Paradise lost - Downtown Bangkok
This lesson follows the Evans family around downtown Bangkok. Students will explore with them the sights, sounds and smells of the city.
- What's Downtown Bangkok like?
- How do you get around the city and what are the transport problems?
- Environmental interaction and sustainable development
- Cultural Understanding and Diversity
What's Bangkok like?
Bangkok has a recorded population of about six million - the actual number is thought to be much higher. Bangkok is the 22nd most populous city in the world and is a major economic and financial center of Southeast Asia. Recently, Bangkok has experienced a large influx of foreign immigrants, long-term residents, and expatriates who have come to work in the city, the economic centre of Thailand. Development continues to flow in to Bangkok often neglecting the rest of the nation. Bangkok has one of the fastest rates in the world for construction of high rise buildings. The city has over 1,000 skyscrapers and ranks 17th as the ‘world's tallest city'. Bangkok's poorest districts are spread throughout the city. However, the most concentrated area is just north of the Port of Bangkok at the turn of the Chao Phraya River. For an area of 10km², the Khlong Toei district houses one of the poorest areas in the country with half-built houses and midrises for migrants and workers.
The city's wealth of cultural sites makes it one of the world's most popular tourist destinations.
How do you get around the city and what are the transport problems?
There is network of canals known as khlongs giving Bangkok the nickname 'Venice of the East'. Today most of the canals have been filled in and converted into streets. Many khlongs do still exist however, with people living along them and markets, many are polluted.
Bangkok has been notorious for traffic jams and pollution as private vehicle usage continued to grow - 40% over the last 10 years. But actual levels of the most dangerous types of pollution - small dust particles that trap themselves in the lungs - have nearly halved, since the government encouraged companies to produce cleaner cars that run on fuel known as gasohol, a mixture of petrol and biofuel made from sugar cane and other plants, and introduced higher taxes to lower the number of motorcycles on the street with two-stroke engines.
An elevated two-line ‘Skytrain' metro system was opened in 1999. This offered an alternative cheap, clean and quick way to travel along two routes through the city. In 2004, the subway (or underground train network) was added to the transport mix, making it more attractive to leave the car behind.
The passengers sitting on row 15 will experience many different sounds, smells and tastes when they first hit the streets of Bangkok.
Look at Scenes from the city and imagine that you took the photos.
What would you smell, hear and taste?
How are they different from the city nearest to you?
Before they head to the beach, the Evans family have got a full day to see the sights and sample the sounds and smells of Bangkok. They want to do a bit of shopping too.
It is your job to use the internet to find out what you can about Bangkok and plan their day out!
The city has loads to offer. To keep the whole family happy choose at least one from each of these categories.
Monks in prayer, Wot Po, Bangkok © Simon Scoones
- Sights: Grand Palace, Wat Po, Wat Arun, Jim Thompson's house, Chinatown, Vimanmek Palace
- Shopping: Siam Paragon, IT mall in Fortune Tower, Pantip Plaza, MBK, Khao San Road, Chatuchak Market
- Activities: Siam Ocean World, Siam Water Park, Safari World, IMAX movie theatre at Siam Paragon
You could download and highlight the places your suggestions on the Map of Bangkok.
Your extra challenge is to see how many types of transport the Evans family could use during their day out, assume they have had enough of air travel in all forms.
Use your research for the Evans family day out in Bangkok to make a short video of the attractions of the city for a TV holiday programme.
The Skytrain with traffic congestion (right) in the centre of the megacity at Siam Square
© Hartmut Schwarzbach /argus /Still Pictures
Bangkok has been known in the past as one of the worst cities in the world for traffic. The government has also tried many times to improve the state of the traffic in the city centre, which can sometimes take an hour just to move one kilometre! After a long battle against air pollution, Bangkok's skies are blue again, and much cleaner than those of other big Asian cities like Beijing, Shanghai and New Delhi.
Read A breath of fresh air - getting around Bangkok.