Also known as Krung Thep in Thai, the city of Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and home to over 8 million people. Occupying approximately 1,568.7 square kilometers in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand, it is pivotal in terms of commercial value.
The full name for Bangkok is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.”
Bangkok’s real name is one of the longest place names in the world. Made up of Pali and Sanskrit words it is known to Thais as Krung Thep Maha Nakho, but its full ceremonial name translates to “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, the 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 became the capital of Siam, as Thailand was previously known, in 1782, when General Chao Phraya Chakkri, the founder of the ruling Chakkri dynasty, assumed the throne as Rama I and moved the court from the west to the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. Formerly referred to as the Venice of the East, Bangkok was once crisscrossed with canals or klongs, with buildings standing on stilts. Most waterways have now been filled to make way for high-rise development.
Some lesser known facts about the vibrant and exciting city
1. Bangkok has the longest name in the world (in Thai).
2. Every one of the temples which appears on Thai Baht coins can be found in Bangkok.
3. Bangkok is the world’s hottest (and most humid) city, by mean average. It’s not that daily high temperatures are really extreme, it’s more the fact that the city remains hot year around.
4. The Thai National anthem plays twice a day in public places, 08:00 and 18:00. It is also played before shows and cultural events. It is a requirement by law that everyone stands for this.
5. Bangkok’s Chinatown is the largest in the world, sprawling over endless alleyways and home to over one million Chinese nationals. It is also home to the world’s largest solid gold Buddha, which was discovered by accident and restored to its impressive beauty at 5,5 tonnes.
6. Bangkok is the prime and most populated city of Thailand with one of every ten Thai people living there.
7. Bangkok offers third gender bathrooms. Along with Male and Female washrooms, you will find a third option for transgenders. Thailand is one of the first countries in the world to introduce this.
8. There are around 200,000 US$ millionaires in Thailand. 95% of these millionaires live in Bangkok.
9. The world famed energy drink Red Bull was created in Bangkok by Chaleo Yoovidhya in 1976. At the time of his death in 2012, he was the third richest man in Thailand.
10. At 132.2 meters, Bangkok’s International Airport features the world’s tallest aircraft control tower.
11. Muay Thai boxing is the national sport and very popular in Bangkok. It is known as “the art of eight limbs” as it uses punches, kicks, elbows, and knees.
12. Pak Khlong Talat is a market in Bangkok, Thailand that sells flowers, fruits, and vegetables. It is the primary flower market in Bangkok and has been cited as a “place of symbolic values” to Bangkok residents. It’s an incredible onslaught of sweet smells and vibrant colours and worth seeking out.
Don’t miss these Unsual Museums in Bangkok.
Wat Arun. The Temple of Dawn
In Bangkok, there’s a temple that carries my name, or perhaps it’s I who is named after it. Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, has got to be one of the most beautiful, intricate buildings you could see in Thailand. Named after Aruna the Indian God of Dawn, it sits on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River and is a must-visit attraction in the city.
It isn’t known how old the temple is, but Dutch sailors recorded its presence on Chao Phraya in the 1700’s, even before the establishment of Bangkok. It has just come out of a stage of restoration and glistens pure white in the sun, with the blues, pinks and orange porcelain tiles and seashells used to create the decorative patterns, shining bright and bold.
You can go up to the first set of stairs for a better perspective of the pagoda and see the encrusted tiles. Take time to walk through the beautiful gardens, see the Bell Tower, and many Buddha and other statues. There are also stores selling clothes and souvenirs, as well as refreshments. The best way to get there is by boat ferry. An experience in itself.
The Klong Bangluang Community
Take a long tail boat along the Chao Phraya river before veering off into the canals or klongs, and weaving your way towards the Bangluang community, getting a closer look at how people live, work and worship on the water.
The river is 370km long from source to sea and has been a lifeline to the Thai people as long as memory serves, used for transport, food, irrigation and more. The area I stopped in on my visit was originally created to house the presidential guards and officials, and today is home to thriving riverside communities supported by intricately decorated temples and a well preserved and supported existence.
After time at the Wat Kampeang Bangchak temple, where I was humbled by time chatting with the aged Monk Chote about the state of affairs in South Africa, I received a welcome blessing that bestowed on me health and good fortune, that ran straight through my very being. The temple is worth a visit, and you may be awarded the same good fortune.
From there I’d recommend lunch at one of the small local restaurants that line the river, ideally for paad si ew noodles with stir fried veg, and sweet iced black tea. Both local to the area. The Artist House at Khlong Bang with it’s gallery and daily puppet shows as well as the tiny community museums should not be missed. You can book at long tail boat from the River City Bangkok.
Read my article for Amazing Thailand SA on Cruising Bangkok’s Canals and the Bang Luang Community.
Yaowarat, Bangkok’s China Town
A walk through Bangkok’s China Town or Yaowarat is a must. The narrow lanes and alleyways take you passed homes where the way of life seems to have remained unchanged for centuries; authentic and ripe, the sensory onslaught instantly intrigues. There I found street art telling the story of early day life for the Chinese community, with a modern take on today.
The most unreal sight on my visit was stepping into an old temple ground, wherein the middle a swimming pool was being used for scuba diving lessons. We had sundowners at the River View Guest House, which looks a little dodgy from downstairs but has to be the best rooftop terrace for some ‘sabai sabai’ or chill out time, as the sun sets over the Chao Phraya River. Make a note of this insider gem I’m thrilled to know about.
After that, you can hit Yaowarat Road, which comes to life at night with hundreds of food stalls and restaurants. Here I ate things I could not even recognise, even though they were all (supposedly) vegetarian. From there you can easily walk across to the incredible Pak Khlong Market flower market before taking a tuk-tuk back to your hotel.
Exploring Bangkok By Bike
One of my favourite ways to see Bangkok was joining a 20km cycle tour with Recreational Bangkok Biking Ltd. through the Chao Phraya riverside communities before crossing to the Bang Krachao or the ‘green lung’, a forested lush rural area, stopping for lunch at a local restaurant and visiting the local weekend market, which was saturated with exotic smells, tastes and sights. Even stopping to meet a Muay Thai teacher who runs a tiny rather dingey training spot under the freeway, he was head to toe tattoos, his face, and body a written temple.
Some Essential Details
- The currency used in Bangkok is the Baht. If you are traveling to Bangkok, you will need to exchange your currency for the Thai Baht, which you do at almost all Bangkok banks or Foreign Exchange Bureaus, although I usually opt to simply draw cash from an ATM at the airport on arrival.
- Getting there is easy with many airlines services the route from Cape Town anJohannesburgrg to Bangkok.
- South Africans do not need a visa to travel to Thaialnd, whcih makes it no wonder it’s te second most popular overseas destination for the ZARand wielders.
- Before travelling take a look at my Etiquette Guide To Travel In Thailand for some useful guideance.
- Read about my visits to Thailand and visit the Amazing Thailand South Africa blog.
- For any additional information, connect with Lesley Simpson of Lesley Simpson Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.