Official Name: Kingdom of Thailand
Area: 513,115 sq km
Major Cities: Chiangmai, Hat Yai, Khon Kaen, Songkhla, Chon Buri, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Lampang, Phitsannlok, Ratchasima
Official Language: Thai and Chinese
Major Exports: Textiles and clothing, electronic goods, rice, rubber, gemstones, sugar, cassava, fish (especially prawns), machinery and manufactures, chemicals.
Thai food has become in recent years one of the world's favourite cuisines. When we speak of "Thai food ", we are in fact talking of four very distinct regions in the country, each with their own culinary traditions. We are speaking too of the dishes created in the royal courts and palaces of Old Siam, that have been passed down through many generations of chefs, and finally into public domain. Thailand lies within the Indochinese Peninsula and occupies part of the Malay Peninsula. The mountain systems are the predominant feature of the terrain. A series of parallel ranges, with a north-south trend, occupies the northern and western part of the country. The highest peak rises to 8,514 feet at the summit of Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand. The peninsular area reaches a high point of 5,860 feet on top of Khao Luang. The region to the north and east of these systems consists of a low, barren plateau called the Khorat Plateau. Making up about one-third of the country, the plateau is bordered by the Mekong River valley. Chao Phraya is the main river in Thailand.
Meditation and Religion
Meditation is found in some form or another in all major religious traditions but in Buddhism it is integral to the path to enlightenment. The practitioner trains his or her mind so that it can understand the four-points that form the core of the Buddha’s teaching: suffering, what causes it, the end of suffering, and the path to that end. Consequently, the art of meditation is a highly developed one in Thailand. One doesn’t need to be a Buddhist, or even be interested in Buddhism, to benefit from meditation. A valuable training that can be applied to daily life; it greatly helps concentration and can lead to a state of peace and calmness, no matter where the meditation is performed. Thailand allows freedom of religion, but 95 per cent of the population is Theravada Buddhist. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians account for most of the other 5 per cent. Buddhism is deeply ingrained in the Thai way of life. Traditionally, all young men were expected to become Buddhist monks for at least three months of their lives, while the practice is not strictly enforced today.
Central Thai is the official language. Other Thai dialects are spoken in various regions of the country. Thai is a tonal language. Therefore, a given syllable can have different meanings depending on the inflection with which it is pronounced. Central Thai has five tones. Chinese, Khmer, and Malay are also spoken here. Those having advanced education speak English. Some minority groups have their own languages.
Thai Food and Cooking
Good food also comes up from the street level, and many of Thailand's most popular dishes can be found at the smallest food stalls and restaurants. And there is the influence of China, India, Malaysia and other neighboring countries. So all these different factors come together under the label "Thai food", and you will find them in varying degrees at any Thai restaurant you care to visit, anywhere in the world. Rice is the dietary staple. It is usually served with very spicy dishes that consist of meat, vegetables, fish, eggs, or fruit. Curries and pepper sauces are popular.
Thai meal typically includes a selection of highly flavored, spicy dishes accompanied by one form of khao, or rice. Among the most popular seasonings in Thai cookings are basil, garlic, ginger, and coriander. Lemon grass, ground peanuts, and coconut milk is also common ingredients. A variety of chili peppers account for the spicy nature of many Thai specialties, and sprinkling foods with nam pla, a pungent sauce made from anchovies, is the favored way of adding salt. Fruit juices and milkshakes serve as nutritious snacks between meals. Thailand is blessed with many varieties of plants, herbs and spices which ensure s balanced diet. Today, visitors can both relish classic Thai menus and the benefits of a natural diet, and study the art of Thai cooking at several specialist schools in Bangkok and major beach resorts.
Thailand has a moist tropical climate influenced by monsoon winds that vary in direction according to the season. From April to October the winds are mainly from the southwest and are moisture-laden; during the rest of the year they blow in from the northeast.
While the country is under the influence of the southwest winds, temperatures are higher, ranging from 26° to 37°C. During the rest of the year, the range is from 13° to 33°C. Annual rainfall is about 1,525 mms in the north, west, and central regions and 2,540 mms on the Thai portion of the Malay Peninsula. Most rain falls in summer (June to October).
The animals found in Thailand are Asian black bear, Asian elephant, Malayan tapir, tiger, leopard, Indian python, king cobra, Eurasian otter, Tree shrew and wild boar. The birds here include hoopoe, osprey and peregrine falcon.
At Thailand's more than 400 private hospitals, standards are high and costs are extremely competitive. Little surprise then that large numbers of visitors decides to undergo surgery in the Kingdom as part of their stay. Doctors and specialists can swiftly obtain patient records by satellite. Hospitals employ staff fluent in English and who have overseas training. Demand for their services from his Middle East has also led to the hiring of Arabic-speaking personnel. Indeed, the whole business of linkage between the hospitals and the travel industry took a step forward when Thai Airways International (THAI) began packaging medical check-ups as part of its Royal Orchid Holidays programme. Whether you are after plastic surgery, lasik eye treatment or major heart surgery, you can rely on round the-clock; quality service in Bangkok and the min provincial cities and tourist centers, seeking care on holiday is a trouble-free experience.
About three fourth of the people are Thai, 14 per cent are Chinese, and 11 per cent belong with other ethnic groups. Among these groups are Khmer and Vietnamese, most of them being the refugees in border regions.
Places to Visit
The magnificent 20 feet high warrior statues guard the revered Temple of the Emerald Buddha, next to the royal palace in Bangkok. Once, the statue was even “kidnapped” by Laotians, who were eventually forced to relinquish it to the Thai army.
Thailand’s Phuket Island is an international tourist destination, offering many beaches, hotels, and water sports, as well as national parks that are home too much wildlife. Clear water, beautiful beaches, and scenic mountains draw an international mix of tourists to the Phi Phi Le Islands. Erawan National Park, famous by French author Pierre Boulle’s novel The Bridge over the River Kwai, is located in Kanchana Buri Province. The World's Tallest Buddhist Monument, the elegant spire of Pra Pathom Chedi, an ornate pagoda housing sacred relics, rises more than 417 feet to pierce the blue skies of Nakhon Pathom, one of Thailand’s most ancient cities. Built in 1860, this beautiful, unique temple encompasses the ruins of the original 6th-century pagoda. The capital is also famous for fiercely competitive kite-flying contests held in front of the city’s Royal Palace from February to April each year. Many other festivals and celebrations mark the cultural calendar of Thailand.
Damnoen Saduak floating market in south of Bangkok is filled with vendors in the crowded water selling off their productions (fruits and vegetables).
Soccer, table tennis, badminton, basketball, and volleyball are the popular sports. Traditional sports include takro (a game of skill involving keeping a wicker ball in the air without using the hands) and martial arts. Kite-flying is a popular activity, and many enjoy watching Thai chess, played without a queen and according to its own rules.