The Kingdom of Thailand

Thailand is situated in the heart of Southeast Asia bordered to the north by Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, to the east by Cambodia and to the south by Malaysia. Its largely flat terrain, tropical climate and abundant rivers have made it one of the most fertile countries in the world.

The central region is composed of a vast plain cut by the limestone ridges of river valleys and incorporates the Mae Nam Chao Phraya Basin and it's fertile delta. The northern region is more mountainous with forests and deep valleys and ends at the Burmese and Lao borders. The northeast is largely made up of the arid Khorat Plateau that juts out towards Cambodia and Laos. The Gulf region, which stretches southeast from Bangkok to the narrow Cambodian border, is more tropical with beaches and islands. The south is the region best known for its palm-fringed beaches and turquoise seas set against a largely mountainous interior.

The central basin

Lush, green and flat, the central region is one of the most bountiful areas on earth, producing up to three rice crops every year. Irrigated by the Chao Phraya the Mae Nam Basin constitutes a giant delta. Delineated to the west by the rugged Thanen Thong Dan mountains and to the east by the Dong Phaya Yen mountain range, it is home to some 30% of the thai population. The people have evolved a distinctive way of life with houses on stilts and waterborne transport along an extensive network of canals.

Favorable geographic and geological factors have made this region the cradle of Thailand's three successive capitals: Ayutthaya, Thonburi and Bangkok. Besides the countless villages and rice fields, the area also provides a variety of landscapes, from the floating market of Damnoen Saduak, to the salt plains near Samut Sakhon and, further west, the tropical forest of the Sai Yok National Park. To the west lies Kanchanaburi, a vital watershed and a region of spectacular waterfalls, caves and forested conservation areas.

The mountainous north

The northern region is Thailand's most mountainous region, sweeping down from the foothills of the Himalayas: a land of valleys, forests and hills which offers some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. Varying amounts of rainfall and higher elevations make this area less suitable for rice farming than the Central Plain, although agriculture remains the cornerstone for the people of the region. Once forested with teak, redwood and evergreen, the north now boasts extensive conservation areas, notably the Doi Inthanon and Lan Sang National Parks.

The Mae Nam Khong (Mekong), the worlds 12th-longest river, enters Thailand at Chiang Saen, at the center of the infamous Golden Triangle at Sop Ruak. In the center of the region lies Chiang Mai, which is the major hub and capital of the north.

The Khorat Plateau

The northeast is dominated by a vast plateau that slopes gently towards the Sakhon Nakhon and Mekong basins.

The Gulf Region

Tropical fruits, fish and rubies are the major products of this fertile region squeezed between the Gulf of Thailand, the northeast and the border with Cambodia. The deep sea port of Laem Chabang has attracted new industries to the region which is undergoing rapid development.

Along the coast, there are countless small fishing villages hugging the narrow coves. Other towns like Bang Saen, Pattaya and Rayong have developed into major tourist destinations. The prosperity of the region has also resulted in a building boom, with condominiums springing up along the coast.

Off the coast lie some of the kingdom's most magnificent island national parks: Koh Chang with its 52 islands dotted around the Gulf of Thailand, and the better known Koh Samet with its white sandy beaches and turquoise sea.

The peninsular area

Shaped like the trunk of an elephant, this narrow sliver of land that stretches all the way down the Malay Peninsular, comprises over 2000km of coastline, bounded by the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the Indian Ocean to the west. This area is best known for its pristine beaches, idyllic islands and turquoise waters.