Coat of Arms
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
»Thai, Siamese (archaic)
»Constitutional monarchy under military junta
»513,120 km2 (51st)
»US$1.0550 trillion (22nd)
» Per capita -US$15,319
» Per capita -US$5,771
»Baht (฿) (THB)
Thailand is a country at the centre of the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Seaand the southern extremity of Burma.
Thailand is a monarchy headed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, and governed by a military junta that took power in May 2014. The king is the ninth of the House of Chakri and has reigned since 1946 as the world’s longest-serving current head of state and the country’s longest-reigning monarch.
The King of Thailand’s titles included Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Adherent of Buddhism, and Upholder of religions.
With a total area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), Thailand is the world’s 51st-largest country. It is the 20th-most-populous country in the world, with around 66 million people.
The capital and largest city is Bangkok, which is Thailand’s political, commercial, industrial, and cultural hub. About 75–95% of the population is ethnically Tai, which includes four major regional groups: central Thai, northeastern Thai (Khon [Lao] Isan), northern Thai (Khon Mueang); and southern Thai. Thai Chinese, those of significant Chinese heritage, are 14% of the population while Thais with partial Chinese ancestry comprise up to 40% of the population.
Thai Malays represent 3% of the population, with the remainder consisting of Mons, Khmers and various “hill tribes”. The country’s official language is Thai and the primary religion is Buddhism, which is practised by around 95% of the population.
Thailand experienced rapid economic growth between 1985 and 1996, becoming a newly industrialised country and a major exporter. Manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy.
Among the ten ASEAN countries, Thailand ranks second in quality of life and the country’s HDI had been rated as “high”. Its large population and growing economic influence have made it a middle power in the region and around the world.
Thailand is an emerging economy and is considered a newly industrialised country.
Thailand had a 2013 GDP of US$673 billion (on a purchasing power parity [PPP] basis). Thailand is the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Thailand ranks midway in the wealth spread in Southeast Asia as it is the 4th richest nation according to GDP per capita, after Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia.
Thailand functions as an anchor economy for the neighbouring developing economies of Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. In the third quarter of 2014, the unemployment rate in Thailand stood at 0.84% according to Thailand’s National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB).
Thailand experienced the world’s highest economic growth rate from 1985 to 1996 – averaging 12.4% annually. In 1997 increased pressure on the baht, a year in which the economy contracted by 1.9%, led to a crisis that uncovered financial sector weaknesses and forced the Chavalit Yongchaiyudh administration to float the currency.
Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was forced to resign after his cabinet came under fire for its slow response to the economic crisis. The baht was pegged at 25 to the US dollar from 1978 to 1997. The baht reached its lowest point of 56 to the US dollar in January 1998 and the economy contracted by 10.8% that year, triggering the Asian financial crisis.
Thailand’s economy started to recover in 1999, expanding 4.2–4.4% in 2000, thanks largely to strong exports. Growth (2.2%) was dampened by the softening of the global economy in 2001, but picked up in the subsequent years owing to strong growth in Asia, a relatively weak baht encouraging exports, and increased domestic spending as a result of several mega projects and incentives of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, known as Thaksinomics. Growth in 2002, 2003, and 2004 was 5–7% annually.
Thailand is ranked 33 with an Economic Complexity Index (ECI) of 0.884297
Top 5 Products exported by Thailand
- Computers (8.8%),
- Rubber (4.2%),
- Delivery Trucks (3.5%),
- Refined Petroleum (3.3%),
- Gold (3.0%)
Top 5 Export destinations of Thailand
Top 5 Products imported by Thailand
- Gold (5.6%)
- Crude Petroleum (4.5%),
- Vehicle Parts (4.2%),
- Petroleum Gas(2.6%),
- Computers (2.3%)
Top 5 Import origins of Thailand
- Japan (22%),
- China (18%),
- Malaysia (6.3%),
- United States (5.3%),
- South Korea (4.5%)
Friendly and fun-loving, exotic and tropical, cultured and historic, Thailand radiates a golden hue from its glittering temples and tropical beaches to the ever-comforting Thai smile.
When I step off the plane after a grueling trip across a continent and an ocean, I slip into my Thai ‘skin’ and the rhythms of the country: chit-chatting with locals, eating at roadside noodle joints, climbing aboard shared taxi pick-up trucks, waiving at sacred temples, slipping off my shoes with ease and craving rice for breakfast.
The beaches and the jungles are all fine, but I prefer the cities, where life spills out on to the street and the markets are packed with people and produce. Life is pleasant here and best of all, Thais shower my children with attention and affection.
In between the cluttered cities and towns is the rural heartland, a mix of rice paddies, tropical forests, and squat villages tied to the agricultural clock. In the north, the forests and fields bump up against toothy Blue Mountains decorated by silvery waterfalls. I
n the south, scraggly limestone cliffs poke out of the cultivated landscape like prehistoric skyscrapers. The usually arid northeast beams an emerald hue during the rainy season when tender green rice shoots carpet the landscape.
Adored around the world, Thai cuisine expresses fundamental aspects of Thai culture: it is generous, warm, refreshing, and relaxed. Each Thai dish relies on fresh, local ingredients – pungent lemongrass, searing chilies and plump seafood.
A varied national menu is built around the four fundamental flavors: spicy, sweet, salty, and sour.
Roving appetites go on eating tours of Bangkok noodle shacks, seafood pavilions in Phuket and Burmese market stalls in Mae Hong Son. Cooking classes reveal the simplicity behind the seemingly complicated dishes and mastering the market is an important survival skill.
The celestial world is a close confidant in this Buddhist nation and religious devotion is colorful and ubiquitous.
Gleaming temples and golden Buddha’s frame both the rural and modern landscape. Ancient banyan trees are ceremoniously wrapped in sacred cloth to honor the resident spirits; fortune-bringing shrines decorate humble homes as well as monumental malls, while garland-festooned dashboards ward off traffic accidents.
- Bangkok is at the start of many visitors’ itineraries, and while a modern city, it has a rich cultural heritage. Most visitors at least take in the Grand Palace, a collection of highly decorated buildings and monuments.
- It is home to Wat Phra Kaew, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand that houses the Emerald Buddha. Other cultural attractions include Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Jim Thompson’s House, but these are just a fraction of possible sights you could visit.
- The former capitals of Siam, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, make excellent stops for those interested in Thai history. The latter could be combined with a visit to Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet, all of which areUNESCO World Heritage Sites. Khmer architecture is mostly found in Isaan, with the historical remains of Phimai and Phanom Rung being the most significant.
- In the northern provinces live unique hill-tribe peoples, often visited as part of a trekking.
- The six major hill tribes in Thailand are the Akha, Lahu, Karen, Hmong, Mien and Lisu, each with a distinct language and culture. Chiang Mai makes a good base for arranging these treks, and has some cultural sights of its own, such as Wat Doi Suthep.
- For those interested in recent history, Kanchanaburi has a lot of sights related to WWII. The Bridge over the River Kwai, popularised by the film of the same name, is the most famous one, but the museums in its vicinity are a lot more moving.
- The “The Dead Railway”(tang rod fai sai morana) is the railway constructed by captive allied soldiers during WWII. This railway has a nice view all along its route.
- Thailand’s beaches and islands attract millions of visitors each year from all over the globe. Hua Hin is Thailand’s oldest beach resort, made famous by King Rama VII in the 1920s as an ideal getaway from Bangkok. Things have considerably changed since then. Pattaya, Phuket, and Ko Samui only came to prominence in the 1970s, and these are now by far the most developed beach resorts.
- Krabi Province has some beautiful spots, including Ao Nang, Rai Leh and the long golden beaches of Ko Lanta. Ko Phi Phi, renowned as a true island paradise, has been undergoing massive development since the release of the film The Beach in 2000.
- Ko Pha Ngan offers the best of both worlds, with both well-developed beaches and empty ones a short ride away. It is also where the infamous “Full Moon Party” takes place.
- Ko Chang is a bit like Ko Samui used to be. It has a backpacker vibe, but is fairly laid-back and there is accommodation in all price ranges.
- If you’re looking for unspoiled beaches, Ko Kut is very thinly populated, but also difficult to explore.
- Ko Samet is the closest island beach to Bangkok, but its northern beaches are quite developed and hotels are pretty much sold out on weekends and public holidays.
- While not as beautiful as Malaysia or Indonesia, Thailand does have its fair share of tropical forest. Khao Yai National Park, the first national park of Thailand, is the closest to Bangkok. Wild tigers and elephants are increasingly rare, but you can’t miss the macaques, gibbons, deer, and species of birds.
- The stretch of jungle at Khao Sok National Park is probably even more impressive, and you can spend the night in the middle of the jungle.
- Waterfalls can be found all over Thailand. The Heo Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park and the 7-tiered Erawan Falls in Kanchanaburi are among the most visited, but the Thee Lor Sue Waterfall in Umphang and the 11-tiered Pa La-u Falls inKaeng Krachan National Park are equally exciting. Finally, the gravity-defying limestone formations of the Phang Nga Bayshouldn’t be missed by anyone who stays in the region.