Thais are known to be very warm-hearted and friendly, and always have a ready smile on their faces, that is why Thailand is called the “Land of Smiles.” It’s a smile that beckons, friendly yet shy. Just like the city, a Thai smile keeps you intrigued and makes you want to discover. Ready to explore the vibrant cultural mix of Bangkok? Keep reading and let the DT blog take you on a journey!
Bangkok is still one of the top travel destinations in Southeast Asia, simply because it is the gateway to a holiday in Thailand, and it offers plenty of things to do and places to see. There’s the WatArun or the Temple of Dawn, the WatPhraKaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), the Grand Palace and the famous Thai massage.
In almost every street are traditional tailors where you can have a suit made to order. If you are after glamor and glitz, there’s the Sky Bar and Hotel, which is the tallest building in Bangkok. While the city is overcrowded and is literally a concrete jungle, there is still a space that is the green lung of the city, the Bang Krachao Gardens along the Chao Phraya River.
History of Bangkok
Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand is one of Asia’s major financial and commercial districts. Bangkok began as a small trading post in the 15th century’s Ayutthaya Kingdom which later grew and became the site for two capital cities: Thonburi and Rattanakosin.
Bangkok’s economy expanded gradually by trading with China and then with Western merchants during the early-to mid-19th century. During the 20th century, Bangkok was the center of political conflicts. Numerous uprisings were staged as the country abolished the monarchy and adopted constitutional rule.
Today, Bangkok is the seat of finance and business power, where many multinational corporations have established their headquarters in the heart of the city. The cosmopolitan city is home to thousands of expats, from Japanese to Chinese, to Europeans, North Americans, Africans, and Australians. There are also thousands of Lao, Cambodians, and Burmese who have made Bangkok their new home.
One of the World’s Favorite Travel Destinations
Bangkok is home to many ancient Wats and temples, including the famous Temple of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. Other notable places of worship can be found within the city. In contrast to Bangkok’s archaic structures are its modern skyscrapers, busy streets, and lively night scenes that complement the city’s allure. The price of modernization is evident, however, as severe air pollution and chronic traffic congestion cause daily suffering for most of Bangkok’s citizens.
What most “farangs” (or foreigners, in the local tongue) anticipate is the annual Songkran Festival which begins on the 13th and ends on the 15th of April. Songkran marks the Thai New Year, where many people, especially young adults, gather and celebrate on the streets by pouring water on everyone else as a gesture of “washing away” bad luck and sins. Songkran has grown popular among backpackers and tourists and most foreign visitors eagerly participate in the events.
More than Just Temples and Events
Aside from the spectacular temples and festal events, Bangkok offers a myriad of other activities, such as thrift shopping in Chatuchak (or Jatujak) Weekend Market, with a staggering 8,000 stalls, sprawled over 27 hectares and is considered one of the biggest markets in the world. The Chatuchak offers everything from food, clothes, and jewelry to pets, antiques, home decorations and so much more. Chatuchak however, is only open on Fridays from 6 PM to 12 MN and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 AM to 6 PM.
If you are into a more rustic environment and have had enough of the bustling city, you can take a tour along the floating markets of DamnoenSaduak. Here you can hire a long-tailed speedboat and a guide to take you on a cruise around the ancient 19th century canals. The floating markets were created by King Rama IV to promote trade and development in the area. Today, DamnoenSaduak is considered one of Bangkok’s prime attractions which also, in turn, provides a glimpse into traditional Thai culture.
A Backpacker’s Paradise
Backpackers and budget travelers will find sanctuary on Bangkok’s Khaosan Road. Khaosan is a short street in the Banglamphu area of the Phra Nakhon district. Khao San was once a major rice market in Bangkok but over the years quickly turned into a bustling “farang haven” and eventually earned the “backpacker ghetto” moniker. Many establishments offer cheap accommodation and fast food. The market here offers backpacker essentials although some of the stalls offer stuff like pirated DVDs, fake IDs, and possibly stolen items from other unwary travelers. As night falls, the street turns into a festive ground, with music and dancing, while the pubs fill with people from all over the world to share a drink and stories of their travels.
The Thai Language
The official and national language in Thailand is Thai, which is linguistically similar to Lao. In 2000, there were about 20 million people who spoke Thai as their first language. Thai is a language that is difficult for most foreigners to grasp because it has five tones: low, mid, high, falling, and rising and each one can change the meaning of a word, although if you make the effort, Thais would be glad to help you with pronunciation. For example, “maa” could be a verb meaning “to come” or it could be a noun that means a “dog.” The Thai language is all about respect, culture, and emotion. There are polite particles and the manner of speaking changes depending on the person you are talking with. This is similar in some respect to Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, where honorifics are observed.
If you think that spoken Thai is difficult, written Thai is more difficult to learn. This is because it is more complicated as it does not follow a clear and definite pattern of letters. There are no spaces between words as well. In Bangkok, they speak Central Thai. But there are also several regional dialects that make it difficult to understand most people in the city, particularly the merchants.
But since Bangkok is a haven for foreign nationals, most of the signs are written in Thai and in English. On the plus side, most people can speak and understand English as well.
Fun Facts About Bangkok
It has a VERY Long Name!
Bangkok is also known as Krung Thep. But it’s only a shortened version of the actual name. Bangkok’s full name is actually ‘KrungthepmahanakhonAmonrattanakosinMahintharaYutthayaMahadilokPhopNoppharatRatchathaniBuriromUdomRatchaniwetMahasathanAmonphimanAwatansathitSakkathattiyaWitsanukamprasit’ This translates to: “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 Visvakarman at Indra’s behest.” Bangkok holds the Guinness World Record for the longest name for a place.
Home to the Biggest Chinatown
The world’s largest Chinatown, Yaowarat, which is located in Bangkok, has been in existence for over 200 years.
Plenty of Temples
When you’re in Bangkok, you’ll never be in a shortage of temples when you’re out sightseeing! You can find a Buddhist Temple on almost every street corner of Bangkok.
It Gets REALLY Hot
The World Meteorological Organization considers Bangkok as the World’s Hottest City. The average mean temperature ranges from 28°C to 34 °C (82.4 °F to 93.2 °F).
The City Used the be The East’s Venice
In the past, Bangkok had dozens of canals (khlongs) and buildings once stood on stilts. Thus they used to call it the “Venice of the East.” However, the city of Bangkok is sinking at a rate of 2cm to 5cm annually. With rising sea levels, the city may become Venice-like in the future. Aside from being known as the “Venice of the East,” Bangkok is also known as the “City of Angels.”