Due to the 1980s and 1990s Asian investment boom, many multinational corporations make their regional headquarters in Bangkok and the city is a regional force in finance and business. Its increasing influence on global politics, culture, fashion and entertainment underlines its status as an Alpha global city. In 2009, it was the second most expensive city in South-East Asia behind Singapore.
The city's many cultural landmarks and attractions in addition to its nightlife venues has made it synonymous with exoticism. Its rapid modernization, reflected in the cityscape and the urban society, has left untouched the historic Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Vimanmek Palace Complex, hundreds of Buddhist temples, and the city's illegal (but tolerated) red-light districts draw about 10 million international visitors each year, second only to London.
Bangkok has an official population of 9,100,000 residents, while the greater Bangkok area continues some 11,971,000 (January 2008). The capital is in a heavily urbanized triangle of central and eastern Thailand, which stretches from Nakhon Ratchasima to the heavily Industrialized Eastern Seaboard. Bangkok borders five 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. It is served by two international airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang International Airport, four rapid transit lines operated by the BTS, MRT, and the SRT, with plans to add additional lines by 2020.
The town of Bangkok (Thai: บางกอก (listen) (help·info)) began as a small trading center and port community 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 Bangkok, kok (กอก) being the Thai name for the Java plum (ma-kok, มะกอก), one of several trees bearing olive-like fruits); 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 the 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. 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.
The full ceremonial name of the city given by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, and later edited by King Mongkut, is:
Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit (Thai: กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุทธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์ (listen) (help·info)).
This ceremonial name uses two ancient Indian languages, Pāli and Sanskrit, initiated with the only original Thai word Krung which means "capital". According to the romanisation of these languages, it can actually be written as Krung-dēvamahānagara amararatanakosindra mahindrāyudhyā mahātilakabhava navaratanarājadhānī purīramya uttamarājanivēsana mahāsthāna amaravimāna avatārasthitya shakrasdattiya vishnukarmaprasiddhi (listen) (help·info). 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 Vishnukarma".
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 Maha Nakhon (1989) by Asanee-Wasan Chotikul and will often recount it by recalling the song at the same time, much as 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. Occasionally after a downpour, water in canals and the river overflows the banks, resulting in floods in some areas. 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 a tropical wet and dry climate under the Köppen climate classification system. Average temperatures in the city are about 2 °C (3.6 °F) higher than the ones shown for the Don Mueang Airport during the 1960-1990 period. The highest recorded maximum temperature is 40.8 °C (105.4 °F) in May 1983 and the lowest recorded minimum temperature is 9.9 °C (49.8 °F) in January 1955. The coldest temperatures were recorded in January 1924, January 1955, January 1974 and December 1999. The hottest year on record was 1997 (average yearly at Don Mueang 30.0 °C) and the coldest was 1975 (average yearly at Don Mueang 26.3 °C). The coldest daytime maximum temperature was 19.9 °C (68 °F), recorded in December 1992.