The buzzing metropolis of Bangkok has been the capital city of Thailand since it was moved from Ayutthaya after the Burmese invasion in 1768. The next 250 years has seen the city grow from a small trading post to one of Asia’s largest and most densely populated cities, with a population of approximately 8,160,522.
Bangkok began life as a small trading post situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. However, when Burmese forces attacked the spectacular old capital – Ayutthaya, King Thaksim decided to move the capital to Bangkok. At this time Siam (Thailand) was plagued with conflict and division and the country was divided into many states that were organized into principalities. Amidst this conflict, Thaksim began establishing the new capital on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River calling it Thonburi. He then set about uniting the country and re-capturing much of the surrounding land. Unfortunately for Thaksim, his behaviour became very obsessive and he was removed from the throne, declared mad and brutally executed.
After the execution of Thaksim, the government officials decided that they were sick of the conflict and decided to try to unite the country into one sovereign nation. The first step in achieving this goal was electing General Phra Buddha Yodea Chulaloke to become king, who accepted and was crowned King Rama I on April 6th 1782. Rama deemed Thonburi as an unsuitable capital, due to the risk of erosion from the river, and set about re-locating the city to the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya. The cities new location at Rattanakosin was thought to be much more secure due to its naturally fortified location. The City Pillar was raised on 21st April 1782 and this marked the start of the Chakri Dynasty, which continues today – the new capital was named Krung Thep. Under the Chakri dynasty Bangkok continued to grow, setting up trade links with Europe and North America and introducing new areas such as Chinatown (Yaowarat) and the Indian Quarter (Pahurat).
In 1868 when King Rama V came to power, he continued his fathers work in modernising the capital and establishing trade links with the rest of the World. Rama V also set to work on creating a rail link between the northern states and Bangkok. By the beginning of the 20th Century Krung Thep (Bangkok) was alive with modernisation and social reform. Rama V laid down the foundations for the modern government and introduced religious freedom to the country that allowed Christianity and Islam to be practised freely.
Unfortunately the peace in Thailand was soon to come to an end. With King Rama VI’s reign, which began in 1910, came an end to the peace the country had enjoyed for so long. Although Rama VI tried to continue the growth and modernisation his efforts were hindered by a failed coup attempt. Rama VII took the throne after the death of Rama VI and was this time forced to abdicate in 1935 after a successful military coup sought to put an end to the absolute monarchy.
After the abdication of Rama VII, the country entered a long and troubling period where the country passed from one military dictatorship to another. This troubled time continued until General Prem Tinsulanonda took power in 1980 when peace and stability returned to the country. It was during this period that we saw Bangkok grow into the vibrant city that it is today.
Bangkok is now a sprawling city, covering an area of approximately 350 square kilometres. The city is now home to glistening sky scrapers, luxury hotels and towering apartment blocks as well as the many temples that remain from the time of Thaksim, and the stunning Royal Palace complex. Bangkok is divided into many different areas; some of the most popular of these are listed below:
This is Bangkok’s modern commercial core with many glitzy shopping malls and boutique hotels.
By day, Silom is Bangkok’s rather sober financial district, but by night, this area becomes Bangkok’s main party district and is home to the illustrious Patpong Road.
This is ‘Old Bangkok’, home to the cities most famous ‘Wats’ and the intriguing Chinatown. This is Bangkok’s backpacker mecca.
Thonburi is located on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River, and is much quieter than the eastern bank. Thonburi is home to the Taling Chan floating market.
We visit Bangkok on all of our Thailand tours.