Bangkok

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Posted by kaori 03/01/2009 @ 21:02

Tags : bangkok, thailand, asia, world

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Bangkok

The Baiyoke Tower II, the tallest building in Bangkok and Thailand

The city of Bangkok is the capital, largest urban area and primary city of Thailand. Known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (pronounced , กรุงเทพมหานคร (help·info)) or Krung Thep ( กรุงเทพฯ (help·info)) for short, it was a small trading post at the mouth of the Chao Phraya River during the Ayutthaya Kingdom and came to the forefront of Thailand when it was given the status as the capital city in 1768 after the burning of Ayutthaya, the former kingdom seat and capital of the Ayuthaya province. It was also ranked by "Travel and Leisure," as the best city in the world for the year 2008.

However, the current Rattanakosin Kingdom did not begin until 1782 when the capital was moved across the river after being sacked by the Burmese. The Rattanakosin capital is now more formally called "Phra Nakorn", pertaining to the ancient boundaries in the metropolis' core and the name Bangkok now incorporates the urban build-up since the 18th century which has its own public administration and governor.

In the span of over two hundred years, Bangkok has been the political, social and economic center of not only Thailand but for much of South East Asia and Indochina as well. Its influence in the arts, politics, fashion, education and entertainment as well as being a business, financial and cultural center of Asia has given Bangkok the status of a global city.

Bangkok is the world's 22nd largest city by population with approximately 8,160,522 registered residents (July 2007), but due to large unregistered influxes of migrants from the North East of Thailand and of many nations across Asia, the population of greater Bangkok is estimated at nearly 15 million people. This has in turn shifted the country from being a rather homogenous Thai population to increasingly a more vibrant mix of Western, Indian and Chinese people. The capital is part of the heavily urbanized triangle of central and eastern region of Thailand which stretches from Nakhon Ratchasima along Bangkok to the industrialized eastern seaboard.

The Bangkok Province borders six other provinces: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom, and all five provinces are joined in the conurbation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area.

The town of Bangkok ( บางกอก (help·info)) was a small Khmer trading post on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River before the establishment of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, the precursor of modern Thailand which existed from 1350 to 1767. The etymology of the town's name is unclear. Bang is the Central Thai name for a town situated on the bank of a river. It is believed that "Bangkok" derived from either Bang Kok, kok (กอก) being the Thai name for one or more olive-bearing fruits (olive in Thai is makok ); or Bang Koh, koh meaning "island," a reference to the area's landscape which was carved by rivers and canals.

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 (see below) which became shortened to its current official name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (which, like "Los Angeles", means "city of angels"). The new city, however, also inherited the name Bangkok, which continued to be used by foreigners to refer to the entire city and became its official English name, while in Thai the name still refers only to the old district on the west bank of the river. The city has since vastly modernized and undergone numerous changes, including the introduction of transportation and utility infrastructure in the reigns of King Mongkut and King Chulalongkorn, and quickly developed into the economic center of Thailand.

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit (Thai: กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตน์ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์, listen (help·info)).

This ceremonial name is composed in combination of two ancient Indian languages, Pāli and Sanskrit. According to the romanisation of these languages, it can actually be written as Krung-dēvamahānagara amararatanakosindra mahindrayudhyā mahātilakabhava navaratanarājadhānī purīramya utamarājanivēsana mahāsthāna amaravimāna avatārasthitya shakrasdattiya vishnukarmaprasiddhi. It translates to "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 Vishnukam".

Local school children are taught the full name, although few can explain its meaning because many of the words are archaic, and unknown to all but a few. Most Thais who do recall the full name do so as a result of its use in a popular song, Krung Thep Mahanakhon (1989) by Asanee-Wasan Chotikul and will often recount it by recalling the song at the same time, much in the same way that English speakers might sing the alphabet song while reciting the English alphabet.

The full name of the city is listed by Guinness Book of Records as the world's longest place name.

The Bangkok special administrative area covers 1,568.7 km2 (606 sq mi), making it the 68th largest province in Thailand. Much of the area is considered the city of Bangkok, therefore making it one of the largest cities in the world. The Chao Phraya River, which stretches 372 km (231 mi), is Bangkok's main geographical feature. The Chao Phraya River basin, the area surrounding Bangkok, and the nearby provinces comprise a series of plains and river deltas that lead into the Bay of Bangkok about 30 km (19 mi) south of the city center. This gave rise to Bangkok's appellation as the "Venice of the East" due to the number of canals and passages that divide the area into separate patches of land. The city once used these canals, which were plentiful within Bangkok itself, as divisions for city districts. However, as the city grew in the second half of the 20th century, the plan was abandoned and a different system of division was adopted.

Bangkok lies about two meters (6.5 ft) above sea level, which causes problems for the protection of the city against floods during the monsoon season. Often after a downpour, water in canals and the river overflows the banks, resulting in massive floods. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has recently installed higher banks alongside some canals to keep water levels from reaching street level. There are however some downsides for Bangkok's extensive canal routes, as the city is rumored to be sinking an average of two inches a year as it lies entirely on a swamp.

Bangkok has 50 districts or khet, which mark the administrative subdivisions under the authority of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. These are further subdivided into 154 khwaeng (แขวง), roughly equivalent to sub-districts tambon in the other provinces.

However, these district areas might not accurately represent functional divisions of Bangkok's neighborhoods. Throughout the years, Bangkok has grown from a city scattered along the river to a metro area that spans as many as six provinces. The city's main business districts and residential areas are continuously expanding. The influx of foreigners from Western countries as well as immigrants from neighboring Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and many other Asian countries along with the growth of the Thai population has stemmed hundreds of housing projects around the metro area, developing communities along the outskirts. Within years, these communities are engulfed by the greater Bangkok and become another part of this urban jungle.

The most important business districts of Bangkok include Silom, Bangrak, Pinklao, Sathon, Phra Ram 2, Phetchaburi, Phra Nakhon, Pathumwan, Chatuchak (new central business district), and Phra Ram 3 (new financial center).

As the city expanded on the outskirts, the inner city has nowhere to grow but up. The city has a registered 1,000 skyscrapers and ranks 17th as the world's tallest city. This does not include hundreds of new buildings predicted as part of the construction boom in 2007 and the coming years. Areas such as Silom-Sathon and Asok have for decades been Thailand's business center. From 1985 to 1996, Thailand experienced the world's highest growth rates and underwent an economic transformation, Bangkok went through dramatic changes. The Ratchadaphisek area was turned into a business district which continued through the Asok area up north for five kilometers (3 mi). The Sukhumvit area, stretching 15-20 km (9–12 mi), gradually turned into a mixed commercial and residential area. Wireless Road and Chitlom are where some of Bangkok's most expensive land plots exist. Part of the British Embassy on the corner of Wireless and Rama I Roads, nine rai or approximately 14,400 m2 (155,000 sq ft) in area, was sold for USD 92 million or THB 3.24 billion.

Bangkok's Phra Nakhon district alongside Dusit is where most governmental agencies and ministries have their offices. Most of the well-known tourist attractions are also in this particular area due its cultural & historical heritage. This part of Bangkok is perhaps the most popular for tourists as most notable attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, the Democracy Monument, the Giant Swing, Sanam Luang and other venues are located here. Thon Buri also has its fair share of historic monuments mainly located near the river, such as Wat Arun. The Victory Monument in Bangkok is one of the city's biggest bus destinations. Although not officially a bus depot, its location in the center of city transits as many as 20 bus lines as well as a BTS Skytrain station. Starting from Victory Monument, Phahonyothin road early sois are occupied by ministries, government agencies, commercial buildings as well as upper-middle class residential areas. Further to the north, after the Lat Phrao/Phahonyothin intersection, the Northern Corridor is an expanding business district, where the famous Elephant Building can be found.

Bangkok's north and eastern areas are primarily residential areas for middle class residents of Bangkok. Whereas the inner city often has small apartments and low rises for poor immigrants, Lat Phrao and Si Nakharin offer residential compounds and townhouses. The two areas cover as much as 100 km2 (40 sq mi) to 150 km2 (60 sq mi) each, and have turned into what is now part of Bangkok as more suburban housing developments sprawl further out to the east and north. The west of Bangkok in Thon Buri is another growing area, approaching the degree of development experienced by the north and east. Suvarnabhumi Airport in the east is seen as a jump start for the eastern expansion of Bangkok as Don Mueang was for the north.

Ratchaprasong is at the forefront of Bangkok's shopping scene. The newly renovated Central World Plaza intends to serve as a square to Bangkokians. Just up the street is Siam Square, similar to Shinjuku in Tokyo and Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus in London. The Sukhumvit area also serves as a shopping district for foreigners. The popular Chatuchak Weekend Market in the north of the city is where many people head for cheap, used and high quality products.

Bangkok's poorest districts are spread throughout the city. However, the most concentrated area is just north of the Port of Bangkok at the turn of the Chao Phraya River. For an area of 10 square kilometres (4 sq mi), the Khlong Toei district houses one of the poorest areas in the country with half-built houses and midrises for immigrants and workers from the northeast Isan provinces.

Bangkok has large sections of greenery either preserved by the Department of National Forestry or designated as green zones. The city however, continues to lack a green belt development as economic activity continues to pour into the capital, resulting in massive housing projects along the suburbs.

Bangkok is known for its large green sections within the city centre, including the large forest park between Yannawa and Samut Prakan. This part of the city covers an area of over 50 km2 (19 sq mi). and is intended to buffer the CBD from the large industries of the west and south of Metropolitan Bangkok. Other areas include Bung Makkasan, an urban city buffer for residences, sections of many major roads which have unbuilt swamps and green fields. Some of these areas are intentionally undeveloped for protecting against urbanization, while others are land lost during the Asian Financial Crisis.

Lumphini Park is regionally famous. Renowned as Bangkok's Central Park, it was built in the early 1920s by Rama VI with this intent. It has since been used to hold grand pageants, ceremonies of the Thai constitution, and was a camp for Japanese soldiers during World War II. On Sundays, the western gates are open for runners to run on to Silom Road. The park is normally closed at night due to the incidences of vandalism, robberies and murders reported. Chatuchak Park and Rama IX Park are two of Bangkok's largest parks. The two, built in the past 50 years cater to Bangkok's suburban population are enormous and include botanic gardens, sports clubs and complexes, English/French/Japanese gardens and parks as well as large ponds and lakes. Other famous parks include Queen Sirikit Park near Lat Yao, Benchasiri Park on Sukhumvit, Saranrom Park across the Grand Palace, Sanam Luang, Suan Romaneenat, and Dusit Park.

Bangkok is the economic center of Thailand, dominating the country's economy and dwarfing other urban centers. Development continues to pour in to Bangkok mostly neglecting the rest of the nation. In 2005, it produced a GDP (PPP) of about USD 220 billion, which accounts for 44 percent of the country's GDP. Its GDP (PPP) per capita is well over USD 20,000, one of the highest in Southeast Asia, although statistics do not reveal the extent of the vast differences in wealth between haves and have nots. The Stock Exchange of Thailand is located in Bangkok with over 536 listed companies and combined market capitalization of about THB 6 trillion (USD 200 billion) as of 31 January 2007. Due to the large amount of foreign representation, Thailand has for several years been a mainstay of the Southeast Asian economy and a key center in Asian business. In the recent mini-crash known as Black Tuesday, the SET lost over THB 800 billion or USD 25 billion in value, causing markets in the Asia-Pacific to fall and causing a global impact on 17 December 2006. The loss of market valuation evoked fears of a repeat of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997; however, a partial policy reversal saw market gaining back nearly all of the value lost.

Bangkok is home to the headquarters of all Thailand's large commercial banks and financial institutions; 27 financial institutions hold at least USD 1 billion in total assets. Their bank deposits totaled approximately THB 9.6 trillion (USD 314 billion) at the end of the third quarter in 2007. Many multinational corporations have their regional headquarters in Bangkok because the cost of operation in the city is less than in most cities in Asia. Thirteen Bangkok-based companies are on the Forbes 2000 list, including the largest Thai bank, Bangkok Bank, and the country's largest energy company PTT.

Tourism is a significant contributor to Thailand's economy, providing about 5 percent of GDP. Bangkok is Thailand's principal international gateway and a destination in its own right.

Income inequality of Bangkok's residents is significant, especially between relatively unskilled lower-income immigrants from rural provinces in Thailand and neighboring countries and middle class professionals (45% of registered residents), business elites, and retired and working foreign expats. About 7 percent of Bangkok's population (excluding illegal immigrants who constitute about 5-8 percent of population) lives below the poverty line compared to the national average of 9 percent.

Thai Airways International and One-Two-GO Airlines are headquartered in Bangkok.

The 2005 Statistics report by the BMA Data Center notes a registered population of 5,658,953. However, this figure does not take into account the many unregistered residents. Recently, Bangkok has experienced a large influx of foreign immigrants, long-term residents, and expatriates. Long-term foreign residents include 250,000 mainland Chinese, 85,000 Indians (most of whom are Sikh), of whom more than 80% have dual Thai citizenship , 30,000 Japanese (the largest Japanese population in Asia outside Japan), 25,000 Americans, 45,000 Europeans, 15,000 Taiwanese, 20,000 South Koreans, 6,000 Nigerians, 7,500 Australians, 12,000 people of Arabic speaking countries, 20,000 Malaysians, 4,000 Singaporeans, 5,000 Filipinos, and 800 New Zealanders. A vast majority of the population, 92%, is Buddhist. The rest are Muslim (6%), Christian (1%), Jewish (41 residents), Hindu/Sikh (0.6%), and others. There are some 400 Buddhist temples, 55 mosques, 10 churches, 2 Hindu Temples, 2 synagogues and 1 Sikh gurudwara in Bangkok.

Bangkok is one of two special administrative areas in Thailand, the other being Pattaya, in which citizens vote to choose their governor, unlike in Thailand's 75 other provinces (changwat). In the 2009 gubernatorial election, M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra was elected governor.

The urban sprawl of the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Area extends beyond the borders of Bangkok province, spilling into the neighbouring provinces of Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. The province as it is today was created in 1971 when the previous Bangkok province, changwat Phra Nakhon, merged with Thonburi province.

Bangkok is subdivided into 50 districts (khet, also sometimes called amphoe in the other provinces), which are further subdivided into 154 kwaeng (แขวง, equivalent to tambon in other provinces). Each district is managed by a district chief appointed by the governor. District councils, elected to four-year terms, serve as advisory bodies to their respective district chiefs.

There is also an elected Bangkok Metropolitan Council, which has power over municipal ordinances and the city's budget. The last elections for local councils in Bangkok were held on 23 July 2006. The government of Bangkok is called the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration or the BMA.

The seal of the city shows the god Indra riding in the clouds on Erawan, a mythological elephant-shaped creature. In his hand Indra holds a lightning bolt, which is his weapon to drive away drought. The seal is based on a painting done by Prince Naris. The tree symbol of Bangkok is Ficus benjamina.

An elaborate network of canals known as khlongs gave Bangkok the nickname "Venice of the East" at a time when most transportation was by boat. Today, nearly all of the canals have been filled in and converted into streets. While many khlongs still exist with people living along them and markets often being operated along the banks, most are severely polluted. A notable khlong market is the floating market in Taling Chan district. Through downtown Bangkok runs the Khlong Saen Saeb, which has a canal boat service, the most extensive of which is the Chao Phraya Express Boat with as many as thirty stops along the both banks of the Saen Saeb. However, there are limitations as the further north the route is the farther apart the stations are, impeding the ability of this water taxi to function as a true mass transit system.

Several elevated highways, newly rebuilt intersections, and many partially finished road and rail projects dot the landscape around greater Bangkok, but have done little to overcome the notorious traffic jams on Bangkok's surface roads as private vehicle usage continues to outstrip infrastructure development.

Bangkok also includes many shopping and business roads like the Sukhumvit Road which includes highrise business buildings, apartments, and shopping malls, Sukhumvit Road is where many foreigners like to come shopping. The Wireless Road or Thanon Wittayu include the Stock Exchange of Thailand and many business buildings like the All Seasons Place Complex which includes the Conrad Bangkok, a shopping mall, and many other business offices. The Thanon Khaosan or Khaosan Road is also well-known by foreigners. One of the popular shopping roads for teenagers is Rama I road, which has the Siam Paragon, Siam Square, and the Siam Discovery Center.

A regular bus service is provided by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) and it operates throughout Bangkok as well as to adjoining provinces around the clock on certain routes. Public buses are plentiful and cheap, with a minimum fare of 7 baht to most destinations within metropolitan Bangkok. Air-conditioned buses have minimum and maximum fares of 11 and 24 baht, respectively. Air-conditioned micro-buses charge a flat fare of 25 baht all routes. A Bus Route Map is available at bookshops.

On the birthday of HM King Rama IX, 5 December 1999, an elevated two-line Skytrain (officially called BTS) metro system was opened. The remains of the failed BERTS (Hopewell) project can still be seen all the way from the main railroad station out towards Don Mueang Airport. Due to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 construction was halted and the concrete pillars were left unused.

The MRT subway system opened for use in July 2004. The MRT connects the northern train station of Bang Sue to the Hua Lamphong central railway station near the city centre, while also going through the eastern part of Bangkok. It connects to the BTS system at BTS stations Mo Chit, Asok, and Sala Daeng.

Currently, transit and development projects initiated by ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin are gaining in popularity with the currently elected government, and have a possibility of being resumed and extended.

A new high speed elevated railroad called the Suvarnabhumi Airport Link, currently under construction, will link the city with the new Suvarnabhumi Airport. The announced opening date has been pushed to back to 2009. The Airport Express railway is to be operated by the State Railway of Thailand. It will provide a 28.5 km (17.7 mi) link between the new airport and the City Air Terminal (CAT) at Makkasan with connections to the BTS at Phaya Thai and MRT at Petchburi. There are plans to extend the line to Don Mueang and Rangsit, but again, this is very dependent on the political situation.

Plans have been approved for a further extension of the BTS Silom line from Wong Wian Yai to Bangwah (4.5 km/2.8 mi), Sumrong to Samut Prakarn (8 km/5.0 mi), Mo Chit to Saphan Mai (11.9 km/7.4 mi) and the National Stadium to Phran Nok (7.7 km/4.8 mi). This includes five underground stations in the Rattanakosin area. The State Railway of Thailand has also been given approval to complete the Dark Red and Light Green lines. Alongside, MRT has also begun construction on two new lines, the Purple line from Bang Yai to Bang Sue, and the Blue line from Hua Lampong to Bang Khae and Ta Pra.

For intercity travel by train, most passengers begin their trips at Hua Lamphong at the southern end of the MRT. Here, trains connect Bangkok to Malaysia in the south, Chiang Mai to the north, and Nong Khai to the northeast and beyond to Laos which due to open within 2008.

Virtually all cities and provinces are easily reached by bus from Bangkok. For destinations in the southwest and the west, buses leave from the Southern Bus Terminal, west of the city in the Thonburi area. For destinations in the southeast, such as Pattaya, Ko Samet and Ko Chang, buses leave from the Eastern Bus Terminal at Ekkamai. For all destinations north and northeast, the Northern Bus Terminal is at Mo Chit. Bangkok's less accessible southern terminal was recently moved even farther out. Though Bangkok is well connected to other cities, getting to the bus terminals often are a challenge in themselves.

Bangkok is one of Asia's most important air transport hubs. In 2005, more than ninety airlines served Don Mueang International Airport (IATA: DMK; ICAO: VTBD). It was the 18th busiest airport in the world, second busiest in Asia by passenger volume, 15th busiest in the world and fourth busiest in Asia in international passenger volume. Don Mueang consistently ranked 19th in the world in cargo traffic, and seventh in the Asia-Pacific region. Don Mueang is considered to be one of the world's oldest international airports, its opening in March 1914 making it almost twenty years older than London Heathrow. It has three terminals and is located about 30 km (19 mi) north from the heart of Bangkok.

On 28 September 2006, Suvarnabhumi Airport (IATA: BKK; ICAO: VTBS), became Bangkok's official international airport, replacing Don Mueang. Pronounced Suwannaphum (RTGS), or loosely Su-wan-na-poom, the airport is located southeast of the city center in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province.

The progress of Suvarnabhumi Airport dates back to the early 1970s when a large plot of land 8,000 acres (32 km²) was bought. A student uprising in October of the same year prevented further progress with the development when the military government of Thanom Kittikachorn was subsequently overthrown. After several military coups and the Asian financial crisis of 1997, construction finally began in 2002, after five years of clearing the site. The first flights landed in September 2006, shortly after another military coup. Its two parallel runways are connected by the five concourses of the main terminal building. The airport features a 132.2-metre (434 ft)-tall control tower, the tallest in Asia and one meter (3.2 ft) taller than Kuala Lumpur International Airport control tower. It is the tallest stand alone purpose built control tower in the world. Airports of Thailand Plc. (AoT) have announced another terminal to accommodate a further fifteen million passengers. This will be part of Phase 2 of the airport, which is expected to begin construction in three to five years. The main airline of Suvarnabhumi is Thai Airways International.

Much of the construction of Suvarnabhumi Airport took place during the premiership of Thaksin Shinawatra, who took personal responsibility for its timely completion. Despite a "ceremonial" opening on the planned date, construction was over a year late. Continuing controversy surrounds the quality of planning and construction; accusations include cracks in the runway, overheated buildings, a severe shortage of toilet facilities and lengthy passenger walks to departure gates. The fact that the airport is already overcrowded and near its maximum capacity less than a year after opening is another concern.

Don Mueang remains in use as a base of the Royal Thai Air Force. Thai Airways and most of the low-cost airlines now use the airport for domestic flights, in an effort to ease congestion at Suvarnabhumi, until the next terminal is opened.

These three-wheeled ‘open-air’ motorised taxis (called tuk-tuks) are popular for short journeys.

River taxis can be used on the Chao Phraya River. Some are just cross river ferries, but others serve the many landing stages on both banks and cover a route that goes up as far as the northern suburb of Nonthaburi.

The majority of the country's universities, both public and private, are located in and/or around the capital. Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University are at the forefront of tertiary education. The two are both public universities and have been a foundation for young thinkers for nearly a century. Over the past few decades however, the general trend of pursuing a university degree has prompted new universities to crop up and meet the needs of the Thai people. Bangkok became not only a place where immigrants and provincial Thais flock to for job opportunities, but a chance to receive a university degree. Ramkhamhaeng University emerged in 1971 as the only open university then, it has the highest enrolment of students compared with any other Thai university. Ramkhamhaeng was one of the Thai governments ways to deal with the rise in a demand for tertiary education. The growth of universities has stemmed tens and hundreds of other universities and colleges in the metropolitan area. Vocational/technical colleges have recently seen their fair share of success. In recent years, a large number of private institutions primarily with western ties and exchange programs have made their way to the capital. The rise in the number of schools offering English teaching have raised the bar for many state-owned institutions to meet up with private standards.

Despite such competition, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat remain the nation's leading institutions. Kasetsart University, Mahidol University, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Assumption University among others were ranked in the top 500 of THES - QS World University Rankings for 2007. Bangkok also plays host to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), built as an international co-operative institute between Asia-Pacific nations. There are also many Buddhist universities branching into the realm of religious studies in which Bangkok has taken a leading role.

Amidst all this however, the tertiary education scene in Bangkok is still over swamped with non-Bangkokian's. Officials currently stress the need for a revamping of the Thai educational system. Education has long been a prime factor in the centralization of Bangkok and will play a vital role in the government's efforts to decentralize the country.

Bangkok has a large number of hospitals and medical centers, which include eight of the country's fifteen medical schools. Many hospitals in Bangkok act as tertiary care centers, receiving referrals from distant parts of the country. Lately, especially in the private sector, there has been much growth in medical tourism, with many hospitals providing services specifically catering to foreigners.

The Bumrungrad Hospital is the main international class hospital on Sukumvit Road, and is popular with expats, wealthy Thais and medical tourists. Its closest competitors are Samithivej Hospitaland and Bangkok Hospital Medical Center. All 3 of which have achieved accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI).

Bangkok is considered to be one of the world's top tourist hotspots. According to Travel and Leisure magazine it is Asia's best tourist destination, the third in the world in 2006 and overall best city in the world in 2008, though it is prone to confidence tricksters, so much that google lists 1.8 million hits for the words thai scams. It is also voted the best city in Asia according to Conde Nast Traveler magazine. Bangkok is Thailand's major tourist gateway, which means that the majority of foreign tourists arrive in Bangkok. The Tourism Authority of Thailand hopes to draw 15 million tourists in 2007, up from 11.6 million in 2005. The city boasts some of the country's most visited historical venues such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. There are numerous projects to maintain Bangkok's historic sites in the Rattanakosin area and river districts. Bangkok is known as Orient's most cosmopolitan city and until now preserves its cultural heritage which makes it an irresistible place to visit.

The traditional Thai New Year is an occasion for merriment all over the city, but most notably at Sanam Luang, near the Grand Palace, where the revered Phra Phuttha Sihing image is displayed and bathed by devotees. In the Wisutkasat area, a Miss Songkran beauty contest is held and accompanied by merit-making and entertainment. Khao San Road, Bang Lamphu area is also one of the high-spots in the city where locals and tourists play water by the water-throwing activities.

An ancient Brahman ritual, conducted at Sanam Luang, in which farmers believe, is able to forecast the abundance of the next rice crop. The event is a result of a series of ceremonies that are conducted by Phraya Raek Na, portrayed by a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives who wears colourful traditional costumes. This ceremony was re-introduced in 1960 by H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej and is considered the official commencement of the rice-growing season.

To display their loyalty and to honour Her Majesty Queen Sirikit on the occasion of her royal birthday, the Thai people decorate their houses and public buildings. Around Bangkok, Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the area around the Grand Palace and other well-known locations are bedecked with coloured lights and magnificent adornments.

Their majesties the King and Queen preside over this impressive annual event, held in the Royal Plaza near the equestrian statue of King Chulalongkorn. Dressed in colourful uniforms, amid much pomp and ceremony, members of the elite Royal Guards swear allegiance to the King and march past members of the Royal Family.

H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch is well beloved and deeply respected by all Thais old and young. The occasion of his royal birthday provides his loyal subjects the opportunity to express their reverence for him. All over the country, buildings and homes are elaborated and the area around the Grand Palace is spectacularly illuminated.

There is an average of four million readers for more than 25 Bangkok based newspapers, one of which, Thai Rath, sells over a million copies a day. Bangkok also has two major English-language dailies, the Bangkok Post and The Nation and the new free-sheet, The Daily Xpress. The Asian Wall Street Journal and International Herald Tribune are printed in Bangkok and have high distribution numbers. There are also a number of weekly publications normally published on Fridays that deal with political issues. Other publications, such as lifestyle and entertainment magazines are also plentiful.

Many gossip and fashion magazines are also published in Bangkok, especially after the launch of the Bangkok Fashion City project in 2004. Since then, United Broadcasting Corporation (UBC, or now True Visions), the Thai cable operator, has launched a new channel devoted to Thai fashion as well as a Thai edition of E! Entertainment television.

There is a large amount of television media in Bangkok. Six television stations operated and controlled by the government and many major cables TV operators such as True Visions (formally UBC) , MTV, TTV, PTV, ASTV are based in Bangkok. They broadcast a total of 100 channels to viewers with including many Thai television stations such as TITV, Nation Channel, ETV, DLTV, Royal TV, Money Channel, SMe TV, six sports channels, and Channel V, among others. There are more than 50 FM radio stations within the Bangkok metro vicinity and 50 AM channels including international brands such as Virgin Radio. Radio stations mainly broadcast in Thai, although some broadcast solely in English due to the growing expat population and the growing number of locals who enjoy learning English.

Chalerm Krung Theater and the National Theater have been in operation since the early 20th century whereas the newer Thailand Cultural Center hosts a variety of plays and events.

Bangkok has dozens of cinema multiplexes, and the city hosts two major film festivals annually, the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

The National Gallery located near Sanam Luang is a popular venue for art in Thailand.

The arts in Bangkok have well developed almost exclusively and anonymously in the services of Theravada Buddhism since the golden age in Ayutthaya period and continuing to the present day by incorporating Western elements which is called the Rattanakosin or Bangkok style. Nowadays, modern art scene is centred around Bangkok as the capital of contemporary art in the region while, traditional art can be found in many commercial areas in the old city as well as temples and palaces throughout the city, there are a number of artists who prefer to live and work outside the metropolis. The number of artists is constantly on the rise, so an increasing variety of works are available on the art market. Many art galleries in Bangkok tend to sell work restricted to traditional rural motifs. The artists creating this type of art are often influenced by traditional Buddhist beliefs and motifs, and are popular among the general Thai public. Nevertheless, some Thai artists are breaking away from these norms by addressing more controversial issues in their work, for example the loss of traditional values and the obsession with money in today's society.

Bangkok is home to the National Gallery of Thailand, Bangkok Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art and Thailand Creative & Design Center or TCDC as well as many other museums, concert halls, theatres, and art galleries. It is home to the Thailand Cultural Centre and the National Theatre.

Modern sports have been introduced to the people of Bangkok dating back a century by King Chulalongkorn. Horse racing followed by golf began in Bangkok 100 years ago when the king bestowed land for the first race course. The objective of His Majesty was to introduce and promote the quality of horse racing and breeding in Thailand, while providing sporting facilities of international standards for Thailand. Today, horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the capital and one of the most famous sport events in the region. Bangkok has hosted the Asian Games four times, in 1966, 1970, 1978 and 1998. Bangkok was also the host of the first SEA Games in 1959 and Summer Universiade in 2007.

Bangkok's popular modern sports are football, golf, bowling and horse racing. The city has many famous league football clubs with a number of international class football stadiums as well as many golf courses and bowling alleys throughout the city, while the popular traditional sports are Muay Thai, which is held in two major boxing stadiums in the city: Rajadamnern Stadium along with Lumpini Stadium, Takraw, which is played in open spaces throughout the city, and kite fighting, which is easy to see in the centre of the old city. Sanam Luang, on the north side of Wat Phra Kaew, is transformed each year around February from a sedate little patch of greenery in the midst of a concrete jungle into an ongoing kite festival as locals come to the park to practice the art of flying kites.

Rajamangala Stadium is Bangkok's new national stadium. It can seat more than 65,000.

Bangkok features a number of sports clubs including the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, Southerners Sports Club and the British Club, which was established in Bangkok in 1903.

Although it is one of Asia's most important cities economically, the urban pace of Bangkok is somewhat relaxed, as the city offers enormous amounts of getaway locations. Most residents tend to stress over the amount of traffic in the city. Peak hours are between 6:30 am to 9:30 am and 4:30pm to 8:00 at night on weekdays, with a general state of traffic on Monday morning and Friday night.

A good number of Bangkokians leave town on weekends to visit seaside resorts such as Hua Hin and Pattaya. Others return home to visit elderly relatives in Isan and the northern provinces. Saturday is somewhat considered a work day to a good number of Bangkokians.

Religion does not play a very influential role in the capital as it would compared to other cities. However, a good proportion of the population remains devout and offers daily alms to the monks who walk their neighbourhoods. Muslims are often either assimilated entirely by the Thai or live in remote parts of the city such as the Nong Chok district where tradition Thai Muslims still live.

Bangkok has long been notorious for its massive traffic jams, which are still a serious problem. The recent construction of the elevated second-level, third-level and fourth-level expressways, many tunnels and flyovers, BTS and MRT systems, four new SRT lines and BRT Bangkok has eased some of the congestion along specific corridors, but has done little to alleviate overall congestion. The major reason is the continued popularity of private automobiles, and extensive consumer credit for automobile purchases.

Environmental issues such as air pollution, a large part of which is caused by the traffic and dirt left on streets from construction projects, was a major problem. Industrial pollution has also contributed to poor air and water quality. Though sulfur dioxide and ozone levels have fallen substantially, PM (particulate matter) still exceeds health standards in some areas. However, the large volume of trash in the canals must be cleaned out by other means. Mold growth is ubiquitous in Bangkok, as the wet tropical climate makes it grow, and many residents simply ignore it.

As in many other Asian cities, the sale of illegally copied copyright-protected material, mostly software and DVD movies, is widespread in Bangkok, but technically illegal.

Another issue which has given the city a reputation is the sex industry. Prostitution in Thailand is technically illegal, but can be found all over Bangkok in vast numbers of massage parlors, saunas, parks, and hourly hotels, serving foreign tourists as well as locals. Organized sex work in Bangkok alone involves a minimum of many thousands of workers, and possibly in the tens of thousands.

Foreign residents and tourists alike complain of widespread scams and blatant price gouging. Elaborate gem store scams involving earning the trust of a Westerner who is in cooperation with locals have robbed tourists of thousands of dollars, although overcharging is more of a common occurrence. Commission-based profiteering is common for restaurants, hotels, and just about any kind of business. The Tourist Police lack police powers and are largely responsible for writing out reports for insurance companies for victims of theft. In more serious cases, they will translate reports to be passed on to the regular police in Bangkok. Also, despite stringent drug laws the illegal drug trade continues to thrive.

Armed robbery and violence against tourists is rare, but murders involving tourists and long term foreign residents do occur. A dramatic increase in the number of illegal immigrant workers in Thailand has resulted in many of the crimes being committed by these illegal immigrants. However, Bangkok is generally considered safe from the standpoint of violent crime. The rates for violent crimes such as murders and muggings are fairly low when compared to other large Asian and international cities.

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Bangkok Post

BangkokpostfrontpageAug12006.jpg

The Bangkok Post is a broadsheet English-language daily newspaper published in Bangkok, Thailand. The first issue was sold on August 1, 1946. It had four pages and cost 1 baht.

The paper was founded by Alexander MacDonald, a former OSS officer, and his Thai associate Prasit Lulitanond. Thailand at that time was the only Southeast Asian country to have a Soviet Embassy, and the American Embassy allegedly felt it needed an independent but pro-American paper to present its views. Thus, some sources claim the financing came directly from the State Department or possibly even the OSS itself.

Nevertheless, under MacDonald's stewardship, the Bangkok Post was reasonably independent and employed many young newsmen, including Peter Arnett and T. D. Allman, who later became known internationally.

In a country where media censorship is common, the Bangkok Post portrays itself as having been comparatively free. There are notable instances where this is clearly untrue and the newspaper has often been accused of self-censorship in order to avoid controversy or conflict with powerful individuals. A ubiquitous example of this is an unwillingness to criticise the Thai monarchy, which would constitute an illegal act and would, doubtlessly, be hugely unpopular as an act of lèse-majesté. Another example of self censorship, until recent years, was an unwillingness to point out influential and corrupt individuals. Yet another example of censorship was the newspaper's failure, during the Vietnam War, to report upon forays from U.S. Air Force bases in Thailand over North Vietnam and Cambodia. At the time none of these missions received coverage in the local press.

Alex MacDonald left Thailand after a military coup in the 1950s, and the newspaper was later led by Lord Roy Thomson. The paper has since changed hands. Major shareholders in Post Publishing include the Chirathivat family (owners of Central Group), the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong and GMM Grammy Pcl, Thailand's biggest media and entertainment company.

Another English newspaper of Thailand, the evening-edition Bangkok World, was begun in the 1960s, but was bought by the Bangkok Post in the late 1980s and shortly afterwards shut down.

The main competition today comes from The Nation, a Thai owned and managed newspaper that includes more campaigning journalism, is fiercely royalist and has ties to the Democrat Party and Southern Thailand. The Bangkok Post, by contrast, employs several former student activists, the so-called October people, and portrays news from an urban, middle-class point of view, styling itself as a "family newspaper." During the tenure of prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the Post largely toed the government line—at one point bowing to government pressure by firing a reporter who had exposed cracks in the runway of the prestige project Suvarnabhumi Airport along with the news editor —while the Nation actively campaigned for regime change. This should, however, not be taken as all-out support for Thaksin but has its roots in the fact that the premier drew a number of October people into his government and in concerns for advertising clients. Since the military coup that deposed Thaksin in 2006, the Post has been more outspoken in its criticism of the old power clique that took over and urging a swift return to democracy.

The daily also campaigns in columns and features for an austere, reform version of Buddhism free of Thailand's traditional animist elements, which it views as superstitions, and against corruption in the official Buddhist establishment or Sangha.

The Bangkok Post was well-known for Bernard Trink's weekly Nite Owl column covering the seedy nightlife of Bangkok. Trink's column was published from 1966 (originally in the Bangkok World) until 2004, when it was discontinued. The newspaper has a lively letters page where expatriate and Thai regulars exchange opinions on local concerns.

A special Bangkok Post website readbangkokpost.com helps Thais learn to read English by using the daily newspaper. Vocabulary, reading questions, and web resources are provided for a selection of articles every day. Articles are taken from the general news, tourism, entertainment, and business sections of the newspaper. The targeted audience includes individuals studying English by themselves as well as teachers using articles in the classroom.

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Bangkok Noi

Map of Bangkok, Thailand highlighting Bangkok Noi

Bangkok Noi (Thai: บางกอกน้อย) is one of the 50 districts (Khet) of Bangkok, Thailand. Neighboring districts are (from north clockwise) Bang Phlat, Phra Nakhon (across Chao Phraya River), Bangkok Yai, Phasi Charoen, and Taling Chan.

Bangkok Noi was established as an amphoe on 15 October 1915. Originally named Amphoe Amarin, it was renamed on 11 July 1916 to Amphoe Bangkok Noi to match with the historical name of the area. It became a khet in 1972 when Thonburi and Bangkok were merged together. Later on 9 November 1989 the Bang Phlat district was created from four of Bangkok Noi's sub-districts, leaving Bangkok Noi with four remaining sub-districts: Siri Rat, Ban Chang Lo, Bang Khun Non, and Bang Khun Si. On 12 December 1991 a small part of Bang Phlat district was moved back to Bangkok Noi, creating the new Arun Amarin sub-district.

The National Museum of Royal Barges on the northern rim of Khlong Bangkok Noi near its mouth to the Chao Phraya River houses the royal barges, used for Thailand's Royal Barge Processions on very special events, like 200th anniversary of Bangkok or the 60th anniversary of the accession of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

On the other side of the khlong is the Siriraj Hospital, which was the first western hospital in Thailand. It was originally named Wang Lang hospital, as it was built on the site of a palace (Thai: Wang), it was later renamed after Prince Siriraj Kakuta Bhandu, the beloved son of King Rama V, who died of dysentery only 18 months old. The hospital also houses several exhibitions, like the forensic museum.

Directly next to the hospital is the Bangkok Noi railway station (or the former Thonburi railway station), which serves the trains to the west, especially to Kanchanaburi. It was built in 1900 in European style. During World War II the Japanese used it as their logistics base and thus the station was destroyed. It was rebuilt in same style after the war. In 2003 the railway station was moved one kilometer westwards and the old building is now unused. The cleared space is allocated for expansion of the Siriraj hospital, however currently only used as a parking lot.

Wat Suwannaram Ratchaworawihan, also located at the southern rim of the Khlong, was originally called Wat Thong and dates back to Ayutthaya times. King Rama I had the temple restored and renamed it to its present name. It was a royal cremation site in the early Bangkok period, however the cremation site has been torn down and is now the location of the Bangkok Noi district office. The temple is most famous due to the murals, which are considered the most artistic of that time. In the Suwannaram Witthayakhom School next to the temple is also the district museum.

Wat Rakhang Kositaram Woramahawihan is a major temple near the Chao Phraya river. It dates back to Ayutthaya times, when it was named Bangwayai. During the renovations done by King Rama I a huge bell was found and moved to Wat Phra Kaew, five smaller bells were installed in the temple as replacement. The bell also gave the temple its name, as Rakang is the Thai word for bell.

Bangkok Noi is known for several traditional goods and handicrafts, though most have disappeared.

The only major shopping center is Central Plaza Pinklao with a Central Department Store on Borom Rat Chonnani Road. Across the street from Central Pinklao is Major Cineplex. The multiplex cinema, which is actually in Bang Phlat district, is surrounded by many small shops selling low-cost clothes and other fashion items.

Supermarkets in the district include a Foodland and a Makro store, both on Charan Sanitwong road.

The district seals shows the head of the royal barge Sri Suphunahongsa. The slogan of the district is Resonant Wat Rakang, historical Wang Lang, Royal barges and railway are renowned, lively khlong, inherited stone-polished bowl, Buddha image cast, and abundant ancient wats.

The district is sub-divided into 5 sub-districts (Kwaeng).

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Source : Wikipedia