Top 15 Facts about Bangkok
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a densely-populated city best known for its multitude of colourful, ornate shrines, vibrant and chaotic street life, and its often confusing and bemusing, widely-contrasting aspects.
Indeed the city is a fair mass of contradictions, considering its millionaire lifestyles and its slums, both of which may be apparent sometimes even on the same street.
Aside from the famous beautiful temples, street food and intriguing nightlife, however, there may be a few other interesting or little-known facts about Bangkok that may make you want to experience this city with a little more idea about it.
So let’s take a look at what we consider to be 20 interesting facts about the city of Bangkok.
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 from 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 has 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 Map delivers you up unto 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.
With high temperatures all year around, on average 28 degrees Celsius, and with highs of more than 40 degrees in summertime, it’s not that difficult to see how things could heat up very quickly in Bangkok. The city has high humidity throughout the year, and if sweltering summer afternoons are not exactly your thing then it might be an idea to visit the city during the slightly cooler months, somewhere between November and February. Of course this also is not surprisingly the peak season for tourism in Bangkok, so it needs to be taken into consideration when planning a trip.
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. A fact not helped much by the prominence of the canals and also the poor drainage systems is the prediction that parts of Bangkok could be submerged in just a few decades, so you might want to plan your trip before that.
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 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 centre of the gold trade in 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 less 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.
The city was transformed into something closer resembling its present modernity during the reign of King Rama V who also did much to try and integrate the country more into the modern world. Apparently an early motor vehicle enthusiast, this king also put some consideration into the future effect that the car would have on the development and planning of a city and began to focus more on roads as a means of transportation rather than the traditional canal system.
9. All of the temples on Thai coins are in Bangkok
The loose change that you encounter on your visit to Bangkok is likely to feature various images, and not least of all temples. What this means is that some of the best attractions in Bangkok are on the coins. If you look closely you should see the images of the temples — all of which except those on 25 and 50 Satang coins — are in Bangkok and are the most famous in the city.
For instance, on a 1 Baht coin is the image of the Temple of Emerald Buddha, while the image of Golden Mountain is on a 2 Baht. The slightly larger 5 Baht contains the image of Wat Benchamabophit, and the biggest, 10 Baht coin has the familiar image of the Temple of Dawn, or Wat Arun.
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 heaviset, 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 tonne, 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. Go in a circle. OK, passed’, which is conducted on a course away from the road and involves no prior experience or training of road signs, road markings or awareness of other road users (i.e. the Highway Code). Definitely to be avoided at all costs, and probably way more dangerous than bungi jumping, as at least you have some idea about what will happen on the bungi jump!
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 as one of the most congested in the world. It depends 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.
13. It is the massage capital of the world
‘Thai massage’ is a phrase that has now become known all over the world, and in Bangkok massage parlours are almost more common than 7-Elevens. They are spread all across the city, and they cate to all different budgets, from ‘cheap-and-cheerful’ to luxurious spa. Many places offer packages encompassing anything from 30-minute foot massages to reflexology and day-long spa pampering.
Massage is a large part of traditional Thai and many other Asian cultures and is deemed to be a vital part of maintaining good all-round health and wellbeing. With more massage parlours per square mile than anywhere else in the country, it is no wonder that Bangkok is known as the massage capital of the world, and you won’t have to look far if you need relief for those tired feet after all that shopping.
14. It is home to the world’s largest market
In the Chatuchak district of Bangkok, the world’s largest weekend market is held every Saturday and Sunday. With more than 15,000 stalls, which sell pretty much anything and everything, the market pulls in around a quarter of a million people every weekend.
Obviously, in typical Bangkok style, the market is pretty crowded and chaotic. It’s well worth a visit though, and despite the sometimes overwhelming humidity, this is place that should feature on the itinerary of any discerning visitor to the Thai capital, and provides a complete day out for most people.
15. Bangkok is a city of temples
In Thailand there are an astounding 40,000 or more Buddhist temples, known as ‘Wats’, with literally hundreds, and some of the most important, in Bangkok.
Wat Pho (with its huge, reclining golden Buddha) is one example, and is one of the most well-known and important temples for Thai people, Buddhists, and visitors alike. It’s also one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the country, dating back to the time before Bangkok had been established as the Thai capital, and many of the other famous temples in the city also hark back to this period.