Thailand Country Guide

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Thailand is located in a fertile monsoon belt midway between India and China, the two civilisations that have moulded South East Asia. But the Thais have long delighted in their distinctive culture.

For instance, though the Tai (rather than Thai) ethnic group probably originated in Southern China sometime in the first millennium AD, their tonal language is quite unlike any form of Chinese. Moreover, the elegant Thai script, though derived from that of ancient Southern India, is distinct.


Today, Thailand is a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), though Thais still take pride in a long tradition of independence. Unlike all her immediate neighbours, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, the country never fell to a European colonial power.

More fundamentally, though, the Thargentina-fallsai sense of identity is allied with Theravada Buddhism and the monarchy. Both have been dignified institutions since the Sukhothai period (13th-14th century), an era when the first real Thai kingdom flourished. Indeed, the colours of the modern Thai flag (thong trai rong) symbolise the three forces of Buddhism (white), the monarchy (blue) and the nation (red).

Today, the great majority of Thailand's 60 million inhabitants regard themselves as Thai. Hill tribes are the most obvious ethnic minority groups, but it is the Chinese who form the largest (and most integrated) group. The various peoples live relatively peaceably nowadays, though in 1939, in a wave of nationalism encouraged by Prime Minister Phibun Songkram, the country's name was changed from Siam to Prathet Thai (Thailand), or "land of the peoples and dialects of the Central Plains, North, Northeast and South. Each region also has its own topographical identity. The North is an area of forested mountains, where hill-tribe minorities co-exist with main stream society. In the South, the narrow Kra Peninsula presents a 2,500km (1,500-mile) coast-line with a hilly interior of rain forests and rubber plantations. Malay-Muslim culture is a major influence here.argentina-falls

Between these two extremes are the Central Plains, the cradle of Thai civilisatiion and a fertile, rice-growing region. Near the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, the capital, Bangkok, sprawls ever further each year. Though its 200 year old palatial splendour can still be discerned, the city is among the world's most congested and polluted.

Different again is North East Thailand (also widely known as Isan), the poorest part of the country occupying the Khorat Plateau, its eastern border with Laos defined by the Mekhong River. In this semi-arid region traditional farming communities, many of them Thai-Lao, eke out a subsistence living.

Region Information - Bangkok | Cha-am | Chiangmai | Hua Hin | Patong Beach | Pattaya | Phuket | Pranburi

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