Bangkok, Thailand, Asia
Founded: c. 1769
Location: Located in the Chao Phraya River basin, Thailand, in a region often called the "Rice Bowl of Asia"
Time Zone: 7 p.m. = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: Thai, 90%; Chinese, 9%; other, 1%
Latitude and Longitude: 13°45′N, 100°30′E
Coastline: Gulf of Thailand
Climate : Subtropical. Bangkok is hot all year, with temperatures ranging from an average of 25°C (77°F) in December to 30°C (86°F) in April. Bangkok has three distinct seasons: the hot season (March through May), the rainy season (June through October), and the cool season (November through February).
Annual Mean Temperature: 28°C (82°F)
Average Annual Rainfall: 150 cm (59 in)
Government: Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. The city of Bangkok is designated as a province and governed by an elected governor.
Weights and Measures: Metric
Monetary Units: The baht is Thailand's basic unit of currency. In 1999, the exchange rate was approximately 40 Thai baht to one U.S. dollar.
Telephone Area Code: 02; 66 (Thailand country code)
Bangkok is located in central Thailand along the Chao Phraya River. Most visitors to Thailand travel by air though travelers in neighboring countries can reach Bangkok by bus, rail, or boat.
Traveling by bus into Thailand is not common for foreigners, though buses do enter the country from Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia. Due to past conflicts, much of Thailand's border with Myanmar (formerly Burma) is mined and unsafe for travelers.
The Hualamphong Railway Station on Rama IV Road is the city's main rail station, serving most long-distance routes. The Bangkok Noi, across the river from the Grand Palace, is used for shorter trips outside of the city.
Bangkok International Airport is the major gateway to all of Thailand. Located about 24 kilometers (15 miles) north of Bangkok, the airport is served by more than 35 airlines. Northwest Airlines is the U.S. carrier with the most frequent flights while Thailand's major airline is Thai Airways International, with flights to many international cities. Since the airport is located outside of the city, visitors traveling to Bangkok must arrange transportation into Bangkok. Buses, taxis, hotel minibuses, and a riverboat shuttle all connect the airport with downtown. Flight times from some major U.S. cities include New York, 22 hours; Chicago, 20 hours; and San Francisco, 17 hours.
Bangkok is Thailand's major port, handling nearly all of the country's exports and receiving over 70 percent of its imports. The Chao Phraya River connects the city to the Gulf of Thailand, 27 kilometers (17 miles) downstream.
Area: More than 2,300 sq km (900 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: 90% Thai; 9% Chinese; 1% other
World population rank1: 28
Percentage of Thailand population2: 12%
Average yearly growth rate: 2.0%
Nicknames: Venice of Asia, City of Angels, Divine City
Buses in Bangkok are cheap and convenient, with many routes and frequent stops. For a fare of less than 20 baht (less than 50 cents), riders can take an air-conditioned bus to popular destinations. For less than 20 cents, riders can take the more frequent, non-air-conditioned buses to just about anywhere in the city, though these buses tend to be crowded and very hot. Buses operate from 5:00 AM until 11:00 PM. and though the routes are confusing, maps are available from most street-side book vendors.
An elevated rail system was projected to begin operation in early 2000. A subway system is also underway, though its construction is progressing slowly.
Water travel was once the main means of transportation in this city of rivers and canals. River taxis and ferries are still one of Bangkok's most popular means of travel although they are losing out to automobiles. Commuter boats run several routes along and across the Chao Phraya. The main jetty stops are located at the Oriental Hotel, the Royal Orchid Sheraton, the River City Shopping Center, and the Grand Palace. The fare is reasonable at about 15 baht (25 cents), depending on distance. For more leisurely sightseeing trips, long-tailed boats can be rented by the hour for about 400 baht (ten dollars).
In 1993 meters were installed in all city taxis, although most drivers refuse to use them. Drivers almost always charge much higher fares than the meters would tally, but taxis are relatively cheap by Western standards.
A tuk-tuk is a colorful three-wheeled vehicle. Passengers ride in an open-air compartment that offers little protection in an accident. Tuk-tuks are the cheapest—and most dangerous—way to travel within the city. Tuk-tuk drivers weave in and out of dense traffic. Despite the hazards, a ride in a tuktuk may be the most convenient way to travel for a short trip or during rush hour.
Thailand's national sport is Thai Boxing. Thai boxing combines traditional boxing with martial arts. Matches in Bangkok draw huge crowds, and betting is common in the stands. Besides boxing, Bangkok offers horseracing enthusiasts two tracks with races every Sunday. Soccer is growing in popularity, and Bangkok's National Stadium is host to many important matches.
Lumphini Park is Bangkok's most popular and oldest park. Lumphini is one of the few green spaces in this congested city. Restaurants and bars line the north side of the park, and, although not legal within city limits, elephant trainers often bring their elephants into the park and offer tourists rides for a modest fee.
This park opened in 1987 to commemorate the King Rama IX's sixtieth birthday. The park contains a public park, a water park, and botanical gardens.
Located on the outskirts of Bangkok, this is the best place in Thailand to see elephants. Shows reenact eighteenth-century Thai battles, with the elephants clad in armor. Elephants also perform in a circus and in polo matches.
Massage is one of Bangkok's most popular pastimes. In Thailand, and much of Asia, massage is considered a component of good health. Massage schools and businesses can be found all over the city.
Classical Thai dance is Bangkok's performing art of note. Traditional dance blends a series of controlled gestures and movements with drama. The dancers wear elaborate costumes and masks, and performances are accompanied by woodwind and percussion instruments.
The National Museum is considered to be Southeast Asia's largest and most comprehensive museum. Founded in 1782, the museum's several buildings house artifacts representing more than 10,000 years of history. The museum gives visitors a thorough overview of Thai history and culture.
The Grand Palace was founded in 1782 when Bangkok was made the nation's capital. It is still surrounded by high white walls that were originally used for protection. This is Thailand's most frequented tourist site. The Palace consists of more than 100 elaborately decorated buildings. Within the Palace grounds is the Wat Phra Kaeo temple, considered one of the most beautiful temples in Thailand.
The Wat Pho is one of Bangkok's oldest and largest temples. It is located just south of the Grand Palace. The temple houses the gigantic 35-meter-long (115-foot-long) gold Reclining Buddha. The Wat Pho also served as Thailand's first university.
The Pasteur Institute is also known as The Snake Farm. The Red Cross runs this farm as a center for snake venom collection. Handlers milk poison from cobras, black mambas, pit vipers, and other dangerous snakes, and then the venom is used to make an antidote for people bitten by poisonous snakes.
Thailand's National Theatre is located on Na Phra Lan Road next to the National Museum. Thai Classical dramas and other types of international arts are periodically staged here. Current programs can be checked at the theatre on weekdays between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM. Special exhibition shows of Thai classical dancing and music are held on the last Friday and Saturday of each month.
The King's royal ceremonial barges are housed in a shed on the west side of the Chao Phraya River, across from the Grand Palace compound. Dating from the early part of the twentieth century, the barges were carved to look like mythical creatures. They are considered a national treasure.
This gallery exhibits both modern and traditional Thai art, and it also schedules rotating and traveling exhibitions.
Bangkok, Thailand. [Online] Available http://bangkok.thailandtoday.com/index.shtml (accessed April 14, 2000).
CIA, the World Factbook 1999, Thailand. [Online] Available http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/th.html (accessed October 12, 1999).
Thailand the Big Picture. [Online] Available http://www.nectec.or.th/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
Thailand Travel Information Center. [Online] Available http://www.thaiinfo.com/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
Ploenchit Soi Lang Suan
Phone: (02) 221–6209
United States Embassy
95 Wireless Road
Phone: (02) 252–5040
Tourist Authority of Thailand
372 Bamrung Muang Rd.
Pom Prap, 10100
Phone: (02) 226–0060
Tourism Authority of Thailand offices in the United States:
5 World Trade Center, Suite 3443
New York, NY 10048
Phone: (212) 432–0433
303 E. Wacker Dr., Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 819-3990
3440 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Phone: (213) 382–2353
Bangkok's two major English-language daily newspapers are both available online:
The Bangkok Post. [Online] Available http://www.bangkokpost.com.net/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
The Nation. [Online] Available http://www.nationmultimedia.com/ (accessed October 12, 1999).
Bailey, Donna. Thailand. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn, 1992.
Buckley, Michael. Bangkok Handbook. 2nd ed. Chico, CA: Moon Publications, 1995.
Cooper, Robert and Nanthapa Cooper. Culture Shock!: Thailand & How to Survive It. Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 1991.
Hoskin, John. Bangkok. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1991.
McNair, Sylvia. Bangkok. New York: Children's Press, 1999.
Ringis, Rita. Elephants of Thailand in Myth, Art, and Reality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.
Segaller, Denis , Thai Ways. Bangkok: Bangkok Post Books, 1998.
Wyatt, David , Thailand: A Short History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.