Bangkok is the capital and most populous city of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร, pronounced  [krūŋ tʰêːp mahǎː nákʰɔ̄ːn] or simply  Krung Thep . The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand, and has a population of over 8 million, or 12.6 percent of the country's population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) live within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region, making Bangkok an extreme primate city, significantly dwarfing Thailand's other urban centres in terms of importance.There are 581 high-rise buildings in the city,ranking number 5 in the world.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew in size and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of Siam's (as Thailand used to be known) modernization, during the later 19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was the centre of Thailand's political struggles, throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule and underwent numerous coups and several uprisings. The city grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s and now exerts a significant impact among Thailand's politics, economy, education, media and modern society.

The Asian investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s led many multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Bangkok. The city is now a major regional force in finance and business. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and has emerged as a regional centre for the arts, fashion and entertainment. The city is well known for its vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts. The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. Bangkok is among the world's top tourist destinations. It is named the most visited city in MasterCard's Global Destination Cities Index, and was named "World's Best City" for four consecutive years by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Bangkok's rapid growth amidst little urban planning and regulation has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure systems. Limited roads, despite an extensive expressway network, together with substantial private car usage, have resulted in chronic and crippling traffic congestion. This in turn caused severe air pollution in the 1990s. The city has since turned to public transport in an attempt to solve this major problem. Four rapid transit lines are now in operation, with more systems under construction or planned by the national government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

 

Geography

Satellite image showing a river flowing into the ocean, with large built-up areas along its sides just before the river mouth
 
The Bangkok city proper is highlighted in this satellite image of the lower Chao Phraya delta. Notice the built-up urban area along the Chao Phraya River, which extends northward and southward into Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan Provinces.

The Bangkok city proper covers an area of 1,568.737 square kilometres (605.693 sq mi), ranking 69th among the other 76 provinces of Thailand. Of this, about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) form the built-up urban area.[1] It is ranked 73rd in the world in terms of land area by City Mayors.[22] The city's urban sprawl reaches into parts of the six other provinces it borders, namely, in clockwise order from northwest: NonthaburiPathum ThaniChachoengsaoSamut PrakanSamut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom. With the exception of Chachoengsao, these provinces, together with Bangkok, form the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region.[2]

Topography

Bangkok is in the Chao Phraya River delta in Thailand's central plains. The river meanders through the city in a southward direction, emptying into the Gulf of Thailandapproximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the city centre. The area is flat and low-lying, with an average elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level.[3][c] Most of the area was originally swampland, which was gradually drained and irrigated for agriculture via the construction of canals (khlong) which took place throughout the 16th to 19th centuries. The course of the river as it flows through Bangkok has been modified by the construction of several shortcut canals.

 
Bangkok's major canals are shown in this map detailing the original course of the river and its shortcut canals.

This intricate waterway network served as the primary mode of transport up until the late 19th century, when modern roads began to be built. Up until then, most people lived near or on the water, leading the city to be known during the 19th century as the "Venice of the East".[23] Many of these canals have since been filled in or paved over, but others still criss-cross the city, serving as major drainage channels and transport routes. Most canals are now badly polluted, although the BMA has committed to the treatment and cleaning up of several canals.[24]

The geology of the Bangkok area is characterized by a top layer of soft marine clay known as Bangkok clay, averaging 15 metres (49 ft) in thickness, which overlies an aquifer system consisting of eight known units. This feature has contributed to the effects of subsidence caused by extensive ground water pumping. First recognized in the 1970s, subsidence soon became a critical issue, reaching a rate of 120 millimetres (4.7 in) per year in 1981. Ground water management and mitigation measures have since lessened the severity of the situation, although subsidence is still occurring at a rate of 10 to 30 millimetres (0.39 to 1.18 in) per year, and parts of the city are now 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) below sea level.[25] There are fears that the city may be submerged by 2030.[26][27] Subsidence has resulted in increased flood risk, as Bangkok is already prone to flooding due to its low elevation and inadequate drainage infrastructure resulting from rapid urbanization. The city now relies on flood barriers and augmenting drainage from canals by pumping and building drain tunnels, but parts of Bangkok and its suburbs are still regularly affected by flooding. Heavy downpours resulting in urban runoff overwhelming drainage systems, and runoff discharge from upstream areas, are major triggering factors.[28] Severe flooding affecting much of the city occurred recently in 1995 and 2011. In the latter, most of Bangkok's northern, eastern and western districts became inundated, in some places for over two months. Coastal erosion is also an issue in the gulf coastal area, a small length of which lies within Bangkok's Bang Khun Thian District.Global warming poses further serious risks, and a study by the OECD has estimated that 5.138 million people in Bangkok may be exposed to coastal flooding by 2070, the seventh highest among the world's port cities.[29]:8

There are no mountains in Bangkok, the closest mountain range being the Khao Khiao Massif, located about 40 km (25 mi) southeast of the city. Phu Khao Thong, the only hill in the metropolitan area, originated in a very large chedi that King Rama III (1787–1851) decided to build at Wat Saket. The chedi collapsed during construction because the soft soil of Bangkok could not support the weight. Over the next few decades, the abandoned mud-and-brick structure acquired the shape of a natural hill and became overgrown with weeds. The locals called it "phu khao" (ภูเขา), as if it was a natural feature.[30] In the 1940s surrounding concrete walls were added to stop the hill from eroding.[31]

 

Climate[edit]

Like most of Thailand, Bangkok has a tropical savanna climate under the Köppen climate classification and is under the influence of the South Asian monsoon system. It experiences three seasons, hot, rainy and cool, although temperatures are fairly hot year-round, ranging from an average low of 22.0 °C (71.6 °F) in December to an average high of 35.4 °C (95.7 °F) in April. The rainy season begins with the arrival of the southwest monsoon around mid-May. September is the wettest month, with an average rainfall of 334.3 millimetres (13.16 in). The rainy season lasts until October, when the dry and cool northeast monsoon takes over until February. The hot season is generally dry, but also sees occasional summer storms.[32] The surface magnitude of Bangkok's urban heat island has been measured at 2.5 °C (4.5 °F) during the day and 8.0 °C (14 °F) at night.[33] The highest recorded temperature of Bangkok metropolis was 40.0 °C (104.0 °F) in April 1979,[34] and the lowest recorded temperature was 9.9 °C (49.8 °F) in January 1955.[35]

Climate data for Bangkok Metropolis (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 37.6
(99.7)
38.8
(101.8)
40.1
(104.2)
40.2
(104.4)
39.7
(103.5)
38.3
(100.9)
37.9
(100.2)
38.5
(101.3)
37.2
(99)
37.9
(100.2)
38.8
(101.8)
37.1
(98.8)
40.2
(104.4)
Average high C (°F) 32.5
(90.5)
33.3
(91.9)
34.3
(93.7)
35.4
(95.7)
34.4
(93.9)
33.6
(92.5)
33.2
(91.8)
32.9
(91.2)
32.8
(91)
32.6
(90.7)
32.4
(90.3)
31.7
(89.1)
33.3
(91.9)
Daily mean °C (°F) 27.0
(80.6)
28.3
(82.9)
29.5
(85.1)
30.5
(86.9)
29.9
(85.8)
29.5
(85.1)
29.0
(84.2)
28.8
(83.8)
28.3
(82.9)
28.1
(82.6)
27.8
(82)
26.5
(79.7)
28.6
(83.5)
Average low °C (°F) 22.6
(72.7)
24.4
(75.9)
25.9
(78.6)
26.9
(80.4)
26.3
(79.3)
26.1
(79)
25.7
(78.3)
25.5
(77.9)
25.0
(77)
24.8
(76.6)
23.9
(75)
22.0
(71.6)
24.9
(76.8)
Record low °C (°F) 10.0
(50)
14.0
(57.2)
15.7
(60.3)
20.0
(68)
21.1
(70)
21.1
(70)
21.8
(71.2)
21.8
(71.2)
21.1
(70)
18.3
(64.9)
15.0
(59)
10.5
(50.9)
10
(50)
Average rainfall mm (inches) 13.3
(0.524)
20.0
(0.787)
42.1
(1.657)
91.4
(3.598)
247.7
(9.752)
157.1
(6.185)
175.1
(6.894)
219.3
(8.634)
334.3
(13.161)
292.1
(11.5)
49.5
(1.949)
6.3
(0.248)
1,648.2
(64.89)
Average rainy days 1.8 2.4 3.6 6.6 16.4 16.3 17.4 19.6 21.2 17.7 5.8 1.1 129.9
Average relative humidity (%) 68 72 72 72 75 74 75 76 79 78 70 66 73
Mean monthly sunshine hours 272.8 251.4 269.7 258.0 217.0 177.0 170.5 161.2 156.0 198.4 234.0 263.5 2,629.5
Source #1: Thai Meteorological Department,[36] humidity (1981–2010): RID;[37] Rainfall (1981–2010): RID[38]
Source #2: Pogodaiklimat.ru(High/Low Record)[39] NOAA (sun, 1961–1990)[40]

Districts

Bangkok's fifty districts serve as administrative subdivisions under the authority of the BMA. Thirty-five of these districts lie to the east of the Chao Phraya, while fifteen are on the western bank, known as the Thonburi side of the city. The fifty districts, arranged by district code, are:

A map of Bangkok
 
Map showing the 50 districts of Bangkok divided into 12 clusters:
  Rattanakosin
  Lumphini
  Vibhavadi
  Chao Phraya
  Thonburi
  Taksin
  Phra Nakhon Nuea
  Burapha
  Suwinthawong
  Sinakharin
  Mahasawat
  Sanam Chai
  1. Phra Nakhon District
  2. Dusit District
  3. Nong Chok District
  4. Bang Rak District
  5. Bang Khen District
  6. Bang Kapi District
  7. Pathum Wan District
  8. Pom Prap Sattru Phai District
  9. Phra Khanong District
  10. Min Buri District
  11. Lat Krabang District
  12. Yan Nawa District
  13. Samphanthawong District
  14. Phaya Thai District
  15. Thon Buri District
  16. Bangkok Yai District
  17. Huai Khwang District
  18. Khlong San District
  19. Taling Chan District
  20. Bangkok Noi District
  21. Bang Khun Thian District
  22. Phasi Charoen District
  23. Nong Khaem District
  24. Rat Burana District
  25. Bang Phlat District
  1. Din Daeng District
  2. Bueng Kum District
  3. Sathon District
  4. Bang Sue District
  5. Chatuchak District
  6. Bang Kho Laem District
  7. Prawet District
  8. Khlong Toei District
  9. Suan Luang District
  10. Chom Thong District
  11. Don Mueang District
  12. Ratchathewi District
  13. Lat Phrao District
  14. Watthana District
  15. Bang Khae District
  16. Lak Si District
  17. Sai Mai District
  18. Khan Na Yao District
  19. Saphan Sung District
  20. Wang Thonglang District
  21. Khlong Sam Wa District
  22. Bang Na District
  23. Thawi Watthana District
  24. Thung Khru District
  25. Bang Bon District

The BMA uses several schemes to organize the districts into groups for administrative and general planning purposes. The scheme adopted in 2004 uses twelve characteristic groups, shown in the map above:[41][42]

  1. Rattanakosin cluster – Historic conservation, administrative, traditional retail, and cultural tourism areas
  2. Lumphini cluster – Central business, commercial and tourism areas
  3. Vibhavadi cluster – Employment, retail and service, and high-density residential areas
  4. Chao Phraya cluster – Emerging economic areas
  5. Thonburi cluster – Historic and cultural conservation and tourism areas
  6. Taksin cluster – Emerging employment and high-density residential areas
  7. Phra Nakhon Nuea cluster – Residential areas; transition zone for potential city expansion
  8. Burapha cluster – Residential areas; transition zone for potential city expansion
  9. Suwinthawong cluster – Agriculture and residential areas
  10. Sinakharin cluster – Suburban community centre areas
  11. Mahasawat cluster – Agriculture and residential areas
  12. Sanam Chai cluster – Agriculture, industrial, residential, and ecological tourism areas

Cityscape

Bangkok's district areas often do not accurately represent the functional divisions of its neighbourhoods or actual land uses. Although urban planning policies date back to the commission of the "Litchfield plan" in 1960, which set out strategies for land use, transportation and general infrastructure improvements, actual zoning regulations were not fully implemented until 1992. As a result, the city grew organically throughout the period of its rapid expansion, both horizontally as ribbon developments extended along newly built roads, and vertically, with increasing numbers of high rises and skyscrapers being built in several commercial areas.[43] The city has grown from its original centre along the river into a sprawling metropolis surrounded by swaths of suburban residential development extending north and south into neighbouring provinces. The highly populated and growing cities of NonthaburiPak KretRangsit and Samut Prakan are effectively now suburbs of Bangkok. Nevertheless, large agricultural areas remain within the city proper, in its eastern and western fringes. Land use in the city consists of 23 percent residential use, 24 percent agriculture, and 30 percent used for commerce, industry and by the government.[1] The BMA's City Planning Department is responsible for planning and shaping further development. It has published master plan updates in 1999 and 2006, and a third revision is undergoing public hearings in 2012.[44]

 
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hallin Dusit District was inspired by King Chulalongkorn's visits to Europe.

Bangkok's historic centre remains the Rattanakosin Island in Phra Nakhon District. It is the site of the Grand Palace and the City Pillar Shrine, primary landmarks of the city's foundation, as well as many important Buddhist temples. Phra Nakhon, along with the neighbouring Pom Prap Sattru Phai and Samphanthawong Districts, formed what was the city proper in the later 19th century. Many traditional neighbourhoods and markets are located here, including the Chinese settlement of Sampheng. The city was expanded toward Dusit District in the early 19th century, following King Chulalongkorn's relocation of the royal household to the new Dusit Palace. The buildings of the palace, including the neoclassical Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, as well as the Royal Plaza and Ratchadamnoen Avenue which leads to it from the Grand Palace, reflect the heavy influence of European architecture at the time. Major government offices line the avenue, as does the Democracy Monument. The area is the site of the country's seats of power as well as the city's most popular tourist landmarks.

A lot of high-rise buildings
 
The Sukhumvit area appears as a sea of high-rise buildings in this photograph taken from Baiyoke Tower II, the tallest building in Bangkok.

In contrast with the low-rise historic areas, the business district on Si Lom and Sathon Roads in Bang Rak and Sathon Districts teems with skyscrapers. It is the site of many of the country's major corporate headquarters, but also of some of the city's infamous red-light districts. The Siam and Ratchaprasong areas in Pathum Wan are home to some of the largest shopping malls in Southeast Asia. Numerous retail outlets and hotels also stretch along Sukhumvit Road leading southeast through Watthana and Khlong Toei Districts. More office towers line the streets branching off Sukhumvit, especially Asok Montri, while upmarket housing span many of its sois.

Although Bangkok does not have a clear, geographical centre, "downtown" is generally considered to be the Siam area, which contains many of the bigger malls and commercial areas in the city, as well as Siam Station, the only transfer point between the city's two elevated train lines. The Victory Monument in Ratchathewi District is among its most important road junctions, serving over 100 bus lines as well as an elevated train station. From the monument, Phahonyothin and Ratchawithi / Din Daeng Roads respectively run northward and eastward linking to major residential areas. Most high-density development is located within the 113-square-kilometre (44 sq mi) area encircled by the Ratchadaphisek inner ring road. Ratchadaphisek is lined with businesses and retail outlets, and office buildings also concentrate around Ratchayothin Intersection in Chatuchak District to the north. Farther from the city centre, most areas are primarily mid- or low-density residential. The Thonburi side of the city is less developed, with fewer high rises. With the exception of a few secondary urban centres, Thonburi, as well as the outlying eastern districts, consist mostly of residential and rural areas.

While most of Bangkok's streets are fronted by vernacular shophouses, the largely unrestricted building frenzy of the 1980s has transformed the city into an urban jungle of skyscrapers and high rises exhibiting contrasting and clashing styles.[45] There are 581 skyscrapers over 90 m. tall in the city. Bangkok was ranked as the world's 8th tallest city in 2016.[6] On the other hand, as a result of economic disparity, many slums have emerged in the city. In 2000 there were over 1 million people living in about 800 slum settlements.[46] A large number of slums are concentrated near the Bangkok Port in Khlong Toei District.

Night-time panorama photograph showing an expansive cityscape with several skyscrapers in the foreground, a park in the centre, and a large group of buildings across the park
 
Skyscrapers of Ratchadamri and Sukhumvit at night, viewed across Lumphini Park from the Si Lom – Sathonbusiness district

Parks and green zones

A park with many trees and a lake; a bronze standing statue in front of the park; many buildings in the background
 
Lumphini Park appears as an oasis of greenery among the skyscrapers of Ratchadamri and Sukhumvit.

Bangkok has several parks, although these amount to a per-capita total park area of only 1.82 square metres (19.6 sq ft) in the city proper. Total green space for the entire city is moderate, at 11.8 square metres (127 sq ft) per person; however, in the more densely built-up areas of the city these numbers are as low as 1.73 and 0.72 square metres (18.6 and 7.8 sq ft) per person.[47] More recent numbers claim that there is only 3.3 m2 of green space per person, compared to an average of 39 m2 in other cities across Asia. Bangkokians thus have 10 times less green space than is standard in the region's urban areas.[48] Green belt areas include about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) of rice paddies and orchards in the eastern and western edges of the city proper, although their primary purpose is to serve as flood detention basins rather than to limit urban expansion.[49] Bang Kachao, a 20-square-kilometre (7.7 sq mi) conservation area in an oxbow of the Chao Phraya, lies just across the southern riverbank districts, in Samut Prakan Province. A master development plan has been proposed to increase total park area to 4 square metres (43 sq ft) per person.[47]

Bangkok's largest parks include the centrally located Lumphini Park near the Si Lom – Sathon business district with an area of 57.6 hectares (142 acres), the 80-hectare (200-acre) Suanluang Rama IX in the east of the city, and the ChatuchakQueen SirikitWachirabenchathat park complex in northern Bangkok, which has a combined area of 92 hectares (230 acres).[50]

Demography

Historical census populations[51]
Year Population
1919 437,294
1929 713,384
1937 890,453
1947 1,178,881
1960 2,136,435
1970 3,077,361
1980 4,697,071
1990 5,882,411
2000 6,355,144
2010[4] 8,280,925

The city of Bangkok has a population of 8,280,925 according to the 2010 census, or 12.6 percent of the national population.[4] However, there are only 5,692,284 registered residents, belonging to 2,672,423 households.[52] A large number of Bangkok's daytime population commutes from surrounding provinces in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, the total population of which is 14,565,547. Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city; the census showed that it is home to 81,570 Japanese and 55,893 Chinese nationals, as well as 117,071 expatriates from other Asian countries, 48,341 from Europe, 23,418 from the Americas, 5,289 from Australia and 3,022 from Africa. Immigrants from neighbouring countries include 303,595 Burmese, 63,438 Cambodians and 18,126 Lao.[53]

Although it has been Thailand's largest population centre since its establishment as capital city in 1782, Bangkok grew only slightly throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. British diplomat John Crawfurd, visiting in 1822, estimated its population at no more than 50,000.[54] As a result of Western medicine brought by missionaries as well as increased immigration from both within Siam and overseas, Bangkok's population gradually increased as the city modernized in the late 19th century. This growth became even more pronounced in the 1930s, following the discovery of antibiotics. Although family planning and birth control was introduced in the 1960s, the lowered birth rate was more than offset by increased migration from the provinces as economic expansion accelerated. Only in the 1990s have Bangkok's population growth rates decreased, following the national rate. Thailand had long since become highly centralized around the capital. In 1980, Bangkok's population was fifty-one times that of Hat Yai and Songkhla, the second-largest urban centre, making it the world's most prominent primate city.[55]

A street during sunset lined with many stalls and shops with a lot of signs bearing Thai and Chinese names
 
Yaowarat is Bangkok's Chinatown. Chinese immigrants and their descendants form the largest minority group in the city.

The majority of Bangkok's population are of Thai ethnicity,[d] although details on the city's ethnic make-up are unavailable, as the national census does not document race.[e] Bangkok's cultural pluralism dates back to the early days of its foundation; several ethnic communities were formed by immigrants and forced settlers including the Khmer, Northern Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Tavoyan, Mon and Malay.[8] Most prominent were the Chinese, who played major roles in the city's trade and became the majority of Bangkok's population—estimates include up to three-fourths in 1828 and almost half in the 1950s.[59][f] However, Chinese immigration was restricted from the 1930s and effectively ceased after the Chinese Revolution in 1949. Their prominence subsequently declined as most of younger generations of Thai Chinese have integrated and adopted a Thai identity. Bangkok is still nevertheless home to a large Chinese community, with the greatest concentration in Yaowarat, Bangkok's Chinatown. The majority (91 percent) of the city's population is Buddhist. Other religions include Islam (4.7%), Christianity (2.0%), Hinduism (0.5%), Sikhism (0.1%) and Confucianism (0.1%).[61]

Apart from Yaowarat, Bangkok also has several other distinct ethnic neighbourhoods. The Indian community is centred in Phahurat, where the Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, founded in 1933, is located. Ban Khrua on Saen Saep Canal is home to descendants of the Cham who settled in the late 18th century. Although the Portuguese who settled during the Thonburi period have ceased to exist as a distinct community, their past is reflected in Santa Kruz Church, on the west bank of the river. Likewise, the Assumption Cathedral on Charoen Krung Road is among many European-style buildings in the Old Farang Quarter, where European diplomats and merchants lived during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Nearby, the Haroon Mosque is the centre of a Muslim community. Newer expatriate communities exist along Sukhumvit Road, including the Japanese community near Soi Phrom Phong, and the Arab and North African neighbourhood along Soi Nana. Sukhumvit Plaza, a mall on Soi Sukhumvit 12, is popularly known as Korea Town.

 

 

 

 

Tourism

Main article: Tourism in Bangkok
A Thai temple complex with several ornate buildings and a stupa, and a lot of visitors
 
Wat Phra Kaeo in the Grand Palaceis among Bangkok's major tourist attractions.

Bangkok is one of the world's top tourist destination cities. MasterCard ranked Bangkok as the second global top destination city by international visitor arrivals in its Global Destination Cities Index 2015, with 18.24 million overnight visitors.[74] Euromonitor International ranked Bangkok fourth in its Top City Destinations Ranking for 2016.[75]Bangkok was also named "World's Best City" by Travel + Leisure magazine's survey of its readers for four consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013.[76]

As the main gateway through which visitors arrive in Thailand, Bangkok is visited by the majority of international tourists to the country. Domestic tourism is also prominent. The Department of Tourism recorded 26,861,095 Thai and 11,361,808 foreign visitors to Bangkok in 2010. Lodgings were made by 15,031,244 guests, who occupied 49.9 percent of the city's 86,687 hotel rooms.[66]

Bangkok's multi-faceted sights, attractions and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as several museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a wide range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its dynamic nightlife. Although Bangkok's sex tourism scene is well known to foreigners, it is usually not openly acknowledged by locals or the government.

Night scene on a pedestrian street, with many people and street vendors; shops along the street bearing brightly lit signs with names like "99Fashion", "Brick Bar", "Mulligans Irish Bar", and Pepsi and McDonald's logos
 
Khao San Road is lined by budget accommodation, shops and bars catering to tourists.

Among Bangkok's well-known sights are the Grand Palace and major Buddhist temples, including Wat Phra KaewWat Pho, and Wat Arun. The Giant Swing and Erawan Shrine demonstrate Hinduism's deep-rooted influence in Thai culture. Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit Palace is famous as the world's largest teak building, while the Jim Thompson House provides an example of traditional Thai architecture. Other major museums include theBangkok National Museum and the Royal Barge National Museum. Cruises and boat trips on the Chao Phraya and Thonburi's canals offer views of some of the city's traditional architecture and ways of life on the waterfront.[77]

Shopping venues, many of which are popular with both tourists and locals, range from the shopping centres and department stores concentrated in Siam and Ratchaprasong to the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend MarketTaling Chan Floating Market is among the few such markets in Bangkok. Yaowarat is known for its shops as well as street-side food stalls and restaurants, which are also found throughout the city. Khao San Road has long been famous as a backpackers' destination, with its budget accommodation, shops and bars attracting visitors from all over the world.

Bangkok has a reputation overseas as a major destination in the sex industry. Although prostitution is technically illegal and is rarely openly discussed in Thailand, it commonly takes place among massage parlours, saunas and hourly hotels, serving foreign tourists as well as locals. Bangkok has acquired the nickname "Sin City of Asia" for its level of sex tourism.[78]

Issues often encountered by foreign tourists include scams, overcharging and dual pricing. In a survey of 616 tourists visiting Thailand, 7.79 percent reported encountering a scam, the most common of which was the gem scam, in which tourists are tricked into buying overpriced jewellery.[79]

 

Culture

The culture of Bangkok reflects its position as Thailand's centre of wealth and modernization. The city has long been the portal of entry of Western concepts and material goods, which have been adopted and blended with Thai values to various degrees by its residents. This is most evident in the lifestyles of the expanding middle class. Conspicuous consumption serves as a display of economic and social status, and shopping centres are popular weekend hangouts.[80] Ownership of electronics and consumer products such as mobile phones is ubiquitous. This has been accompanied by a degree of secularism, as religion's role in everyday life has rather diminished. Although such trends have spread to other urban centres, and, to a degree, the countryside, Bangkok remains at the forefront of social change.

A distinct feature of Bangkok is the ubiquity of street vendors selling goods ranging from food items to clothing and accessories. It has been estimated that the city may have over 100,000 hawkers. While the BMA has authorized the practice in 287 sites, the majority of activity in another 407 sites takes place illegally. Although they take up pavement space and block pedestrian traffic, many of the city's residents depend on these vendors for their meals, and the BMA's efforts to curb their numbers have largely been unsuccessful.[81]

Festivals and events

An elaborate double archway above a road, with pictures of King Bhumibol Adulyadej; trees decorated with lights
 
Ratchadamnoen Avenue is annually decorated with lights and displays in celebration of the king's birthday.

The residents of Bangkok celebrate many of Thailand's annual festivals. During Songkran on 13–15 April, traditional rituals as well as water fights take place throughout the city. Loi Krathong, usually in November, is accompanied by the Golden Mount Fair. New Year celebrations take place at many venues, the most prominent being the plaza in front of CentralWorld. Observances related to the royal family are held primarily in Bangkok. Wreaths are laid at King Chulalongkorn's equestrian statue in the Royal Plaza on 23 October, which is King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day. The present king's and queen's birthdays, respectively on 5 December and 12 August, are marked as Thailand's national Father's Day and national Mother's Day. These national holidays are celebrated by royal audiences on the day's eve, in which the king or queen gives a speech, and public gatherings on the day of the observance. The king's birthday is also marked by the Royal Guards' parade.

Sanam Luang is the site of the Thai Kite, Sport and Music Festival, usually held in March, and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony which takes place in May. The Red Cross Fair at the beginning of April is held at Suan Amporn and the Royal Plaza, and features numerous booths offering goods, games and exhibits. The Chinese New Year (January–February) and Vegetarian Festival (September–October) are celebrated widely by the Chinese community, especially in Yaowarat.[82]

Media

Bangkok is the centre of Thailand's media industry. All national newspapers, broadcast media and major publishers are based in the capital. Its 21 national newspapers had a combined daily circulation of about two million in 2002. These include the mass-oriented Thai RathKhao Sod and Daily News, the first of which currently prints a million copies per day,[83] as well as the less sensational Matichon and Krungthep Thurakij. The Bangkok Post and The Nation are the two national English-language dailies. Foreign publications including The Asian Wall Street JournalFinancial TimesThe Straits Times and the Yomiuri Shimbun also have operations in Bangkok.[84] The large majority of Thailand's more than 200 magazines are published in the capital, and include news magazines as well as lifestyle, entertainment, gossip and fashion-related publications.

Bangkok is also the hub of Thailand's broadcast television. All six national terrestrial channels, Channels 35 and 7ModernineNBT and Thai PBS, have headquarters and main studios in the capital. With the exception of local news segments broadcast by the NBT, all programming is done in Bangkok and repeated throughout the provinces. However, this centralized model is weakening with the rise of cable television, which has many local providers. There are numerous cable and satellite channels based in BangkokTrueVisions is the major subscription television provider in Bangkok and Thailand, and it also carries international programming. Bangkok was home to 40 of Thailand's 311 FM radio stations and 38 of its 212 AM stations in 2002.[84] Broadcast media reform stipulated by the 1997 Constitution has been progressing slowly, although many community radio stations have emerged in the city.

Likewise, Bangkok has dominated the Thai film industry since its inception. Although film settings normally feature locations throughout the country, the city is home to all major film studios. Bangkok has dozens ofcinemas and multiplexes, and the city hosts two major film festivals annually, the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Art

A modern-looking building with a smooth curved exterior on the corner of a road junction
 
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, the city's major public contemporary art venue, was opened in 2008 after many delays.

Traditional Thai art, long developed within religious and royal contexts, continues to be sponsored by various government agencies in Bangkok, including the Department of Fine Arts' Office of Traditional Arts. The SUPPORT Foundation in Chitralada Palace sponsors traditional and folk handicrafts. Various communities throughout the city still practice their traditional crafts, including the production of khon masks, alms bowls, and classical musical instruments. The National Gallery hosts permanent collection of traditional and modern art, with temporary contemporary exhibits. Bangkok's contemporary art scene has slowly grown from relative obscurity into the public sphere over the past two decades. Private galleries gradually emerged to provide exposure for new artists, including the Patravadi Theatre and H Gallery. The centrally located Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, opened in 2008 following a fifteen-year lobbying campaign, is now the largest public exhibition space in the city.[85] There are also many other art galleries and museums, including the privately owned Museum of Contemporary Art.

The city's performing arts scene features traditional theatre and dance as well as Western-style plays. Khon and other traditional dances are regularly performed at theNational Theatre and Salachalermkrung Royal Theatre, while the Thailand Cultural Centre is a newer multi-purpose venue which also hosts musicals, orchestras and other events. Numerous venues regularly feature a variety of performances throughout the city.

Sport

Several men playing a ball game; two of them jumping mid-air on either side of a net about eye-level high, appearing to be kicking the ball over the net; graffiti on a wall in the background
 
Games of sepak takraw can be spotted throughout Bangkok's parks and streets.

Modern Bangkok has developed a strong spectator sport culture. While muay Thai kickboxing matches at Rajadamnern and Lumpini Stadiums are regularly broadcast on television, the sport has mostly been overtaken in popularity by association football. Several foreign leagues and competitions, especially England's Premier League, have large followings in Bangkok as well as other Thai urban centres. In recent years, the Thai Premier League has been gaining popularity. BEC–Tero Sasana based in Bangkok and Muangthong United based in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region are leading clubs.[86]

While sepak takraw can be seen played in open spaces throughout the city, especially by the working class, football and other modern sports are now more of the norm. Western sports were introduced during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, and were originally only available to the privileged. Such status is still associated with certain sports. Golf is popular among the upwardly mobile, and while Thailand's more famous clubs are in the countryside, there are several courses in Bangkok itself. Horse riding takes place in a couple of exclusive clubs in the city. Horse racing is very popular in Bangkok and betting on horses is legal. There are two racecourses in Bangkok: "Royal Bangkok Sports Club" and "Royal Turf Club of Thailand".

There are many public sporting facilities located throughout Bangkok. The two main centres are the National Stadium complex, which dates to 1938, and the newer Hua Mak Sports Complex, which was built for the 1998 Asian Games. Bangkok had also hosted the games in 19661970 and 1978. The city was the host of the first SEA Games in 1959 and the Summer Universiade in 2007. Thailand is the host of the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup and Bangkok is one of the host cities along with Nakhon Ratchasima.