Whether visiting on business or for pleasure, the Kingdom of Thailand is a land of contrasts and fascination. Unique amongst Southeast Asian nations, the West never colonised the country and its rich cultural heritage is all the more interesting for that.
Thailand has 76 provinces which are divided into six regions: North, North Eastern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern.
The nation’s modern day capital Bangkok, is known to Thais as Krungthep, Maha Nakorn, Amorn Ratanakosindra, Mahindra Ayudhya, Mahadilokpop Noparatana Rajdhani, Burirom, Udom Ratchanivej Mahastan, Amorn Pimarn Avatarn Satit, Sakkatultiya Vishnukarm Prasit (The Great City of Angels, Sublime Treasury of Divine Jewels, Great Unvanquished Land, Grand Outstanding Realm, Royal Capital City of Delights Replete with Nine Noble Gems, Supreme Royal Dwelling and Grand Palace, Divine Shelter and Residence of Reincarnate Spirits) – or. Krung Thep for short.
Thailand is a country of stunning beaches, misty mountains and rich agricultural roots. Her traditional handicrafts are among the finest in Asia and the national cuisine is recognised around the world. With excellent hospitals and educational facilities, an international commercial community and access to the latest in technological advances the larger cities offer a sophisticated and modern way of life. Nonetheless, at times it seems the dazzling skyscrapers are only a framework for the shimmering golden spires of Thailand’s myriad temples.
Thailand’s greatest treasure, even given all those mentioned above, is undoubtedly her people. Gentle by nature, devoutly religious, with a deep reverence for the Thai Royal Family, Thais are a forgiving and accommodating people. By learning a little about Thai history and social and religious mores as well perhaps as a few frequently used words, the visitor will greatly enrich his travels in Thailand.
The Kingdom of Thailand, covering an area of 514,000 square kilometers, lines in the heart of South East Asia, roughly equidistant between India and China. It shares borders with Burma to the west and north, Laos to the northeast, Kampuchea 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 offshore islands.
Approximately the size of France. covering an area of some 513.115 squre kilometers. Thailand displays comsiderable geographical and climatic variety in its four major regions. The far north. where rhe narion’s borders mee t those of Burma and Laos, is mountainous with valleys watered by a number of rivers and streans; during the winter months temperatures are cool enough to permit the cultivation of such temperate-zone crops as coffee, lychees, and strawberries. The rolli ng northeastern plateau, by contrast, suffers from frequent droughts, although these are being alleviated by an increasing number of reservoirs and other man-made water facilities. The central plains region, through which flows the Cho Phraya River, is on e of the most ferrtile ricegrowing areas in the world and has been the scene of Thailand’s greatest historical development. The narrow southern peninsula, stretching to Malaysia, has coastlines with spectacular beaches along both the Gulf of Thailand and the Indian Ocean and lofty jungled mountains in many areas.
Traditional and modern edifices coexist harmoniously in today’s Bangkok.
The country is blessed with an equal varity of natural resources. Though logging is now resteucted in the teak forests of the north, the region contains rich deposits of flourite, wolfram, and tungsten and its riverine valleys support a large number of orchards and farms. Potash is plentifol in the northeast, and mulberry planrarions have traditionally sustained the cultivation of silkworms. Both flourite and gems are mined in the west, while some of the finest sapphires in the world come from the mountains of the finest sapphires in the world come form the mountains of irrigation canals which supply water not only to countless rice fields but also to vegetable farms and fruit orchards. Natural gas deposits in the Gulf of Thailand a re supplying energy for many development projects, particularly along the Eastern Seaboard. In addition to a plentiful supply of seafood, the south has extensive deposits of tin and huge plantations of coconuts, cashews, and other fruits.
The national religion is Buddhism, practiced by more than 90 percent of all Thais. The remainder of the population adheres to Muslim, Christian, Hindu and other faiths all of that are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast a strong influence on daily life.
Thailand is called the “Land of Smiles” and this for a reason. If you travel to Thailand you will notice that a smile can help you in many places. The Thai people will like you direct and accept you if you only smile. The smile can say hello, or thank you or just show that you are pleased and happy.
When children or the hotels staff make a “wai” or a greeting to you, all you need to do is smile back to them. Most of us have golden rules on how to act and what to do, this will work in Thailand to with some small ad on to think about.
- When you come to a Thai home, the expect you to always remove your footwear before entering the house, this rule is also for the temples never enter a temple with footwear on.
- The Thai people say that the lowest part of a human is their feet, their fore you should not put up your feet on a table, neither should you point with your feet at any one or any thing.
- The head is considered as the highest (purest) part of the body, there fore do never touch the head of the Thais since this is considered impolite.
You should never show that you get angry or lose your temper if you have a misunderstanding. It is better to cool down your heart and try to smile back and solve the problem by talking soft and slow.
Spoken and written Thai remain largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and other European languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants, in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.
People Of Thailand
Throughout her long history, Thailand has gently absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and architects, and helped enrich indigenous culture.
People inhabiting Thailand today share rich ethnic diversity – mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock – with the result that there is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite Thais, statuesque Thais, round-faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais and light-skinned Thais.
Some 80% 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 help make Thailand such a distinctive country.
Though the great majority of Thailand’s 50 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 Laos and Khmer groups in the northeast and west, nearly all regard themselves as Thai, culturally as well as by nationality. More clearly defined are the Muslims, who are mainly concrntrated in the southern 0provinces, and assorted hill tribes who live in the far north; there are also sizeable communities of Hindus and Sikhs in large cities like Bangkok.
Besides ethnic Thais, the dominant people, there are Malay, Indians, Chinese, and many different hill-tribe people. The Chinese are, however, the biggest minority. Over centuries, Thailand has absorbed a constant stream of Chinese immigrants and in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century they arrived in large numbers. This immigration almost ceased after 1950, but the Chinese still form a sizeable community. Estimates claim that some 10 percent of Thais are ethnic Chinese, although it is difficult to know the exact number because many Chinese intermarry or assume Thai names.
Ethnic Thais are also a mixture of people of Indian and Chinese origin. Throughout history, four major migration waves, the first two from India and the following ones from Tibet and China, brought successively Austronesians, Mon-Khmers, Tibeto-Burmans, and finally Tais.
Tais are a Chinese ethnic group from Yijnnan, a province of Southern China. They moved to what is now Thailand toward the end of the eighth century. Although they were not the first people to settle in Thailand, the Tais became the dominant power and they gave their name to the inhabitants of the country.
Population: 60,037,366 (July 1998 est.)
- 0-14 years: 24% (male 7,440,863; female 7,169,837)
- 15-64 years: 70% (male 20,605,197; female 21,210,697)
- 65 years and over: 6% (male 1,596,267; female 2,014,505) (July 1998 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.97% (1998 est.)
Birth rate: 16.76 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)
Death rate: 7.11 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)
- at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
- under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
- 15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
- 65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female (1998 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 30.82 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
- total population: 69 years
- male: 65.35 years
- female: 72.83 years (1998 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.84 children born/woman (1998 est.)
noun: Thai (singular and plural)
Ethnic groups: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, other 11%
Religions: Buddhism 95%, Muslim 3.8%, Christianity 0.5%, Hinduism 0.1%, other 0.6% (1991)
Languages: Thai, English (secondary language of the elite), ethnic and regional dialects
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.8%
female: 91.6% (1995 est.)