The capital’s proper name is Krung Thep – the “City of Angels.” This enchanting city on the Chao Phraya River is a magical place where graceful dancers perform in shimmering silk gowns, temples with gold-leaf spires harbor graceful Buddhas, and riverboats cruise a bewildering maze of canals.
1. It has the longest name of any city in the world
A fact often unknown to visitors is that ‘Bangkok’ is actually NOT the city’s real name! It is a term largely used for and by foreigners, and many of the locals call the capital city ‘Krung Thep (translated as ‘City of Angels’). But even that is merely a shortened form of the actual name of the city which is, apparently, the longest of any city in the world.
The actual name of the ‘city of angels’ then, is made up of Pali and Sanskrit root words and runs as follows: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. Whew! That means, in its long form, “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 Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.” So there you go.
2. Bangkok has 50 Districts
Another interesting fact about Bangkok is its land size and layout, which is comprised of 50 districts in total. Thirty-five of these districts are located on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, and the remaining 15 are on the western side.
The city of Bangkok is indeed a sprawling affair, making it something of a nightmare, chaotic scenario from a planner’s viewpoint, and to confound matters (and the Post Office) further, the 50 districts are further divided up and stretched out into 169 sub-districts. The city is also many a taxi driver’s nightmare, by the way, so pray that Google Maps delivers you to your destination if it happens to be out in the sticks by way of chance.
3. It is the hottest city in the world
In might be debatable as to whether or not this is actual fact as there doesn’t actually appear to be any real, comparable, hard evidence…but nevertheless, it has long been held that Bangkok is (probably) the hottest city in the world. It is at least safe to say that it is one of the hottest.
4. It was formerly the Venice of the East
Bangkok is a city built on and around a network of canals, just like Venice, and apparently, it has as many canals as its Italian counterpart. Hence, Bangkok was formerly renowned as the Venice of the east before city planners started building roads over and around the canal network.
Canal boats are still used as a means of getting around the city by many locals as they are fast and cheap, although the downside is that the cleanliness of the canal water leaves a lot to be desired, the main reason why many others avoid this method of travel at all costs.
5. It is home to the one of world’s largest China Towns
Often mistakenly considered to be the largest in the world (New York’s Manhattan clinches that one statistically, apparently), Bangkok’s Chinatown is nevertheless impressive, and is renowned for a variety of reasons, and not least of all its cuisine. Yaowarat is the most renowned and visited area of Bangkok’s Chinatown by locals and tourists alike and is a haven for street food.
There is a huge variety of shops and restaurants selling Chinese/Thai street food menus, in what is also the oldest area in the city of Bangkok. The area is vast, covering the entire east side of the Chao Phraya River which runs through the city, encompassing a region with various stretches of small back streets and alleys full of shops selling all types of goods, and in particular the well-known 200-year-old market known as Sampeng. Also, and not entirely untypical of many Chinatowns, is the fact that Bangkok’s Chinatown is the center of the gold trade in the city.
6. Bangkok is a city of millionaires
Yes, it is true – Bangkok is a city of millionaires. This is a fact that may surprise the many people who have witnessed other aspects of the city such as its slums, beggars, and large-scale poverty — but apparently, there are more than 70,000 millionaires (calculated in USD) in Thailand, and around 95% of them live in Bangkok.
So with a pretty high estimation of millionaires in the country – the maths of that speaks for itself when considering just how many there actually are residing in the capital. No wonder there is so much luxury to be found, even though in terms of equality Thailand ranks pretty low.
7. Bangkok is the most visited city on Earth
For a few years now, Bangkok has been ranked as the most visited city on Earth in a variety of tourist polls. The data indicates that more than 20 million people choose to take their holiday in the capital of Thailand, leaving traditional hotspots like London, Paris, and New York with at least 3 million fewer by comparison.
Is it the weather? Maybe the living costs? Or is it the vibe? It isn’t even that easy to pin down, as Bangkok is many different things to a wide variety of visitors all year round. However, they do spend the third most of any other city in the world that is high on the attraction list.
8. Bangkok has been the capital for less than 250 years
When it was known as Siam, Thailand had many famous capital cities (and possibly better situated than Bangkok, apparently) before the founder of the ruling Chakkri dynasty, General Chao Praya, assumed the throne (as Rama I) and decided to move the location in 1782. The new city was established before the end of his reign and included what is known today as the Grand Palace complex and Wat Pho Temple, which are still key features of Bangkok, at least for tourism purposes.
10. Bangkok has the heaviest Buddha Statue in the world
Continuing along the line of temples and Buddha imagery, it is well-documented that Thailand’s capital is home to the world’s heaviest, and apparently most expensive statue of The Buddha. It may be true that there are many gigantic Buddha Statues in other places, but this one happens to be comprised of more than 5 tonnes of pure gold.
Wat Traimit temple, which is near Bangkok’s Chinatown, houses the 5.5 tonnes, of pure gold “Phra Phuttha Maha Suwan Patimakon” which is believed to date back to the 13th or 14th century from the Sukhothai Period. The image is actually listed in the Guinness Book of Records as a “sacred object with the highest intrinsic value”, and the statue is now estimated to be valued at around $250 million dollars, and is considered the heaviest solid gold Buddha image in the world.
11. Driving in Bangkok is not a good idea
Just in case there is anyone out there who has yet to hear the horror stories about driving on the roads of Bangkok and considers that it might even be a good idea to hire a car during their visit – well, it might be worth them knowing that the majority of Thai drivers have never even heard of the Highway Code or anything even close to it.
One of the main issues with Bangkok roads, despite the obvious congestion, is that in Thailand a driving ‘test’, so to speak, largely consists of something along the lines of ‘go forward. Go backward.
12. Bangkok is a heavily- congested city
If the previous pointers weren’t enough to dissuade you from the roads of Bangkok, then it may be worth noting that the city is commonly considered one of the most congested in the world. It depends on where the information is sourced, but usually, the Thai capital will feature in the top ten of most compiled lists, and according to a World Traffic Index report of 2019, Bangkok was ranked as the 11th most congested city in the world, with a 53% level of congestion. This is a slight improvement on the figures of Istanbul and Moscow, but still says little of any seeming traffic flow (or any other kind of flow) within the city.
To put this into perspective by comparison, New York doesn’t even rank in the top 50, and London is at number 45 – so don’t be too surprised if you find yourself sitting in a taxi that doesn’t move much in 1 or 2 hours if you happen to pick the wrong time of the day to reach your destination in Bangkok by road.