Bangkok – City of angels

Bangkok – city of angels

Last week I took a five day break and went off to Bangkok with friends. I know what you’re thinking in fact I can see you rolling your eyes while a smirk forms at the corner of your lips. I don’t need magical powers to figure out your thoughts for Bangkok does have a reputation and a priest on holiday in that city sounds like a saint in a brothel. But then again perceptions are in one’s head and if you can look beyond what cities (or for that matter people) are portrayed to be you will see more than what you have come to believe to be true.

The Thais call this city Krung Thep Maha Nakhon and covers an area of 605.7 kms in the Chao Phraya River delta area in central Thailand. There are many theories about the origins of the name “Bangkok” which is pronounced as “Baang Gok”. To some the name evolves from “Bang (Suburb or district) Koh (Island)” . It is believed that there were many canals and creeks in Bangkok which essentially made Bangkok pretty much an island district often dubbed as the Venice of the East. Still others hold that ‘Bang Kok’ means ‘the village of plum/olive trees.’

Unfortunately the West has only known it as Bangkok and continues to believe that the city’s name must be mixed with a small fraction of the city’s sad but immoral lifestyle. This is no “sin city” unless you choose to walk that path. Interestingly, the Thai people rarely refer to their capital city as “Bangkok”.

Bangkok has been known by its western name since the last 300 years; going back to the old capital Ayuttaya (from Ayodhya) which was a trading dock at that time. When Ayuttaya was burnt to the ground, King Taksin moved the capital of Siam and established the new capital on the west side of Chao Phraya River and called it “Thonburi” ( 1768) .

A few years later, King Rama I or Phra Buddha Yodfa as he was also know, established a new dynasty in Bangkok opposite the river. He named his new capital as “Krung Rattanakosin Inta Ayotaya”(1782); however even at this time the nick name of this city continued to be “Bangkok”. It was King Rama III who officially changed the name of Bangkok to “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Boworn Rattanakosin”.
King Rama IV then changed the official name once again to “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit” making the city’s name as long as a paragraph and the longest name for a city in the world. Translated from ancient languages of Sanskrit and Pali in which it was written it means, “the city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarma.”

The locals simply call the city “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” or “Krung Thep” (city of angels) in short. When you visit the grand palace, look for the lamp posts around the palace all of which have been surmounted with angels.  Unfortunately, the city was built on a vast expanse of plains and river deltas at an elevation of a little less than two meters (some six feet) and hence the entire city is sinking into the muck at the rate of about 7.5 centimetres (three inches) per year. Guess it’s time to see the city if you have not already

Over the next few days I will share a little more about the city; its food, shopping, transportation, scams and tourist attractions.


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