Bangkok Travel Guide -> Short Overview of the History  of Bangkok

Bangkok, as you could already read above, is not the true name of the city - it called by the Thais Krung Thep. This name was bestowed on the place in the year 1782 by King Rama I., the father of the Chakri dynasty (from which also the present monarch descended). The name means "City of Angels" - and this had also been the surname of the ancient capital of Thailand, Ayuthaya.  Ayuthaya was in the year 1767 conquered and almost completely destroyed by the Burmese. Those parts of the Thai army that survived the attack fled south to Thonburi on the banks of the Chao Phraya (Menam). There they established a military headquarter and temporary capital of Thailand (at that time still called Siam). From Thonburi, the Thai generals engaged in 15 years of war with the attackers (the Burmese has in the meantime been joined by the Lao and the Vietnamese) and finally managed to drive them out of the country. After the final victory, General Taksin assumed the throne, but was later executed. He was replaced by General Chakri, who as king took the name of Rama I. The king`s plan was to rebuild his people`s confidence by building a city that could match Ayuthaya`s glory and spendour. He decided that Thonburi was no longer suitable as  a royal residence and decided to move the capital to Bangkok.

"Bangkok" means "plum orchard"; and although it sounds unprobably today, that is what Bangkok once : a small, peaceful  village surrounded by wild plum trees. At the time Rama I. decided to move his capital to Bangkok, however, it had already grown into a small duty port. The town was mainly inhabited by Chinese merchants and customs inspectors, who were now asked to vacate the area and Rama I. started building his new city, beginning with Wat Phra Kaew. Defensive moats were dug and canals built and a city wall was erected from bricks from the old city wall of Ayuthaya.

In the 1850s, Bangkok really was a "Venice of the East" with lots of canals and waterways and only a handful of dusty roads. First King Mongkut (Rama IV.) and then his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V.) pursued the modernization of Bangkok and Thailand and  added roads and built railways. In the 20th century the city started growing both eastward and northward. The first bridge over the Chao Phraya river (Memorial bridge) was built in 1932. In the Second World War, Bangkok was occupied by the Japanese. The following 1950s were a period of political turmoil in Thailand, with several coup d` etats. The 1960s saw, due to the Vietnam war, the beginnings of the economic rise of Thailand, which has only now, in the 90s come to a halt. But still, the economic and social conditions in Thailand are far better than in many of the neighbouring countries in South East Asia.

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Last Updated 10.02.2008