The Village of the Wild Plums
by Wayne Burns
Bangkok is not an ancient city. It was chosen as the site for the capital of Siam by the first king of the present Chakri dynasty in 1782, a mere fifteen years after Siam`s former capital, Ayutthaya, had ben ransacked and totally destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.
At the time of its founding, it was a small river port with a name meaning, "Village of the Wild Plums." To a foreign ear, the Thai named sounded like "Bangkok and so for foreigners that name has stuck. But the Thais still call their capital "Krung Thep," a short form of a much longer, more auspicious name chosen by the first king, Rama I. "Kung Thep" means simply "City of Angels."
Bangkok`s history as the capital of Siam began in 1782 when King Rama I began the task of converting the village into a city. Construction of palaces and temples with fortifications was begun in a river bend, the site which the Grand Palace still occupies today. This area is crescent-shaped and bounded on the west by the river and on the east by a canal called Klong Krung Kasem, initially build as a protective moat. Two other canals, Klong Banglampu and Klong Lord were also excavated to provide waterways across the new capital.
The visitor may best understand this period by touring the area around the Pramane Grounds, an open field ringed by tamarind trees and bordered by Wat Phra Kaew to the south and Klong Lord/Rajdamnoen Avenue to the north.
This area, also called Sanam Luang, was the heart of the old capital. It is still regarded by Thais as the symbolic center of the Kingdom and was the site for many elaborate celebrations when monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, celebrated his 60th birthday.
In addition to royal events, the open space is used by vendors, kite-flyers, and families on weekend picnics.
--------------------------------------------------Tourism Authority of Thailand
1600 New Phetchaburi Road, Makkasan, Ratchathevi,
Bangkok 10400, THAILAND
Tel: 662 250 5500, TAT Call Center: 1672