It is one of the most fascinating towns on our
planet - this modern, steamy Asian metropolis, on 560 km2,
with 8 million+ population. Between canyons of concrete
skyscrapers, speeding vehicles roar through space enacting a
human-scaled version of nuclear fission. The noise is
deafening, the pollution suffocating, and the heat stuffy;
and then, there are the floods. But conquering a man-made
jungle is the modern version of bush-whacking. Once you hack
through the 12-lane highways and the throngs of people, you
will find a small village, napping in the narrow lanes with an
unmistakable khwaam pen thai ('Thai-ness').
The capital of Thailand was established at
Bangkok in 1782 by the first king of the Chakri dynasty, Rama
I. The name Bangkok comes from Bang Makok, meaning 'Place of
Olive Plums', and refers to the original site, which is only a
very small part of what is today called Bangkok by foreigners.
The official name for the city is quite a tongue twister:
Krungthep mahanakhon amonratanakosin
mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok popnapparat rathchathani
burirom udomtarchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit
The 1989 album Fak Thong (Pumpkin) by rock duo
Asanee-Wasan contained the hit 'Krung Thep Mahanakhon', a
big-sound raver consisting of Bangkok's full name chanted over
a hypnotic rhythm. Roughly translated, the name means
'Great City of Angels, Repository of Devine
Gems, Great Land Unconquerable, Grand and Prominent Realm,
Royal and Delightful Capital City Full of Nine Noble Gems,
Highest Royal Dwelling and Grand Palace, Diving Shelter and
Living Place of Reincarnated Spirits'.
Fortunately, this is shortened to Krung Thep
(City of Angels) in everyday usage.
In many ways, it is the most exciting and
dynamic city in Southeast Asia, with, for example, the
region's largest foreign media correspondent base.
There are museums, temples, historic sites,
and other vestiges of traditional Thai culture right
alongside4 all the trappings of a modern metropolis - an
endless variety of international restaurants, cultural and
social events, movies in several languages, sidcos and even