BANGKOK is one of those cities that your either love or hate, or at least are overwhelmed with at first but learn to appreciate after you have spent some time there and explored its back alleys. Those who hate it tick off of its long list of problems: it's big, its crowded, it's dirty, it's polluted, it can be incredibly hot and humid, people are stressed out, mass transportation is woefully lacking, and there are construction projects everywhere. Those that love it say that it hard to find another city with as much to see and do and enjoy. According to a Travel and Leisure magazine survey it was the best city in the world in 2012, 2011 and 2010. This is up from the third best in the world in the mid 2000s when Sydney and Florence ranked higher.

Bangkok lies within a great bend of the Chao Phraya River (River of Kings), which empties into the Gulf of Thailand 55 kilometers to the south. Thonburi, on the west bank, is considered part of the metropolitan area.

Bangkok became the Thai capital in 1782 and was established after the sacking of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1767. Bangkok is far away the largest city in Thailand and the third largest city in Southeast Asia after Jakarta and Manila. Officially, 8,280,925 people lived in the 560 square kilometers of Bangkok proper in 2010, but the population jumps to least twice that number if you include all of its suburbs and satellite towns. In 2025 the population is expected to reach 22.5 million. According to some estimates 85 percent of Thailand's 60 million people live in the plains that surround it.

Bangkok is a national treasure house, containing most of the Thailands historic temples and major landmarks. Bangkok means "village of the wild plum." Thais refer to it as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon ("Great City of Angels") or Krungthep ("City of Angels"). “Bangkok,” its original name, comes from “Bang Makok,” or the riverside town of makok, the hog plum. The city’s official name—Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit—has 167 letters and 40 syllables (a Guinness book record for a city name) and means “the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Capital of the World Endowed with Nine Precious Gems, the Happy City.” The residents of Bangkok are sometimes called Bangkokians.

Bangkok is far and away Thailand’s business, communication, transportation, and industry hub. Regarded as Asia’s best example of a primate city—one that politically, culturally and economically dominates the rest of the country, it generates 40 percent of the kingdom’s wealth and is home to more doctors, university graduates and cars than the rest of the country combined. Greater Bangkok is located at the heart of the urbanized triangle of central and eastern Thailand. Most of Thailand’s factories lie north and south of the city. With wages in Bangkok being 12 times higher than those in the Northeast it is no surprise that one out of every six Thais works there is from the Northeast. In recent years Bangkok has become a gateway for all of Asia. If you are going to be traveling extensively in Asia the chances are you will probably spend some time in Bangkok getting visas or making travel arrangements for other destinations.

History of Bangkok

The history of Bangkok as a royal capital dates back to the year 1782, when King Rama I, the Founder of the Royal House of Chakri, commanded the construction of the City of Rattanakosin across the river from Thon Buri, the previous royal capital, reasoning that the new location on the east bank of the Chao Phraya was more defendable in case of an invasion. The architecture of the new capital was modeled after that of great Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya. [Source: Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department]

Burmese armies had decimated Ayutthaya in 1767, leaving little behind. The Governor of Tak — Phraya Taksin (ruled 1767 – 1782), a half Chinese-half Thai man of considerably charisma and military cunning established his base at Thonburi (across the river from present-day Bangkok) and defeated the remaining Burmese troops. Thon Buri was a fortress town. By 1774 Taksin had annexed Lan Na and by 1776 he had reunited the Thai kingdom. Toward the end of his reign, rivalry for power intensified. Finally, his close aide and leading warrior, Chao Phraya Chakri, took control of the situation

Chakri, a general, assumed the throne and took the name Yot Fa (Rama I, r. 1782–1809). Yot Fa established the ruling house that continues to the present. The court moved across the river to Bangkok, the kingdom’s economy revived, and what remained of the artistic heritage of Ayutthaya was restored. Because his goal was to reassert Ayutthaya’s past glory on this site, King Rama I selected Rattanakosin as his royal capital because of its topographical similarity to Ayutthaya, with the Chao Phraya River from the north passing along the western and southern sides to empty into the Gulf of Thailand; branches of the river also formed double rings around the city-island. Faced with the continuing Burmese threat, such a strategic location was then a necessity.

The Kingdom of Bangkok consolidated claims to territory in Cambodia and the Malayan state of Kedah while Britain annexed territory in an area that had been contested by the Thai and the Burmese for centuries. Subsequent treaties—in 1826 with Britain and in 1833 with the United States—granted foreign trade concessions in Bangkok. The kingdom’s expansion was halted in all directions by 1851. In the early days after Bangkok's establishment, the river and over 1,000 canals served as the main communication routes, resembling the former capital of Ayutthaya, and hence the appellation of “Venice of the East” was inherited. The city was first concentrated along the east side of the Chao Phraya River. In the Fifth Reign, King Chulalongkorn opened the vista of the city beyond the original city walls, when he had Dusit Palace built, linking it to the Royal Palace by Ratchadamnoen Road, which transformed Bangkok in every aspect, leading to the modernization of the city and even the country in the face of colonial threats on all sides.

Bangkok suffered some destruction but largely eluded heavy damage during World War II. It was seized by the Japanese in December 1941, only a few days after Pearl Harbor and, in 1944 and 1945, it was the target of bombing raids by Allied planes. Bangkok and Thon Buri merged into the Greater Metropolitan Area in 1971. Whenever there has been political upheaval in Thailand it has primarily been based in Bangkok. Presently, Bangkok is one of the special administrative areas of Thailand, with an elected governor, city council, and an administration of its own. Its population is many times larger than the next largest cities in Thailand. In the late 1980s, Bangkok had a population of 5.5 million. In spite of massive construction and changes in the economy, many of the districts retained their unique identities. For example, Dusit District, where the royal family had its principal residence, was also home to many of the city's military officers and civil servants. In 2008, Bangkok’s airports were closed for about a week by protests that brought down the government. In 2010, the city was rocked by bloody demonstrations that left dozens dead and hundreds injured. In 2011 it endured major flooding.

Bangkok's Charms

Bangkok is an energetic city of contrasts that embraces high-rise apartment buildings and ancient temples, air-conditioned department stores and crowded, stall-filled markets; wide avenues chocked with traffic and crooked lanes bordered by canals, where small children bathe and fish. On the streets you can hear Thai pop music and the tinkle of temple bells. There spacious teak homes and thatched shacks. The smell of jasmine and of fish drying in the sun mixes with tropical fruit and the charcoal fires and sidewalk food vendors. There are Michelin-star restaurants and Michelin-star street vendors.

Bangkok boasts over 400 Buddhist temples, colorful food markets, interesting shops with silk and gems and the world's largest restaurant. There are monasteries that offer massages and fortunetelling, girlie bars with sex shows and shrines and alms for monks, markets with exotic animals, fake goods, and looted artifacts, and facilities for kick boxing and classical dance. The vast parks near the Grand Palace feature traditional Thai sports like kite fighting. In the suburbs there are crocodile farms with snake milking shows. The shopping not only have the usual array of designer goods, they have good prices too. Even if you don't have a lot of money you can stay at first class hotels. Thais in Bangkok like to party and there are plenty of festivals, holidays and personal celebration to keep them going.

Hannah Beech wrote in the New York Times: “For all that lures tourists to Bangkok — orchids, cheap massages, mango and sticky rice — this is not a city that pampers its residents. Proper pavements are a rarity. Tangles of power lines dangle dangerously. A profusion of plastic bags chokes canals and ever-expanding trash heaps. Much of the fauna that flourishes, like cockroaches, rats the size of cats and the occasional python snaking in through a toilet, is of the alarming variety. [Source: Hannah Beech, New York Times, January 30, 2019]

“Yet Bangkok’s charms are undeniable. Even in the ugliest agglomeration of concrete, a spray of bougainvillea pushes its way through the cracks. Spirit houses adorned with offerings of red Fanta soda nourish the city’s soul. Dusty ficus trees are wrapped with ribbons, as if their ability to flourish in such a dense urban setting is a gift to the 10 million people who call the metropolitan area home.

“As I was flying back to Bangkok this month, my heart sank as the plane descended into an ocher haze. It was the same feeling of dread I had when returning to China. In the taxi home, my driver was wearing a mask. He shook his head at the bad air. Almost immediately, we got stuck in traffic. But, like many drivers in Bangkok, he had hung a garland of jasmine on the rearview mirror. The sweet scent mixed with the exhaust fumes. I was home.”

Upper Class Tourism in Bangkok

Jane Kramer wrote in The New Yorker: We “checked into the Peninsula for a last-night splurge. We sank into the bubbly depths of a porcelain tub, snacked on the complimentary chocolate-chip cookies, and put on our city clothes. Then we climbed the gangplank to the hotel ferry and crossed the Chao Phraya to go antiquing. We returned with a glazed ceramic Bodhidharma, which was either an early-nineteenth-century Chinese treasure or made yesterday in one of Thailand’s thriving fake factories. To celebrate (or weep), we ate that night at the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, the first I had seen in Thailand. I eavesdropped on the people at the next table—a middle-aged businessman from California and two young Thai women carrying huge new Hermès purses. The women studied the menu, admired their handbags, and chattered comfortably to each other while the businessman tried, gamely, to divert them with stories about his star-studded Los Angeles life. From time to time, they would look up from their plates and nod at him politely—making the best of a long day’s night in the Bangkok sex trade. It occurred to me that they were hungry. I felt for them all. Then I thought about how our maiden trip as tourists had begun with a pocketbook and was about to end with two. Was there a message in that? Or perhaps a piece? I was a reporter at odds. Why hadn’t I brought a pad? [Source: Jane Kramer, The New Yorker, July 23, 2012]

“We stayed two nights in Bangkok. Our plan was to ignore the city of gem scammers and sex tourists and see the “other Bangkok,” the preserve of nine generations of Chakri kings who have reigned in Thailand since the eighteenth century. The Thai were never colonized. But, imitation being the shrewdest form of flattery, they created their own Raj, as I discovered when an old boarding-school friend of my husband’s (a tiny Thai beauty last seen, in America, in the early eighties) surprised us at the arrival gate of Suvarnabhumi Airport. She was waiting comfortably in a wheelchair from which she promptly rose, and was accompanied by a silent Burmese servant referred to as “my assistant”—he carried her handbag—and an equally deferential Burmese driver. In thirty years, Noi (her childhood nickname) had morphed into a stout and commanding presence, dressed in billowing pantaloons and sporting a crew cut capped by a long black lock wound into a Buddha topknot and secured by a pin with a spectacular plume of black feathers. I imagined crowds parting as she led our motley procession out of the airport to a large white van. An hour later, we arrived at a cluster of stucco houses half hidden in a profusion of palms and flowering trees, and were greeted by leaping guard dogs, busy gardeners, and a flurry of young maids, carrying glasses of cold water on a tray. One of the maids relieved the assistant of Noi’s handbag. A second led us to a guesthouse, where a third waited to take our airplane clothes. None of them looked at me directly. When I returned their bows with a Thai hello, they were embarrassed and backed away. Were they meant to be invisible? I was a tourist lost in the Thai Raj, and wanted to go home.

“We were driven to lunch instead—Thai curry and English rib roast at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, a vast green swath carved out of central Bangkok under a royal charter, granted in 1901, “for the purpose of improving the standard of horse breeding and various other field sports.” The next morning, we wandered past gilded stupas and formal gardens on our way to the Grand Palace and the National Museum, which were both closed, and, with a throng of other tourists, took off our shoes at the entrance to Phra Kaew, the royal wat—a wat is a monastery temple—for a glimpse of the Emerald Buddha, carved centuries ago from, depending on whom you ask, a huge chunk of precious jade or a piece of ordinary green jasper. (“Emerald” means “green” in Thai.) It is hard to tell, since no one except the king is allowed to touch it. The heat was infernal; I wished I had worn my sundress, but it was in the wash. Mostly, I missed my notebooks. Everything was a blur without them, and the tourist from Lyon with whom I’d struck up a conversation about French politics had disappeared, so I joined Noi on a shady bench while my husband prowled, and learned three interesting things: she had a passion for fast food, Sunday-afternoon dance contests, and, with an eye to enlightenment, meditation. In fact, she had recently spent the better part of a year in bed, meditating. I wasn’t surprised, having read that Prince Bodhidharma, the father of Zen Buddhism, once spent nine years meditating on a wall. I asked her how she had looked after herself, in bed. She said “the servants.” I asked her what enlightenment-seekers without servants did. She smiled and said, “Nothing is real.”“

Klongs (Canals) in Bangkok

Klongs are the local name of Bangkok’s canals. Bangkok used to be laced with them. They followed streets, ducked under superstructures and were crossed by bridges. By one estimate a third of the city’s residents in the mid 19th century lived in stilted or floating houses along the canals or the river. Until a few decades ago they were so were so crowded and full of boats that policeman were used to direct traffic. Over the years many of Bangkok’s klongs have been paved over to widen streets and make room for houses and other buildings.Many of remaining klongs are foul and dirty. Some are filled with black oily water. Others are stagnant pools covered by smelly green scum and filled with garbage.

Klongs have traditionally provided an important mode of transportation in parts of central and southern Thailand. According to “Cities of the World”: "Although most canals in Bangkok have been filled in, or are no longer navigable, water-taxi routes starting from points along the banks of the Chao Phraya River link the capital city to the large number of klongs in the countryside. Water taxis and small motorboats provide a low-cost and efficient means of transporting passenger and light-cargo traffic, and are a pleasant way to explore a style of Thai life not visible from the roads. These boats do not carry life jackets."

Some klongs are quite scenic. Ones visited by tourists have floating hyacinths and lotus flowers, small houses with garden and fluttering laundry. In some places you can still find monks floating in the water in inner tubes, women in broad woven hats and sarongs using sampans to buy groceries and, floating shopkeepers and deliverymen. In recent years there has been a campaign to free the paved over klongs to attract tourists to places they otherwise wouldn’t go and provide better drainage.

Environmental Issues in Bangkok

Development in Bangkok: The early 1990s was a period of rapid economic growth and urban development. That came to an end with the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis and the bursting of the real estate bubble that accompanied it. Thing began picking up again in the early 2000s. By the mid 2000s, Bangkok was again alive with cranes and choked wit construction dust. Between 2001 and 2006, 118 buildings 30 stories or more were completed, under construction or proposed, sixth in the world behind Hong Kong, Dubai, Tokyo, Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Janesara Fugal of Agence France-Presse wrote: “A 77-story skyscraper is set to become the latest, and tallest, addition to Bangkok’s ever-changing skyline, already transformed by a construction boom that has raised fears of a property bubble. Variously described on Internet forums as looking “like it has been eaten by giant termites” and reflecting “the chaos of Bangkok,” the MahaNakorn – Great Metropolis – will tower over the Thai capital when it is finished in 2014. At 314 meters (1,036 feet) it will be the city’s tallest building, but size was not what mattered, said Sorapoj Techakraisri, head of PACE Development, which began building the skyscraper in June 2011. “I just wanted something unique, something interesting,” he told AFP. [Source: Janesara Fugal, Agence France-Presse, July 31, 2011]

“MahaNakorn’s unusual pixelated spiral design was created by German architect Ole Scheeren, who was behind Beijing’s futuristic China Central Television headquarters. The 19 billion baht ($640 million) tower will house apartments, a shopping center and a Ritz-Carlton hotel. “When the economy gets better, the buildings go higher,” Sorapoj said.

Sinking Bangkok: Bangkok is sinking, in some places up to 10 centimeters a year. This is caused by groundwater being drained by wells, the oceans ever so slightly rising and the earth underneath buildings being compacted by the sheer weight of all the development. During the five month rainy season when as much as a meter of rain falls on Bangkok streets sometimes become rivers and shop keepers have to build dams to protect their merchandise. If global warming does in fact cause the oceans to rise significantly, Bangkok will be one of the first places to go under.

Bangkok was built at the center of Thailand’s central flood plains between its mountain ranges and the sea. The area in and around the city receives up to four fifths of the region’s rain overspill during the monsoon season. In the old days the canals provided storage for flood waters. But since many of these have been paved over the water has nowhere to go but into the streets and into houses when the Chao Phraya river floods.

Bangkok Pollution

The large number of vehicles and other forms of pollution have left Bangkok in a perpetual cloud of rust-colored smog. Black smoke billows out of the back of old buses and tuk tuks. Construction dusts fills the air. On some clear days you can hardly see the blue sky. In the sky there is a gray film where blue should be. Thick hazy smogs are produced when pollutants combine with fog.

Vehicle emissions are the “greatest source of air pollutants in Bangkok,” according to the United Nations. Adam Janofsky of The Pulitzer Center wrote: “A clear marker” of how bad the air pollution is “is the prevalence of asthma in Bangkok, which has reached 15 to 20 percent in the past two decades—up from 5 percent in the 1980s. Critically high levels of chemicals like benzene from car exhaust also pose a risk for heart disease and cancer. Although it’s impossible to calculate the number of deaths caused by auto pollution, recent studies suggest that twice as many people die worldwide as a result of air pollution than traffic accidents. [Source: Adam Janofsky, The Pulitzer Center, August 14, 2012]

Pedestrians and motorcyclists on every street can be seen wearing breathing masks to reduce the risks of auto pollution, but a solution that tackles the actual problem would keep cars from idling in traffic—or reduce the total number of cars in the city. And although road congestion has been a constant talking point for both commuters and politicians over the past two decades, traffic and air pollution remain unsolved problems in Bangkok.

Bangkok policeman wear strips of cloth protecting their nose from pollution and carry oxygen bottles. In 1995, a policeman reportedly collapsed and died from breathing in noxious fumes. According to a World Bank study, pollution costs Bangkok $2 billion a year. Another study has shown that more than one million people in Bangkok suffer from allergies and upper respiratory illnesses, many caused by high level of dust in the air, much of it generated by construction projects.

If that isn't enough, Bangkok is sinking into sewage-filled canals that often overflow and flood the city in the rainy season. The city needs more sewage treatment facilities and more people cleaning out the garbage from the canals. In the early 2000s Bangkok’s sanitation budget was only $5.5 million. The city has started a campaign to get people to recycle more. It has received international aid to build two modern incinerators for waste disposal. Mass transit and other efforts to reduce traffic have also reduced air pollution somewhat. See Environment. Migration to the City: See Urban Life, Urban Poor

Air Pollution in Bangkok

In January 2019, Bangkok made the top 10 of cities in the world with the dirtiest air. Officials from Thailand’s Pollution Department estimate that vehicle emissions account for roughly 60 percent of the city’s air pollution. Hannah Beech wrote in the New York Times: “My sons’ school, like more than 400 across the Thai capital, will be closed on Thursday and Friday because of the smog. Like many Asian megalopolises, which crowd the catalog of the world’s most polluted cities, Bangkok suffers from a toxic amalgam: unchecked industrialization and urbanization, a car-crazy populace and lax regulation. The burning of fallow fields and a dry season with little wind exacerbate the crisis. [Source: Hannah Beech, New York Times, January 30, 2019]

“Even as pollution control monitors say they are eliminating the dirtiest diesel engines, a walk on a Bangkok road can be a choking experience. City buses belch murky smoke. There are too many cars for too few roads, and too little interest in public transportation. “In our society, a car is not just a car,” said Tara Buakamsri, the Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “It’s a representation of affluence and a symbol of ownership. It will be very hard to get people to give up their cars.”

“Having lived for many years in China, my family is well acquainted with dirty air....Like China, Thailand seems to be going through the same cycle: denial of a chronic problem, ineffectual solutions and then a sudden realization that the chemical miasma isn’t going to magically disappear without coordinated policies. The persistent smog has become a rallying cry for some people in Bangkok, where the aftermath of years of coups, street protests and army crackdowns has made the city seem, at least outwardly, an apolitical place.

“But the spike in air pollution has been front-page fare here — eclipsing the news trickling out earlier this month about the bodies of two exiled Thai dissidents found by the Mekong River, their abdomens stuffed with concrete blocks. News of the murders was buried in much of the local news media. Instead, editorials demanded answers from the junta about the unhealthy air....Ordinary citizens are criticizing the junta for its slow response to the pollution, even if they might not speak out on other political issues.”

Water Cannons Deployed to Fight Air Pollution in Bangkok

By the late 2000s, Bangkok had made great strides in improving air pollution largely by banning the most polluting vehicles. But that is no longer the case. By the late 2010s, the government was desperate to try anything to clean up the air, even using water canons normally used to contain street demonstration. Hannah Beech wrote in the New York Times: ““The liquid, which soon flooded one of Bangkok’s busiest intersections, came from water cannons aimed at alleviating the smog that has shrouded Bangkok for weeks. Pedestrians squealed as the plumes of water shot into the air. A vendor of coconut ice cream failed to stop his pushcart from careening into a sewer. A rat scurried, then swam.

“Some of the giant hoses were connected to trucks that only contributed to the bad air afflicting Bangkok. Smoke spewed from the trucks’ exhaust pipes. Officials from Thailand’s Pollution Department estimate that vehicle emissions account for roughly 60 percent of the city’s chemical haze.[Source: Hannah Beech, New York Times, January 30, 2019]

“Scientists agree that spraying jets of water, especially from polluting trucks, will do little to disperse Bangkok’s smog. “There are some government agencies that want to help decrease the pollution, but maybe this is not the best thing,” said Pralong Dumrongthai, the director general of the Pollution Control Department of Thailand, in a delicate assessment of the water cannon treatment.

”Nor will other unorthodox methods — like water-spraying drones that have been deployed in recent days in Bangkok — fix the chronic air problem. Even as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha of Thailand, the head of the military junta that seized control of the country in 2014, played down Bangkok’s pollution, shopkeepers were told they could be liable to up to seven years in prison for hoarding masks.”

People Take to the Streets to Protest Bangkok’s Air Pollution

In January 2020, levels of air pollution hovered at unhealthy levels over 100 on the air quality index for almost the entire month The index exceeded 151 threshold seen as dangerously unhealthy in the middle of the month and then climbed to 163, according to monitor AirVisual. Schools were closed for the day on and then reopened when the index dropped back to 121. [Source:Patpicha Tanakasempipat, Reuters, January 23, 2020]

Patpicha Tanakasempipat of Reuters reported: “Activists, wearing pollution masks, said they were marching to the Government House because of authorities' inaction. "Air pollution affects everyone ... it is life and death for all of us," said Tara Buakamsri, Thailand director for environmental group Greenpeace, as cars and motorcycles sped by emitting smoke. Particles found in dust, soot and smoke and small enough to lodge deep in the lungs and enter the bloodstream, known as PM 2.5, were measured at unhealthy levels for 23 of the past 30 days in Bangkok, data from AirVisual showed.

“Earlier, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said healthy people such as himself could manage and those in risky groups should be aware of their tolerance levels and wear masks. His comment angered some of the activists. "Pushing the burden on the people like this is not something an efficient government would do," said Chonlatorn Wongrussamee, one of the protesters.

“Tara said protecting the environment and health did not damage economic development but went hand in hand with it at the demonstration, which the activists said was the first such protest in two years. When they reached the government headquarters, a senior official in the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Nopadol Phonsen, came out to speak to them, telling them officials were meeting to discuss measures to tackle the issue. "We're all under the same sky. We want the air we breathe to be clean and healthy," he said. The city's last moderate air quality day, when the index was between 51 and 100, was Jan 4., and there has been no "good" air reading in the past 30 days, according to AirVisual data.

Bangkok Traffic

The number of vehicles in Bangkok — cars, trucks, buses, vans and tuks tuks—has skyrocketed over the years, from just 600,000 in 1980 to 6.8 million now, and this does not include the millions of motorcycles and motorscooters. Adam Janofsky of the The Pulitzer Center wrote: “In 2007, Bangkok had both 5.6 million registered vehicles and 5.6 million residents, according to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. As a percentage of the population, the number of vehicles in Bangkok completely eclipses traffic levels in many other Asian metropolises: There are almost twice as many vehicles per person in Bangkok than in Tokyo or Seoul, and about eight times as many as Shanghai. And on top of that, the number of cars in the city continues to soar over 6 percent each year, said Soithip Trisuddhi, director of the Office of Transportation and Traffic Policy and Planning. [Source: Adam Janofsky, The Pulitzer Center, August 14, 2012]

The roads in Bangkok, which are not all that different than they were in the 1960s, have been unable to keep up with the influx of vehicles. Street capacity has increased at a rate of 1.5 percent a year while vehicles have increased ar 12 percent a year. Not surprisingly Bangkok suffers some of the world's traffic gridlock. Only Cairo, São Paulo or Jakarta are as bad. Sometimes people sit in the same places for hours and seven mile back-up are not unheard of. Busy streets are sometimes tied up by wayward elephants. There are even major ties up in the back alleys.

Motorist often leave their homes at 4:00am to beat the morning rush hour. The evening rush hour often lasts from until around 11:00pm at night. A crosstown journey can take as long as overland trip to Cambodia. The average Bangkok driver spends an equivalent of 44 days a year in traffic. The delays are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity.

In an effort to improve the traffic situation, new bridges and expressways have been built, a mass transit train system was opened and the Chao Phraya River and canals have been better utilized for transportation purposes. Pedestrian only zones have been set up on the weekends on Silom Road and near the river. Other shopping areas have expressed an interest in hopping on the pedestrian-only bandwagon. There has also been suggestions of implementing car or parking taxes to keep cars out of the city center.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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