Thursday, January 22, 2009

ABOUT THAILAND : RELIGION

RELIGION

Thailand is one of the most strongly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, a branch of Hinayana Buddhism, practiced by more than 90 % of all Thais. The remainder of the population adheres to lslam, Christianity, Hinduism and other faiths
all of which are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast strong influence on daily life. Senior monks are highly revered. Thus, in towns and villages, the temple (wat) is the heart of social and religious life. Meditation, one of the most popular aspects of Buddhism, is practiced regularly by numerous Thai as a means of promoting inner peace and happiness. Visitors, too, can learn the fundamentals of this practice at several centres in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.

Meditation Centres

Some temples and meditation centres in and near Bangkok :
Association for the Science of Creative Intelligence ,
Ratchapark Building 18/F,
163 Sukhumvit Soi 21,
Bangkok 10110.
Tel : (662) 258-3242, (662) 258-3257

House of Dhamma

26/9 Soi Chompol, Lardprao Soi 15, Bangkok 10900
Tel : (662) 511-0439
Fax : (662) 512-6083

Thailand Meditation Center ,

The World Fellowship of Buddhist
616 Soi Methi Nivet (Sukhumvit 24)
Bangkok 10110
Tel : (662) 661-1284, to 1290

Young Buddhist Association of Thailand

(For age 13-25 yrs.)
58/8 Phetkasem 54 (Soi Thipniyom 2),
Bangduan, Pha Si Charoen, Bangkok
Tel : (662) 413-3131, (662) 413-1706,
(662) 413-1958, (662) 805-0790 to 0794
Fax : (662) 413-3131

Buddhist Association of Thailand

41 Phra Athit Road Bangkok
Tel : (662) 281-9563 - 4
Fax : (662) 281-9563

The International Buddhist Meditation Center (IBMC)

Wat Mahathat, Tha Phrachan
Bangkok 10200
Tel : (662) 222-2835, (662) 623-6325

ABOUT THAILAND : HISTORY

HISTORY

Throughout its 800-year history, Thailand can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. Its history is divided into five major periods
Nanchao Period (650-1250 A.D.) The Thai people founded their kingdom in the southern part of China, which is Yunnan, Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number of people migrated south as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down over the Central Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably accepted. The Thai people founded their independent state of Sukhothai around 1238 A.D., which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Period

Sukhothai Period (1238-1378 A.D.)

Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms. Called by its rulers "the dawn of happiness", this is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the most famous of whom was King Ramkamhaeng the Great. However in 1350, the mightier state of Ayutthaya exerted its influence over Sukhothai.

Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767)

The Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning. No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai had been, Ayutthaya's sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king). The early part of this period saw Ayutthaya extend its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities and come into conflict with its neighbours, During the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and commercial relations with western countries. In 1767, a Burmese invasion succeeded in capturing Ayutthaya. Despite their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his followers broke through the Burmese and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya, he and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.

Thon Buri Period (1767-1772)

General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided to transfer the capital from Ayutthaya to a site nearer to the sea which would facilitate foreign trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defense and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack. He established his new capital at Thon Buri on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack of central authority since the fall of Ayutthaya led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom, and Taksin's reign was spent reuniting the provinces.

Rattanakosin Period (1782 - the Present)

After Taksin's death, General Chakri became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was to transfer the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand Palace. Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration begun by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations with Western nations and developed trade with China. King Mongkut, Rama IV, (1851-1868) of "The King and I" concluded treaties with European countries, avoided colonialization and established modern Thailand. He made many social and economic reforms during his reign.

King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father's tradition of reform, abolishing slavery and improving the public welfare and administrative system. Compulsory education and other educational reforms were introduced by King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok, (1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew, King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939. Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty.

ABOUT THAILAND : TRADITION & CULTURE

TRADITION & CULTURE

Thailand is a country of scenic diversity and ancient traditions, of tranquil temples and modern urban excitement. With and independent history going back more than seven centuries, it has managed to absorb a variety of cultural influences and blend them into something uniquely and memorably Thai.

Each of its four major region offers a distinctive experience for the traveler in search of discovery. Misty mountains in the north shelter verdant valleys and exotic hill tribes, while in centers like Chiang Mai traditional customs and crafts have been preserved over generations. Along the picturesque coastlines of the east and south lie some of the world's most beautiful beaches and off-shore islands, each with its own beauty. Scattered over the northeastern plateau are superb khamer monuments from the time of Angkor Wat and natural parks teeming with wild life. In the Central Region can be found the evocative ruins of ancient Thai capitals and bustling Bangkok with its dynamic and countless pleasures.

CENTRAL REGION

The fertile Central Plains region, watered by the winding Chao Phraya River, has long been Thailand's cultural and economic heart. "Kin khao", the Thai expression for "to eat", translates literally as "to eat rice" ; and the vast checkerboard of paddy fields on either side of the river has traditionally provided the kingdom with its staple grain. When the annual monsoon rains sweep across the plains, the fields are transformed into a sea of vivid green dotted here and there with farming villages and the occasional gleaming spire of a Buddhist temple.

In the early 13th century, the first independent Thai capital was born at Sukhothai, thus ushering in a Golden Age of Buddhist art and architecture, The impressive remains of Sukhothai have been preserved as part of a historical park, a major attraction for visitors to the region. When Sukhothai's power waned, a new capital rose further south on the banks of the Chao Phraya. Known as Ayutthaya, it ruled the kingdom for more than four centuries and became one of the largest, most cosmopolitan cities in Southeast Asia. Traders came not only from China, Japan and other Asian countries but also from distant Europe, bringing with them a wide range of new cultural influences. Ayutthaya was destroyed by an invading enemy in 1767 and today its extensive remains also attract numerous sightseers, many of whom come up from Bangkok by the traditional river route.

Bangkok became the capital in 1782 with the founding of the Chakri Dynasty that still occupies the Thai throne. Its early rulers sought to recreate the glories of Ayutthaya and many of the city's landmarks date from this period, among them the magnificent Grand Palace and its adjacent Wat Phra Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha),Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). The flavor of the capital's past can be captured by a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River that flows through its traditional heart or an exploration of the picturesque klongs, or canals of Thonburi.

The city quickly outgrew its original walled center and is today a huge metropolis of high-rise buildings, air-conditioned shopping centers, and world-class luxury hotels. Despite its Western facade, however, Bangkok remains distinctively Thai, a fusion of modern and traditional, full of fascinating things to discover. All of Thailand's legendary bargains lustrous silks, bronze ware, antiques, gemstones, and jewelry, to mention only a few are available here, along with countless fine restaurants and other places dedicated to the pursuit of what Thais call sanuk, or pleasure.
Easily accessible to Bangkok are other attractions, among them the world's largest Buddhist monument at Nakhon Pathom, the famous Bridge over the River Kwai built during World War II, and, on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, the lively seaside resort of Pattaya
Much of what we now know as Thai cuisine also evolved in the Central Region. Rice, fish, and vegetables, flavored with garlic, black pepper, and nam pla, or fish sauce, along with an abundance of fresh fruits, comprised the basic diet of Sukhothai. With the rise of Ayutthaya, other elements were added to the increasingly complex Thai blend. That now essential ingredient, the fiery-hot chili pepper, was introduced at this time, along with the equally popular coriander, lime, and tomato. These may have been brought from their native South America by the Portuguese, who opened relations with Ayutthaya in 1511 and also left a lasting imprint in the form of popular Thai sweets based on egg yolks and sugar. Other influences came from India, Japan, Persia, and especially, China, though in almost every case their contributions were subtly altered and transformed to suite Thai tastes.

Unlike the north and northeast, where glutinous rice is popular, Central Thais like the fragrant plain variety, most commonly steamed but sometimes fried or boiled. In addition to fresh-water fish, there is seafood from the nearby gulf as well as a wide range of fresh vegetables and such fruits as mangos, durians, custard apples, guavas, and pomeloes. Sino-Thai food is popular in cities like Bangkok, particularly in the form of numerous noodle dishes.

THE NORTH

Until the early years of the present century, northern Thailand was effectively isolated from the rest of the country, a region of wild, densely forested mountains where elephants worked in the teak industry along the Burmese and Laotian borders and old temple-filled town like Chiang Mai, founded in 1297, that were part of the ancient Lanna Thai Kingdom. The first railway linking Chiang Mai with Bangkok only opened in 1921, and good roads did not come until several decades later.

This long isolation helps explain many of the characteristics that make the north so appealing to visitors today : a sense of traditions not merely preserved but vitally alive, gentle customs that reveal themselves in countless ways, distinctive differences of scenery, architecture, language and food.

Tourists can explore the charms of Chiang Mai, where life moves at a different pace from Bangkok, ornate temples rise on almost every street, and the shops are filled with handicrafts native to the region and still made by traditional methods handed down over generations. There are woodcarvers who produce and endless variety of decorative figures, panels, and furniture, as well as other artisans who create fine lacquer bowls, silverware, homespun cotton and silk, delicate embroidery, and hand-painted umbrellas. All these crafts, along with many others, can be found at the famous Night Bazaar in the center of town.

Chiang Mai is also noted for its frequent festivals such as the Winter Fair at the end of December, the Flower Festival in February, Songkran (the old Thai New Year) in April, and Loy Krathong in November. Most regular activities cease during these gala events, which attract people from all over Thailand as well as from abroad.

Other notable northern towns include Lamphun, once known as Haripunchai and founded by Mons in the 7th century; Lampang, where picturesque horse-drawn carriages still ply the streets; Mae Hong Sorn, nestled in a secret valley of exceptional beauty; Chiang Rai, a popular base for treks into the hills; and Chiang Saen, at the tip of the so-called "Golden Triangle" where Thailand's borders meet those of Laos and Myanmar.

Lovers of adventure can take an elephant ride through the jungle or watch the great animals being trained at one of several camps, go for a boat ride along the scenic Kok River from Chiang Rai, climb Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand which is now surrounded by a national park, or go on treks to remote hill tribe villages. There are seven principal tribal groups and they are among the most exotic attractions of the far north, each with its own special culture and spectacular costumes that include a profusion of silver jewelry and magnificent embroidery.
The food of the north is as distinctive as its culture. Instead of the soft rice of the central region, a steamed glutinous variety is preferred, traditionally kneaded into small balls with the fingers and used to scoop up more liquid dishes. Northern curries are generally milder than those of central and northeastern Thailand. The influence of neighboring Myanmar is evident in such popular dishes as gaeng hang lay,a pork curry that relies on ginger, tamarind, and turmeric for its flavor, and khao soil, a curry broth with egg noodles and meat, topped with spring onions, pickled onions, and slices of lime. A favorite regional specialty is a spicy pork sausage called naem, eaten in a variety of ways and probably the delicacy northerners miss most when the move to another part of the country.

The traditional form of meal in the north, especially when guests are being entertained, is called a khantoke dinner khan meaning bowl and toke a low round table. Diners sit on the floor around the table and help themselves to assorted dishes which, besides glutinous rice, may include one or two local curries, a minced-meat dish seasoned with chillies, a salad, fried pork rind, and various sauces and condiments. If it is in season, dessert is likely to be lamyai, or longan, a delicious Iycheelike fruit for which the north is famous.

THE NORTH EAST

Of all the region of Thailand, the northeast is perhaps the least known among foreign visitors, in spite of the fact that it covers almost a third of the country's total area and includes the second largest Thai city, Khon Kaen. This neglect is changing, however, more and more tourists are beginning to discover the northeast's many unique attractions, both natural and historical.
In the 1960s, near the small village of Ban Chiang in Udon Thani province, one of the most exciting chapters in modern archeology began with the accidental discovery of a prehistoric burial site. Subsequent exploration revealed a culture going back to nearly 4,000 B.C. and numbering among its achievements the use of sophisticated bronze metallurgy as well as rice cultivation and beautiful painted pottery. Some of the remarkable Ban Chiang finds are displayed in a museum near the site, and one of the excavations has been preserved to show its different levels.

In historical times, between the 9th and 14th centuries A.D., the northeast was part of the great Khmer empire ruled from Angkor, and as a result it contains some of the finest classical Khmer ruins to be seen outside of Cambodia itself. Among the most beautiful are Prasat Hin Phimai, near the provincial capital of Nakhon Ratchasima, which was once linked by a direct road to Angkor, and Phanom Ruang in Buriram province, recently restored by the Fine Arts Department. In all, there are more than 30 Khmer ruins scattered about the region, all of unusual architectural interest.

Besides such archaeological sites, the northeast also has a number of spacious national parks and wildlife preserves sure to be on interest to any nature lover. The best known, because of its easy accessibility to Bangkok, is Khao Yai, which covers more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest, grassland, and rolling hills in four provinces and provides shelter for some 200 species of I wildlife, including elephants, tigers, deer, and a wide selection of birds. Phu Kadung, in Loei province, is centered on a mountain topped by a 60_square-kilometer plateau of exceptional natural beauty, while the Phu Khieo Wildlife Preservation Zone in Chaiyaphum province is a royally-initiated sanctuary for a variety of endangered I species. The great Mekong River that forms the border between Thailand and Laos is another notable scenic attraction.
One of the northeast's greatest assets is its hospitable people, who make visitors feel welcome at several memorable festivals during the year. The Elephant Roundup, held every November in Surin province, brings together nearly two hundred of the animals to take part in a display of their skills, with special trains bringing guests from Bangkok for the events. Rocket Festivals, or Boon Bang Fais, are held in a number of provinces, the most famous being in Yasothon in May; enormous home-made rockets are fired at the peak of the lively celebration in the hope of ensuring a plentiful supply of rain for the coming crop. The beautiful Candle Festival, which marks the start of Buddhist Lent in July, attracts people from all over the country to Ubon Ratchathani, where huge, imaginative candles are paraded through the streets of the provincial capital.

Northeastern food reflects the influence of neighboring Laos in a number of dishes. As in Laos (and also northern Thailand) glutinous rice is the staple, eaten both as a base for other dishes or as a sweet when steamed in a piece of bamboo with coconut milk and black beans; and such Laotian herbs as dill (called pak chee Lao, or Lao coriander in Thai) turn up as seasoning. A popular regional dish of Lao origin is khanom buang, a thin crispy egg crepe stuffed with shrimp, bean sprouts, and other ingredients.

Northeasterners like their food highly seasoned, and regional specialties like laab, made with spicy minced meat or chicken, som tam (green papaya salad), and gal yang. (bar B-Q Chicken) Meat is often scarce in villages and freshwater fish and shrimp are the principal source of protein, sometimes cooked with herbs and spices and sometimes fermented. Thanks to the large numbers of north-eastern who have come to work in Bangkok, food of the region is widely available in the capital.

THE SOUTH

Southern Thailand consists of a long peninsula, reaching all the way down to Malaysia. Rugged limestone mountains, covered with lush jungle, rise along its spine, while its two coastlines-- 1,875 kilometers long on the Gulf of Thailand and 740 kilometers on the Indian Ocean shelter countless beaches of exceptional pristine beauty along with prosperous fishing ports. Besides its rare natural beauty, the south also has vast plantations of rubber, coconut, and pineapple and near the Malaysian border, a distinctive cultural difference thanks to a largely Muslim population.

Hua Hin, on the western coast of the gulf, became Thailand's first popular seaside resort in the 1920s when the southern railway line made it easily accessible to Bangkok. King Rama VII built a summer palace there, called Klai Kangwon, "Far From Worries", and other aristocratic families acquired property along the scenic beach. Now the resort can boast a number of modern hotels and has spread to include nearby Cha-am, but it still has a quieter, more restful ambiance than vibrant Pattaya across the gulf.

Modern travelers further south, where they have discovered other exciting destinations. The most celebrated is Phuket, a large island in the Andaman Sea, was widely known among ancient traders for such natural wealth as tin ore and edible birds nests harvested from limestone caves and cliff sides. Phuket today, just an hour's flight from Bangkok, is famous for a string of picture - postcard beaches on its western coast, each with its own particular charms and a wide range of accommodations
Not far from Phuket is Phang Nga Bay, a marine national park, where hundreds of limestone islands rise dramatically from the sea to form a breath taking scenic spectacle, along with the equally beautiful Phi Phi islands, where turquoise waters lap the white sands of a dozen secret coves and daring sea gypsies scale the walls of a vast, cathedral-like cave to collect the birds' nests so prized by Chinese gourmets throughout the world.

More adventurous travelers in search of unspoiled natural beauty and diving thrills can explore the Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea, a group of nine small islands off which lie countless dazzling coral reefs, or, southward near Malaysia, the huge Tarutao National Park, where 51 islands cover an area of nearly 1,500 square kilometers.

Across the peninsula, off the southeast coast, lies the island of Koh Samui, a more recent tourist discovery that also offers memorable beaches fringed by graceful coconut palms and a number of smaller off-shore islands.

Several southern cities such as Nakhon Si Thammarat, Chaiya, and Songkhla can look back on an ancient history, reflected in deep-seated traditions, the remains of splendid temples, and elegant old houses. Others like Hat Yai, Thailand's third largest provincial capital, have a booming modern energy fueled by the region's prosperity, attracting large numbers of Malaysian tourists with shops and entertainment facilities. In the southernmost provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, and Satun, the domed mosque is as much a part of the landscape as the spires of a Buddhist temple, and Malay is the second language of most people.

Southern food is as distinctive as its scenery. Not surprisingly, the coconut, which grows so widely throughout the region, plays a prominent role in many dishes; its milk tempers the heat of chill-laced soups and curries, its oil is often used for flying, and its grated meat serves as a condiment. Also only to be expected is the abundance of fresh seafood from the surrounding waters: marine fish, some of huge size, prawns, rock lobsters, crab, squid, scallops, clams, and mussels. Cashew nuts from local plantations are eaten as appetizers or stir-fried with chicken and dried chillies, while a pungent flat bean called sataw adds an exotic, somewhat bitter flavor much admired by southern diners. Regional fruits include finger-sized bananas, mango-steens, durians, and small, sweet pineapples.

Sino-Thai food is popular in most large cities; every year the large Chinese community of Phuket stages a ten-day Vegetarian Festival during October, with colorful parades as well as exotic culinary treats. Other foreign influences can be found in such dishes as gaeng massaman, a mild Indian-style curry seasoned with cardamon, cloves, and cinnamon, several Malayan fish curries, and Satan skewered meat with a spicy peanut sauce that originally came from Indonesia.

ABOUT THAILAND : POLITICS

POLITIC

The politics of Thailand currently takes place in a framework of a constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. Executive power is currently exercised by a military junta and its appointed Prime Minister and Cabinet. Legislative power is vested in a junta-appointed legislature. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Political activities are currently banned. Prior to the 2006 coup, the kingdom was a parliamentary democracy, with an elected bicameral legislature.

Thailand had been ruled by kings since the thirteenth century. In 1932, the country officially became a constitutional monarchy, though in practice, the government was dominated by the military and the elite bureaucracy. The country's current constitution was promulgated in 2006.
The King of Thailand has little direct power under the constitution but is a symbol of national identity and unity. King Bhumibol — who has been on the throne since 1946 — commands enormous popular respect and moral authority, which he has used on occasion to resolve political crises that have threatened national stability.

Currently, Thailand is run by a military Military junta calling itself the Council for National Security. On 19 September 2006, the CNS staged a coup d'etat that overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Since that time, Thailand has been governed by a military junta headed by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who later appointed General Surayud Chulanont, who is a member of King's Privy Council, as Prime Minister. The coup and the governing junta were endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a royal decree on the day following the coup

ABOUT THAILAND : WEATHER

WEATHER

Thailand can best be described as tropical and humid for the majority of the country during most of the year. The area of Thailand north of Bangkok has a climate determined by three seasons whilst the southern peninsular region of Thailand has only two.

In northern Thailand the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry, however this is broken up into the periods November to February and March to May. The later of these two periods has the higher relative temperatures as although the northeast monsoon does not directly effect the northern area of Thailand, it does cause cooling breezes from November to February.

The other northern season is from May to November and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in the north is at its heaviest.

The southern region of Thailand really has only two seasons -- the wet and the dry. These seasons do not run at the same time on both the east and west side of the peninsular. On the west coast the southwest monsoon brings rain and often heavy storms from April through to October, whilst on the east coast the most rain falls between September and December.
Overall the southern parts of Thailand get by far the most rain with around 2,400 millimetres every year, compared with the central and northern regions of Thailand, both of which get around 1,400 millimetres.

ABOUT THAILAND : ECONOMY

ECONOMY

The economy of Thailand is export-dependent, with exports accounting for 60% of GDP. The exchange rate has reached 37.00/usd (GDP $7.3 trln baht) as of October 26, 2006, for a nominal GDP at market rates of approximately US$ 200 bln. This keeps Thailand as the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia, a position it has held for many years. Thailand's recovery from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis relied on exports, largely on external demand from the United States and other foreign markets. The Thaksin government took office in February 2001 with the intention of stimulating domestic demand and reducing Thailand's reliance on foreign trade and investment. Since then, the Thaksin administration has refined its economic message, embracing a "dual track" economic policy that combines domestic stimulus with Thailand's traditional promotion of open markets and foreign investment. This set of policies are popularly known as Thaksinomics. Weak export demand held 2001 GDP growth to 1.9%. In 2002-3, however, domestic stimulus and export revival fuelled a better performance, with real GDP growth at 5.3% and 6.3% respectively.

Currency Notes

Paper baht comes in denominations of 10 (brown), 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (beige).

Currency Coins

There are 100 satang in one baht; coins include 25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10. Thai baht is in denominations of: Thai baht is in denominations of:


1000 Baht front
1000 Baht back

500 Baht front

500 Baht back

100 Baht front

100 Baht back

50 Baht front

50 Baht back

20 Baht front

20 Baht back
10 Baht front
10 Baht back

ABOUT THAILAND : GEOGRAPHY

GEOGRAPHY

The kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Its shape and geography divide into four natural regions : the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South.

The country comprises 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand's revered Royal Family, with His Majesty the King recognised as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist religion and Upholder of all religions.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, the present king. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch. Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. With its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality, the Kingdom is a never-ending source of fascination and pleasure for international visitors.

ABOUT THAILAND : THAI FOODS

THAI FOODS

Thai food is known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices as well as fish sauce.

Thai food is popular in many Western countries especially in Australia, New Zealand, some countries in Europe such as the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, and Canada.
Instead of a single main course with side dishes found in Western cuisine, a Thai full meal typically consists of either a single dish or rice khao with many complementary dishes served concurrently.

Rice is a staple component of Thai cuisine, as it is of most Asian cuisines. The highly prized, sweet-smelling jasmine rice is indigenous to Thailand. This naturally aromatic long-grained rice grows in abundance in the verdant patchwork of paddy fields that blanket Thailand's central plains. Its aroma bears no resemblance to the sweet smell of jasmine blossoms, but like jasmine flowers, this rice is precious and fragrant, a small everyday delight. Steamed rice is accompanied by highly aromatic curries, stir-frys and other dishes, incorporating sometimes large quantities of chillies, lime juice and lemon grass. Curries, stir-frys and others may be poured onto the rice creating a single dish called khao rad gang , a popular meal when time is limited. Sticky rice khao neow is a unique variety of rice that contains an unusual balance of the starches present in all rice, causing it to cook up to a pleasing sticky texture. It is the daily bread of Laos and substitutes ordinary rice in rural Northern and Northeastern Thai cuisine, where Lao cultural influence is strong.

Noodles, known throughout parts of Southeast Asia by the Chinese name kwaytiow, are popular as well but usually come as a single dish, like the stir-fried Pad Thai or noodle soups. Many Chinese cuisine are adapted to suit Thai taste, such as khuaytiow rue, a sour and spicy rice noodle soup.

There is uniquely Thai dish called nam prik which refers to a chile sauce or paste. Each region has its own special versions. It is prepared by crushing together chillies with various ingredients such as garlic and shrimp paste using a mortar and pestle. It is then often served with vegetables such as cucumbers, cabbage and yard-long beans, either raw or blanched. The vegetables are dipped into the sauce and eaten with rice. Nam prik may also be simply eaten alone with rice or, in a bit of Thai and Western fusion, spread on toast.

Thai food is generally eaten with a fork and a spoon. Chopsticks are used rarely, primarily for the consumption of noodle soups. The fork, held in the left hand, is used to shovel food into the spoon. However, it is common practice for Thais and hill tribe peoples in the North and Northeast to eat sticky rice with their right hands by making it into balls that are dipped into side dishes and eaten. Thai-Muslims also frequently eat meals with only their right hands.
Often thai food is served with a variety of spicy condiments to embolden the dish. This can range from dried chili pieces, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, to a spicy chili sauce such as the nam prik mentioned above.

ABOUT THAILAND : THAI SOCIAL STRUCTURE

THAI SOCIAL STRUCTURE

In the Thai social system, the village is the unit. It was in former days, a self-contained one in its economy and needs. The people's habits and customs were based mainly o n agriculture and religion. Most villages had a Buddhist monastery and a shrine for a village deity. The monastery served their spiritual as well as the people's education. All arts, crafts and learning emanated from the monastery. From birth till death it centred round it. Its precincts were the meeting place for social g atherings on festive occasions. As to the village shrine it was used only occasionally in times of distress or on New Year's day when offerings were made. It had nothing to do with Buddhism. No doubt Buddhism softened and tamed animism in many of its cults. The above is only a fundamental and comparative statement which a student has to bear in mind when dealing with mod ern cultural problems. The social system, habits and customs as seen in modern times are superficial modifications of the fundamentals and in a comparative degree only.

In some outlying districts where there are retarded developments of culture due to lack of intercommunication and new ideas, the people are still in their primitive state, quite in contrast to the progress in the capital, towns and cities.

In these progressive parts "old times are changed, old manners gone" and a new type of cultures fills its place. This is a sign of progress but it must come gratdually. Adapt the old to the new but not in a revolutionary way. The new cultures have also their dangers with problems to be solved, because people take too much interest in politics. To adopt new cultures wholly unsuited to the needs which are peculiar to, and characteristic of each particular place is a danger. Culture ought to be varied with characteristics of its own in each locality and area, harmonizing, however, with the whole-a unity in diversity.

ABOUT THAILAND : THAI

THAI

The earliest mention of the Thai, as a nation in south China call NAN-JOA, comes from Chinese records dating back to the sixth century BCE. These early Thai emanated out of the Yunnan region and dispersed into the general area of what is today Thailand. These Thai peoples arrived in various waves and displaced the earlier native Mon and Khmer populations as they settled the region with a large group settling in Thailand during the Sung period of China roughly around 960 CE. The related Lao people split off from the early Tai-Kadai peoples and moved into Southeast Asia, mainly Laos, while another kindred people, the Shan, made their way into Myanmar.

The founding of the Sukhothai kingdom culminated in the emergence of the first Thai nation-state founded in 1238. Various conflicts in the Chinese-dominated region of Nanchao facilitated increased migration of the Thai, especially mercenaries fleeing from the Mongol conquest of China, and helped establish the Thai as a regional power. Successful wars with the Mon helped to establish the kingdom of Lan Na as the Thai increased their hold in Southeast Asia. The early Thai brought their Buddhist and Chinese traditions, but also assimilated much of the native Khmer and Mon culture of Southeast Asia. (See Thai Chinese for more details)

A new city-state known as Ayutthaya, named after the Indian city of Ayodhya, was founded by Ramathibodi (a descendant of Chiang Mai) and emerged as the center of the growing Thai Empire starting in 1350. Inspired by the then Hindu-based Khmer Empire (Cambodia), the Ayutthaya Empire's continued conquests led to more Thai settlements as the Khmer Empire weakened after their defeat at Angkor in 1444. During this period, the Thai developed a feudal system as various vassal states paid homage to the Thai kings. Even as Thai power expanded at the expense of the Mon and Khmer, the Thai Ayutthaya faced setbacks at the hands of the Malay at Malacca and were checked by the Toungoo of Burma.

Though sporadic wars continued with the Burmese and other neighbors, Chinese wars with Burma and European intervention elsewhere in Southeast Asia allowed the Thai to develop an independent course by trading with the Europeans as well as playing the major powers against each other in order to remain independent. The Chakkri dynasty under Rama I held the Burmese at bay, while Rama II and Rama III helped to shape much of Thai society, but also led to Thai setbacks as the Europeans moved into areas surrounding modern Thailand and curtailed any claims the Thai had over Cambodia, in dispute with Burma and Vietnam. The Thai learned from European traders and diplomats, while maintaining an independent course. Chinese, Malay, and British influences helped to further shape the Thai people who often assimilated foreign ideas, but managed to preserve much of their culture and resisted the European colonization that engulfed their neighbors.Thailand is also the only country that was not colonized in Southeastern Asia area in the early history

Friday, January 16, 2009

ABOUT THAILAND :REGIONS OF THAILAND

CENTRAL & EAST COAST


There are 26 provinces that make up Central and Eastern Thailand, and Bangkok is one of them. Geographically, this is Thailand’s heartland, extending from Lop Buri in the north and covering the rice bowl of the Central Plains around the Chao Phraya River. Further south, the area embraces the east and west coasts of the upper Gulf of Thailand.


This is Thailand’s most fertile farming area, a wide-ranging landscape of paddy fields, orchards and plantations. More than 1,000 years ago Thai settlers moved down from the north, gradually replacing Mon and Khmer influences and establishing communities at Lop CENTRAL & EAST COAST Buri then at Sukhothai, before founding a kingdom that lasted 417 years with Ayutthaya as its capital. When the Burmese destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767, the capital moved to Bangkok.

The Central region has a dramatic history, and its heritage of ancient temples, battlefields and ruins and two capitals, Ayutthaya and Bangkok, are a continuing fascination for visitors. The east and west sea coasts at the region’s southern end also draw huge numbers of visitors every year. Bangkok residents spend long weekends enjoying the relaxing seaside atmosphere, while holiday-makers from around the world to discover the delights of the tropical beach life.

On the eastern side, 400 kilometres of coastline extend from Chon Buri to Rayong with some of the finest beaches in Asia. Pattaya, with an enormous range of resorts, hotels and guesthouses, is its centre. If you are seeking a more relaxing experience, travel further down the coast to Rayong or Ko Samet, and the lovely islands of Ko Chang National Park near the Cambodian border.

On the west coast, the resorts of Cha-am and Hua Hin attract international travellers who prefer their more sophisticated yet laid-back atmosphere.

Far from the sea in the northwest of the region is Kanchanaburi, whose forested mountains, waterfalls and caves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries on the border with Myanmar provide some of Thailand’s most enthralling scenery.

The 26 provinces of Central and East Coast are Ang Thong, Bangkok, Chachoengsao, Chai Nat, Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Kanchanaburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchaburi, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Prachin Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri and Trat.


THE NORTH

The North is the birthplace of the earliest Thai civilisation and has many sites of archaeological and cultural interest. Northern people are famous for their courtesy and hospitality, and the region is also noted for its variety of cultural traditions. Many tourists from the surrounding provinces converge on Chiang Mai for the annual Songkran Festival, and to Sukhothai for Loi Krathong.

The North falls into two distinct areas, the plains of the lower north from Nakhon Sawan to Sukhothai, and the mountainous upper north leading to borders of Myanmar and Laos. The mountain ranges along the borders are breathtaking, with waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers ideal for rafting. They are also the home of many ethnic hill people.

The region has three seasons, hot from March to May, wet from June to November and cool from December to February. High up in the mountains, though, “cool” may often mean extremely cold.

The Thai nation had its origins in the North, in city states that were gradually incorporated into the Lanna kingdom centred on Chiang Mai. Sukhothai became the first capital of Thailand, but the influence of the Lanna states of Laos and Myanmar can be clearly seen in the architecture and cuisine of the North.

The nomadic hill people of the region pursued their own course, moving back and forth across frontiers. There are six main tribal groups, Karen, Hmong, Lahu, Mien, Akha and Lisu, each with its own unique customs and clothing. Today, they are settled in villages on the mountainsides, a great attraction for travellers.

Most overseas visitors make for Chiang Mai, the northern capital, as a base for visiting ethnic tribes, soft adventure activities and shopping. Further north still, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son are centres for rafting, trekking and tours of tribal villages. To the south, the Historical Park at Sukhothai is an essential destination for all those wishing to discover more about the history and culture of Thailand.

The 17 provinces that comprise the North are Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Uthai Thani, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, and Uttaradit.

THE NORTHEAST

The Northeast of Thailand, a vast plateau covering nearly one third of the country, is usually known as Isan. It extends northwards to the Mekong River which divides Thailand from Laos, and to the south and it ends at the Dong Rek mountain range along the border with Cambodia.

It is known to be an arid region with soil of poor quality, but for tourism, Isan is one of the country’s most intriguing destinations with many Stone Age and Bronze Age dwellings and artifacts, and several significant temples that are a legacy of the great Khmer empire.


The sandstone shrines are popular tourist attractions, particularly the superbly restored sites at the historical parks of Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima and Phanom Rung in Buri Ram. The great temple complex at Khao Phra Viharn in Si Sa Ket on the border with Cambodian is now accessible to visitors after a long period of isolation.

The Bronze Age settlements at Ban Chiang in the province of Udon Thani provide fascinating evidence of the work of the local potters some 5,000 years ago. The red and white pottery with characteristic “fingerprint” designs are thought to be the first earthenware vessels known to man.

Two of Thailand’s best-loved national parks, Khao Yai, Phu Kradung and Phu Rua in Loei, are in Isan. Other major attractions include the villages in Khorat and Khon Kaen where the beautiful local silk is woven by hand.

Isan is a comparatively poor region whose main income is from agriculture, and many of the younger people in the villages migrate to the city. But Isan folk have a distinctive character and dialect and a vigorous culture, with their old traditions still reflected in the many festivals unique to the region.

With its strategic position bordering Laos and Cambodia, Isan has in recent years risen to become a useful starting point for adventurous journeys to destinations along the mighty Mekong River. There have been important developments in infrastructure to accommodate what is expected to be a boom in tourism.

Travel in the region has been improved by domestic airlines with regular flights to regional airports; and it is no longer impossible to find luxury accommodation, especially in large provinces of Khon Kaen, Udon Thani Nakhon, Ratchasima and Ubon Ratchathani.

The Northeast consists of 19 provinces: Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Yasothon.

THE SOUTH


This region extends southward along a narrow peninsula lying between the Andaman Sea its west side and the South China Sea on the east. It is a rich land in terms of the abundance of its natural resources, the fertility of its soil, the diversity of its people and its commercial viability.
The South is made up of 14 provinces from Chumphon in the north down to the Malaysian border 1,200 kilometres from Bangkok. It has a long coastline on either side with sandy beaches and offshore islands on both, and a rugged central hinterland of mountains and forests.

The east coast on the Gulf of Thailand always seems to be more relaxed, with long, wide bays and calm seas; the Andaman Sea coast tends to be more rugged and exhilarating, with its strange limestone rock formations and cliffs.

The occurrence of two seasonal monsoons means that the climate differs from the rest of Thailand. The southwest monsoon sweeps the west coast and the Andaman Sea from May to October, while the northeast monsoon moves across the Gulf of Thailand form November to February. The peninsula forms a barrier so that rain rarely falls on both coastlines simultaneously.

The area was once part of the Buddhist Srivijaya Empire but later came under the rule of Ayutthaya and then Bangkok. Chinese and Malaysian influences have played a large part in the cultural makeup of the region; the further south, the stronger the Malaysian influence, with a dialect akin to Malay, a predominance of Muslim communities and mosques. Rice fields give way to rubber plantations, and Chinese tin mining operations become evidence.

The coastline attracts most tourists, though Samui island in the Gulf of Thailand is growing in popularity as a laid-back holiday spot with first class diving opportunities nearby on Tao and Pha-ngan islands.

The Andaman Sea coast offers more sophisticated choices in the island province of Phuket, Thailand’s premier holiday resort. However, the fascinating rock formations and offshore islands at Phang-nga, Krabi and Trang are extremely popular for the diving and sailing opportunities they offer.

The mountains, rivers and forests in the national parks in the interior of the peninsula are also gaining popularity with eco-tourists, as can be seen with the growing numbers of safari expeditions on foot, by elephant and in canoes.

The South of Thailand consists of 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang-nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang and Yala.