ABOUT THAILAND

About Thailand

Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand covers a total area of approximately 513,000 square kilometers (198,000 square miles) and is the 50th largest country in the world and the 12th largest in Asia!

The north of the country borders Myanmar and Laos. The northernmost point is Amphoe Mae Sai, Chiang Rai Province, with tourist attractions like Mae Sai Market, Golden Triangle, Wat Phra That Doi Wao, and Wat Thampla (locally known as Money Temple).

The south of the country is next to Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand. The southernmost point is Amphoe Betong, Yala Province, which contains tourist attractions like La-ong Rung Waterfall (Rainbow Waterfall), Chaloem Phrakiat Waterfall (I-yer Khem Waterfall), Bala-Hala Forest, the sea of fog at Microwave Mountain, and Betong Hot Spring.

The east of the country borders Cambodia and Laos. The easternmost point is Amphoe Si Mueang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani Province, with tourist attractions like Sai Rung Waterfall (Rainbow Waterfall), Kaeng Chu Kan, and Hin Huai Soob Stone Yard.

The west of the country is next to Myanmar and the Andaman Sea. The westernmost point is Amphoe Mae Sariang, Mae Hong Son Province, with tourist attractions like Wat Phra That Chom Thong, Wat Phra That Chom Chaeng, Wat Phra That Chom Kitti, Salawin National Park, Bua Tong Field at Doi Mae Ho, and Mae Sawan Noi Waterfall.

Thailand is divided into six regions: North, Northeast, Central, South, East, and West.

The North is the country’s highlands. Vast mountain ranges dominate the landscape and are the source of many rivers. Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s tallest peak, is famous among tourists during the cool season for the Mae Kha Ning (frost flower) phenomenon as well as a sea of fog, nature trails, waterfalls, and botanical scenes.

The Northeast features some of the beautiful northern highlands and also gorgeous plateaus. Hom Mali Rice (Thai Jasmine Rice) is grown here and exported all over the world. The Mekong River is a very prominent river that runs through the area. Popular places along the Mekong River include Amphoe Chiang Khan of Loei Province, Tha Sadet Market in Nong Khai Province, Indochina Market in Mukdahan Province, and Sam Pan Bok Grand Canyon in Ubon Ratchathani Province.

Central Thailand is mainly plains and is a huge area of rice farming and agriculture. The Chao Phraya River is very important to Thailand’s history. Interesting places to visit are ancient historical temples, Bang Pa-in Royal Palace and Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center in Ayutthaya Province, and Koh Kret in Nonthaburi Province. And if you like shopping, there are plenty of local markets in Bangkok for you to explore such as Wang Lang Market, Tha Phra Chan Market, Saphan Phut (Memorial Bridge) Night Market, and Asiatique Night Market. There are also Chao Phraya boat tours from Bangkok to Ayutthaya every day.

The South contains many beautiful beaches and islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Well-known tourist destinations are Phuket Province, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, and Koh Tao.

Eastern Thailand is half mountain, half ocean. Although there aren’t many provinces here, it still has a lot of amazing sights and stunning locations to visit just like the rest of Thailand such as Koh Samed, Koh Chang, Koh Mak, Koh Lan, Koh Si Chang, Bang Saen Beach, Pattaya, Jomtien Beach, Laem Mae Phim Beach, and Mae Ram Phueng Beach.

The West is mountainous with many woodlands, waterfalls, and dams, which is why there are a number of national parks in the area. Due to its geographical variation, there is a lot of incredible Thai nature to see in this western region. Tourist attractions include Thong Pha Phum National Park, Srinakharin Dam, Vajiralongkorn Dam, Sai Yok Noi Waterfall, Sai Yok Yai Waterfall, Erawan Waterfall, Mon Bridge, Mueang Sing Historical Park, Three Pagodas Pass, Wat Wang Wiwekaram, Underwater City, The Bridge of the River Kwai, Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, and World War II Museum and Art Gallery.

Thailand has three seasons: wet, cool, and hot. Depending on where and when you travel. It is always good to check the weather before visiting as some areas are better in specific seasons.

Source : About Thailand - https://www.tourismthailand.org

History & Culture

With long periods of Thailand’s history, according to evidences and studies, Sukhothai was the first kingdom of Thailand. At that time, an early Thai script was invented by King Ramkhamhaeng, the great king of Sukhothai, and there also were records about events in the king’s reign. After Sukhothai period, the new kingdoms arose that are Ayuthaya, Thonburi and Rattanakosin which is the present kingdom of Thailand. Each period owns its important historical events and interesting cultural changes.

In Sukhothai period, King Sri Indraditya founded Sukhothai in 1238 governed by the monarchy system. The glorious era was in the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great and after his death, it came to the fall of Sukhothai Kingdom.

In Ayuthaya Period, King U Thong founded the kingdom in 1350, and the kingdom then became powerful in politics and economy of Southeast Asia. Ayuthaya became stronger by firmly gathering groups of Thai and connecting to foreign countries such as Portugal, France, Netherlands, China, and Japan. In 1569, Ayuthaya’s glories fell to Burmese, then King Naresuan regained the city’s independence and expanded more territories. In the era of King Narai was the rise of international relations, but later because of the big war, Ayuthaya Kingdom was destroyed by Burmese troops in 1767. That was the end of Ayuthaya period.

After the destruction of Ayuthaya period, King Taksin collected his troops to defeat Burmese troops and chose Thonburi as the new capital. After his death, King Yot Fa (Rama I) founded Chakri dynasty and decided to move the capital to Bangkok, so it was beginning of Rattanakosin period.

King Rama I was the first king of Rattanakosin. In the early period, there was an invasion from Western countries. The kings at that time solved the problems by trading and making agreements with the Western countries for preserving the independence even the country lost some territories.

In 1932, Thailand had a big change of the country’s government system, from the absolute monarchy system to the present democratic system with the King as the Head of State.

Fossilized remains of plants and animals have been discovered in many areas of Thailand, particularly in the Korat Plateau in northeastern Thailand. Most of the animal fossils found are of dinosaurs, which date primarily to the Jurassic era though some are from the late-Triassic, the oldest such evidence of dinosaurs in Southeast Asia.

The dinosaur bones encased in sandstone in the Phu Wiang hills of Khon Kaen province included Phuwiangosaurus sirindhornae, a gigantic plant-eating dinosaur that had a long neck and tail and a small head.

Four other species of dinosaur unearthed in Phu Wiang include Siamotyrannus isanensis, a smaller version of Tyrannosaurus rex, Siamosauraus suteethorni, a crocodile-like creature, Compsognathus, the world’s smallest dinosaur, and Ornithomimosaur, an ostrich-like dinosaur.

In nearby Chaiyaphum province two other new dinosaur species were discovered: Psittacosaurus sattayaraki, a parrot-billed dinosaur, and Isanosaurus attavipachi, which is similar to Phuwiangosaurus.

Homo erectus fossils have also been discovered in Thailand. Known as the Lampang man for its discovery in Lampang province, the remains have been dated to roughly 1,000,000 - 500,000 years ago in the Pleistocene Era.The first evidence of humans living in modern-day Thailand was discovered at Ban Chiang, near Udon Thani in northeastern Thailand; grave sites and artifacts including bronze tools and pottery provide evidence of a society that is thought to have had knowledge of rice cultivation and occupied the area continuously from 2100 to 200 BCE, spanning the Neolithic to the Iron Age.

Over the centuries leading up to the era of recorded history, Thailand was first peopled by Mon and Khmer groups and later by the Tai, an ethnic group that migrated from southern China to Vietnam and gradually into Laos and northern Thailand.

In the first millennium of the Common Era, Tai people had dispersed across Yunan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar fragmenting into various linguistic sub-sects. Relatively minor players in the region throughout this period, the Tai inhabited the northernmost reaches of Southeast Asia, sandwiched between the kingdoms of Nan Zhao, Pyu, and Angkor.

Beginning in around the 2nd century CE, the Srivijaya Empire of Sumatra expanded its reach up the Malaysian Peninsula into southern Thailand. Nakhon Si Thammarat and Chiaya, Surat Thani were founded during this period to facilitate trade across the Isthmus of Kra.

Around the 6th to the 9th centuries, the fertile central plains were inhabited by a Mon civilization known as Dvaravati. Distinct from its neighboring kingdoms of Chenla and Angkor, Dvaravati remains a mysterious civilization that established cities surrounded by moats and earthen walls, with Lopburi serving as an important religious center and Nakhon Pathom near Bangkok possibly its ‘capital’. While much is unknown about this realm, the Dvaravati had well established internal and external trading routes that were important to the development of Thailand and left a wealth of Buddhist artwork that testifies to the great influence Indian culture and religion had on the region.

From the 9th to the 11th centuries the Khmers of Angkor expanded their kingdom to include most of modern-day Thailand, with important provincial cities established at Phimai, Lopburi and even Nakhon Si Thammarat. Over several centuries many facets of the Khmer culture were imposed on/absorbed by the native population, which was becoming increasingly Tai as those populations migrated south. The temples at Phanom Rung, Phimai, and Lopburi are enduring testaments to this period of Thai history.

Throughout the reign of Angkor, Lopburi often asserted its independence and was clearly an important center for burgeoning Syam culture. The Chinese, who referred to emissaries from the region as representing “Hsien” or Siam (as it was apparently pronounced) documented a request from Lopburi requesting independence from Angkor as early as 1001.

In northern Thailand, Buddhist scholars from Lopburi founded a city-state known as Haripunjaya in Lamphun, northern Thailand around the 9th century (a Mon enclave that remained independent until the 13th century). Elsewhere in the north, the Tai people were fanning out and establishing their own city states, notably at Chiang Saen, where one of the first powerful Thai kingdoms, Lan Na, was originally established in the 12th century. The establishment of Lan Na, Sukhothai, and Phayao, three allied kingdoms founded by contemporary leaders, represents the beginning of the Thai history as we know it.

Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the 13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms. Founded by Khun Pha Muang and Khun Bang Klang Thao in 1238, the Kingdom was named by its rulers "the dawn of happiness". The Sukhothai Period is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the most famous of whom was King Ramkamhaeng the Great (c.1279-98), who greatly expanded the Kingdom’s borders.

In addition to developing some of the most beautiful Thai art, the Sukhothai Kingdom is credited with developing the modern Thai alphabet. However, following the death of King Ramkamhaeng, the mightier state of Ayutthaya gradually exerted its influence over Sukhothai.

Following the death of King Ramkhamhaeng, the kingdom of Sukhothai rapidly declined and Lan Na expanded its influence over its neighboring kingdoms, many of which were former suzerains of Sukhothai. In the middle of the 15th Century Lan Na arts and literature reached a pinnacle during the King Tilokoraj period. However, after the king's death, Lan Na weakened due to internal conflicts and Chiang Mai fell under Burmese control around 1564; while the Burmese occupied the northern region for a few centuries, they did little development, using Chiang Mai as a military base from which to battle the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, a mighty kingdom in the central plains that was gradually exerting its influence from the mid 14 th century onwards.

The Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning. No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai had been, Ayutthaya's sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king). The early part of this period saw Ayutthaya extend its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities and come into conflict with its neighbors. During the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and commercial relations with western countries. In 1767, after repeated attempts, the Burmese invaded and successfully captured Ayutthaya.

Despite their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his followers broke through the Burmese lines and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back up the Chao Phraya River to Ayutthaya and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison, though tragically the capital had been looted and nearly razed.

General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided to transfer the capital from Ayutthaya to a site nearer to the sea, a move that would facilitate foreign trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defense and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack. He established his new capital at Thon Buri, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, opposite modern-day Bangkok. The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack of central authority since the fall of Ayutthaya led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom, and Taksin's reign was spent reuniting the provinces.

After Taksin's death, General Chakri (Rama I) became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was to transfer the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand Palace. Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration begun by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations with Western nations and established trade with China.

King Mongkut, Rama IV, (1851-1868) may have achieved western fame through the story "The King and I", but won the hearts of Thais for his accomplishments including the establishment of treaties with European countries, thus avoiding colonialization, and modernizing Thailand through many social and economic reforms. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father's tradition of reform, abolishing slavery and improving the public welfare and administrative systems.

Educational reforms, including compulsory education, were introduced by King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok, Rama VII (1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew, King Ananda Mahidol Rama VIII (1935-1946). The country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1946-2016), was King Rama IX and now our current monarch and his son, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun (May 4, 2019 - present), is King Rama X of the Chakri Dynasty.

Source : About Thailand - https://www.tourismthailand.org