Bangkok, the capital of the kingdom of Siam, situated on the river Menam, about 20 m. from its mouth, in lat. 13° 58' N., lon. 100° 34' E.; pop. about 500,000, more than one third of whom are Chinese, 120,000 Siamese, and the rest Malays, Burmans, Arabs, and Hindoos. The Menam is here about 1,800 ft. wide, and sufficiently deep for vessels of large size. When the capital was first established at Bangkok the houses were built on the banks of the river; but so frequent were the invasions of the cholera that one of the kings commanded the people to build on the river itself for the purposes of better ventilation and drainage. The privilege of building on the banks now is reserved to the members of the royal family, the nobility, and persons of political influence. A double and sometimes a triple row of floating houses extends for miles on the river. These are wooden structures built on rafts of bamboo linked together with chains, which are made fast to piles planted in the bed of the stream. The stores are situated together with the houses or form parts of them, and every bouse has a canoe attached to it. Some of the prisons are grated and hung like bird cages over the water, and in those on land the prisoners are chained together in gangs.
In Bangkok there are 20,000 priests supported by the voluntary contributions of the public. There are also American and Roman Catholic missions here. On the land the pagodas and the phra-cha-dees or minarets that crown some of the temples are elaborately ornamented with mosaics of line porcelain inlaid with ivory, gold, and silver, while the doors and windows are overlaid with sculptures of grotesque figures from the Buddhist and Brahminical mythologies. Near the grand palace are three high columns of elegant design inlaid all over with variegated stones, and very richly gilt, These monuments mark the graves of several kings of Siam. The royal palace is a citadel surrounded by triple walls and fortified with bastions. Each of the separate buildings is cruciform, and the new palace forms with the old one the arms of a cross. On one side of the palace are the temples and monasteries dedicated to the sleeping idol, and on the other the palace and harem of the second king. The sleeping idol is a reclining figure 150 ft. long and 40 ft. high, entirely overlaid with plate gold, and the soles of its feet covered with bass-reliefs inlaid with mother-of-pearl and chased with gold, each separate design representing one of the many transmigrations of Buddha. Near this temple is the palace of the white elephant, and further on the temple of the emerald idol.
The latter is a remarkable and beautiful structure, with Gothic doors and win-dows richly ornamented with gold, and the roof supported by lofty octagonal columns, the ceiling covered with mythological symbols and figures; the altar is a pyramid 100 ft. high, terminating in a fine spire of gold. The emerald idol is about 12 inches high and 8 in width. The gold of which its hair and collar are composed is mixed with crystals, topazes, sapphires, diamonds, and other precious stones. Three miles below the capital are the royal dockyards, under the supervision of English shipwrights. The heat in the summer months is intense. Trade is mostly carried on by water. The principal articles of commerce are lac, ivory, rice, cotton, opium, silk and silk stuffs, sago, sugar, guava, birds' nests, mungo, dauries, coffee, co-coanuts, black pepper, hides, horses, tobacco, gums, teak, tin, sandal, rosewood, and eagle-wood. There are numerous factories of tin, iron, and leather. The foreign trade is nearly monopolized by the government. The value of the exports in 1809 was $5,905,880, of which $2,278,800 was carried in Siamese and the rest in foreign vessels. The invoice value of cargoes imported was $3,759,350, of which $2,722,715 was carried in Siamese vessels.
The country surrounding Bangkok contains rich iron mines and extensive forests of teak.