Four hundred years ago, Bangkok was only a small village. It was used as a harbor for ships that used to sail from here to the former capital of Siam, Ayuthaya. Also, at that time, the kingdom was called Siam. In time, larger and larger ships were docking at Bangkok so the village started to prosper.
In 1767, Ayuthaya was won by the Burmese armies and the kingdom’s capital was moved to Thonburi, another very important harbor. Then, in 1782, the Burmese armies were also threatening the safety of Thonburi so King Rama relocated the capital across the river to Bangkok.
The Chakri dynasty has influenced the history of Bankok throughout the past 200 years. It was Phaya Chakri, crowned as King Rama I, the one who decided to move the Capital to Bangkok in 1782, but he did not actually founded the city. At that time it was a well-known port where both Indian and European merchants docked in their journey to Ayutthaya.
As you may probably know, Bangkok is not the real name of the city. King Rama I was the one that gave to the city its true name: Krung Thep. The name means “City of Angels” . It was a name carefully chosen, meant to inspire hope to the people.
When King Rama I started building Bangkok, the city was filled with customs inspectors and Chinese merchant who were forced to leave. The constructions started with Wat Phra Kaew(Emerald Buddha). Also, defensive trenches and canals were dug and bricks from the wall of Ayuthaya were used to build a city wall for Bangkok. These construction works were completed in 1785.
At that time, Grand Palace Bangkok was a beautiful small village surrounded by wild plum trees, but due to its rapid expansion the plum orchard started becoming smaller and smaller until no plum tree was left.
The city was in 1850 an actual “Venice of the East” as the main transportation means were by canals and waterways. At that time, there were only a few small roads in Bangkok. The really fascinating detail is that many of its inhabitants lived in floating houses.
Modernization couldn’t be avoided so King Mongkut (Rama IV.) and then his son King Chulalongkorn (Rama V.) build new roads and railways. As a result, in the 19th and 20th century Bangkok continued to expand and it eventually outgrow Thonburi. In 1932 the first bridge over the Chao Phraya River was completed and it was named Memorial Bridge.
The Second World War brought only darkness over Bangkok as the Japanese occupied the city. Then, in the 1960s, due to the Vietnam War the economy of Thailand started to rise and only in the 90s it came to a stagnation point. Still, the social and economic conditions of Thailand are better than in other Southeastern countries.