The kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Its shape and geography divide into four natural regions : the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, the present king. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch. Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. With its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality, the Kingdom is a never-ending source of fascination and pleasure for international visitors.
Thailand is divided into 4 natural regions:
The mountainous North, with its profusion of multi-coloured orchids, fascinating native handicrafts and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches;
The high Northeast Plateau, which still jealously guards its many archaeological and anthropological mysteries;
The Central Plain, one of the world's most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas with colourful traditional culture and way of life as well as the sandy beaches of the East Coast and vibrant cosmopolitan Bangkok;
The peninsular South where the unspoiled beaches and idyllic islands complement economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.
Thais are well-known for their friendliness and hospitality. A large majority of over 62 million citizens of Thailand are ethic Thai, along with strong communities whose ethnic origins lie in China, India and elsewhere. About 7 million people reside in the capital city of Bangkok .
Thailand can best be described as tropical and humid for the majority of the country during most of the year. The area of Thailand north of Bangkok has a climate determined by three seasons whilst the southern peninsular region of Thailand has only two.
In northern Thailand the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry, however this is broken up into the periods November to February and March to May. The later of these two periods has the higher relative temperatures as although the northeast monsoon does not directly effect the northern area of Thailand, it does cause cooling breezes from November to February.
The other northern season is from May to November and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in the north is at its heaviest.
The southern region of Thailand really has only two seasons -- the wet and the dry. These seasons do not run at the same time on both the east and west side of the peninsular. On the west coast the southwest monsoon brings rain and often heavy storms from April through to October, whilst on the east coast the most rain falls between September and December.
Tradition & Culture
Thailand is a country of scenic diversity and ancient traditions, of tranquil temples and modern urban excitement. With and independent history going back more than seven centuries, it has managed to absorb a variety of cultural influences and blend them into something uniquely and memorably Thai.
Each of its four major region offers a distinctive experience for the traveler in search of discovery. Misty mountains in the north shelter verdant valleys and exotic hill tribes, while in centers like Chiang Mai traditional customs and crafts have been preserved over generations. Along the picturesque coastlines of the east and south lie some of the world's most beautiful beaches and off-shore islands, each with its own beauty. Scattered over the northeastern plateau are superb khamer monuments from the time of Angkor Wat and natural parks teeming with wild life. In the Central Region can be found the evocative ruins of ancient Thai capitals and bustling Bangkok with its dynamic and countless pleasures.
Tourism in Thailand
Thailand offers a great variety of attractions. These include diving sites, sandy beaches, hundreds of tropical islands, varied night-life, archaeological sites, museums, hill tribes, exceptional flora and bird life, palaces and World Heritage sites. Many tourists follow courses during their stay in Thailand. Popular are classes in Thai cooking, Buddhism and traditional Thai massage. Thai national festivals range from the fun-for-all water splashing Songkran to the almost fairytale like quality of Loy Krathong. Many localities in Thailand also have their own festivals. Famous are the Elephant Round-up in Surin and the curious Phi Ta Khon festival in Dan Sai. But for many people, just to be in Thailand for its friendly people and easy-going atmosphere is more than enough reason to visit.
Thai cuisine has become deservedly famous world-wide with its enthusiastic use of fresh herbs and spices. From an inexpensive plate of delicious Som tam at a simple street stall upcountry to a modern take on Thai cuisine in the gourmet restaurants of Bangkok, it's very difficult not to eat well in Thailand.
Only the most austere ascetics can resist shopping when in Thailand. Bangkok is renowned for its main shopping malls down town (with CentralWorld being the biggest shopping mall in South-east Asia), offering an astounding variety of international and local brands. Towards the north of the city, and easily reached by Skytrain or underground, is Chatuchak Weekend Market . It is possibly the largest market in the world, selling everything from household items to live, and sometimes endangered, animals. The Pratunam Market down town, is nearly totally specialised in fabrics and clothing. The night markets in the Silom area and on Khaosan Road are mainly tourist orientated, selling items such as T-shirts, handicrafts, counterfeit watches and sunglasses. In the vicinity of Bangkok one can find several visually stunning Floating markets. The Sunday Evening Walking Street Market , held on Rachadamnoen road inside the old city, must be the shopping highlight of a visit to Chiang Mai up in Northern Thailand. It attracts many locals as well as foreigners. The Night Bazaar is Chiang Mai's more tourist orientated market, sprawling over several city blocks just east of the old city walls and moat.