Until late 18th century, Bangkok used to be a group of small principalities without any official status. It was populated by trading community, who came to do business during the Ayutthaya period. They settled along the west bank of Chao Phraya River.
There are two stories regarding the origin of the name ‘Bangkok’. According to one, it was called Bang Koh, as rivers and canals surround the city (Koh means island). Another legend is that the city was called Bang Makok – Bang means a town situated on a riverbank and Makok is the Thai name for an olive-like fruit-bearing plant.
After the decline of the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1767, the Burmese King Taksin made Bangkok his capital and named it Thonburi. In 1782, when Taksin was overthrown, the new king, King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, rebuilt the capital on the east bank of the river. He gave the city its present name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which means the City of Angels. Bangkok was officially made the capital of Thailand on April 21, 1782.
After Bangkok became the capital of Thailand, the numerous monuments, palaces and temples in the city were renovated periodically and kept in good condition by the reigning kings. As per Thai custom, it is the responsibility of the king to take steps to protect and preserve Buddhist religion.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, people from across the seas started coming to Bangkok for trading and missionary work. These were mostly Europeans and North Americans. This led to many alliances and treaties with various countries.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw much development in Bangkok, during the reigns of the father-son duo of King Mongkut (1851-1868) and King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910). The first paved road was constructed in 1863 during the reign of King Mongkut. King Chulalongkorn was instrumental in constructing the vast network of city roads, a railway line and a tramway.
The first half of 20th century saw large-scale developments in infrastructure in Bangkok. The Memorial Bridge connecting Bangkok and Thonburi built in 1932 helped the economic growth and modernization of the region.
The Vietnam War led to huge FDI investment inflow into Thailand. The Don Muang Airport and the wide network of highways were built during this time.
With modernization and development came the inevitable migration to the city by people of the surrounding regions. Now Bangkok is bursting at seams with a registered population of nine million and almost the same number staying here illegally. Pollution and traffic snarls are some of the major problems faced by Bangkok today.