Thailand

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Thailand

Physical Geography

Thailand covers 513,120 square kilometers and is located in Southeast Asia. Many Thailand's social and cultural aspects have been influenced by its unique location right from Malaysia and Singapore to other Asian states. Thailand borders Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar with the total of 4,863 kilometers of the boundary line. The coastline covers 3,219 kilometers.

When it comes to climate and agricultural conditions, Thailand is known for its tropical monsoon and fertile floodplain being a perfect land for wet rice cultivation. Most of the country has either savanna climate or a tropical wet and dry climate with a tropical monsoon climate in the South and the eastern tip of the Eastern region. The average temperatures vary between 19 °C (66,2 °F) in winter and 38 °C (100,4 °F) in summer. The most dramatic temperature rise takes place at the end of March when it reaches 40 °C (104 °F). The rainy season is between May and July and ends in October. The dry season is between November and December when the temperature gets lower and might even drop to a slight frost. The dry season is the shortest in the south thanks to the sea closeness (Reynolds 153). Although rain season is relevant for every Thai region, the amount of rain and duration of rainy season vary substantially among the regions. As a result, areas that are well flooded by the Mekong River are great for cultivation of tomatoes, pineapples, and tobacco while the areas of the northeast are not fertile enough for crops but are excellent for using water reservoirs or paddy fields.

Thailand is an amazing state where the terrain includes a central plain, high mountains and an upland plateau. Mountains are located in the northern part of Thailand and mostly lie along the Myanmar border. The Chao Phraya River flows in the central plain and forms Thailand's major river system that ends at the Bay of Bangkok delta. The Chao Phraya River drains approximately one third of the overall Thailand territory. Another part of drainage is provided due to the Mekong system, and these two river systems are the foundation of the country's wet rice production (Wyatt 67). Moreover, there are many waterways provided for the transportation of both goods and passengers.

There are six geographical regions distinguished in Thailand, and the division is based on drainage, human cultural patterns along with landforms and other natural features. They are the North Region, the Central Region, the Northeast Region, the West Region, the East Region, and the South Region. Despite the fact that Bangkok lies in the central part of the country, its peculiar metropolitan and highly urbanized area deserves to be considered as a separate region. All the regions are different form each other in terms of natural features, population, the level of economic and social development, and basic resources (Reynolds 28). The diversity of regions is one of the most outstanding features of Thailand`s physical geography.

Northern Thailand is primarily a mountainous area also drained by such rivers as Nan, Wang, Ping and Yom. These natural features insured the development of several types of agriculture: valleys are better known for the wet rice farming while the uplands are good for shifting cultivation. Forestry is an essential part of mountainous areas of the region though the forest cover has diminished from 56% in the 1980s to less than 30% today (Keyes 135). Mountain areas also allow growing strawberries and lychees due to cool temperatures.

The Northeast Region is not that favorable for agricultural industry though it is suitable for growing sticky rice. Other economically important productions are manioc, sugar cane, rubber and silk. The latter one is an essential contributor to textile/cottage industry and the economy on the whole. It's unusual to note that the region is mainly dry but frequently faced by floods. Unlike other parts of Thailand, the northeast is known for its long dry season. Many of the traditional medicinal herbs are also widespread in the northeast.

The development of Thai state has always relied heavily on the production of wet rice, and the Central Thailand with its complex system of irrigation deserves its second common name – “the Rice Bowl of Asia” (Keyes 120). Transportation here is facilitated due to the flat unchanging landscape. The fertility of the local soil attracted settlers, and the population density of the region is approximately four times higher than that of the rest of the country. That is where Bangkok lies as well making the region the center of Thai commerce, agriculture, economy and trade.

Eastern Thailand is characterized by short mountain ranges with small rivers flowing into the Gulf of Thailand. The main economic product is fruit, and the economy relies strongly upon tourism that is extending due to a long coastal line. The coastal location also served as a promotion for industrial development of the region.

Western Thailand terrain and geography is similar to Northern Thailan: high mountains switch into steep river valleys. Western Thailand is also recognized for its undisturbed forest cover. Here mining is rather important along with water and minerals production.

As for Southern Thailand, it is peculiar in terrain, resources and climate. Here rice is grown to feed the population while rubber production is an essential industrial component. The economy is also supported by tin mining, coconut plantations, and tourism that is especially developed on Phuket Island. The terrain is mountainous but there are no large rivers in Southern Thailand. The mountain barrier and dense jungle forest are the reasons why the region had been quite isolated from the rest of the country for a long time and had its own political life. Generally, lowland is characterized by high population density, primarily “Thai” language and culture, and Buddhism while upland and coasts of Thailand are featured by animist practices, cultural diversity and low population density.

Human Geography

It is rather outstanding that Thailand has never been colonized by Western Powers, and the happiness of Thai people led to Thailand being called the “Land of Smiles”.

Thailand has its unique environmental problems such as vehicle emissions, soil erosion, deforestation, and wild life, which is put under risk because of illegal hunters.

The approximate population of Thailand is nearly 66 million people while the life expectancy for men is 71 years and for women - 76 years. The Thai make up 75% of the population, 14% of Thai residents are Chinese, and other ethnic groups comprise of up to 11% of the population. 94.6% of Thai people are Buddhist, 4.6% are Muslim, 0.7% are Christian and other confessions are represented by 0.1% of the Thai population. The government type is constitutional monarchy, and some of the most typical Thailand problems are environmental pollution, refugees, avian flu and ethnic conflicts.

The infant mortality is approximately 18 children deaths per 1000 newborns. The fertility rate is 1.7 children per woman, and the indicator varies being lower in Bangkok and higher in Thailand provinces. Meanwhile, the birth rate is 14 children per 1000 people. The population of Thailand is mainly busy in agricultural and fishing activities.

Unfortunately, Thailand is also noted for its political and economical instability, lack of government control and conflicts (either ethnic or political) that may result in bombings and attacks.

Why choose Thailand

Reasons to attend Thailand as a tourist are numerous, and the first one is a relatively low cost of living in a hotel or rented apartment. Thailand is remarkable for its outstanding cuisine that tastes the best in its country of origin. Thailand is an excellent attraction for Thai food lovers as there are many more flavors and options represented at a rather low price. The food one buys outside is especially interesting to experience, and many street stalls with food work all day long. Due to huge flows of tourists, Thailand also has a great representation of any world food around the country. For example, Indian or Mexican cuisine is available in many top-class restaurants. Another reason to visit Thailand is warm weather for the most part of the year, and hot and humid weather is appealing to many tourists that come from dry and cold regions. The average price for daily meals including drinks and snacks will vary from $4 to $6 as the majority of street vendor foods are about $1 per portion.

Accommodation is also rather attractive: only $10 per night for a private room while a beach bungalow would cost $15-20. Large downtown Bangkok apartments cost $300 per month.

Thailand’s hospitality and friendliness to foreigners are enormous: Thai people always smile, try to help and are very polite. Furthermore, Thai women are a popular choice for many Caucasian men to marry because of good looks and nice attitude.

The geographical position of the country is also extremely fortunate: it seems to be the heart of Asia. All the most wanted delights of the region are within the reach of short flight: Hong Kong will take you 3 hours to get to, Singapore is within 2-hour ride, and Bali is in 4-hour ride. Many of close destinations are also rather cheap to get to – the sample price would be $120 for a 4-day trip by air.

Thailand beaches are the ones used by photographers to print on the resort postcards. Despite the history of beach destruction and lack of governmental control, today many picture-perfect beaches and islands are found around the country. Tourists typically go to Pattaya, Phuket and Ko Samui if they belong to devoted sea lovers. But Thailand is not all about lying in the sun and being lazy: adventure-lovers and hikers will find beautiful and lush jungles of Thailand very attractive. One of the most amazing features is that you can choose between more or less civilized national parks where you can meet elephants and undisturbed mountain jungles depending on the extent of extreme you urge for. Though, these jungles would not be as wild as the ones in central Africa or Borneo, there are breathtaking views, waterfalls, exotic wildlife and thick forests to experience. 

Moreover, Thailand is a true melting pot for many nations and people who come from all over the world, so if one is looking for international friends, Bangkok is totally a place to visit. For those who miss culture or stores of their home country, there are global food chains, multinational restaurants and international stores.

Thailand is unbelievably convenient as whenever you need food, want to travel to Vietnam, or you are sick or feel like go shopping late at night, all the necessary arrangements are easily made. Fast food here is quite healthy, exotic and incredibly cheap while some of the dishes might be too spicy for Westerners. Thailand is incredibly comfortable to travel around – the roads are built everywhere, and bus stations transport those who don’t have a car. If you would prefer railroad travelling, it is also very acceptable to go anywhere by train.

A separate paragraph should be dedicated to Bangkok that is a very convenient city to live in with dozens of attractions, events and festivals going on throughout the year at any hour or day of the week. Similar to other world-known metropolises, Bangkok never sleeps. 

As for delights, Thailand has many ancient temples and ruins along with the impressive Great Palace of Bangkok. The city scenery is not remarked for the exquisiteness of its architecture but there is surely certain charm in cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai. The first attraction of Thailand is, undoubtedly, nature: beaches and jungles with mountains. Thailand is the only place you can experience Thai culture to the full: start with the Temples and then switch to museums, food, Thai massage, dancing and music, Thai boxing and the optimistic life attitude.

There are only a few countries that are cheaper to visit than Thailand while the cultural saturation and impressions may not be as bright. It is relatively safe to travel in Thailand though occasionally tourist robberies take place. Due to the large flow of incoming tourists, the government takes care of their safety and satisfaction, so there is no need for worries.

Compared to other Asian states, Thailand is rather clean though you might face some trash thrown right in the streets. The countryside is not affected by the environmental pollution problems at all, while big cities and urban areas may be as polluted as the Western cities. The prices for souvenir shopping may be easily reduced by means of bargaining but don’t expect to purchase electronic equipment cheaply.

Three-day trip in Thailand

When it comes to recommendations for a three-day tour, it would be more reasonable to stick to one city instead of travelling too far out. I would recommend to stick to Bangkok if you are determined to experience Thai culture and lifestyle to the full, though other cities would be more preferable in terms of natural sceneries and covering beaches, jungles and mountains.

The plan would also depend a lot on the time of the year you’re coming to Thailand meaning that rainy season would make jungle travels or beach experience impossible. The trip should start with a Temples Tour including the following Bangkok delights: Marble Temple, Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Kalaynamitr and the Grand Palace. Add China Town Jim Thompson`s House and local fish and flower market shopping tour to your first day. Day 2 may be spent riding elephants, going on a River Kwai tour or Death Railway ride, or visiting Tiger Temples Park along with the War Cemetery and Museum. The rest of the time may be spent shopping, experiencing Thai massage/spa and trying Thai food in the area. Another option would be going to the beach if the weather allows. If you are eager to take your food in an unusual setting, try having a dinner night cruise on the Chao Phraya River or night drinks in the Bayioke Sky Hotel, the tallest building in the city (84 floors). City Pillar offers a traditional Thai dance performance, and your Buddhism experience will come while you drop off at Wat Kalaynamitr. All the attractions are accessible either on a rented car (you should have a detailed road map in English with you) – or on local excursion buses. You may not stick to any guides too, choosing your own routes and attractions, especially when it comes to shopping and eating out.

Therefore, Thailand is a land of delicious food, cheap service, 24/7 convenience and beautiful nature. Although the air travel to Thailand from Eugene, OR may take a lot of time and be costly, you will save significantly on the accommodation, meals and souvenirs – all these are very inexpensive in Thailand or even its capital, Bangkok. Thailand is also remarkable for its unique geographical location right in the heart of Asia making it easier to get to Singapore, China, Malaysia and other Asian countries. 

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