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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Tourism Authority of Thailand