World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia - Vol. 5

By Paul Bernabeo | Go to book overview

Bangkok

Bangkok, the Thai national capital, dominates the nation. At the 2000 Thai national census, the city had a population of 6,320,000 inhabitants, and the metropolitan area was home to 8,450,000 people. Bangkok has 40 times the population of Thailand's second-largest metropolitan area.

Thailand's national capital is known in English as Bangkok. However, the Thais call the city Krung Thep, which is short for Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthagu Mahadilok Phop Nopphorat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Anion Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. This translates as [the city of the angels, the great city, the eternal city of the emerald Buddha, the impregnable city of Ayutthaya of the god Indra, the great capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city of enormous royal palaces that resemble the heavenly abode where the reincarnated gods live, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.] The full ceremonial name of Bangkok is seldom used, although Thai schoolchildren are expected to remember it.


A HISTORIC CITY

Bangkok was originally a small port called Bang Makok (literally, [the place of olive plums]), from which the name for the modern city in Western languages derives. Bang Makok, on the east bank

War Po is the largest Buddhist temple ill Bangkok.

of the Chao Phraya River, served as a port for Ayutthaya. the Thai capital, inland. In 1767 Ayutthaya fell to Burmese invaders and the new Thai king, Taksin (reigned 1767–1782), moved his capital south for safety. Taksin established a new capital at Thon Buri. on the west bank of the Chao Phraya southwest of Bang Makok. Thon Buri is now part of the Bangkok metropolitan area.

In 1782, King Rama I (reigned 1782–1809), the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty, founded a new capital at Bang Makok, changing the port's name to the long ceremonial title that is shortened to Krung Thep. The new capital symbolized both a break with the past and a continuation of the glories of Ayutthaya. which is mentioned in the ceremonial name. However, the main reason for choosing the new site was defensive. The wide bend of the Chao Phraya forms a natural moat on three sides, while a large swamp to the east completes the natural defenses.

King Rama 1 modeled the new city on Ayutthaya. He ordered the construction of a walled palace complex and a city wall that was nearly 5 miles (8 km) long. Fifteen forts guarded the city, which could be entered through more than 60 gates. However, most of the city's trade was brought by boat on the Chao Phraya. As well as the ornate Grand Palace, Rama I constructed the first of Bangkok's great Buddhist temples or wats, Wat Pho. His successors built many more wats that served not only as places of prayer but also as centers of education, libraries, and the only places where Bangkok's citizens could receive medical treatment. At the time, only wats, forts, and city walls were built in stone and brick. Bangkok's other buildings were mainly constructed in wood.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, more stone and brick buildings were constructed, some of them royal residences. At the same time, streets were laid out and there was less emphasis on water transportation, although a new canal to Khlong Toei, the port district, was constructed to cut across the great bend of the Chao Phraya River. The reformer King Chulalongkorn, or Rama V (reigned 1868–1910), began the transformation of Bangkok with Western-style roads and buildings. He ordered the construction of several bridges across the Chao Phraya, the demolition of most of the city walls, and the nation's first railroad. Chulalongkorn commissioned new structures in the royal palace complex, many public buildings, and the Wat Phra Keo royal temple. Early in the twentieth century, locks to regulate the city's waterways were constructed

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World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia - Vol. 5
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Country Locator for Volume 5 Myanmar and Thailand i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Geography and Climate 580
  • The Land of Myanmar and Thailand 582
  • Geology of Myanmar and Thailand 590
  • Climate of Myanmar and Thailand 594
  • Flora and Fauna of Thailand and Myanmar 598
  • History and Movement of Peoples 602
  • Sukhothai and Ayutthaya 604
  • Later Burmese Kingdoms 608
  • British Intervention in Burma 610
  • Peoples of Myanmar and Thailand 612
  • Myanmar (Burma) 614
  • Government 618
  • Modern History 620
  • War and Independence 623
  • Independent Burma 626
  • Modern Myanmar 628
  • Cultural Expression 630
  • Art and Architecture 632
  • Music and Performing Arts 636
  • Festivals and Ceremonies 638
  • Food and Drink 640
  • Daily Life 642
  • Family and Society 644
  • Welfare 646
  • Yangon (Rangoon) 648
  • Naypyidaw 650
  • Mandalay 651
  • Moulmein 652
  • Pegu 653
  • Economy 654
  • Thailand 662
  • Government 666
  • Modern History 668
  • Siam in Transition 670
  • The Age of Reform 672
  • War and Military Rule 674
  • Modern Thailand 676
  • Cultural Expression 678
  • Art and Architecture 680
  • Decorative Arts 683
  • Music and Performing Arts 684
  • Festivals and Ceremonies 687
  • Food and Drink 688
  • Daily Life 690
  • Family and Society 693
  • Health, Welfare, and Housing 695
  • Education 697
  • Bangkok 698
  • Chiang Mai 703
  • Nakhon Ratchasima 704
  • Udon Thani 705
  • Economy 706
  • Further Research 716
  • Index 718
  • World and Its Peoples 722
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