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Thailand

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About Thailand

Geography

Thailand is roughly an area of 513,115 sqkm (198,404sq m), located between 6° and 21° north latitude and 97° and 106° east longitude. It is bordered by Laos to the northeast, Myanmar to the north and west, Cambodia to the east, and Malaysia to the south. The longest north-south distance is about 1500km (930 miles), the longest east-west distance about 800km (500 miles). The topography is flat alluvial plains intersected by winding rivers and streams in central Thailand, a plateau in the northeast, forest-covered mountains and hills in the north and mostly hills in the south. The captial is Bangkok (Krung Thep).

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

Area

Thailand's coastline is approximately 3,219 kilometers in length. Forest covers some 32 percent of the country's total area, while cultivation occupies about 40 percent.

Total:
514,000 sq km
Land:
511,770 sq km
Water:
2,230 sq km

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

Thailand has a combined population of 61,230,874 (estimated July 2000), the growth rate is roughly 1.5%, infant mortality 24 in 1,000 live births. The most important ethic minority is Chinese. About 36% of people lives in urban areas. Life expectancy for males is 58 years, females 64 years. Forty-five percent of the population is under 30 years old.

Social Customs

Thais greet each other with a prayer-like gesture called a Wai. Generally, a younger person Wais an older person, who will then return it. Thais address each other (and usually foreigners) by their first names (which is also how they are listed in the telephone directory followed by their family name) This is prefixed by the polite word Khun. Public displays of affection, shouting and wild gesticulation are to be avoided as they are considered impolite.

The head is considered the highest part of the body, while the feet are considered the lowest, both literally and figuratively. Touching someone's head or pointing at people or things with the feet are, therefore, considered extremely rude. As with entering temples, shoes are removed before entering somebody's home.

Language

The national language of Thailand is Thai (spoken by 85% of population). The Thai language is liberally sprinkled with words from Pali and Sanskrit (the classical languages, respectively, of Theravada Buddhism and Indian Hinduism). Written Thai employs an alphabet of 44 consonants and 32 vowels that combine to form syllabic sounds.

King Ramkhamhaeng the Great who ruled the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1279-1298 initiated the Thai inscription in 1292. The inscription is considered to be a seminal source of Sukhothai history as well as a masterpiece of Thai literature.

Thai is a tonal monosyllabic language. The same word can be said in five different ways - normal or middle tone, high, low, rising and falling.

Like English, it is read from left to right, but that is where the similarities end. Some English sounds like "th", "v" and "z" do not appear at all, while some Thai sounds are not commonly used in English either. Further, it should be noted that in transcribing Thai sounds into English phonetics some consonants (e.g., b, p, l, n, d, and t) can be used interchangeably.

There are no plurals in Thai, nor are there tenses as such. A word or two is usually added to determine the past, present or future.

In Thailand's major cities, the level of English can be quite good, but visitors will find that the Thais' ability to speak English diminishes as one moves further away from the population centers.

In Thai there is a "politening" word attached to the end of anything you say. For men it is "khrap," for women it is "kha."

English is widely understood in the cities.

Religion

Buddhism of the Theravada confession is the principal religion of the country. 95% of the country’s population adheres to it. Schools teach Buddhist tenets and morals as part of the curriculum except in Muslim areas in the South. The remainder of the poplulation are 4% Muslim and 1% other (includes Christian, Hindu). There is total religious freedom and all major religions can be found in practice.

The Government

Since 1932, the Government of Thailand has been a democratic constitutional monarchy. The Royal Family is highly revered in Thailand, and images such as statues, photographs, pictures, etc., should be shown due respect. In a cinema, everybody is expected to stand during the playing of the Royal Anthem and a portrait of the King is shown on the screen. The head of state is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej who has been there since since 1946. The Head of Government is Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (since 2001).

National 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.

National Symbol

The Thai national and royal symbol is the Garuda, a mythical half-bird half-human figure (steed of the Hindu god Vishnu) that adorns King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s scepter and royal standard. Many ministries and departments have incorporated the Garuda into their insignias. Moreover, the Garuda signifies “By Royal Appointment,” and is awarded, at the personal discretion of His Majesty the King, as a sign of royal approval to companies that have rendered outstanding economic and charitable services to Thailand.

 

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