The name “Thailand”, which was officially proclaimed in 1949, means “Land of the Free”
Thailand is situated in the South East Asian mainland and covers an area of 513,115 km2, ranging from 5°30' to 21° North and 97°30' to 105° East. To the north are the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar with Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand in the east, Myanmar and the Indian Ocean in the west, and Malaysia in the south.
Thailand is divided into four natural regions: the North; the Central Plain or the Chao Phraya River Basin; the Northeast or the Korat Plateau; and the South or the Southern Peninsula. The North is a mountainous region comprised of natural forest, ridges and deep, narrow alluvial valleys. The Central Plain is a lush, fertile valley and is the richest and most extensive rice producing area in the country. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is located in this region. The Northeast region is an arid region characterized by undulating hills and frequent floods and droughts. The Southern region is hilly to mountainous with thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores.
Thailand is a tropical country with warm and humid weather for most of the year. Typically only two seasons are recognised, the wet season from May to September and the dry season for the remainder of the year. Average temperature is 23°C to 37°C. The population of Thailand is approximately 63 million with an annual growth rate of about 1.3 percent (2003). The population includes descendants of ethnic Chinese, Malays, Khmer, Lao, Vietnamese, Indians and others. About 95 percent of the population is Buddhist which is the dominant religion, while the remainder of the population practices Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and others. The national language is Thai. Thailand’s national flag is composed of five horizontal bands of red, white and blue colours. Thailand is divided into 76 provinces and governed by a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliamentarian form of government.
The present King of Thailand is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), the Ninth Monarch of the Chakri Dynasty and the longest-reigning King in the world today. On 5 December 1999, all of Thailand celebrated His Majesty’s 72nd birthday which, in the Buddhist tradition, is the 6th cycle of life.
Thai people are always friendly, greeting visitors with the gracious hospitality and sincere expression of friendship that has earned Thailand the title of “Land of smiles”. The “Wai”, a gesture made by pressing the hands together at the chest, is the traditional greeting customary of the people in Thailand. It is considered polite to return greetings in the same manner as they are offered, so when greeted by a Wai it is best to respond with a Wai.
Thailand has many conservation areas that play an important role in ecosystem stability and biodiversity conservation. The conservation areas include 138 national parks and 53 wildlife sanctuaries which provide places for relaxing, sightseeing and learning about natural resources.