Bangkok

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I can imagine most people's first impression of Bangkok, as they ride from Don Muang Airport, through an endless traffic jam on huge highways, past enormous concrete jungles, with unbearable heat and sometimes pouring rain ... "Oh my God, what a dump".

 But beware, soon you'll pass a wayward elephant, a temple like something out of fairyland or a toytown-style taxi, and if your thoughts don't change then, they will when you reach your hotel, meet the locals, and find them to be some of the most delightful (or if female most beautiful) people in the world.

Then you will try the local food and bingo ... you're hooked.

I can "imagine" because those were my impressions when I arrived in 1982 and although the city, with unstoppable momentum, has in some places changed enormously, in other ways it hasn't changed at all.

You can walk a hundred yards and go back a hundred years.

Bangkok has more waterways than Venicia ... more traffic than New York ... and endless shops, markets, restaurants, department stores, and street stalls selling delicious food, all of them dirt cheap. Try the Bangkok University guide

Bangkok is currently having a second airport built at Lat Krabang, a district I know very well after my wife and sister-in-law bought a bungalow there in 1988. Hence in 2005 (ish) passengers will arrive to drive through green countryside down to the Bangna-Trad Highway. But make the most of it, folks, because Bangkok has a habit of spreading at an alarming rate of knots with airport service industries, ordinary industries and housing. For that matter I remember when I was a child in Prince of Wales Road, Coventry, England waking up to find the local farmer's cows in the front garden. Click multimaps and see how far away the cows are today. You can then use multimaps to look all over the UK and the world.

Bangkok was inaugurated as the capital of Thailand some 300 years ago although it had been in existence and known to European traders for some considerable time before that. Before this the capital was Thonburi and before that Sukothai. Have a look at the Asiatours history for more info.

By the time that the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Budha had been built in 1785 the new capital was renamed ...Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amorn Rattanakosindra Mahindrayutthaya Mahadilokpop Noparattana Radchhani Burirom Udom Rachnivet Mahastan Amorn Pimarn Avatarn Satit Sakatuttiya Vishnukarm Prasit

That's right, longer than the one in Wales. This is, of course, the longest place name in the world and is retranslated in English as ... City of Angels, Great City and Residence of the Emerald Buddha, Impregnable City of God Indra, Grand Capital of the World, Endowed with Nine Precious Gems, Abounding in Enormous Royal Palaces which Resemble the Heavenly Abode where Reigns the Reincarnated God, a City given by Indra and Built by Vishnukarm

Imagine going to the railway station and asking for a train ticket to ... what the hell, all Thais refer to the city as "Krung Thep".

Nowadays Bangkok (Krung Thep whatever) is reckoned to be the largest city in the world, but all of these claims hinge around precisely how many districts or villages you include. Remember that the capital of England is, in theory, a mere "square mile".

Anyway, if you want to learn more or see more of the city, the only answer is to go there ... but, be warned, a lot of people never escape.

Either click here, or on "Flavours of Bangkok" below for a few pictures of the city ...

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Thailand website by Tim James