Situated on the Indochina plateau, Thailand is the 51st largest country in the world. Thailand shares its border with countries like Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Thailand lies between latitudes 5°40' and 20°30' N and longitudes 97°20' and 105°. 45' E.
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The earliest inhabitants of the region of Thailand were hunter-gatherers, but by 4000BC, farming began to take place. In 100AD, the region had started to practice Theravada Buddhism.
The direct ancestors of modern-day Thais are said to be people who came to the region from southern China, arriving and settling in Thailand between the 10th and 13th centuries. During this time, the region was ruled by the Cambodian people called Khmen.
Some time in the 13th century, smaller states across the Mekong River valley united and formed the Sukhothai Kingdom - considered to be the first kingdom of Thailand. But it was short lived as its decline occurred in the late 14th century.
Thailand's prosperous history occurred at the time of the first kingdom's decline. The Kingdom of Ayuthaya commenced in the 14th century, annexing the previous kingdom, and increasing in power in the 15th century.
Later on, Europeans began arriving. The first were the Portuguese in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1605, the English in 1612, and the French in 1662.
In 1675, a Greek official named Constantine Phaulkon permitted the station of French soldiers in the region, prompting Thai leaders to expel him and leading to the country's decision to adopt an isolation policy. This decision led to Thailand cutting off its doors to the Western world, which was only lifted in the early 19th century.
In 1765, Burma came and invaded the kingdom of Ayuthaya, capturing and destroying the city in 1767. By 1769, a Thai general became King, who extended Thailand's territory, capturing Laos and Cambodia. However, his delusions led to a coup that saw him forced out of power, and he was replaced by Rama I - who ordered his execution. It was during Rama III's reign that Thailand flourished.
In 1893, though, Rama V had to give Laos to France, as well as Cambodia in 1907. By 1932, Thailand became a constitutional monarchy through a revolution.
Thailand is located in the middle of Southeast Asia. It is bordered to Myanmar to the north and west, Laos to the north and east, and Cambodia to the east.
The country has 4 definitive regions: the forested mountains of the west, the Khorat plateau of the northeast, the central plains of the interior region, and the beaches and islands on its coast.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, with the King as head of state. The Prime Minister is head of government, and he must be a member of the Parliament.
Since its government became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, Thailand has had a total of 19 constitutions and charters, going through different types of governments such as a military dictatorship and an electoral democracy. All governments throughout the decades acknowledge the hereditary monarch as the government's head of state.
Thailand is one of the most popular countries for foreign travelers. In fact, its capital city of Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world. With amazing natural beauty, a rich culture, and several metropolitan cities, Thailand has everything to offer for every kind of tourist.
One must never leave Thailand without a visit to its capital of Bangkok - a sprawling metropolis of 11 million residents, the city offers an eclectic mix of modern infrastructure as well as cultural and historic offerings. Among the must-see places to go to in the city are Siam Square for its glitzy hotels and malls, Silom for its party scene, and Rattanakosih for the Old Bangkok - where the Grand Palace and the Wat Pho are located.
For ancient ruins, the best in Thailand is what remains of the Ayuthaya kingdom. What once was the largest city in the world during the 1700's, is now a small number of temple and palace ruins - most parts of the city were destroyed when the Burmese invaded. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a favorite tourist attraction.
And lastly, a trip to Thailand is never complete without a day or two in its incredible beaches and islands. The most famous is Phuket - Thailand's biggest island and home to large numbers of hotels and resorts. It has 33 other islands, all defined by white sand beaches and crystal clear waters.
Tourism in the Phi Phi Islands skyrocketed when it was the backdrop of the 2000-film The Beach. Its breathtaking powdery white sand beaches and blue waters offer the most picture-perfect view of a tropical island. There are no accommodation on the island and travelers who wish to stay the night can do so in tents on the beaches.
The literacy rate of Thailand is 93.5%. They place great importance in education, giving mandatory and free education for children starting in primary school until the age of 17. Formal education must consist of 12 years of basic education and higher education, and students have the option of proceeding to the numerous vocational colleges and universities across the country.
Thailand is the 20th most populous city in the world.
Thailand is the only country in the Southeast Asian region not colonized by any Western country.
The world's biggest Chinatown can be found in Bangkok.