History of Thailand
Thai people who originally lived in southwestern China,migrated into mainland Southeast Asia over a period of many centuries. The oldest known mention of their existence in the region by the exonym Siamese is in a 12th-century A.D. inscription at the Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which refers to syam, or "dark brown" people. It was believed that Siam derived from the Sanskrit word syam, or brown race, with a contemptuous signification. Sien in Chinese writings is the name for the northern kingdom that centered around Sukhothai and Sawankalok; but to the Siamese themselves, the name of the country has always been Mueang Thai.
The country's designation as Siam by Westerners likely came from Portuguese, the first Europeans to give a coherent account of the country. Portuguese chronicles noted that the king of Sukhothai had sent an expedition to Malacca at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in 1455. Following their conquest of Malacca in 1511, the Portuguese sent a diplomatic mission to Ayutthaya. A century later, on 15 August 1612, The Globe, an East India Company merchantman bearing a letter from King James I, arrived in "the Road of Syam" . "By the end of the 19th century, Siam had become so enshrined in geographical nomenclature that it was believed that by this name and no other would it continue to be known and styled."
Indianized kingdoms such as the Mon, Khmer and Malay kingdoms had ruled the region. Thai people established their own states starting with Sukhothai, Chiang Saen and Chiang Mai and Khmers, Burma and Vietnam. Much later, the European colonial powers threatened in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but Thailand survived as the only Southeast Asian state to avoid European colonial rule because the French and the English decided it would be a neutral territory to avoid conflicts between their colonies. After the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand endured sixty years of almost permanent military rule before the establishment of a democratically elected-government system.
Island groups of Thailand
|Thailand Map - Click for larger view|
Thailand has hundreds of islands both in the Gulf of Thailand and in the Andaman Sea. All of the islands of Thailand are coastal islands. The central area of the Gulf of Thailand is free of islands, so that Thailand has no islands located in the open sea far from the coast. Formerly most of the islands in Thailand were uninhabited, but in recent times many have been developed as tourist resorts.
Some of the island groups in Thailand come in clusters of numerous individual islands; Phang Nga bay has 67, the Mu Ko Chang National Park has 52, Tarutao National Marine Park has 51, and Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park has 42. Owing to the large amount of islands in Thailand the list below is not all-inclusive.
- 1. In Thai, the names of islands are usually preceded with the word Ko (Thai เกาะ), the Thai word for island. This word is often alternately romanized as Koh, Go or Goh. Thus English language references to the names of the Thai islands should not have an additional island in their name, or else the Ko should be left out. For example, "Ko Phi Phi Island" would be redundant, since Ko Phi Phi already means "Phi Phi Island"
- 2. Various maps commonly spell Thai names differently, using different transliterations. For example, Ko Mak may be seen as Koh Mak,Koh Maak or even Koh Mark. This list gives precedence to the Royal Thai General System of Transcription favored by the Government of Thailand, for the English-based Thai transcription is now becoming obsolete.
Overview & Country Facts
Thailand, being known as the land of smiles, the land of elephants and the land of Buddhism, is unique for its fascinating cultures, tradition, and philosophical attitude towards the world and life, making the country shrouded with mystery waiting for the wide-opened eyes and opened mind to explore its charming distinctiveness.
A number of magnificent temples in Bangkok, the stunning mountains in the north like Chiang Mai, the world famous beach resort with its vibrant nightlife in Pattaya, and the idyllic beaches and clear water in Phuket are just a few of Thailand's highlighted attraction. Thailand still implausibly has a large array of unseen pockets to discover. Meanwhile, Thailand is still graced with its charming tradition which remained strong among Thai people although affected by flows of modernization and westernization which make it one of the highly developed countries in the region. Buddhism has always played a significant role in the embodiment of Thai tradition, value, and attitude towards of people in society. This characteristic may be the real charm of Thailand which is represented as the simple lifestyle, peaceful mind, and optimism.
Now it comes to you to explore this land on your own route and with your own mind. It is up to you how you view Thailand. But one thing you can witness by yourselves: Thailand will be your travel paradise and will give you an exceptional experience for your lifetime.
Basic Facts of Thailand
|Conventional Name||Kingdom of Thailand|
|Local Name||Thailand (formerly Siam)|
|Independence||1238 Year of Establishment (never being colonized)|
|Land Area||513,115 Sq. Kilometers|
|Climate||Average: 29 degree Celsius but varies 9-38 degree Celsius|
|Seasons||Hot (March to May), Rainy (June to October) and cool (November to February)|
|Population||61,878,746 (year 2000)|
|Language||Thai; English is widely understood in cities|
|Sex Ratio||0.97 male/female|
|Labor Force||32.6 million|
|Literacy||93.8% (Age 15 and over)|
|Religion||Buddhism 92.55%, Muslim 5.29%, Christianity 1.34%, Others 0.79% (2000)|
|Exchange Rate||44.5 Baht / US$ (approx. 2001)|
|GDP||US$ 413 Billion (est. 2000)|
|Airport Tax||500 Baht for International|
|40 Baht for Domestic|
|Electricity||220 Volts 50 cycles|
|Clothing||Thin Cotton is best. A jacket or sweater may be necessary in cool season, especially in the mountainous area in North and Northeast|
- Bangkok — Thailand's bustling, frenetic capital, known among the Thai as Krung Thep
- Ayutthaya — a historical city, UNESCO World Heritage Site and old capital of Siam
- Chiang Mai — de facto capital of Northern Thailand and the heart of Lanna culture
- Chiang Rai — gateway to the Golden Triangle, ethnic minorities and mountain trekkings
- Kanchanaburi — home of the bridge over the River Kwai and numerous World War II museums
- Nakhon Ratchasima — largest city of the Isaan region
- Pattaya — one of the main tourist destinations, known for its nightlife
- Sukhothai — Thailand's first capital, with amazing ruins still
- Surat Thani — home of the Srivijaya Empire, gateway to the Samui archipelago
- Ko Chang — once a quiet island, now undergoing major tourism development
- Ko Lipe — small island in the middle of Tarutao National Park, amazingly unspoiled with great reefs and beaches
- Ko Pha Ngan — site of the famous Full Moon Party with miles of quiet coastline
- Ko Samet — the nearest island beach escape from Bangkok
- Ko Samui — comfortable, nature, and entertainment hippie mecca gone upmarket
- Khao Lak — gateway to the Similan Islands, hard hit by the 2004 tsunami, but vibrant once more
- Khao Sok National Park — one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves in Thailand
- Khao Yai National Park — take a night time jeep safari spotting deer or visit the spectacular waterfalls
- Krabi Province — beach and watersports mecca in the south, includes Ao Nang, Rai Leh, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lanta
- Phuket — the original Thai paradise island, now very developed, but still with some beautiful beaches
Thai culture is a unique variant of many cultures in Asia. Lying between the two great hubs of Asian civilization, China and India, it is not surprising to see the significant traces of Hindu and Chinese cultures in Thai culture, too. Through a long course of times, the Thai people have developed their own characteristic culture that rooted in Thai society.
Thai culture can embrace many of its aspects; it can be language, art, way of life, value as well as people's attitude.
Thai language is one of the best symbols of Thai culture. Thai alphabet was invented by King Ramkamheng the Great in 1283 by modeling on the ancient Indian alphabets of Sanskrit and Pali languages through the medium of the old Khmer character.
The inscriptions found in Sukhothai are the fruitful evidence of linguistic history in Thailand. Through along course of times, Thai language has evolved to have 44 letters (including 2 obsolete ones).
Thai language basically consists of monosyllable words whose meanings are complete by themselves. Another dominant feature is that Thai language is a tonal language with five different tones: low tone, high tone, falling tone, rising tone, and mid tone. For example, the word "Mai" when pronounced with the low tone will mean "new"; with the high tone is "wood"; with falling tone will be "not"; with the rising tone is "silk". Despite the difficulties of tones, Thai grammar is quite easy; there is no conjugation like French and English verbs, and verbs are not irregular. The difference in a sentence between present, future, and past time is indicated by a small word added. Like most of languages of the world, Thai language is influenced by the foreign languages as there are many words used today were derived from Pali, Sanskrit, Khmer, Malay, Chinese and English.
Once you are in Thailand, what cannot be unmentioned are Thai arts represented as temples, architecture, painting, crafts, dance and music. Thai arts are a result of the assimilation of many artistic influences of various periods throughout its history. The most predominant one is that of India, and they evolved to be typical Thai arts that can boast its grace and charm today. Although Thai arts are the blend of diverse influences, the real source of inspiration and influence is Buddhism which profoundly rooted in Thai society for longtime. Unsurprisingly, most of artistic expressions in Thailand, Buddhism is implied in some ways.
Painting: Classical Thai painting is mostly confined to mural painting inside Buddhist temples and palaces. Themes depicted in mural painting are mostly related to Buddhism, such as Buddha's lives, stories of the three worlds (heaven, earth and hell) as well as scenes of customs and traditions of people. Mural painting serves several functions: to embellish and dignify the place of worship, to promote Buddhism, and to educate people through pictures.
Architecture: Thai classical architecture is represented as the royal palace buildings, pagodas, stupas, and temples. Thai architecture is influenced by Indian, Mon Khmer, and China. The typical feature of Thai architecture is overlapping rooftops and soaring pointed towers, elaborately ornamented with carved wood and stucco, gilded lacquer work, in-laid work, Chinese porcelain and color glass mosaic.
Sculpture: Thai sculpture mostly focuses on Buddha images that rank among the world's greatest expressions of Buddhist art. Sculptural styles are varied from each other in each period. The Sukhothai period is the golden age of Thai sculpture. Buddha images during this period were portrayed in a graceful and gentle figure and in various positions: standing, sitting, walking, and reclining. During Ayutthaya period, three stages of styles are distinguished. In the early and the middle periods of Ayutthaya, sculptors still admitted Khmer and Sukhothai styles, respectively. When it comes to the late Ayutthaya, sculptors developed their style to be decorative Buddha images in royal attire which continues its popularity in Rattanakosin period as well.
Literature: In early days, Thai literature limitedly concerned religion, royalty, and aristocracy rather than popular lives. Most of them were written in verse of various patterns. Thai literary history was face-lifted in the early 20th during the reign of King Rama VI, the poet king. Prose has become a favorite form of work among Thai writers ever since. Themes depicted in their works were changed from the court life to the common life scenes.
Drama: Thai drama embraces also a dance, originating in the royal court. The techniques of dancing are based on Indian origin, and were developed to be more graceful and slow in movement. The most outstanding of Thai drama is "Khon", classical masked dance drama, characterized by the mask-wearing performers with their rhythmic, puppet-like movements. Khon usually depicts the story of Ramakien which was derived from the great epic Ramayana of India. Apart from Khon, there other kinds of dramas, including Lakhon or classical Thai dance drama (dancing is more graceful than Khon), Like (Thai folk opera), Na Yai and Nang Talung (shadow play), and Hun (marionettes).
Music: Thai classical music is influenced by Indian culture through the Mons and Khamers. Later, Thai people created their own instruments, becoming the distinctive Thai music. Thai classical music used the diatonic music scale, and the instruments are divided into four groups: those of plucking, drawing, percussion and woodwind. Music is played as an accompaniment in drama and dance and in religious ceremonies.
Thailand is largely tropical, so it's hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F), a degree of relief provided only in the mountains in the far north of Thailand. The careful observer will, however, note three seasons:
- Cool: From November to the end of February, it doesn't rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5°C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year's or at Chinese New Year a few weeks later, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.
- Hot: From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F). Pleasant enough when sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, but not the best time of year to go temple-tramping in Bangkok.
- Rainy: From July to October, although it only really gets underway in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn't mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding is not uncommon.
There are local deviations to these general patterns. In particular, the south-east coast of Thailand (including Ko Samui) has the rains reversed, with the peak season being May-October and the rainy off season in November-February.
National Public holidays of Thailand in 2015
|Date||Weekday||Holiday name||Holiday type|
|Jan 1||Thursday||New Year's Day||National holiday|
|Jan 2||Friday||Bridge Public Holiday||National holiday|
|Jan 10||Saturday||National Children's Day||Observance|
|Jan 16||Friday||Teachers' Day||Observance|
|Feb 14||Saturday||Valentine's Day||Observance|
|Feb 19||Thursday||Chinese Lunar New Year's Day||Observance|
|Feb 20||Friday||Second day of Chinese Lunar New Year||Observance|
|Feb 21||Saturday||Third day of Chinese Lunar New Year||Observance|
|Mar 4||Wednesday||Makha Bucha||National holiday|
|Mar 20||Friday||March equinox||Season|
|Apr 6||Monday||Chakri Day||National holiday|
|Apr 13||Monday||Songkran||National holiday|
|Apr 14||Tuesday||Songkran||National holiday|
|Apr 15||Wednesday||Songkran||National holiday|
|May 1||Friday||Labor Day||National holiday|
|May 4||Monday||Bridge Public Holiday||National holiday|
|May 5||Tuesday||Coronation Day||National holiday|
|May 13||Wednesday||Royal Ploughing Ceremony Day||National holiday|
|Jun 1||Monday||Visakha Bucha||National holiday|
|Jun 21||Sunday||June Solstice||Season|
|Jul 1||Wednesday||Mid Year Bank Holiday||Bank holiday|
|Jul 30||Thursday||Asalha Bucha||National holiday|
|Jul 31||Friday||Buddhist Lent Day||National holiday|
|Aug 12||Wednesday||The Queen's Birthday||National holiday|
|Aug 12||Wednesday||Mother's Day||National holiday|
|Sep 23||Wednesday||September equinox||Season|
|Oct 23||Friday||Chulalongkorn Day||National holiday|
|Nov 25||Wednesday||Loy Krathong||Observance|
|Dec 4||Friday||Father's Day observed||National holiday|
|Dec 5||Saturday||The King's Birthday||National holiday|
|Dec 5||Saturday||Father's Day||National holiday|
|Dec 7||Monday||The King's Birthday observed||National holiday|
|Dec 10||Thursday||Constitution Day||National holiday|
|Dec 22||Tuesday||December Solstice||Season|
|Dec 24||Thursday||Christmas Eve||Observance|
|Dec 25||Friday||Christmas Day||Observance|
|Dec 31||Thursday||New Year's Eve||National holiday|
- Where the actual date of the holiday falls on a weekend, a substitute day has been granted on the Monday as a day's holiday.
- Alcohol is not served on religious holidays.
There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Thailand, exercise normal security precautions.