Bangkok, Thailand

572 Words3 Pages
Love it or hate it, buzzing, sweaty, exotic Bangkok is a city that really is larger than life. For some, the frenetic pace, heat, traffic and lack of personal space can be overpowering and are good reasons to pass through the city as quickly as possible but, for many others, the sheer dynamism is intoxicating. A curious blend of the traditional East with the modern West, Bangkok’s every street has a surprise in hold for the visitor. Ramshackle buildings crouch next to exotic temples surrounded by delightful gardens, which are in turn overlooked by modern hotels and offices. Bangkok has emerged as a major world city with the traffic jams to match, as well as the all-pervasive mobile phones and designer clothes that are a prominent feature on the streets. The chaos on the roads is mirrored by the busy traffic on the Chao Phraya River, which dissects the city and is regularly crisscrossed by long-tailed boats, river taxis and small rowing boats, all miraculously missing each other. But traditional Thai life is never very far away. Weaving among the nose-to-tail traffic in the morning rush hour, saffron-robed monks can still be seen collecting alms, while just moments from the city centre whole communities live in stilt houses by the river, eking out a living using skills that have not changed in centuries. In 1782, Bangkok became the capital of what was then Siam, following the destruction of the previous capital, Ayutthaya. Bangkok is not the name used by the Thais – they call it Krung Thep, which is actually a very shortened version of its extremely long full title. The absolute rule of the monarchy ended in 1932 when it was replaced by a system of constitutional monarchy. To this day, the monarchy is regarded with almost religious reverence and it is an offence, punishable by imprisonment, to insult the royal family. His Majesty King Bhumibol is the longest reigning monarch in the world, having come to power in 1946. Following the end of absolute monarchy, Thailand moved towards democracy, but this has been thwarted by the military, which has often staged coups in protest at government policies. The role of the military in domestic politics has now been curtailed but the 1990s saw governments come and go although there has been some stability since the government took on the job of tackling the economic crisis in the late 1990s and dealing with the SARS and Avian influenza crises more recently.
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