Bangkok is the most populous city of Thailand. It is divided into 50 districts (khet) which are, in turn, subdivided into 169 sub-districts (khwaeng); each district is managed by a district director appointed by the governor. But Bangkok as a whole is governed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Association (BMA).
Of the 50 Bangkok districts, 35 lie to the east of the Chao Phraya River, while 15 are on the western bank called Thonburi. Twelve clusters differentiate between features and characteristics of each district. The clusters are:
1. Burapha cluster – residential areas; transition zone for potential city expansion
2. Chao Phraya cluster – emerging economic areas
3. Lumphini cluster – central business, commercial and tourism areas
4. Mahasawat cluster – agriculture and residential areas
5. Phra Nakhon Nuea cluster – residential areas; transition zone for potential city expansion
6. Rattanakosin cluster – historic conservation, administrative, traditional retail, and cultural tourism areas
7. Sanam Chai cluster – agriculture, industrial, residential, and ecological tourism areas
8. Sinakharin cluster – suburban community center areas
9. Suwinthawong cluster – agriculture and residential areas
10. Taksin cluster – emerging employment and high-density residential areas
11. Thonburi cluster – historic and cultural conservation and tourism areas
12. Vibhavadi cluster – employment, retail and service, and high-density residential areas
Established as capital city on April 21, 1782 by King Rama I, it had since then grew to become a major regional force in business and finance, an international hub for transport and health care, and a regional center for the arts, fashion and entertainment.
What’s in a name?
The origin of the name Bangkok is unclear. Scholars suggest that it may have been derived from Bang Ko which means “island,” considering that the area’s landscape was carved by rivers and canals, or from Bang makok with reference to a plant (Spondias pinnata) bearing olive-like fruit called makok.
The official name of Bangkok, however, is “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon,” a shortened version of its long ceremonial name given by Kings Rama III and Mongkut. The long name translates to: city of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest. Bangkok was said to be a colloquial name widely adopted by foreign visitors.
The city is among the world’s top tourist destinations, said to be third after London and Paris. Its appeal lies on its vibrant street life, cultural landmarks, and red-light districts. The interesting contrast provided by nightlife scenes against historic locations makes Bangkok really interesting to the world.
Bangkok has an intricate waterway network which served as main mode of transport until the late 19th century. Most people lived near or on the water, which earned it the label “Venice of the East.” The canals now serve as major drainage channels; mostly are polluted but the BMA committed to rehabilitate them. The city also has several parks. The large ones include Lumphini Park near Si Lom-Sathon district, Suanluang Rama IX is the east, and Chatuchak-Queen Sirit-Wachirabenchathat in the north.
Diverse groups of tourists visit Bangkok for its multi-faceted sights, attractions and city life. Top tourist favorites include royal palaces, temples, museums, and shopping centers. The city is also famous for its sex tourism, and has acquired the nickname “Sin City of Asia.”