From a small trading post, Bangkok has emerged as one of the world’s attractive tourist destination.
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, was a trading post, in the15th century. In the eighteenth century it became the site of two capital cities — Thonburi and Rattanakosin. These two cities merged to form one city, Bangkok in 1782. Thus, from a mere customs outpost it has evolved into one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world.
No clear evidence is available in respect of the etymology of the name Bangkok. Some linguists feel that the name might have been derived from two words in the Thai language, Bang which means “a village situated on a stream and ko which means” island”, most probably a reference to the area’s landscape which was dotted with Klongs (canals) and rivers.
According to another theory Bangkok is a shortened form of Bang makok — makok being the name in Thai of a plant which bears an olive-like fruit. The fact that Wat Arun, a historic temple in the area, used to be named Wat Makok, would appear to support this theory (Wat is again a Thai word for a Buddhist temple).
Another theory is that the city was officially known as Thonburi Si Mahasamut (words from Pali and Sanskrit – which literally mean “city of treasures gracing the ocean”.
Thus, initially, Bangkok was perhaps just a colloquial name, though foreign visitors continued to use it to refer to the city even after the new capital’s establishment.
Etymologically speaking the long name of Bangkok is actually “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit” — its Thai name written in English.
The Thai name of the city when written in English has 168 letters and is the world’s longest place name according to the Guinness Book of Records.
The name, translates as: “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 Vishvakarman at Indira’s behest”.
(In Hindu mythology, Vishvakarman is the renowned God of Architecture, who built Lanka, Dwarka, and Hastinapur. He built the great Pushpaka Vimana, the flying chariot of Ravana. Thailand has been influenced deeply by Hinduism though 90 per cent of the population worships the Buddha. But the stories of the Ramayana are etched on the walls of many temples. Many towns like Ayutthaya and Aranyapradet bear Hindu names)
During the 1960s Bangkok became famous for sex tourism and was a “Rest and Recreation” centre for American soldiers. Many multinational corporations located their regional headquarters in Bangkok during the Asian Investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s. The city has since become a major financial and business centre. It has acquired a high reputation for providing advanced health care to patients from foreign countries and has emerged as a recreational centre for carnivals, music, the arts, beauty contests, fashion shows and entertainment.
The city is famous for its notorious red-light districts, as well as for its busy and colourful street life, with vendors and hawkers and impressive cultural landmarks. The historic Buddhist temples stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the hectic nightlife of Sukhumvit Road and Patpong, which transform night into day under the glare of a million neon lamps.
Thus, despite probably the worst traffic jams in the world, Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destination cities. In fact Mastercard ranked Bangkok as the top destination city with more than 21 million international visitor arrivals in 2016, ahead of even London. Bangkok was also named the “World’s Best City” by one of the most reputed magazines for Travel based on a survey of its readers for four consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013.
Phuket an island town nestling in the Andaman Sea can boast of many beautiful beaches. It has been made famous because the James Bond Movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed there. Similarly, Pattaya and Hua Hin are also known the world over for their beaches and other attractions.
Today Bangkok is a bustling Metropolis, one of the most exciting cities in the world. It has an area of about 1500 square kilometres and a population of 8 million. It has more than 500 skyscrapers over 300 metres high and is the 8th tallest city in the world. It has hundreds of malls and is a shopper’s paradise.
Bangkok, however has a special place in my heart as I had spent most of my boyhood years there. It is my most favourite city relegating even London which I also love to a second place. Of course I am not taking into account Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, only because it is a small market town and civil parish, though the largest and most populous in the non-metropolitan district of Stratford on Avon. If it were classified as a city, I would have pushed even Bangkok to the second place, in my ranking of the three cities
Bangkok is renowned for its several hundred Wats or Buddhist Temples (the whole of Thailand has more than 40000); its famous silks; the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, one of the biggest of its kind in the world with unlimited opportunities for every conceivable sport on the planet; its aromatic cuisine which has acquired an international reputation; its Snake Park, which is probably the largest in the world; its exotic night clubs that rival those in Paris, London or Tokyo; and most of all its world famous massage parlours.
Thus, it should not come as a surprise that Bangkok is the World’s top destination city for tourists from all over the world, providing every kind of entertainment.
However, even among the world’s great modern cities, Bangkok is unique in as much as it has a certain rare attraction not to be found elsewhere. Every big city in the world no doubt has a Zoo, but Pattaya in Thailand alone has a “Tiger Park” which I shall discuss in detail in the second part of this article.
To be continued…