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Thursday, February 22, 2007

About Thailand

Full Country Name:
Thailand (Prathet Thai, meaning "land of the free")

Capital:
Bangkok (Krung Thep, meaning "city of angels")

Geography:
The kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Its shape and geography divide into four natural regions : the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South.
The country comprises 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand's revered Royal Family, with His Majesty the King recognised as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist religion and Upholder of all religions.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, the present king. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch. Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. With its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality, the Kingdom is a never-ending source of fascination and pleasure for international visitors.

Neighboring countries:
1) Myanmar - west and north, 2) Lao P.D.R. - north and northeast, 3) Cambodia - southeast and 4) Malaysia - south.

Area: 513,115 sq. km.

Topography:
Thailand is divided into 4 natural regions:
  • The mountainous North, with its profusion of multi-coloured orchids, fascinating native handicrafts and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches;
  • The high Northeast Plateau, which still jealously guards its many archaeological and anthropological mysteries;
  • The Central Plain, one of the world's most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas with colourful traditional culture and way of life as well as the sandy beaches of the East Coast and vibrant cosmopolitan Bangkok;
  • The peninsular South where the unspoiled beaches and idyllic islands complement economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.

Population:
Thais are well-known for their friendliness and hospitality. A large majority of over 62 million citizens of Thailand are ethic Thai, along with strong communities whose ethnic origins lie in China, India and elsewhere. About 7 million people reside in the capital city of Bangkok.

People:

Thai (80%), Chinese (10%), Malay (3%), and the rest are minorities (Mons, Khmers, hill tribes) Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and has thus produced a degree of ethnic diversity. Integration is such, however, that culturally and socially there is enormous unity.

Language:
Spoken and written Thai is largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and some European Languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.

Religion:
Buddhism (95%), Muslim (4%), others (1%)

Government:
Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932. Parliament is composed of 2 houses, The House of Representatives and the Senate. Both representatives and senators are elected by the people. A prime minister elected from among the representatives leads the government. The country is divided into 76 provinces. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration comes under an elected governor. Appointed provincial governors administer the other 75 provinces (Changwat), which are divided into districts (Amphoe), sub-districts (Tambon) and villages (Mu Ban).

Head of State:
H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty)

Head of Government:
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont

Administration:
76 provinces, each subdivided into amphoe (district), tambon (sub-district) and muban (village)

National Flag:
The red, white, and blue stripes symbolize the nation, Buddhism, and the monarchy, respectively.

Time:
The time in Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+7 hours GMT).

Climate:
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons-hot and dry from February to May (average temperature 34 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 29 degrees Celsius and 87% humidity); and cool from November to January (temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius with a drop in humidity).
Much lower temperatures are experienced in the North and Northeast during nighttime. The South has a tropical rainforest climate with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round.

Electricity: The electric current is 220 volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use. Travellers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will make available 110-volt transformers.

Tap water:
Tap water is clean but drinking from it directly should be avoided. Bottled water is recommended

Clothing :
Light, cool clothes are sensible and a jacket is needed for formal meetings and dining in top restaurants. Shorts (except knee length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops and other beach-style attire are considered inappropriate dress when not actually at the beach or in a resort area.

Weights & Measures :
The metric system is used throughout Thailand. Numerals on vehicle speedohmmeters, highway markers and speed limits all indicate kilometres.

Business hours :
Most commercial concerns in Bangkok operate on a five-day week, usually from 8 am to 5 pm. Many stores open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm. Government offices are generally open between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm with a noon to 1 pm lunch break, Monday to Friday except on public holidays. Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm except on public holidays.

Postal Services :
Thailand's mail service is reliable and efficient. Major hotels provide basic postal services on their premises. Provincial post offices are usually open from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. International Roaming Mobile Phone : A Subscriber Identity Module Card (SIM Card) is now available for Thai and foreign customers who are travelling around for work. The SIM Card must be used in conjunction with a Digital GSM mobile phone within the 900-MHz range or a Digital PCN mobile phone within the 1800-MHz range.

Fax and e-Mail :
All of Thailand's leading hotels offer facsimile (fax) and e-mail services. Numerous private businesses offer such facilities, most often in conjunction with translation services.

Internet Services :
Thailand has been expanding its information service for residents and tourists alike through the Internet system. Services are now available at Thailand's leading hotels and at the many " Cyber-Cafes " that are cropping up in all major tourist destinations.

Telephone Services :
At present, home telephone numbers (for local calls and long distance calls within the country) have 9 digits while mobile phone numbers have 10 digits.

  • For Bangkok calls, the numbers is 0 2XXX XXXX.
  • For provincial calls, an area code is added to the existing numbers. For example, area code for Chiang Mai is 053 = 0 53XX XXXX; area code for Phuket is 076 = 0 76XX XXXX.
  • For mobile phones, After september 1,2006, all Thai mobile phone numbers will be extended to 10 digits. Simply add an 8 in the middle of the existing two-digit prefix, followed by the existing seven-digit number.For example, numbers starting with (66) 01 will become (66) 081 XXX XXXX.
  • The new system has no effect on international phone calls.
  • The international dialing code for Thailand is 66.
  • When making international calls to Thailand, add 66 and omit the leading 0.
  • When making international calls from Thailand, first dial 001+country code+area code+telephone number
  • If calling Laos or Malaysia, there is a special code which is charged at a semi-domestic rate.
  • When calling Laos, first dial 007+856+area code+telephone number
  • When calling Malaysia, first dial 09+06+area code+telephone number
  • Direct assistance: 1133 (local), 100 (international)

Emergency Telephone Numbers

  • Central Emergency (Police, Ambulance, Fire) : 191
  • Highway Patrol : 1193
  • Crime Suppression : 195 or 0 2513 3844
  • Tourist Police (English, French and German spoken) : 1155
  • Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Call Centre : 1672
  • Immigration Bureau : 0 2287 3101-10

Thailand History

Throughout its 800-year history, Thailand can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. Its history is divided into five major periods

Nanchao Period (650-1250 A.D.)
The Thai people founded their kingdom in the southern part of China, which is Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number of people migrated south as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down over the Central Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably accepted. The Thai people founded their independent state of Sukhothai around 1238 A.D., which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Period

Sukhothai Period (1238-1378 A.D.)
Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms. Called by its rulers "the dawn of happiness", this is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the most famous of whom was King Ramkamhaeng the Great. However in 1350, the mightier state of Ayutthaya exerted its influence over Sukhothai.

Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767)
The Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning. No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai had been, Ayutthaya's sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king). The early part of this period sawAyutthaya extend its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities and come into conflict with its neighbours, During the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and commercial relations with western countries. In 1767, a Burmese invasion succeeded in capturing Ayutthaya. Despite their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his followers broke through the Burmese
and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.
Thon Buri Period (1767-1772) General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided to transfer the capital from Ayutthaya to a site nearer to the sea which would facilitate foreign trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defense and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack. He established his new capital at Thon Buri on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack of central authority since the fall of Ayutthaya led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom, and Taksin's reign was spent reuniting the provinces.

Rattanakosin Period (1782 - the Present)
After Taksin's death, General Chakri became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was to transfer the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand Palace. Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration begun by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations with Western nations and developed trade with China. King Mongkut, Rama IV, (1851-1868) of "The King and I" concluded treaties with European countries, avoided colonialization and established modern Thailand. He made many social and economic reforms during his reign. King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father's tradition of reform, abolishing slavery and improving the public welfare and administrative system. Compulsory education and other educational reforms were introduced by King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok, (1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew, King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939. Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty.