ancient land of grace and harmony’
Love it or hate it, sweaty, buzzing,
exotic Bangkok is a city that is really larger
than life. The
pace, heat, traffic and the shortage of personal
space can be overbearing, but the sheer dynamism is intoxicating.
An exotic combination of the traditional East and the modern
West, there is a surprise in store
for everyone on every street in Bangkok. Ramshackle buildings close to unusual and interesting temples surrounded
by delightful gardens, which in turn are viewed by modern hotels
and offices. Bangkok has come out as a main world city with the
traffic to match, including the must needed mobile phones
and designer clothes that are easily seen on the streets. The chaos on the streets is mirrored by the busy
traffic on the Chao Phraya River, which dissects
the city and is crisscrossed by long-tailed boats, river taxis and
small rowing boats, all somehow missing each other.
However, the traditional Thai life is never far away.
The saffron-robed monks can still be seen collecting
their food, while just outside the city centre huge communities
live in stilt houses by the river,
managing to live with very little money
that have not changed in centuries.
In 1782, Bangkok became the capital of then Siam, due to the
defeat of Ayutthaya, the previous capital. Local people do not call their capital "Bangkok" but "Krung Thep"
which is a very shortened version of its extremely long full title.
The absolute rule of the monarchy ended in 1932 when it was replaced
by a constitutional monarchy. To this day, the
monarchy is regarded with an almost religious reverence, and
it is an offence punishable by imprisonment to insult any member of
the royal family. His Majesty King Bhumibol is
the longest reigning monarch in the world, and
has been in power in 1946.
With the end of absolute monarchy, Thailand moved towards democracy
but this has been interrupted by the military, which has often staged
coups in protest at government policies. The role of the military
in politics has now been curtailed but the 1990s saw governments
come and go although there has been stability since the government
took on the job of tackling the economic crisis in the late 1990s.
This tropical country is hot most the year, and the ideal time to visit Thailand is from November to March,
during the dry season. During the rainy season, humidity is extremely
high and the downpours are short but violent and the streets of
Bangkok often get flooded.