s °C (around 120 °F+). This is the worst season to visit Bangkok, so plan in a lot of air-conditioned shopping mall visits and get a hotel with a swimming pool. Then there's the wet season that runs from May-Oct. Expect massive downpours resulting in floods all over the city, and spells of thunder at times. It's not all bad though — the afternoon showers are actually a pleasant way to cool down from the heat, and while they may last all day, usually they're over within an hour. Extreme rainfall happens in September and October, so these months are best avoided.
Whatever season you're visiting, don't take the weather lightly — temple-tramping in the scorching afternoon sun can be a challenge, so come well-prepared. Dress lightly for the weather, but keep in mind that some palaces and temples (notably the Grand Palace) have a strict dress code, i.e., everyone must fully cover their torso, legs and upper arms. So shorts, halter tops, etc. will deny you entry. At entrances to some major attractions, vendors may rent needed coverage.
Also be sure you drink enough fluids! You have no excuse not to, as 7-Elevens and other convenience stores are abundant in Bangkok and sell cooled beverages for as little as 10 baht. Locals get their water from "reverse osmosis" purified water machines that fill up a one litre bottle for 1 baht, but the potability for visitors may vary.
|Daily highs (°C)||32||33||34||35||34||33||33||33||32||32||32||31|
|Nightly lows (°C)||21||23||25||26||26||25||25||25||25||24||23||21|
The Bangkok city proper covers an area of 1,568.737 square kilometres (605.693 sq mi), ranking 69th among the other 76 provinces of Thailand. Of this, about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) form the built-up urban area. It is ranked 73rd in the world in terms of land area by City Mayors. The city's urban sprawl reaches into parts of the six other provinces it borders, namely, in clockwise order from northwest: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom. With the exception of Chachoengsao, these provinces, together with Bangkok, form the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
Bangkok is the economic centre of Thailand, and the heart of the country's investment and development. Bangkok's economy ranks as the sixth among Asian cities in terms of per-capita GDP, after Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka–Kobe and Seoul.
Wholesale and retail trade is the largest sector in the city's economy, contributing 24.0 percent of Bangkok's gross provincial product. It is followed by manufacturing (14.3%); real estate, renting and business activities (12.4%); transport and communications (11.6%); and financial intermediation (11.1%). Bangkok alone accounts for 48.4 percent of Thailand's service sector, which in turn constitutes 49.0 percent of GDP.
When the Bangkok Metropolitan Region is considered, manufacturing is the most significant contributor at 28.2 percent of the gross regional product, reflecting the density of industry in the Bangkok's neighbouring provinces. The automotive industry based around Greater Bangkok is the largest production hub in Southeast Asia. Tourism is also a significant contributor to Bangkok's economy, generating ฿427.5bn ($13.38bn) in revenue in 2010.
Bangkok is home to the headquarters of all of Thailand's major commercial banks and financial institutions, as well as the country's largest companies. A large number of multinational corporations base their regional headquarters in Bangkok due to the lower cost of the workforce and firm operations relative to other major Asian business centres.
Income inequality is a major issue in Bangkok, especially between relatively unskilled lower-income immigrants from rural provinces and neighbouring countries, and middle-class professionals and business elites. Although absolute poverty rates are low—only 0.64 percent of Bangkok's registered residents were living under the poverty line in 2010, compared to a national average of 7.75—economic disparity is still substantial.
The BMA uses several schemes to organize the districts into groups for administrative and general planning purposes. The scheme adopted in 2004 uses twelve characteristic groups:
Khao San Road
Yaowarat and Phahurat
Bangkok's fifty districts serve as administrative subdivisions under the authority of the BMA. Thirty-five of these districts lie to the east of the Chao Phraya, while fifteen are on the western bank, known as the Thonburi side of the city.
Internet cafés abound in Bangkok. You'll generally be looking at rates of around 30-60 baht per hour in tourist-laden districts like Khao San Road, 20-30 baht per hour in downtown (the top floors of MBK for example), and 10-15 baht per hour if you would venture into residential areas (where the speed generally is still high).
An increasing number of cafés and pubs offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. Most hotels and guest houses provide at least some form of Internet. Some have Wi-Fi access inside the rooms — but inquire before booking.
If you are staying for more than a couple of days and prefer to stay connected without being limited to hotspots, a prepaid SIM card with mobile data is a good option. Being able to use a smartphone for navigation and reviews is very useful in a city where recommendations and directions offered by locals are not always reliable.
The area code for Bangkok is 02. You only need to dial the 0 if you're calling from within Thailand. Pay phones are not commonplace, as most Thais have a mobile phone. If you want to avoid high roaming costs, you can buy a local SIM card for 100 baht at Suvarnabhumi Airport (or other mobile phone stores throughout the city). The 100 baht is not just for the SIM card, but is immediately your first pre-paid amount. Topping it up is easy; just walk into a 7-Eleven convenience store and pick an amount you want to add. Making international calls is also cheaper this way.
As of July 2014, the True booth at Suvarnabhumi Airport is offering free tourist Sim cards preloaded with 10 baht calling credit as well as 20 MB of 3G access.
Bangkok's red post boxes are found all over the city. There are also plenty of Thailand Post offices around for sending post and packages. In tourist areas, there are post offices in the Khao San Road area (in front of Wat Bowonniwet) and at Sukhumvit Road (between Soi 4 and 6).
If you're staying in Bangkok for a longer time, you might want to make use of poste restante, so other people can send you letters or parcels using a post office's address. Post offices keep the letters for at least two months. Letters sent via poste restante must have the receiver's name on it, with the family name in underlined capital letters. If you want to pick them up near Khao San Road (opposite Wat Bowonniwet), it must be addressed to Poste Restante, Banglamphubon Post Office, Bangkok, 10203, Thailand. If you want to pick up your post in the Sukhumvit area, make sure it is addressed to Poste Restante, Nana Post Office, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, 10112, Thailand.