Thailand, a country of interesting contradictions and rich diversity, where just about anything is possible and likely to happen.
Most visitors are instantly captivated by the famous Thai smile – Thailand is often referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’ – and the sense of fun that runs through every situation and even the most mundane task.
Although exotic and mysterious, Thailand is a lot more accessible than many other Asian countries. There are many familiar features, such as the 7/11 shops that grace every corner in cities and large towns and many people choose to wear western clothing such as jeans and t-shirts or brightly-coloured shorts.
The role of women is noticeably more equal than in many other countries, with female family members often inheriting property and controlling the finances. Women comprise roughly 50% of the workforce and there are a large number of female professionals in occupations such as doctors and dentists.
Thailand draws more visitors each year than any other country in Southeast Asia, and with its combination of stunning scenery, rich culture and history it is easy why many find it difficult to leave. Whether you want to go trekking in the jungle, climb rocks, become a dive master, party hard in trendy clubs, explore the countryside or simply soak up the sun on a beautiful sandy beach, Thailand is the perfect destination.
Situated in the tropical region of the northern hemisphere, Thailand was previously known as ‘Siam’. In 1939 the name officially changed to Thailand or prathet Thai or Ratcha Anachak Thai in the Thai language.
Thailand consists of a total of 514,000 square kilometres, which is roughly the same size as France or about the twice the size of Wyoming in the USA. Located in Southeast Asia and bordering Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia, Thailand has a population of more than 65 million.
Thailand is a tropical country and the weather is typically hot and humid, with periodic rain during the monsoon season. Thailand has a variety of geographic regions – varying from mountainous regions, jungles, plains and plateaus, as well as a number of stunning beach areas and numerous islands.
There are 76 provinces in Thailand with Bangkok (krungthep) forming the capital. More than 10% of Thailand’s population live in Bangkok and around 60% of the country’s wealth is concentrated there.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a long and interesting political history. The current monarch is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who celebrated his 60th year on the throne in 2006, making him the world’s longest reigning monarch. The King is highly revered within Thailand and respected throughout the world.
Thailand’s political history has proved rather turbulent, with an impressive total of 18 coups d’etat since 1932. However, not a single shot was fired during the last coup on September 19th 2006, and Thailand is generally a safe and friendly place for visitors.
Despite the economic crash in 1997, which severely affected the country’s prosperity, Thailand now enjoys a booming economy once more. Thailand’s strong export growth allowed the economy to expand by 4.5% in 2007.
Exports include computer technology, office machine parts, transistors, rubber, motor vehicles, plastic, seafood and rice.