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The reigns of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851–68) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868–1910) saw the introduction of the steam engine, printing press, rail transport and utilities infrastructure in the city, as well as formal education and healthcare.

Bangkok became the centre stage for power struggles between the military and political elite as the country abolished absolute monarchy in 1932.

It was subject to Japanese occupation and Allied bombing during World War II, but rapidly grew in the post-war period as a result of United States developmental aid and government-sponsored investment.

Bangkok's role as an American military R&R destination boosted its tourism industry as well as firmly establishing it as a sex tourism destination.

The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong.

Bangkok is among the world's top tourist destinations.

It is named the most visited city in Master Card's Global Destination Cities Index, and was named "World's Best City" for four consecutive years by Travel Leisure magazine.

Bangkok's rapid growth amidst little urban planning and regulation has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure systems.

Following the United States' withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, Japanese businesses took over as leaders in investment, and the expansion of export-oriented manufacturing led to growth of the financial market in Bangkok.

Bangkok's role as the nation's political stage continues to be seen in strings of popular protests, from the student uprisings in 19, anti-military demonstrations in 1992, and successive anti-government demonstrations by opposing groups from 2008 onwards.

Administration of the city was first formalized by King Chulalongkorn in 1906, with the establishment of Monthon Krung Thep Phra Maha Nakhon () as a national subdivision.

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