BANGKOK

Before the 1780s the vicinity of Bangkok consisted of small principalities which existed without official status. Bangkok began as a small trading community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom,1350 to 1767.

The town's name is derived from Bang Makok, bang being the Central Thai name for towns or villages situated on the bank of a river, and makok being the Thai name of Spondias dulcis, a tree producing yellow plum-like fruits.

After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Kingdom in 1767, the newly declared King Taksin established a new capital in the area of then-Bangkok, which became known as Thonburi.

When Taksin's reign ended in 1782, King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke reconstructed the capital on the east bank of the river and gave the city a ceremonial name which became shortened to its current official name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which means "city of angels". On April 21st 1782 Bangkok became the capital of Thailand and the seat of the Thai government.

Since the 1780s then much of Bangkok's history has been dominated by the constant renovation of the old temples, palaces, and monuments in the city, as in Thailand it is the divine responsibility of the king to maintain the Buddhism religion.

The early to middle nineteenth century saw a gradual increase of foreigners into Bangkok, missionaries and traders who came from many European countries and North America. By 1860 many traders had formed economic alliances and treaties with Bangkok.

King Mongkut (1851-1868), and later on his son King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) brought about much development and modernization in Bangkok and Thailand. The city's first paved street was completed under Mongkut's rule and in 1863, his son proceeded to construct new city roads, developing a railway line connect to the north of Bangkok as well creating a tramway.

By 1900, rural market zones in Bangkok began developing into residential districts. The Memorial Bridge was constructed in 1932 to connect Thonburi to Bangkok which was believed to promote economic growth and modernization in a period when infrastructure was developing considerably. During the Vietnam War period of the 1960s increased FDI investment flowed into Thailand, improving the Don Mueang airport and its highways.

Since the 1960s modernization and population pressure with now over 8 million people in Bangkok, traffic congestion and pollution has become a significant problem in Bangkok.

History of Thailand is divided into 5 periods:

Ancient Period (pre-Sukhothai era)

Sukhothai Period (1238 – 1349)

Ayutthaya Period (1350 – 1766)

Thonburi Period (1767 – 1781)

Bangkok Period (1782 – Present)

It is generally believed that the Thai people originated from the Tai people who migrated from Southern China around 800 CE. Around this time, the legendary Tai chief, Simhanavati, founded the city of Chiang Saen located in the northern part of what is now the province of Chiang Rai. During his reign, the Tais made contact with the Indianized states of southern Asia. From them, Theravada Buddhism and Sanskrit words were adopted as part of the local culture. This was also the period when Dharavati principalities were founded in the north. Modern research however reveals that Dhavarati culture existed even in the 4th century CE. In fact, ancient documents show that a certain Haripunchai Kingdom, centered in the present province of Lamphun, was founded by a hermit named Suthep as early as 629 AD.

Towards the end of 12th century, many principalities were overrun by the Khmer Empire. However, in the beginning of the 13th century, Haripunchai Kingdom flourished with the building of many temples. During this time, the Lan Na Kingdom emerged as supreme in the northern part of present day Thailand. It was centered in the present province of Chiang Mai.

Around the middle of the 13th century, the Kingdom of Sukhothai became the chief rival of the Lan Na Kingdom. It was established by Sri Indraditya but it was during the reign of King Ram Khamheng that the kingdom achieved its true greatness. This king is believed to have created the Thai Alphabet.

In 1350, Phra Chao U-thong established the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Its government was absolute monarchy patterned after the Khmer which regarded the king as god-like with unquestioned authority. The kingdom became a colony of Burma for 15 years until King Naresuan of Phitsanulok, overthrew them. In 1767, the Burmese returned and this time, they completely ruined the Ayutthaya Kingdom.

Yet, the commander-in-chief of the Thai army escaped and established his own kingdom. His name is King Phra Chao Taksin. He made Thonburi, located west of the Chao Praya River, across the present old part of Bangkok, his capital. For 15 years, he reigned over a kingdom who was in constant warfare with the Burmese in the north, the Khmer in the east, and the Malay states in the south. In 1782, he died when his own soldiers executed him.

The capital of Siam was moved to Bangkok by King Yodfa Chulaloke, King Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty. To date, the dynasty has had 10 kings including the present King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

On June 24, 1932 during the reign of King Rama VII or King Chaoyuhua, the system of government was changed from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy with the prime minister as the head of government and the king as head of state. The change occurred when a coup d’état succeeded in establishing a new government with most of the king’s powers removed under Thailand’s first constitution. This is called the 1932 Siamese Revolution, a turning point in Thai History. In 1939, Siam was officially changed to Thailand as the name of the country. 

1. Grand Palace

The construction of the Grand Palace started in 1782 when the capital of Siam was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok. The palace served as the residence of the Kings of Thailand until the mysterious death of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946. His brother King Bhumibol Adulyadej who succeeded him moved permanently to the Chitralada Palace. Today the palace is a major Bangkok tourist attraction. Part of the palace compound is dedicated to a royal temple, Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred temple of Thailand and home to the famous Emerald Buddha.

2. Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)

Wat Pho is famous for the huge Reclining Buddha statue it houses. It is one of the largest temples in Bangkok and also one of the oldest, constructed nearly 200 years before Bangkok became Thailand’s capital. Wat Pho holds the distinction of having both Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha image and the largest number of Buddha images in Thailand. The gold plated Reclining Buddha statue is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, and commemorates the passing of the Buddha into Nirvana.

3. Wat Arun

Situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River , Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, is one of the oldest and best known tourist attractions in Bangkok. The temple is an architectural representation of Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Despite its name, the best views of Wat Arun are in the evening with the sun setting behind it.

4. Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Also known as Wat Phra Kaew, it is famed for a fantastic dark green statue of the Buddha which is made out of jade. The Buddha is believed to date back to the 15th century. It was moved to various temples around the country for a few centuries, ending up in Bangkok in 1784. Housed in the most elegant and impressive building in the complex, only the Thai king is ever allowed to touch the sacred Buddha. Apart from its famous resident, the architecture of Wat Phra Kaew’s many buildings is beautiful to behold; gold shines forth wherever you look and delightful Buddhist motifs can be seen carved alongside statues of mythological creatures.

5. Wat Traimit

The Wat Traimit temple in the Chinatown area is best known for it’s more than 3 meter (10 foot) high golden Buddha weighing more than five tons. Cast in the Sukhothai style, the image is about 900 years old and was covered in plaster to hide its value. Only in 1957 it was discovered that the statue was pure gold, when the statue was moved to a new building and slipped from a crane. The temple itself is said to date from the early 13th century.

6. Wat Saket

Built during the Ayutthaya Era, Wat Saket is a fascinating place to visit with amazing murals of what Buddhist heaven and hell look like. A steep hill, partially made out of a collapsed chedi, is enclosed within the temple compound, and the views of Bangkok from what is now known as the Golden Mountain are delightful. Now a popular attraction, this historic and religious site is well worth checking out.

7. Wat Suthat

Wat Suthat, adjacent to the Great Swing, is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Bangkok's Buddhist temples. Three kings had a hand in its construction: it was begun soon after the coronation of Rama I, founder of the Chakri dynasty, in 1782, continued by Rama II, and completed 10 years later by Rama III. Apart from its delightful architecture, the temple boasts some exceptionally interesting wall paintings. Wat Suthat is less popular than some of the other temple complexes in the city, so you will enjoy a more peaceful and intimate experience here.

8. Giant Swing

In the center of the busy square in front of Wat Suthat stands one of Bangkok's most eye-catching sights: the 27-meter-high teak frame of the so-called Giant Swing. Built in the 1700s to be used as part of traditional Brahmin (Hinduist) ceremonies, the swing was later damaged by lightning and became just decorative. This used to be the focus of a religious ceremony held every year in December after the rice harvest. Teams of three took turns to balance on a dangerously narrow board and be swung 25 meters or more off the ground "up to Heaven," at which point they would attempt to catch a bag of silver coins in their teeth. King Rama VII banned the contest in 1932, following a number of fatal accidents.

9. Khao San Road

A small road located about a block from the Chao Phraya River. Khaosan translates as “milled rice”, a reminder that in former times the street was a major Bangkok rice market. In the last 20 years, Khaosan Road has developed into a world famous backpackers hangout. It offers cheap accommodation, ranging from dorm style hostels to reasonably priced 3-star hotels as well as bars, food stalls, restaurants, convenience stores, internet cafes and travel agencies. Some of the best street food in Bangkok is on Khao San Road, both in the little stalls lining up the street and in the small shacks and restaurants just off the main road selling pad Thai, pad see ew, and mango sticky rice.

10. Chatuchak Weekend Market

Known locally as JJ Market, Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest of its kind in Thailand. Some even say it is the largest weekend market in the world. With more than 8,000 stalls peddling wares ranging from antiques to clothes to furniture, the wildly popular market draws in more than 200,000 people on weekends and includes a wide array of tasty restaurants. Shoppers are also entertained by shows, including dancing and live music.

11. Dusit Palace

Dusit Palace is the name of the compound of Royal residences, constructed in European style between 1897 and 1901 for King Rama V. The most prominent building is the Vimanmek Mansion, built of golden teak wood. The world’s largest wooden mansion, it contains 31 exhibition rooms as well as the throne room, bathrooms and bedrooms. If you visit the Grand Palace before this one, make sure you keep your ticket as it gives you free entry into the mansion.

12. Jim Thompson House Museum

The Jim Thompson House Museum comprises six traditional Thai teak homes that once belonged to American entrepreneur Jim Thompson, who is credited with making Thai silk famous around the world. The museum showcases Thompson’s relics and unique art pieces that he collected from different parts of Thailand, and of course, Thai silk abounds. One of the most intriguing aspects of Thompson’s life is that he went missing in Malaysia back in 1967, never to be found again. Part of the museum explores the various theories about this unsolved mystery.

13. Bangkok National Museum

Lovers of Thai art and culture can spend hours viewing the treasures inside the Bangkok National Museum. Home to one of the most enticing Asian art collections, the museum also features Neolithic artefacts, religious works and regional crafts. A guided tour of the collections includes learning about court traditions and the religious history of the region that continues to influence artistic expression to this day.

14. Chao Phraya River

Bangkok has often been called the Venice of the East for its winding river and canals. A very cool way to experience the waterways is to take a riverboat cruise on a vintage rice barge. For 2.5 hours, you will get to explore Bangkok’s banks and see how local merchants move up and down the canals, selling food, trinkets and other things.

15. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

For an even more interesting market experience, you can arrange a tour to Damnoen Saduak, a famous floating market located in Ratchaburi, about 1.5 hours outside Bangkok. The popularity of floating markets once earned Bangkok the nickname "Venice of the East." Keep in mind that floating markets are now big tourist attractions, so do not expect an exclusive morning of shopping by boat. You will however be able to buy fresh, delicious foods and interact with locals in an authentic way. The best way to reach the market is to join a tour such as the Floating Markets Cruise Day Trip from Bangkok, which takes about six hours and includes pickup right from your hotel and transport in an air-conditioned coach.

16. Terminal 21

Do not let the airport name fool you, this shopping mall is one of the best destinations in Bangkok to find a mix of local and international brands, as well as plenty of unique buys. Terminal 21 is unique in more ways than one—even by Thailand's shopping standards. Every floor of the mall has been themed to a different international city. Enter at the level of the BTS station and you will be in Paris; go up a floor and it is Tokyo; another floor and you are staring at the iconic red phone booths of London. The Caribbean, San Francisco, and Istanbul also figure into the design theme.

Street food is an important part of Bangkok’s rich culinary heritage, and because it is cooked on the spot, witnessing its preparation is akin to taking a history lesson in the most delicious and affordable way possible. It also lets you interact with the locals so you are afforded a more enriching experience. If you are planning a trip to Bangkok, make sure that your itinerary includes a street food exploration. This would be easy to squeeze in while you are out shopping, looking at majestic temples, or enjoying the crazy nightlife because street food stalls can be found at practically every corner in Bangkok.

1. TOD MUN PLA KRAI (THAI FISH CAKES)

What makes Thai fish cakes exceptionally delicious is the absence of batter that may conceal the fresh flavors of the fish, herbs and spices. Kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, and local chili give these fish cakes a distinct Thai flavor. Sticky rice is optional, but sides of spicy chili sauce, lemon wedges, and diced cucumber are a definite must.

2. MOO PING (GRILLED PORK)

This is a definite must-try for every carnivorous traveler. Succulent pieces of pork meat with fat are skewered together and grilled on top of hot coals. The melting fat dripping on the ambers creates a thick blanket of aromatic smoke that, logically, should drive you away but in reality, lures you even more. These Thai pork skewers are marinated in a sweet-salty concoction, and when placed on the grill, receive an additional smoky flavor from the burning coals. The barbecued meat is slathered with the homemade spicy sauce, making it pure heaven. Make sure to consume your moo ping hot off the grill when the flavors are most alive and the meat actually melts in your mouth.

3. KHANOM BUANG (CRISPY PANCAKES)

The history of khanom buang, or Thai crispy pancake, goes as far back as 600 years ago. It is a traditional sweet street food that entails meticulous preparation. The crispy crepe is made of rice flour, which serves as a delicious vessel to rich meringue topped with candied duck egg yolk. They say that the best cooks of khanom buang are the elderly, whose ancient recipe they have passed on from generation to generation.

4. KANOM KROK (TRADITIONAL SWEET RICE CAKE)

Made with coconut cream and rice flour, it is a well loved choice for snack or dessert in Bangkok because of the delightful marriage of flavors. But what makes it even more interesting is the tragic love story behind it. Make sure to ask the kanom krok vendor about the love story with a sad ending that inspired this delightfully sweet dessert, aptly called ‘dessert of love’. Traditional khanom krok showcases a layer of rice flour topped with another layer of sweet coconut cream to make up a sphere that is both light and crispy. Modern innovations have resulted in the addition of an assortment of toppings such as corn, taro, and spring onions. Khanom krok is best enjoyed fresh off the khanom krok pan when it is still piping hot.

5. KWAY TEOW LUI SUAN (FRESH SPRING ROLLS WITH HERBS)

Possibly the best thing about the street food in Bangkok is that it makes it easy to eat healthy – an incredible feat when one is on vacation. The streets of Bangkok are replete with healthful dishes that make use of fresh, locally-sourced herbs, spices, and other produce. Kway Teow Lui Suan, or Thai fresh spring rolls with herbs, is a great example of that. This healthy food is not a traditional Thai dish but more of an interpretation of the iconic Vietnamese food. This, however, is still a popular street food in Bangkok. Thais have made this dish their own by using wide rice noodles instead of rice paper, and flavoring it with aromatic herbs. Choice of filling comes in the form of sausage, shrimp, or for a really healthy choice, tofu and mushrooms. Dipping sauce can either be peanut sauce or sweet green chili sauce.

6. KANOM KAI NOK KRATA (SWEET POTATO BALLS)

This well loved street food is named such because its shape and size resembles that of a quail egg. But all resemblance ends there. Khanom kai nok krata are warm, deep-fried puffy balls of sweet potato, tapioca starch, and sugar. Fresh off the wok, these are crispy on the outside and deliciously soft and airy on the inside. What makes these sweet potato balls unique is the limestone water used in the batter, which makes the exterior really crispy. Delightful as they are, Thai sweet potato balls are not a common find on the streets of Bangkok. This is why you should definitely buy yourself several pieces the moment you see a kanom kai nok krata cart.

7. KANOM KROK BAI TOEY (PANDAN SWEETMEAT)

As with other delicious Bangkok street food, kanom krok bai toey tastes best when eaten fresh off the skillet. This muffin like snack is made with flour, coconut sugar, and pandan leaf extract, which gives off a bright green color and a heavenly aroma. This pandan sweetmeat is chewy, fluffy and not too sweet, perfect as snack while roaming the streets of Bangkok. The kanom krok bai toey of today is prepared the same way it was prepared by the ancient Thais centuries ago, in a cast iron griddle called kanom krok, which is placed on top of burning hot coals. It is a delight watching the deft hands of the vendor skillfully pouring the batter into the skillet and flipping each piece, especially because the fragrance envelopes the air, making you even more excited to get your hands on these tiny green pillows of deliciousness.

8. MOO YANG (GRILLED HONEY ROAST PORK)

Moo yang is another grilled meat favorite on the streets of Bangkok, a popular fare among locals who want to cap off their day with a few drinks and some good street food. Pieces of meat are marinated in a formula of honey, fish sauce, soy sauce, and spices, and then grilled on charcoal. The process of marinating and grilling results in tender, juicy pieces packed with sweet-salty-smoky flavor bite after bite. They are served either skewered or sliced into bite-sized pieces. You can also make a full meal out of it by ordering rice alongside your grilled honey roast pork.

Ask Bangkok locals where you can find the best moo yang and they will quickly answer, “Just follow the smoke.” It is true though because moo yang carts are distinguished by the fragrant smoke emanating from the burning charcoals sizzling with dripping pork fat. Your moo yang experience can be made even better by dipping the pork skewers in Thai peanut sauce or green chili sauce.

9. KHAO NIAO MAMUANG (MANGO STICKY RICE)

No trip to Bangkok is complete without a taste or an indulgence of khao niao mamuang or mango sticky rice. It is one of the most popular sweet street foods in Bangkok, a favorite among both locals and tourists. To the uninitiated, the combination of rice and mango in a dish does not sound delectable, but Thais have managed to marry these two ingredients in a delicious, sweet snack. Fluffy glutinous rice is served alongside fleshy cheeks of ripe mango and then smothered with rich coconut cream syrup. If you had to limit your dessert intake to just one dish, you definitely should go for khao niao mamuang, if only for the Thai mangoes, which are famous for being among the sweetest mangoes in the world.

10. ROTI GLUAY (FRIED BANANA PANCAKE)

Roti is another dish that does not really have Thai origins but has been embraced by the locals; so much so that it has become one of the most craved street snacks in Bangkok. Roti gluay, or fried banana pancake, is just one of the variants of roti peddled in carts at just about every corner of the city. The preparation of roti gluay can be hypnotizing to watch – with the skillful hands of the vendor maneuvering the ingredients with such panache and quickness. Dough is laid flat on an iron skillet, which is then to fulfill its role as a crispy blanket to the creamy mixture of banana slivers and egg. The roti gluay is chopped into smaller pieces and served with a hefty drizzle of sweet condensed milk. 

Tod Mum Pla (Thai Fish Cakes)

Moo Ping (Grilled Pork Skewers)

Khanom Buang (thai Crispy Pancakes)

Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

Kanom Krok Bai Toey

Moo Yang Thai (Grilled Pork)

Thai Coconut Sticky Rice

Rot Gluay (Fried Banana Pancakes)

1. Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)

The name of Tom Yum Goong, 'Tom Yum Goong' means hot and sour, 'gong' means shrimp. You can find Tom Yum Goong everywhere in Bangkok and Thailand, which makes Tom Yum Goong a representative food in Thailand. In recent years, Tom Yum Goong has been popularized around the world. Tom Yum Kung soup is extremely spicy, and there is also a lot of curry in it, but after getting used to it, many people will fall in love with it.

2. Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Soup)

A famous soup in Bangkok which has hundreds of years' history. Unlike Tom Yum Kung, Tom Kha Gai tastes sweeter because rich coconut milk neutralizes the spiciness of pepper and ginger. It is suitable for people who are not afraid to eat spicy food. It is very delicious. If you drink regularly, it can improve your immune system.

3. Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Green Chicken Curry)

Thai red curry and Thai green curry are both popular in Thailand, but in case you can not have something too spicy, I highly recommend Gaeng Keow Wan Kai for you. It is added with coconut sauce to reduce the spicy taste and enhance the aroma, which makes chicken fresh than ever before. Eggplants are used to lower the cholesterol level. A perfect blend of green curry paste combined with coconut cream to create a thick curry that goes extremely well with rice. You should really give it a shot.

4. Pad Thai

Pad Thai is the most classic noodle dish in Thailand. It can be seen in both roadside stalls and fine dining restaurants. People almost order Pad Thai every time they go to restaurant. The fresh ingredient, the right heat, and homemade sauce all make Thai-style fried rice noodles incredibly tasty.

5. Khao Pad (Fried Rice)

As popular as Pad Thai above, Khao Pad is also a must try in Bangkok. Khao Pad mostly made with rice, chicken, shrimp, or egg, onion, and a few herbs, nothing more, nothing less. A popular lunch dish served typically with a small of lime and slices of cucumber, the secret of this dish lies in its simplicity.

6. Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)

Som Tum is a terrific raw and spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya, raw beans, sliced tomatoes, dried shrimp, peanuts, and fresh garlic. Green papaya Salad is one of them which can be found basically everywhere in Bangkok and Thailand from restaurants to food stalls. Besides its great taste, Som Tum can enhance your digestion and break down fat.

 

7. Yam Nua (Spicy Beef Salad)

If you are on a diet and can not have greasy food, well, this refreshing Thai salad will also satisfy you with the balance of spicy, sour, and salty flavor married to tender beef, aromatic herbs and fresh vegetable. Meanwhile, it reduces the intake of salt and oil.

 

8. Quail Eggs

This is a protein rich snack Thai people have daily. Put an egg in a high heat resistant fry pan, and then put a little salt and chili sauce when the egg is almost done. It really a simple and fun snack which you can find it on the streets and food stalls.

 

9. Kanom Krok (Thai Traditional Sweet Rice Cake)

Kanom krok or coconut-rice pudding is an authentic traditional Thai dessert. The ingredients are rice flour, sugar, and coconut milk. Usually, Kanom Krok is composed of two batters, one salty and one sweet, both of which are cooked in a heating frying pan. After heating, kanom krok will be picked out of the mantle and the two half-circular doughs formed into a circular shape. You will get addicted to this rich coconut flavor once you bite it.

Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)

Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Soup)

Pad Thai

Khao Pad (Fried Rice)

Som Tum (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)

Yam Nua (Spicy Beef Salad)

Quail Eggs

Kanom Krok (Thai Traditional Sweet Rice Cake)

Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (Green Chicken Curry)