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Monday, 6 February 2012


The city of Rattanakosin, now known internationally as Bangkok, was founded on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River by Phutthayotfa Chulalok (known as Rama I) on April 21, 1782. He set up his government there following the the destruction of Ayutthaya by Burmese invaders. Rama I fortified the city with a 4.4 mile wall with 15 forts and 63 gates.

The Emerald Buddha was installed on March 22, 1784 in its current location at the Wat Phra Kaew on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The figurine is of the meditating Buddha seated in yogic posture. It is made of a semi-precious green stone (jade or jasper rather than emerald), clothed in gold and is considered the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Emerald Buddha, in the winter season attire

Life in the city was for long founded on the canals, or klongs, which provided valuable defenses as well as means of transport, and Bangkok was known as the ‘Venice of the East’.

View of 19th-century Bangkok with the Golden Mount in the background.
Up till the mid-19th century, the primary means of transport in Bangkok (and Siam in general) was by boat. This began to change as the country opened up to Western ideas and influences, and underwent modernization during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV, r. 1851–1868) On August 19, 1861, Western consuls, complaining of ill health due to a lack of roads in which they could travel by horse-drawn carriage, requested that the King build a new road on the east side of the river behind the consulates and businesses. As a result, Charoen Krung Road was built, the first in Thailand using modern construction methods. Construction of the road marked a major change in Bangkok's urban development, with the major mode of transport shifting from water to land. Charoen Krung Road was Bangkok's main street up to the early 20th century, but later declined in prominence.

Postcard of Charoen Krung Road, c. 1910s–1920s

In the later 19th century, under Rama V, trade was stimulated as the canals and most of the city wall were largely displaced by the building of a network of roads and bridges.

When the Allies bombarded Bangkok on January 24, 1942, this led Thailand, then under Japanese control, to declare war against the United States and United Kingdom.

Allied Bombing of Rama VI Bridge.

The hosting of the 13th Asian Games in 1998 brought about the construction of a large number of new roads, which helped to relieve traffic congestion in the city.

The correct name for the capital city of Thailand is actually Krung Thep ("city of angels"), and it's been this way for over 130 years. Foreigners persist on calling it Bangkok.

Bangkok's full ceremonial name, which came into use during the reign of King Mongkut, reads as follows:
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:
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 Vishvakarman at Indra's behest.

The city's ceremonial name (partially visible) is displayed in front of the Bangkok City Hall. Photo by Hdamm Wikipedia Commons

Bangkok is sinking at a rate of 2 to 5 centimeters a year.

Bangkok is the world's hottest city according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

A tenth of Thailand’s entire population lives in Bangkok.

Bangkok is the most visited city in the world, with 21 million international visitors in 2016. As a result Thailand now earns ten per cent of its income from tourism.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2012. Helicon Publishing is division of RM, The Sun.

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