Area of 513,000 square kilometers, lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, roughly equidistant between India and China. It shares borders with Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the northeast, Combodia to the east and Malaysia to the south. Topographically the country is divided into four distinct areas: the mountainous North, the fertile Central Plains, the semi-arid plateau of the Northeast, and the peninsula South distinguished by its many beautiful tropical beaches and islands.
Thailand has a tropical climate with three distinct seasons: Summer, Rainy and Cool . Average temperatures are around 27 ?c. around the country.
Thailand has a population of about 62 million. Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and thus strains of Mon, Khmer, Burmese, Lao, Malay, Indian and, most strongly, Chinese stock produce a degree of ethnic diversity.
The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, practiced by more than 95 percent of all Thais. The remainder of the population adheres to Muslim 3.5 %, Christian1 %, Hindu and other faiths, all of which are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast a strong influence on daily life.
The Thai people originated in Southeastern China where, in 600 AD they founded the independent kingdom of Nanchao which thrived for 600 years. However, invasions and an unwillingness to be incorporated into mainstream Chinese society led to waves of migrations southward into what is now Thailand. Eventually several groups of Thai migrants united and established Sukhothai as their capital in the mid 13th century.
Although other civilizations had existed on Thai soil much earlier, Sukhothai was the first sovereign kingdom of Thailand. It flourished for over 100 years during which time the distinctive forms of Thai art, architecture and culture were firmly implanted.
At approximately the same time, King Mengrai, an ally of Sukhothai, was establishing the northern Lannathai Kingdom, centered on Chiang Mai which was founded last 700 years ago. In the mid 14th century a new and more powerful dynasty arose at Ayutthaya, an island city in the Chao Phraya River 85 kilometers north of present day Bangkok.
Quickly gaining in wealth, military might and prestige, Ayutthaya absorbed the former kingdom of Sukhothai and remained Thailand's capital for 417 years,holding sway over most of the country except the North.
Ayutthaya prospered steadily, reaching the height of its power in the 17th century when diplomatic relations with the West were established and trade agreements made with the leading European powers of the day. Weakened by internal conflicts, Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767.
After fleeing south the survivors of Ayutthaya were rallied under king Taksin who founded a new capital at Thonburi and eventually succeeded in expelling the Burmese from Thai soil.
On the death of King Taksin in 1782 Chao Phraya Chakri was proclaimed king and as Rama I was founder of the present Chakri dynasty. For strategic purposes he moved his capital across the Chao Phraya River to Bangkok.
Under the Chakri Kings the borders of Thailand were consolidated and other parts of the country were gradually brought under the full control of the central government. Rama VI (King Mongkut, 18511868), secured ties with the West, especially with France and Britain, while at the same time, assuring his country's independence and avoiding the colonial fate of all Thailand's neighbours.
King Mongkut's successor, Rama V (King Chulalongkorn, 1868-1910), brought about many social and political reforms that firmly guided Thailand into the 20th century.
The absolute monarchy was to continue through the reign of Rama IV (1910-1925) and into that of Rama VII (1925-1934). But in 1932 a coup d'etat succeeded in bringing about a change to a constitutional monarchy. Rama VII accepted the situation although he abdicated two year after the coup.
The throne passed to the young King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) who was succeeded by his brother King Bhumipol (Rama IX), the present monarch.
One litre of alcoholic beverage and 200 cigarettes, plus reasonable personal effects(such as one still camera, one movie or video camera, personal jewelery etc) may be brought in duty free and taken out on departure.
Narcotics, drugs, pornographic material and firearms are strictly prohibited. Unlimited foreign currency, traveller's cheques, money orders etc may be brought into the country, but any amount over US$10,000 must be declared on entry. Amount taken out of the country may never exceed that declared upon entry.
Most nationalities do not require a visa for a stay of up to 30 days provided they have a ticket for onward travel. Longer visits require a visa obtainable from Thai embassies and consulates. Tourists visas permit stays up to 90 days. For full details, contact your nearest Thai embassy or consulate.
Travel to Thailand
Most visitors arrive through Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport which is connected by daily flights to Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. Flights, from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Hong Kong, land on a regular basis at Chiangmai, Koh Samui, Phuket and Hat Yai. Charter flights sometimes land in Bangkok, Phuket, and at U-Taphao for Pattaya.
There are no regular steamship connection with Thailand. Cargo ships calling at Bangkok's Khlong Toei port sometimes have passenger cabin facilities. Cruise ships, such as Cunard's Queen Elizabeth II, periodically visit Pattaya.
Travel within Thailand
Thai Airways International (THAI) operates a wide domestic network with daily flights linking virtually all major towns with Bangkok. Ground transportation is extremely comprehensive and comparatively inexpensive. There are convenient rail connections with the North, Northeast and South, while air conditioned coach and government bus services are operated from Bangkok to all town throughout the country.
Outgoing passengers on international flights from Bangkok's Don Muang airport must pay 500 baht. 30 baht per person is collected for domestic flights.
Hotel taxis have fixed tariffs. Taxis cruising the streets of Bangkok have meters.
Telephone & E-mail
In Thailand, you can contact virtually any city in the world without difficulty International phone calls, telegraph, telex, and bureau fax services are available at International Telecommunication Services Center, near Bangkok's Central Post Central as well as in most hotels and department store.
It is customary to tip hotel personnel who have given good personal service. A 10% tip is appreciated in restaurants, particularly where service charge is waived.
Light, loose cotton clothing is best. Nylon should be avoided. Sweaters are needed during cool season evenings or if visiting mountainous areas and remote national parks.
Thiland operates exclusively on 220 volt, 50 cycle AC power.
To send letters or packages to any desired destinations is very convenient for visitors to Thailand. Post offices as well as most hotels offer good postal services.