Background

Everyone traveling to Bangkok needs some background information about the people, “Thai” culture and the city itself. In this chapter we take a small dip into this mysterious city and it’s origins.

FACTS

  • Bangkok is the third capital of Thailand
  • Thailand has never been colonized and was called Siam in the past
  • The local name of the city is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
  • Bangkok metropolitan area has over 14 million inhabitants in over 1,500km²/5,800sq mi
  • If water level raises over one meter, Bangkok is the first city to be flooded in the world
  • There are over 1,000 skyscrapers in Bangkok
  • Average temperature is 96F/36C, the hottest months of the year are February, March and April
  • Over 11,000,000 tourists visit Bangkok each year

History

In 1782 King Taksin of Thon Buri passed away and Chao Phraya Maha Kasatsuek ascended the throne and was known as King Buddha Yodfa or better-known Rama I. The King moved the capital from Ayutthaya to the opposite side of the river known as Bangkok, and established the Chakri Dynasty, which has important role in Thai history. The reasoning behind the moving of the capital from Ayutthaya to Bangkok was to have better protection against the possibility of foreign invasions.

Venice of the east
Currently Bangkok is mostly located on the other bank of the Chao Phraya River. Historically, it is thought that the river which separates Bangkok was a defensive advantage, many of Bangkok’s canals were dug for this reason. These canals were starting from the expansion of Banglamphu and Ong Ang canals to the East. When they were finished, these two canals were joined and linked the Chao Phraya River at both ends so the city was surrounded by water like a trench and later the whole canal was named “Khlong Rop Krung” meaning the canal around the city. These canals are behind the other nickname of Bangkok, “Venice of the East.” A good way to move around Bangkok and see different sides of the city is to take one of the long-tail or tourist riverboats and spend a couple of hours. Jump to: “Moving around”.

Bangkok is it?
The name of the city has an interesting background. Krung Thep or Krung Thep Maha Nakhon is the Thai language name for the city, meaning “City of Angels,” but this is not the complete name. Guinness Book of World Records states that Bangkok has the longest name of the cities in the world:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

King Rama IX

FACTS

  • The King and the royal family are highly respected, be careful with Thai money because it contain images of the respected King
  • The King carries an honorary name, Rama (and number), the current King is Rama IX
  • The royal family has symbolic power via the people’s respect
  • Thai royal history is over 800 years old
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the 5th of December, 1927
  • Critical or defamatory comments about the King or other members of the Royal family are punishable by a prison sentence of 3 to 15 years

Thai monarchy has been in continuous existence since the founding of the Kingdom of Sukhothai in 1238. The King of Thailand is now the longest reigning monarch in the world. The institution reached its current constitutional form in 1932 after a coup revolution. Even though “absolute” monarchy ended 1932, the royal family and King have maintained an especially strong role in Thai society.

The King’s power is limited and is now more symbolic but high respect from the people affects decision making if the King wants to comment or intervene. Also Thai monarchy is protected against any physical or defamatory threat. A constitutional monarch is above politics, he lives under the law of the kingdom, but cannot be involved in politics. He has only become involved during extreme situations involving bloodshed, and then only as a mediator between two or more factions, trying to get to a solution of calm and peace.

You need to know before arriving in Thailand that no one should criticize or even comment about the Thai royal family. It is a sensitive subject, which could lead to 15 years in prison in extreme cases. As mentioned, images of the King are on Thai money, therefore money needs to be handled respectively and carefully.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, on the 5th of December, 1927. His Majesty became King of the kingdom of Thailand on the 9th of June, 1946. The Coronation Ceremony came later on the 5th of May, 1950. His Majesty continued his education in Switzerland, and returned to Thailand in 1951. The monarchy’s official residence is the Grand Palace in Bangkok, they also have a “summer villa” at Hua Hin, a city south of Bangkok.

“We will reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” – King Rama IX