Bangkok – A Brief History
Since the late 18th century, Bangkok has been the biggest and most significant city of Thailand. After the burning and destruction of Ayutthaya, Siam’s (currently named Thailand) ancient capital, by the Burmese in 1767, it was relocated to Old Bangkok or Thon Buri, down the west bank of Chao Phraya River. During the ascension to the throne of King Rama I in 1782, the capital was strategically relocated to a town across the river, placing the wide river between the Burmese (who often invades the city) and the capital. This town was called Bangkok, which means Village of Wild Plums, and was at that time mostly populated by Chinese traders.
The king desired for his new capital to rival Ayutthaya’s grandeur, which has acted as the capital of Thailand for over four centuries. By the end of Rama I’s sovereignty, the city was flourishing, and had created the Grand Palace, a walled palace compound, and Wat Phra Kaeo, a main Buddhist temple. To make the new capital stronger, he ordered the construction of a wall (7 kilometers long and 3 meters high) along the river to protect it from invasion.
A lot of the Buddhist monasteries or wats in the city were built during the sovereignty of King Rama II and King Rama III. Aside from their spiritual purposes, the wats acted as medicine, recreation, and learning centers. The Wat Pho, the Wat Arun, and the Wat Yan Nawa are some of the well-known temples. Sadly, the rest of the capital was ignored during this time. There are nearly no paved roads, and the kings constructed only some key public structures. Ordinary city dwellers depended on khlongs (a series of linked canals) for transportation.
It was during Rama V’s reign that public works became a main concern. He foresaw how automobiles are important and created a system of bridges and roads. Furthermore, the king established a telegraph and post service, a state railway, and an electric tram service.
Much of the history of the country has been a fight for power, and while Thailand has undergone numerous invasions, it boasts that it’s among a handful of Asian countries never occupied and colonized, but this is disputable since Japanese troops, during WWII, ruled a large portion of the country and were concentrated in the capital.
The city has developed quickly in the past two decades. During the time of the Vietnam War, American soldiers utilized Bangkok as a destination for rest and relaxation. Back then, the population of the city was 1.5 million, which has since become bigger to roughly 10 million people. The city’s population increase resulted to pollution and congestion; its air pollution is possibly the world’s most terrible, and the lack of planning and overcrowding have affected everything, from housing to drinking water to transportation. During the ‘90s, the city had registered motor vehicles of nearly one million, in addition to the endlessly growing expressway system. Majority of the canals in Bangkok were filled and covered to build new roadways, which has caused portions of the city to submerge, and yearly flooding has become an issue.
Then again, in spite of the modern problems, Bangkok preserves a great deal of its old appeal. The historic structures, elaborate temples, and colorful markets of the city draw millions of visitors annually.