Welcome to Thailand
For the visitor, it is immediately apparent that the Thai people are friendly, hospitable and of a happy disposition. They are extremely proud of the fact they are the only country in the region which was never colonised. This factor also means that sometimes their English language skills are not as good as say in Malaysia or nearby Singapore. Neither is their general knowledge of the World around them but they possess a warm and welcoming national character.
Thailand generally does not have such strict law enforcement as visitors might experience in their home countries and the semi-wild west element of nightlife in Bangkok appeals to many who arrive. On the other hand the country and Bangkok are relatively safe for visitors and acts of terrorism do not usually occur except in the very remote southern corner of the country where there is an on-going Muslim insurgency. As of 2013, the rest of the country remains a pleasant and safe destination.
About 90 % of the population belong to the Buddhist faith and this has given Thailand, a country of 65 million, a durable continuity through historical upheavals.
Geography of Thailand
Thailand is an exotic South East Asian country bordered by Malaysia to the South, Myanmar (formerly Burma) to the West, Laos to the North and Cambodia in the East. A significant near neighbour is the People’s Republic of China which is only 3 hours by a major road link up through Laos from the northern town Chiang Khong in Thailand. Regions
Other important regions in Thailand include:
- North East Thailand - Known as Isaan
- Northern area - Used to contain the Lanna Kingdom with its capital in Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city
- Southern Region - Contains numerous famous beaches. Although some of these beaches have suffered tragedy in the tsunami of 2004, this region has recovered and rebuilt its infrastructure and life there is back to normality.
Time Zone in Thailand
Thailand has only one time zone and is GMT plus 7:00 hours.
Bangkok is the country's only metropolis, the major port, the major receiver of foreign visitors by air and the country's commercial capital. Bangkok is home to nearly 20% of Thailand's population with approximately 12 million people.
Few people would claim that Bangkok is a beautiful city, but it has a beat and a charm that grows on the visitor plus a vibrant night life. Very tasty food is available in many forms as well as a wide variety of convenient eating venues. One of the best collections of 5 star hotels in the world is located in Bangkok.
City scape of Bangkok
Formerly there were the municipalities of Krung Thep on the east bank of the Chao Praya River and Thonburi on the west bank. In 1971, these were merged into a city province .The main feature is still the impressive waterway of the Chao Praya River and Bangkok is situated 25 miles upriver from the Gulf of Thailand. The built up area covers 700 square kilometres in what appears to visitors as an unregulated sprawl of rapid urbanisation.
By most standards it is a young city and only became the nation's capital a little more than 200 years ago. There are many skyscraper size buildings dotting the skyline but no defined city centre as such. Previously , there were a maze of canals ( khlongs ) connecting various city districts to the main river , but many of these today have been filled in for urban development , which many believe has exacerbated the tendency for flooding .
Bangkok has 3 seasons, hot, hotter and hottest. In April, temperatures range between 27 and 36 degrees Celsius, by August it has declined to 26 up to 33 degrees and the cooler time is February when it is 22 up to 32. Bangkok is regarded as having the hottest average temperatures of any capital city in the world.
Most of the year is dry. The rainy season is May through to December but it does not rain every day and seldom all day. Some years, as in the low lying cities of Jakarta and Manila, Bangkok has suffered serious flooding problems. This is not an annual event and most believe the major contributing factor to be the questionable farming and forestry practices to the north rather than the amount of rain falling over the city. There was no flooding in 2012 but 2011 was a challenging year with water entering the city from the north. These floods are very inconvenient, but seldom is there any significant loss of life.
By Hugh Cameron, a native of New Zealand and long-time expat in Asia. Find his writing, such as “FARANG - Why Americans and Europeans Have This Label in Thailand”, on American Expat in Chiang Mai.