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Where is Thailand

Thailand, known officially as the Kingdom of Thailand (a constitutional monarchy), is a country at the very center of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia.

The country is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern stretch of Myanmar.

The many international flights to and from Thailand mean that many tourists choose to begin their tour of Southeast Asia by starting either in Thailand or Vietnam, before moving on to Cambodia. 

Quick Facts about Thailand

Name of the Country Kingdom of Thailand (1948) Abbreviation Thailand
Capital Bangkok Continent Asia (Southeast Asia)
Population 69 million (2016) Area 513,120 square km (198,120 square miles)
Major Languages Thai, Isan, minority languages Major Religions Buddhism
Major Cities Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai Currency Baht — THB (฿)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Famous Figurese Maha Vajiralongkorn (current monarch); Bhumibol Adulyadej (former monarch who died in 2016); 
Time Zone UTC +7:00 International Call Code +66

Shape and size of Thailand

The shape of Thailand is popularly seen by locals to resemble that of an elephant and if you look carefully at a map of the country, you'll see that its shape does indeed resemble the big mammal, considered so sacred in Thai culture. 

The country’s northwestern provinces represent the elephant’s head, the northeastern provinces bordering Laos the ear, and the provinces of the 'deep south', cascading down into the Andaman Sea and bordering Malaysia, the trunk.

The Mekong River is the longest river in Thailand at 2,703 miles. The Mekong's source is in China, and from there it flows through five other countries, namely Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, before draining into the South China Sea.

The longest river flowing wholly within Thailand is the Chi River at 765 kilometers (475 miles). The Chi rises in the Phetachabun mountains in the central part of the country, runs east through the central Isan provinces, turns south at Roi Et, and finally joins the second longest river in Thailand, the Mun, in Sisaket Province in the northeastern part of the country.  

Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world, just slightly larger than Spain. Its total land area is 513,120 square kilometers, or 198,120 square miles. It is the second largest country in the Indochina peninsula, after Myanmar. 

While Thailand is a renowned beach destination, there's much more to the country than just beautiful beaches. 

Northern Thailand is a mountainous region, and the area's high mountains are cut by steep river valleys and hilly areas that extend to the country's central plain. 

The "heartland," central Thailand, is popularly known as the "rice bowl of Asia," and this region is used primarily for wet-rice agriculture.

The geography of eastern Thailand is mainly characterized by small mountain ranges alternating with small basins of short rivers which drain into the Gulf of Thailand, while the geography of western Thailand, like the northern part of the country, is characterized by high mountains and steep river valleys.

Southern Thailand, part of a narrow peninsula that extends all the way to Malaysia, is distinctive in climate, terrain, and resources. The area's economy is heavily dependent on tourism.

There's simply too much to see in this Southeast Asian tropical paradise!

Main cities in Thailand

There are over 32 self-governing cities in Thailand, but there are also many smaller cities and towns that give the country its large population. The major cities worth exploring include Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Ayutthaya, and Sukhothai.

Bangkok

Bangkok is the capital and the most populous city of Thailand. It traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom of the 15th century, which grew and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. 

Bangkok was at the center of the modernization of the country during the late 19th century, and at the heart of Thailand's political struggles throughout the 20th century when the nation abolished absolute monarchy and adopted a constitutional monarchy in its place.

The city has continued to develop rapidly and exerts considerable influence on Thailand's politics, economy, education, media, and society.

The nation's capital has numerous big attractions — such as the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha — that most tourists want to visit. In addition to these temples and shrines, you should pay a visit to the Amulet Market; the perfect place for souvenir shopping. 

You’d also be recommended to take a boat to Wat Pho along the Chao Praya River. When in Wat Pho, do make sure you get a foot massage, as this is the birthplace of Thai massage.

Most visitors also take time out to visit Bangkok's seafood market (if the seafood market doesn't sound too appealing to you, you can visit the Train Market or the Chatuchak Market instead), and the famous Dannomsaduak Floating Market, 2 hours from the city.

Most visitors tend to spend 2-3 days in Bangkok before making their way to other places around the country, eventually returning to the capital to fly out of Thailand. 

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is a city in northern Thailand, in the mountainous Chiang Rai Province. The city is near the borders of Laos and Myanmar and has a notorious history connected with the opium trade. Today, visitors get to visit the Hall of Opium Museum and the Golden Triangle — the point where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet.

While Chiang Rai has often played second fiddle to its more vibrant neighbors down south, the city has plenty of attractions for visitors.

Wat Phra Kaew is a royal temple built in the 1300s that once housed the Emerald Buddha. Tourists visit Chiang Rai to see the Emerald Buddha replica housed by the temple today. 

Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, is another popular tourist attraction in the city. Located about 10 kilometers from the center of town, it's as much a museum as a temple. It was funded and built by the Thai artist, Chaloemchai Khositphiphat, and to this day it remains a work-in-progress. 

Wat Rong Khun is one of Thailand's most popular tourist attractions, so there's usually a long line to enter the glittering white prayer hall.

Other notable attractions include the King Mengrai Monument and local markets.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the capital of Chiang Mai Province and was a former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na (1296-1768), which later became the Kingdom of Chiang Mai. It is 700 kilometers (435 miles) north of Bangkok and is situated amongst some of the highest mountains in the country.

Chiang Mai means "New City" and was so named because when it was founded in 1296 it became the new capital of Lan Na, succeeding Chiang Rai, the former capital founded in 1262.

When in Chiang Mai, do make sure you visit the city's largest market, the Warorat Market. It has everything you can find at any Thai market, but at even better prices. The Ton Lam Yai Flower Market is a must as well!

The major landmark of Chiang Mai is the Wat Chedi Luang Varaihara, the primary temple complex that originally consisted of 3 separate temples: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham, and Wak Sukmin.

Chiang Mai has deep Buddhist roots. If you wish to immerse yourself in Buddhist culture, this is the city for you!

Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is a city about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Bangkok. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and a prosperous international trading port, until the Burmese razed it in 1767.

One can see the ancient ruins of the old city by visiting the Ayutthaya Historical Park which is an archaeological site containing palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries, and statues.

Sukhothai

Sukhothai is a small city about 427 kilometers (265 miles) north of Bangkok.

It is a popular tourist destination because it is located near the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai, which was the Thai capital during the 13th century.

The province's temples and monuments have been restored and Sukhothai Historical Park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with numerous sites of historical interest.

Main beaches in Thailand

Thailand is undoubtedly among the best beach destinations in the world, thanks to the gorgeous tropical islands in the south of the country. Here are some of our absolute favorite beaches in the country.

Phuket

Phuket is Thailand's largest island, offering visitors a rich variety of experiences — deep sea diving, terrific food, beach bumming, or immersing in Thai culture.

The southern and western parts of the island are home to some of the best beaches and resorts in all of Thailand. Each beach is unique: Ao Bang Thao and Surin boast of having upmarket spas and resorts, whereas Rawai is more family-oriented. 

Phuket town on the eastern coast of the island is culturally rich and home to the famous Big Buddha attraction. 

Ko Samui

Ko Samui is Thailand's second largest island, with something for everyone. From exquisite high-end restaurants and posh resorts to inexpensive cafes and affordable accommodation, this island has it all. 

It's famous for its palm-fringed beaches and mountainous rainforest. The landmark 12-meter-tall golden Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple is a must-see attraction.

Flying into Thailand

Most visitors enter Thailand via Bangkok. Bangkok is connected directly with major cities in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. 

If you're flying from the United States, Canada, or South America, we suggest you transit via Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or other Asian international hubs. 

Visit Thailand with Asia Highlights

We provide tailor-made tours to Thailand. Tours typically start and end in Bangkok, and last approximately 13 days; visiting Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park, Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.

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