Bangkok - Krung Thep
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, but it was not always so and Thais don't call their capital Bangkok,
although there is or was a village called Bangkok, where Bangkok is now. Thais call their main city Krung Thep Maha
It is situated on the Chao Phraya River Delta, occupies just over 1,500 square kilometres and is home to more
than 8,000,000 people, although 22,000,000 live in the Greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region.
The city has several names and has had many more over the 300 years of its use as the nation's capital, but the
full name, which has earned it the Guinness Book of Records title as the city with the longest name in the world
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom
Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal
Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra's behest.
Bangkok is world famous for its cultural activities and tourist attractions, both high high-brow and low-brow,
ranging from beautiful royal palaces such as the Grand Palace and majestic Buddhist temples like Wat Arun and Wat
Pho to Go-Go Bar Strip Joints and Beer Bars on and around Khaosan Road and Sukhumvit Road areas.
This has led to Bangkok becoming the world's top tourist destination. It is named the most visited city in
MasterCard's Global Destination Cities Index, and has been named "World's Best City" for four consecutive years by
Travel + Leisure magazine, which no other city has equalled in recent years.
Nowadays, most political protests by the Red and Yellow Shirts take place in the centre of Bangkok, often
causing massive political, social and economic disruption, which can greatly affect the value of the nation's
currency, the Thai Baht.
The traffic problems of the 1980's and 90's are being sorted out and it is easier to drive in Bangkok now than
some of Thailand's smaller cities, due largely to the excellent network of public transport which includes buses,
express boats, river taxis, metered road taxis, and underground and overhead railways (Skytrain).
The city of Bangkok has a population of 8,280,925 according to the 2010 census, or 12.6 percent of the national
population. However, there are only 5,701,394 registered residents, belonging to 2,400,540 households.
A large number of Bangkok's daytime population commutes from the residential areas of the surrounding provinces
in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region (BMR), the total population of which is 14,565,547.
Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city; the census showed that it is home to 81,570 Japanese and 55,893 Chinese
nationals, as well as 117,071 expatriates from other Asian countries, 48,341 from Europe, 23,418 from the Americas,
5,289 from Australia and 3,022 from Africa. Immigrants from neighbouring countries include 303,595 Burmese, 63,438
Cambodians and 18,126 Lao.
This diversity is also evident in the culture of Bangkok. The culture of Bangkok reflects its position as the
country's centre of wealth and modernization. It has long been the entry point for Western concepts and material
goods, which have been adopted and blended with Thai values with various degrees of success by Bangkokians.
This is most noticeable in the lifestyles of the ever-growing middle class. Ownership of electronics and
consumer products such as mobile phones, iPads, tablets and laptops is widespread, which has gone hand-in-glove
with a certain measure of secularism, as religion's role in everyday life has steadily diminished.
These trends have spread to other urban centres, and even to the countryside, although Bangkok remains at the
forefront of social change.
A distinct feature of Thai urban life in general and so also of Bangkok are the ever-present street vendors
selling such goods as food to clothing and accessories. Some sources say that the city may have over 100,000
hawkers. The BMA has authorized street-vending in 287 sites, the activity takes place in another 407 sites
illegally, occupying pavement space and blocking pedestrian traffic.
However, many of the city's residents depend on shopping at these stalls for their food and other goods, and the
BMA's efforts to curb their numbers have largely met with very little compliance.
by +Owen Jones