A Brief History
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city, known to the Thai’s as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or more commonly referred to as just Krung Thep. The city became the capital in the year 1782 after the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya, the former capital. The sacking of Ayutthaya led to the creation of a temporary base in the western part of the Chao Phraya River: this region is currently known as Thonburi. The temporary base was an ideal location to settle before work commenced on the defensible east bank where the French had constructed a large but short-lived fort in the 1660s. Phra Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I), the first leader of the new dynasty built his palace at a place known as Rattanakosin within three canals that offered a defensive ring, this place is still Bangkok’s spiritual heart and historical center.
Bangkok was initially a floating city with the ordinary people residing in houses floated on numerous bamboo canals and rafts including the shops and the warehouses. It was only the king’s palaces and the temples that were built on dry land. The biggest change in redesigning the city came under the effort of King Mongkut (Rama IV) between 1851 and 1868 when he borrowed the European style and built roads. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) followed those footsteps and built a new residential palace in the north of Rattanakosin a place called Dusit, and also laid out the grand boulevards.
Bangkok quickly grew to become Thailand’s biggest city now with over 8 million inhabitants. The city’s culture, language, and food have largely shaped Thailand as a whole, and this trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
Modern Day Bangkok
Bangkok is now a fast emerging modern and buzzing city, it is chaotic and crowded with a never ending traffic horn blowing snarl-up. Most of the people who visit Bangkok either end up loving or hating it, personally we love it! But the more you spend time in Bangkok, the more the city reveals its secrets and charm to you. Bangkok might seem like a little daunting and slightly unappealing city to visit at first but it truly has a lot of beauty hidden inside and so much to offer. For the adventurous traveller, there is a lot to do in Bangkok if you are someone who loves to learn about different cultures of the world, you will be spoilt for choice considering what this city has to offer.
It’s always best to familiarise yourself with any city before you visit and Bangkok is no exception, it’s busy, fast moving and pretty chaotic so it’s good practice to pick up a map and do a little research before you go. For someone on there first visit our advice would be to write down the area your staying, name of your hotel, nearest BTS station, nearest ATM, and write down some important emergency numbers (see below) just in case you run into trouble. If your hotel has a business card at the counter take one and put in your wallet or take a screenshot of the hotel location on Google maps, then you can always show this to a cab driver if they do not speak English.
Getting around in Bangkok couldn’t be easier, take a ride on a tuktuk, grab a taxi, jump on the nearest BTS, hail a motorbike taxi or chug along on a public bus the choice is yours! If your getting a tuktuk, taxi or motorbike ask how much the fare will be before you go and make sure you haggle a little on the price.
Things to do in Bangkok
This amazing city offers so many fantastic places to visit and things to do, here are some of our favourite and recommended places to visit in Bangkok.
Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace
Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, this is Bangkok’s biggest tourist attraction site and also doubles up as a pilgrimage destination for the ardent nationalists and Buddhists. Set in an expansive tract of land, there are more than one hundred iconic buildings that represent over two hundred years of architectural experimentation and royal history.
The Grand Palace is next to the Wat Phra Kaew and was a royal residence. Visitors can explore the four remaining palace buildings to take in their imperial bombast. The Grand Palace has the French inspired Borombhiman structure that housed Rana VI between 1910 and 1925. Visitors can also explore the Amarindra Hall that was used as the hall of justice, Chakri Mahaprasat, Chulalongkorn and the Dusit Hall.
Lumpini Park is an ideal place for the outdoor lovers and to get away from the hectic inner city for a while, there is a lot to do here with bicycle and jogging paths, weightlifting, chess tables, Tai Chi classes, indigenous trees and rowboats for hire on the park’s two lakes.
This is one of the less crowded and among the largest sights in Bangkok. Here, you will find Bangkok’s largest reclining of Buddha and the biggest collection of Buddha images in the whole country. Wat Pho is built on an expansive piece of land measuring eight hectares: some of Thailand’s leading tourist attraction destinations are found here with Chetuphon and the monastic features found in the southern parts.
Here, you can also learn about traditional Thai medicine and Thai massage as it houses the country’s headquarters for Thai traditions that was commissioned by Rama III. Tourists can get a massage in one of the two massage pavilions located in this famous massage school.
The Royal Elephant Museum
Those who understand the culture and traditions of Thai people know that elephants have played a significant role in their day to day lives in the past and still do today. The Royal Elephant Museum is situated within the parliament compounds and is an accurate reflection of the largest animal on land and to the beliefs of its role in religious ceremonies.
The Bangkokian Museum
The Bangkokian Museum is a collection of three ancient structures that were constructed in the early twentieth century, illustrating a highly overlooked period in the history of Bangkok. The buildings were built in the years of 1929 to 1937.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
This is the best place for buying just about anything that you desire. It is a football pitch sized marketplace that presents the ideal place of finding knock-offs gifts, barter and some good Thai food.
Located on the outskirts of Bangkok, this place is perfect for photographers and tasting the Thai cuisine.
At Chinatown, you can wander among the birds, lilies and the orchids at the beautiful Pak Klong Talad, the flower market on the north and grab a tasty meal in one of the many food stalls.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is a world famous street located in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok popular amongst backpackers and travellers. Today it is more than just a transit hub, this place has some of the best nightlife destinations, food, shopping stalls, activities and a great place to organise and book things to do, tours and transport or your onward journey.
Bangkok has many others places of interest including Thammasat University, Siam Society and Ban Kamthieng, Suan Pakkad Palace Museum, Wat Saket, Golden Mount among many others. With so much on offer your guaranteed to find something to fall in love with in Bangkok.
When to Visit
The weather in Bangkok is steamy and hot almost all year round. The rainy season occurs between the months of May and October, and during this time, the rain comes down in dramatic fashion. If you find yourself in Bangkok during this period, always carry an umbrella and forget about the raincoat due to the heat. The best time to visit is from late November to mid-January: It is cool and comfortable. Avoid the month of March before the start of the rainy season; it is scorching.
Useful Telephone Numbers & Websites
Tourist Police 1155
UK Embassy 14 Wirless Road – 02305 8333