Overview of Bangkok

Geography of Bangkok

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The only country in Southeast Asia not to fall to colonial rule, Siam changed its name in 1939 to Thailand, meaning "land of the free". Nicknamed the Land of Smiles, mythical yet beautiful Thailand certainly has a way of creeping into your heart. Ask any given individual on the street how they would describe Thailand and the responses would be wide: cheap, lively, rural, beautiful, beach, city, polluted, sex, friendly, food, tourism, pristine, exotic, unique - the list could continue for infinity. Two 19th-century kings of Siam, Mongkut and his son Chulalongkorn, introduced Thailand to Western education and technology but managed to retain the charm and character of a devoted Buddhist society.

Bordering the coasts of the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia it certainly displays the most of such external influences. From the mountainous and rural north east, to the rich soils in the remote mountain valleys producing opium poppies, to the culture capital that is Chiang Mai, to the stunning beaches of the South, diverse Thailand is a magnetic country that has something to attract everyone from the rich to the poor, to the outgoing to the hermits. And this doesn't even really begin to touch properly on the regional differences which can be experienced across Thailand. Renowned for its tasty food cooked with the freshest ingredients on the street sold for next to nothing to the kindness of locals only too keen to share a smile or practice their English, it is a privilege just to spend time in this amazing country.

And that is without even mentioning capital city Bangkok, or carrying on with its customary Thai nickname, the Big Mango, which can only be described as an exhilarating and exciting attack on the senses: from the vivid sights and continuous sounds of the hustle and bustle of traffic and people, to the smells of street food on every corner.

It is hard to imagine Bangkok as nothing more than a small trading post but that exactly what it was during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century. It gradually developed and became home to two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart Thailand's modernization and was at the centre stage of Thailand's political struggles throughout the twentieth century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy and saw several coups and uprisings. The city grew quickly throughout the 1960s and is now significant to Thailand's political affairs, financial system, education, media and contemporary culture.

Bangkok is home to some 9.7 million people and has a distinctive Buddhist landscape, with gold-layered spires, elegant pagodas, and enormous Buddha statues. Bangkok is the perfect example of an ancient modern day city. The extremities of Bangkok continue making it one of the world's most interesting cities: from its glamorous skyscrapers and abundance of shopping malls, to historic temples and ruins steeped in Buddhist history, from traditional river taxis used by locals, to the powerful BTS, to shacks housing multiple generations of families sat next to luxurious, elegant riverside hotels, Bangkok is without doubt a city that has it all. There is, however, something about this mad chaotic fascinating city that causes people to fall in love with it.


Thailand is located in central Southeast Asia. It shares borders with Burma and Laos towards the North, Cambodia and Laos to the east, the Andaman Sea to the west, and to the south the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia.

Thailand is the 51st largest country in the world and has a population of 64 million in an area of 198,000 square miles. It is also the most popular South East Asia country to be frequented by tourists.

And with good reason - Thailand benefits from many different geographic - and cultural - regions. Northern Thailand is very mountainous with the highest point being Doi Inthanon in the Thanon Thong Chai Range which reaches 2565 meters and is known for its beautiful temples and hill tribes. The centre of the country is mostly flat, dominated by the Chao Phraya river valley which leads to the Gulf of Thailand, whilst the Andaman Sea resorts are famed for their beautiful and breath-taking beach resorts coupled with miles of lush rainforest. Eastern Thailand lies in close proximity to Bangkok making it an easy weekend escape to visit the beaches in Pattaya, Koh Samet and Koh Chang.

The country's official language is Thai. Buddhism is the main religion and is celebrated through many public holidays across the year.

In addition to the Gregorian calendar, Thailand also uses the Thai solar calendar which is 543 years ahead. For example, the year 2556 corresponds with the western year of 2013.

Major Cities of Thailand

  • Bangkok- Thailand's colourful capital, known for its many famous landmarks, shopping, nightlife and busy traffic. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta and with more than fourteen million people (22.2 percent) living in the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region, Bangkok is an important urban centre.
  • Chiang Mai- Thailand's second largest city after Bangkok, and is often considered the culture capital of the Land of Smiles. It is the capital of Chiang Mai Province, and is the former capital of the Kingdom of Lanna (1296-1768). It is 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok, and home to the highest mountains in the country. The Ping River, a major tributary of the Chao Phraya River can be found here. Chiang Mai means "new city" and in recent years, it has become a progressively more contemporary city and attracts over 5 million visitors annually.
  • Pattaya- Renowned for its infamous nightlife, this is a city and beach resort, popular with both expats and tourists. It is positioned on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 130 km southeast of Bangkok in the province of Chonburi.
  • Phuket - Formerly known as Thalang is Thailand's largest island and is one of the southern provinces of Thailand. Neighbouring provinces are Phang Nga and Krabi. Phuket is extremely popular with tourists with a wide variety of busy and quiet beaches.
  • Ko Samui- Often simply known as Samui, is an island off the east coast of Thailand. It is near to the mainland town of Surat Thani. It is Thailand's third largest island, with an area of 228.7 km2 and a population of over 62,000 and is a magnet for some 1.5 million tourists per year. It is an island off the east coast known for its natural resources, white sandy beaches and coral reefs.
  • Kanchanburi - Home to the River Kwai and deeply touching World War II tributes such as the Jeath museum, the cemetery and the humbling Hellfire Pass. In 1942 Kanchanaburi was controlled by the Japanese who forced Asian labourers and Allied POWs, built the infamous Burma Railway and Bridge over the River Kwai. Nearly half of the prisoners died from illness, ill-treatment and accidents.
  • Hua Hin- A beach resort town south of Bangkok, considered by many to be a more "authentic" seaside destination. In 1834, before it was known as Hua Hin, a group of farmers kept moving until they found a small village that had bright white sands and a row of rocks along the beach. They settled here, calling it Samore Riang, which mean rows of rock.
  • Chiang Rai- Gateway to the infamous Golden Triangle this cultural northern city offers the chance to experience hill tribes, mountain trekking and temples with a difference. Chiang Rai was conquered by Burma and remained under Burmese rule for several hundred years. Until it was declared in 1933 a province of Thailand.
  • Sukhothai - Thailand's first capital city is home to approximately 193 amazing temples and historical ruins. The city walls form a rectangle and there is a gate in the centre of each wall. Inside are the remains of the royal palace and twenty-six temples, the largest being Wat Mahathat. The site is preserved by the Fine Arts Department of Thailand with help from UNESCO, which has declared it a World Heritage Site. The park sees thousands of annual visitors and is easily toured by bicycle or by foot.

Climate in Thailand

Thailand can be separated into two separate climatic zones. It is a tropical country and is therefore humid for the majority of the year.

The climate varies throughout the country. Anywhere north of Bangkok tends to have three seasons whilst the southern peninsular has only two.

Northern Thailand's three seasons: Between November-May the weather is largely dry, although March-May tends to be far hotter than the cooler months of November-February. Between May-November rainfall is heavy and this is known as the wet season.

Southern Thailand's two seasons: Wet and dry, but these vary according to location. The west coast's (i.e. Phuket) wet season runs from April-October whereas the east coast (i.e. Koh Samui) suffers from heavy rain and storms September-December.

Time Zone in Thailand

Thailand standard time is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Thailand does not operate daylight saving time.

Geography of Bangkok

Bangkok is located in the central Chao Phraya delta, in central Thailand and covers 1,568,737 square kilometers. It borders six provinces: Nonthanburi, Pathum Thani, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom. Save for Chachoengsao, these provinces form the greater Bangkok Metropolis Region.

Bangkok itself is split into fifty different districts. 35 are located to the east of the Chao Phraya River, with the remaining to the West. The 50 districts are then sub divided into 12 main clusters: Rattanakosin, Lumphini, Vibhavadi, Chao Phraya, Thonburi, Taksin, Phra Nakon Nuea, Burapha, Suwinthawong. There is not a specific "central" point of Bangkok, although many unofficially consider it to be the area around Siam Square.

For more information on areas, refer to "Popular Areas To Live Around Bangkok" under "Rent House or Flat in Bangkok".

Cityscape of Bangkok

Bangkok's cityscape is famously dominated by skyscrapers, ranked as the 23rd tallest city in the world. In 2012, there were 117 skyscrapers standing at over 100 meters tall with another 37 under construction.

That is not to say that all of Bangkok is sky high. Indeed, the famous historic centre is Rattanokosin Island, home to the famous sites of the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho is low rise. Bangkok is also home to a number of parks and green zones, including Lumpini, and Chatuchak-Queen Sirikit-Wachirabenchathat.

Climate in Bangkok

Like most of Thailand, Bangkok is prone to the tropical hot and wet climate.

Temperatures are cooler in December and are at their hottest in April. Temperatures in Bangkok fluctuate between 20 C in December and 38 C in April with a typical humidity of 82 percent. Winter temperatures in the north can be as low as 10 C with an average annual rainfall of 1,250 cms.

The rainy seasons begins around mid-May and lasts generally until October.

November-early May is Bangkok's dry seasons.

For up-to-date weather information, consult Bangkok weather.

Update 15/09/2013

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