The Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known to the outside world as Siam, is a country located on the Indochinese peninsula in South-East Asia. It’s bordered by the Andaman Sea to the west and by the Gulf of Thailand to the south and is also a neighbour to the countries Burma / Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. If we count maritime borders too, Thailand borders to Vietnam, Indonesia, and India as well.
An overwhelming part of the population (almost 95%) identifies as Buddhists. The second largest religion is Islam with slightly more than 4%. Among the remaining religions, Christianity and Hinduism are the largest ones.
In the Thai language, the Kingdom of Thailand is called Ratcha-anachak Thai.
The country has always been called Thai (or Mueang Thai) by its citizens, but until 1949 the rest of the world used the exonym Siam.
Short facts about Thailand
198,120 sq mi
|Population||68,9 million (2016 estimate)|
|Largest city by population||Bangkok|
|Other major languages||Isan (North-eastern Thai)
Kam Mueang (Northern Thai)
Pak Tai (Southern Thai)
|National anthem||Phleng Chat Thai
(Thai National Anthem)
|Royal anthem||Sansoen Phra Barami
(Glorify His Prestige)
|Time zone||UTC +7 (ICT)|
|Currency||Name: Baht (Thai bath)
The Baht is traded on the foreign exchange market and it is the rate on the forex market that decides how much you get when you exchange your local currency into Bath. The exchange rate that you will receive will normally be slightly worse than the rate on the forex market. This is due to the fact that the bank or exchange office wants to make a small profit on each transaction to pay their overheads.
|Driving side||Left side of the road|
Mountainous Northern Thailand is dominated by the Thai highlands. The tallest point is the summit of Doi Inthanon at 2,565 meters above sea level. This mountain is a part of the Thanon Thong Chai Range.
This is where you find the Khorat Plateau, bordered by the Mekong River.
North-eastern Thailand is also known as Isan.
The low alluvial plan of Chao Phraya forms the center of the country. Chao Phraya is Thailand’s main river, and it flows through the capital before reaching the Gulf of Thailand.
The Gulf of Thailand is also fed by the rivers Mae Klong, Bang Pakong and Tapi. There are a lot of popular beaches located along the mountainsides, with clear and shallow water that attracts a lot of tourists.
The eastern shore of the gulf is a major industrial center and this is where Thailand’s main deepwater port is located. Another important port on this side is Laem Chabang.
The southernmost part of mainland Thailand is the part situated on the narrow Kra Isthmus that widens into the Malay Peninsula.
Only the southern part of Thailand has a coast along the Andaman Sea. Just like the Gulf of Thailand, the Andaman Sea coast sports many beautiful beaches that are important for Thailand’s tourist sector. This where you find Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi, Ranong, and Trang. There are also many islands dotted along this coast.
In 2004, a tsunami caused widespread destruction and numerous deaths along this coast.
Southern Thailand, where many of the popular resorts and beaches are, is characterized by mild weather year-round, and experience less dramatic seasonal variations than the rest of the country. Also, the temperature difference between daytime and nighttime is less pronounced here. The sea breeze will make even fairly high temperatures feel more bearable.
In other parts of Thailand, March to May can be uncomfortably hot, with temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) or more. These parts also experience a much sharper difference in the temperature over the year. Sometimes, when cold air from China rolls into the north and north-east of Thailand, the temperature drops down to 0 °C (32 °F) or even lower.
The south-west monsoon season
Thailand’s climate low-lying by the south-west monsoon and the north-east monsoon.
The south-west monsoon season starts around mid-May and lasts until mid-October. During this season, vast amounts of warm air, carrying a lot of moist, comes in over Thailand from the Indian Ocean. You can, therefore, expect a lot of rain over most of the country during this season.
The heavy rains are not just caused by the south-west monsoon; they Intertropical Convergence Zone and tropical cyclones also contribute.
In a typical year, August and September are the rainiest months in Thailand. In the south, there is a rain peak in September along the western coast. (While the south-eastern coast has its rain peak in November, December, and January, during the north-eastern monsoon season.)
The driest months within the south-western monsoon season are usually from late June to early July, when up to two weeks of dry weather isn’t uncommon. The clear sky is caused by a northward movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone to southern China.
The north-east monsoon season
The north-east monsoon season starts when the south-western one ends in mid-October, and continues until mid-February. During this season, cold air and dry air comes in over Thailand from China. For most of Thailand, this means milder temperatures and less rain, but in the southern part of the country you can still expect a lot of rain, especially along the eastern coast and particularly in October and November.
Pre-monsoon season (“Summer”)
When the north-east monsoon season ends in mid-February, a season known as pre-monsoon commences and lasts until the start of the south-western monsoon season in mid-May.
This pre-monsoon season, from mid-February to mid-May, is often referred to as summer in Thailand since the temperatures are high. Of course, for visitors from places such as northern Europe and Canada, Thailand feels like summer year-round, so the term can cause some confusion. You definitely do not have to book your vacation to the “summer season” to enjoy a warm holiday in Thailand, especially not in the low-laying coastal regions.
How much rain?
For most parts of the country, the mean annual rainfall is within the 1,200 to 1,600 mm range.
Some areas get considerably more than this, such as windward mountainsides where moist ocean air gets trapped and the moist converts to rain. This does, for instance, happen in the Ranong province on southern Thailand’s western coast. Another notoriously rainy region is the eastern part of the Trat Province, where over 4,500 mm rain falls in an average year.
Conversely, leeward mountain sides can end up in a so-called “rain shadow” and become unusually dry. In Thailand’s central valleys and in the northernmost parts of southern Thailand, there are places that receive less than 1,200 mm of rain per year.