Numerous districts in Bangkok are centers in themselves, each unified by common features rooted either in ethnic character of a specific function or business. Thus Ratchadamnoen Avenue and its environs remain the center for government ministries and in ternational agencies, while there is a major concentration of commerce in Chinatown. Silom Road has become the primary banking and financial district and the Sukhumvit Road area is predominantly a middle-class residential section. Those seeking entertainment are attracted by the neon glare of Patpong and New Phetburi Roads, where there are hundreds of bars and restaurants.
Outlying residential districts, meanwhile, continue to expand rapidly as more housing estates and shopping complexes are built to accommodate both the flow of migrants converging on the capital from upcountry and the new generation of young married couples who are increasingly leaving their parents' homes for places of their own. Heavy industry, too, is concentrating on the outer fringes of the city, with industrial parks springing up along major highways leading out into the country. To facilitate communication between the suburbs and downtown areas, an elevated expressway has been built. A ring road project, the major portions of which have been completed, will also relieve congestion by permitting through traffic to bypass the city center. Older Bangkok residents lie in separate, private houses, located either in high-density neighborhoods or, increasingly rare, in relatively spacious compounds in long-established residential areas like Dusit and Bangkapi.
Rising land values, however, are producing new housing concepts, especially in the more congested inner city. Though Western-style apartment buildings are inhabited mainly be foreigners, more and more Thais are moving into "town houses", projects in which they own the actual land and building but share a common wall with their neighbors; hundreds of these projects have been constructed in the city, some consisting of several dozen units in an area that once contained a single dwelling. As the 1990's got underway the biggest residential boom was in condominium construction. This era dawned with the passage of the Condominium Act by Parliament in 1979. According to a survey conducted in 1982, there were 48 condo projects being implemented in the country, most of them in Bangkok; another survey at the end of the decade found more than 220 such projects, with whose in the capital being concentrated on Sukhumwit and Rachadapisek Roads and along the Chao Phraya River. An important factor in the sale of condominium units has been a desire to escape the traffic jams which add hours to suburban commuting times.
Throughout Bangkok, lining main roads and side streets, are innumerable two-three-and four-story shop houses which contain specialty shops, restaurants, or small factories that are generally family concerns. Workers and family are commonly housed on upper floors. Such dwellings rarely have recreational space or gardens, though imaginative roof-top plantings can be glimpsed on some.
Automobiles are generally parked inside on the ground floor and children play on the sidewalks outside. Poorer people often live in single-storey houses made of scrap lumber, concentrated around the port area and in certain suburbs.
Government public housing usually takes the form of lowrise blocks of simple flats located throughout the city. The rapid growth of Bangkok has severely strained its facilities and led to a number of serious problems. The city now has over a million registered motor vehicles and because of the limited road surface traffic congestion is heavy in downtown areas. Moreover, some parts of the city are sinking due to the pumping of water from artesian wells to supply suburban projects and drainage is inadequate in others; both have resulted in periodic flooding during the rainy season. Experts are presently working on elaborate plans to relieve these problems, among them an elevated system of rapid public transportation and extensive flood-control projects.
Bangkok's population is predominately young. Over half the residents are under 30. Numerous new schools, both public and private, have emerged to meet the needs of this high concentration of young people, as well as two "open" universities for those who cannot be accommodated by the older institutions of higher learning. The young have also influenced the life of the city in other ways-most of the capital's shopping centers are youth-oriented, as are its entertainment facilities.
The city's cultural life is greatly enriched by its minority communities. Chinese and Indians account for nearly 10 per cent of the capital's population and contribute to its variety of cuisines and festivals. Japanese and Asians from neighboring countries also figure prominently in the city's cosmopolitan atmosphere. Western influence has been instrumental in creating a taste for new fashions and new life-styles, reflected in such things as golf and tennis, delicatessens and boutiques, music and drama, libraries and popular games, architecture and interior decoration . Fast foods from the West, too, like hamburgers and pizzas, have become popular with young and old alike.
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is well known worldwide for its fierce and exciting ways of fighting.