Opinions are divided about of the origins of Thailand. However it is thought that "Tai" people who originally lived in south-western China migrated into central South East Asia across several centuries and it is understood the word Siam results from the Sanskrit word syam, or brown race. It is believed the countries first western settlers were Portuguese.
The first recognised Thai states were Sukhothai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Mai and the Lanna Kingdom followed by the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Sukhothai, meaning the ''Dawn of Happiness'' was the first independent Thai Kingdom discovered in 1238, by two Thai chieftains, Khun Bang Klang Tao and Khun Pa Muang. Although short-lived the Sukhothai period was of great cultural importance in Thailand's history and was considered to be a golden age of Thai culture.
In the 19th and early 20th century Thailand became the only South East Asian country to avoid becoming a European colony.
The Ayutthaya Kingdom, a small but powerful island was a key state in shaping Thai history to as we know it today. The first ruler of the Kingdom, King Ramathibodi established Buddhism as the official religion and introduced Dharmashastra as a legal code which would remain part of Thai law until the late 19th century.
Ayutthaya remained pivotal in Thailand's history, referred to by many as "the Golden age of medicine in Thailand", until 1767, when, after many attempts, the Burmese broke through Ayutthaya walls and burnt down the city.
In 1769, General Taskin (King Taskin the Great) managed to reunite Thailand and when General Chulaloke, Rama I, succeeded him in 1782, he founded a new capital city known as Rattanakosin Island - settlements to either side of the Island were colloquially called Bangkok.
Until the early 15th century, the city we now know as Bangkok was under the rule of Ayutthaya. Thanks to its pertinent location adjacent to the Chao Phraya River, the area grew in importance. Following the fall of Ayutthaya and the succession to the throne by King Chulaloke, Rama I, it became Thailand's capital city from 1782 under its formal name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. Initially, nothing more than a small trading post encircled by wild plum trees, Bangkok can be translated as Village of the Plums.
King Rama I wanted Bangkok to echo Ayutthaya in magnificence and so built the Grand Palace and the important Buddhist temple, Wat Phra Kaeo in reminiscence.
By the 1900s, many rural areas became increasingly residential, and since then, Bangkok has continued to undergo tremendous modernisation, including being subjected to Allied bombing during the Second World War. This time period also laid the foundations for the famous tourist and sex industry.
Rapid growth occurred during the 1980s and 1990s, despite setbacks following the Asian financial crash of 1997 and then tragic floods in 2010. Bangkok continues to grow.
Today, Bangkok suffers from modern problems of an increasing population and pollution, but the charm of the city oozes from the balance of ancient temples to modern hotels and businesses. Undoubtedly, Bangkok is the epitome of a capital city. It is the residence of the Royal Family, the centre of Thailand's Government and Administrati
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