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THAILAND

ABOUT THAILAND

INTRODUCTION

Thailand was known for centuries by outsiders as Siam. It first made a real impression on the West at the end of the 17th century, through the reports of a series of inquisitive Frenchmen. They were not the first Europeans to spend time in the kingdom, however. The Portuguese sent an envoy to the capital in 1511, shortly after they seized Malacca. The Portuguese joined resident Chinese, Japanese, Malays and Persians to make the Siamese capital one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the vast region now known as Southeast Asia. Modern and predominantly Buddhist, it is a Southeast Asian kingdom whose ancient equilibrium and present standing mingle in evolving harmony. 

Substantially, Thailand’s distinctive and unparalleled characteristics stem from Indian and Chinese influences (harmoniously blended by Thai eclecticism), rich ethnic diversity, abundant natural and human resources, and over seven hundred years of cherished independence (Thailand is the only important Southeast Asian society never to have been colonized by Westerners). Thailand’s traditional culture is delicately tuned to the time-honored Buddhist’s non-confrontational approach to life, and ideals of charity, tolerance and loving-kindness.

MAP OF THAILAND



GEOGRAPHY 

Situated in the heart of the Southeast Asian mainland, Thailand covers an area of 513,115 square kilometers.  It is bordered by Laos to the northeast, Myanmar to the north and west, Cambodia to the east, and Malaysia to the south.

HISTORY 

The Thais, most historians believe, began migrating from southern China in the early part of the Christian era. At first they formed a number of city-states in the northern part of what is present-day Thailand, in places like Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, but these were never strong enough to exert much influence outside the immediate region. Gradually the Thais migrated further south to the broad and fertile central plains, and expanded their dominance over nearly the entire Indochina Peninsula. Contradictory as it may seem, however, recent archaeological discoveries around the northeast hamlet of Ban Chiang suggest that the world’s oldest Bronze Age civilization was flourishing in Thailand some 5,000 years ago.

TOPOGRAPHY 

Thailand is naturally divided into four topographic regions: 1) the North, 2) the Central Plain, or Chao Phraya River basin, 3) the Northeast, or the Korat Plateau, and 4) the South, or Southern Isthmus. 
The North is a mountainous region characterized by natural forests, ridges, and deep, narrow, alluvial valleys. 

Central Thailand, the basin of the Chao Phraya River, is a lush, fertile valley. It is the richest and most extensive rice-producing area in the country and has often been called the “Rice Bowl of Asia”. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is located in this region. 

The Northeastern region, or Korat Plateau, is an arid region characterized by a rolling surface and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions often result in this region being subjected to floods and droughts. 

The Southern region is hilly to mountainous, with thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. This region is the center for the production of rubber and the cultivation of other tropical crops 

CLIMATE

Thailand is a warm and rather humid tropical country. The climate is monsoonal, marked by a pronounced rainy season lasting from about May to September and a relatively dry season for the remainder of the year. Temperatures are highest in March and April and lowest in December and January. The average temperature is 23.7 to 32.5 degrees Celsius.

PEOPLE / POPULATION 

The population of Thailand is approximately 67 million (end 2015). The most important ethic minority is Chinese.

Though the great majority of Thailand’s 67 million people are ethnically Thai and Buddhist, the country has a substantial number of minority groups who have historically lived together in harmony. Of these, the Chinese are perhaps the most numerous (particularly in urban areas), though they have become so thoroughly assimilated it would be difficult to isolate them as a distinct group.

Similarly, while there are Lao and Khmer groups in the Northeast and East, nearly all regard themselves as Thai, culturally as well as by nationality. More clearly defined as an ethnic group are the Muslims, who are mainly concentrated in the southern provinces, and assorted hill tribes who live in the far North; there are also sizeable communities of Hindus and Sikhs in large cities like Bangkok. 

Some 80 percent of all Thais are connected in some way with agriculture, which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that make Thailand such a distinctive country. 

FLAG 

Thailand’s national flag, ceremoniously raised each morning in every town and village, is composed of five horizontal bands of red, white, and blue. Outer bands of red representing the nation enclose equal inner bands of white, evoking religion. The blue band, occupying the central one - third of the total area, symbolizes the monarchy. The harmony of design expresses the complementary nature of these three pillars of the Thai nation.

This tri-colored flag, called in Thai the "trirong", first introduced by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1917, succeeded an earlier design that placed a white elephant (emblem of the absolute monarch) on a red background.

RELIGION 

Theravada Buddhism, the national religion, is the professed faith of Buddhist 94.2 percent, Muslim 4.6 percent, Christian 0.8 percent, others 0.4 percent of the population.

There is total religious freedom and all major religions can be found in practice.



LANGUAGE 

The official national language, spoken by almost 100 percent of the population, is Thai, classified by linguists as belonging to a Chinese -Thai branch of the Sino -Tibetan family. It is a tonal language, uninflected, and predominantly monosyllabic. Most polysyllabic words in the vocabulary have been borrowed, mainly from Khmer, Pali, or Sanskrit. Dialects are spoken in rural areas.

Principal other languages are Chinese and Malay. English, a mandatory subject in public schools, is widely spoken and understood, particularly in Bangkok and other major cities.

CAPITAL 

Thailand’s capital, known internationally as Bangkok but to Thais as Krung Thep (City of Angels), sprawls over an area of some 1,500 square kilometers on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. Established in 1782 by King Rama I, founder of the Chakri Dynasty, Bangkok has been the home of the Royal Family ever since. 
Today, Bangkok is home to over 10 million people. Here also are located all government ministries, the police and military headquarters, the Supreme Patriarch of the Buddhist faith, the most prestigious universities and schools, the best medical facilities, important international organizations, and the greatest collections of art, museums, newspaper publishers, and television stations in the country.

FOOD

Most Thai food is highly spiced, chili hot, and varies from region to region. The traditional ingredients of Thai food have changed little up to the present day, consisting largely of seafood and locally grown vegetables and fruits, a diet common to most of the country. What give the distinctive Thai flavor, and the differing taste from region to region, is the carefully blended sauces and chilies. 

These go into dishes ranging from salty and bland soups to the spiciest salads and sweetest desserts, often all present within a single meal. The wide variety of Thai food tastes is a reflection of the combination of influences from various surrounding nations, which, with Thai ingenuity, have culminated in one of the world's favorite cuisines. 

The Northeast is famous for its spicy dishes, but it really covers all taste extremes, being also strongly sour and salty. Its most famous dish, a regional staple that can also be found all over the country, is som tam, a Thai salad that simultaneously covers the four extremes of taste, and is eaten with a form of sticky rice. 

The cuisine of the Central Plains has over the years come to include the influences of all the surrounding regions, and a meal usually includes everything from hot, spicy dishes to relatively bland ones. Here the sticky rice of the North is less common than plain rice, either steamed or fried. Many of the spicy soups, like tom yam and popular coconut milk curries, have their roots in this region. 

AGRICULTURE

Thailand is a fertile country, and agriculture, which broadly includes crop cultivation, forestry, livestock breeding, fisheries and mining, is the Thai economy's largest and most important sector.

Rice forms a staple part of the Thai diet; and while it is still the basis of the rural economy, it has been joined by newer, increasingly important export crops like sugar, tapioca, maize, pineapples, rubber and coconuts. Raw cotton and soybeans are also produced for export and tobacco production is on the rise. Vineyards have been planted and Thai vintners hope to turn out quality wines in due course. 

Tropical fruits, including more than 20 varieties of edible bananas, are grown in abundance, and intensive livestock breeding includes cattle, poultry and swine rearing.

Thailand has a large fishing fleet operating from its 800-kilometer Indian Ocean and 1,800-kilometer Gulf of Thailand coasts. Thailand ranks among the world's top ten nations in the fishing industry in terms of total catch and export. Fishing is the third largest activity after crops and livestock.

Tin, fluorite, gypsum and lignite largely dominate Thailand's mining industry.

FINANCE

Thailand's currency is the baht, which is divided into 100 satang. Copper coins are valued at 25 and 50 satang, and silver ones at 1, 5, and 10 baht. Bank notes are valued at 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple), and 1,000 baht (gray); all denominations of bills are in different sizes.

GOVERNMENT

Thailand is governed by a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej as Head of State. 

Official power rests with the government, personified by the Prime Minister, the Parliament, and a bureaucratic system that reaches down to the village level. Over past decades the Prime Minister's personal power has steadily increased, largely because of the Thai tendency to express their concerns to the highest-ranking authority, in nation as well as family. This frequently results in provincial delegations appearing at Government House requesting decisions on local problems. The Constitution is the highest law of the land, and provides for governing through a system of centralization.
Legislative power is vested in the Parliament, and exercised through a bicameral National Assembly consisting of the publicly elected House of Representatives and the Senate. The Parliament must approve all legislative matters of national policy, which then require the King's signature before becoming the law of the land. 

TOURISM

As the country's largest earner of foreign exchange, tourism is given every encouragement by the Royal Thai Government, including full support to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in order to carry out its mission and objectives.

Thailand's outstanding tourism performance is due to several factors, including the economic stability of its main markets, the increased number of flights to Thailand, the opening of the new airport terminal in Bangkok, bigger financial support from the government and greater cooperation from the private sector. 

An important factor in the recent increase of tourist arrivals resulted from the 50th Anniversary (Golden Jubilee) Celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Accession to the Throne, which was held from January 1995 to December 1996 and featured many special events. The promotion of Amazing Thailand Years 1998-1999, gave a further boost and established the country as a major tourist destination in Asia. 

Thailand is well equipped to handle this increased tourist and business traffic. It is blessed with many excellent hotels, not just in Bangkok but in every major business and tourist destination throughout the country. Recent years have seen numerous first-class properties built in Bangkok. A number of hotel projects have been completed, including several along the Chao Phraya River, as well as major extension and expansion programs by existing hotels. 

Thailand has more than 2,800 hotels and other types of accommodation, with over 150,000 rooms in major tourist destinations. The hotels range in quality from deluxe and first-class, with swimming pools, sports centers, conference facilities, and ballrooms, to low budget guesthouses and hotels providing just the basics in comfort and security. 

Bangkok alone has over 75,000 rooms of all sorts. Pattaya, the country's second most popular tourist destination after Bangkok, boasts about 27,000 hotel rooms. The northern provincial capital of Chiang Mai is also well endowed with quality hotels while Phuket's popularity in recent years has drawn many hotel developers to this southern island. In the South, the cities of Songkhla and Hat Yai both boast many four-star hotels. Equally good accommodations can be found in all major towns of the Northeast, the West and in towns like Chanthaburi, Rayong and Trat in the East.
Most visitors to Thailand arrive by air through Bangkok's International Airport. Bangkok is a commercial air hub for Southeast Asia and is served by 84 scheduled airlines. Travel to Thailand from any continent is thus fast and convenient. Moreover, many new routes have been opened, while flight frequencies have also been increased. An entire new terminal was added at Bangkok International Airport at the end of 1995, increasing its efficiency and convenience for air travelers. Other facilities include duty-free shops, restaurants, closed circuit television, foreign exchange counters, and both pay and toll-free telephones. Both limousine and taxi services are available, while bus and train services to the airport will be improved. There is ample parking for private cars. 

From Bangkok, visitors fan out to all major provinces either by air, rail, car, or coach. The country has a modern system of highways stretching in every direction. Popular resorts and other tourist destinations are served by regular and reliable coach and bus services from the capital. Travel between provinces is also safe and comfortable, as there are good connecting highways. 

The State Railway of Thailand operates in all regions of the country: the northern line to Chiang Mai; two northeastern lines, to Ubon Ratchathani and Nong Khai; the eastern line to Aranyaprathet; and the southern line which goes to Hat Yai, where it connects with the Malaysian rail system and continues on to Penang and Singapore. For visitors with limited time, travel by air is also convenient since there are scheduled flights from Bangkok to more than 30 provinces. Visitors, therefore, have a wide choice of transportation alternatives, and can plan their itineraries accordingly.

Most local tour agents have connections with overseas agents in major markets; therefore, visitors can plan their itineraries and book their hotels before they leave home. Thai tour agents provide a friendly and professional service, and most also offer good tour coaches and multi-lingual guides. 

The country's future directions are clear. Thailand is going to play a major role in the development of tourism within Indochina. A number of cooperative marketing agreements have already been signed with the governments of Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos. In addition, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is also working closely with its counterparts in the ASEAN countries to attract more visitors to the region. The development of the policy that has made Thailand the aviation hub of Asia is also expected to go a long way towards promoting more airlines to fly to Thailand. Thai Airways International, the national carrier, has signed a series of marketing alliances with foreign airlines like Lufthansa, United Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Ansett Australia, all of which increase Thailand's penetration into the key tourism markets.

Learn more about Thailand & Travel Destination Guide
Please visit: http://www.tourismthailand.org

TOURIST VISA

REQUIREMENT: This type of visa will be issued to applicants who wishing to enter the Kingdom for tourism purposes.

Thailand’s VISA Information 
Please visit: http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en/services/4908
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