Located in the center of Southeast Asia, Thailand is truly at the heart of the region. Looking over a map of Thailand will reveal a country whose borders form the rough shape of an elephant’s head: the head and ears forming the mostly landlocked northern and eastern provinces and the trunk extending down the Malaysian peninsula between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
The geography of Thailand features many natural borders with neighboring countries: a mountainous border with Myanmar (Burma) to the north and west; a long stretch of the Mekong River separating Thailand from Laos to the north and east; and the Mekong River and the Dongrak Mountains delineating the border of Cambodia to the east.
Covering an area of approximately 514,000 square kilometers (200,000 sq miles), Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world, most nearly equal in size to Spain. Located just 15 degrees north of the equator, Thailand has a tropical climate and temperatures typically range from 19 to 38 degrees C (66-100 F); monsoon rains fall predominately from May to July and cooler, drier weather occurs around November and December. Despite the geographical boundaries of Thailand all falling within the tropics, Thailand’s four primary regions are each geographically distinct from each other.
Thailand is a country with abundant natural resources, including a wide variety of flora and fauna, and distinct ecological zones. There are over 100 Thailand national parks, including more than 20 marine parks, and each park features unique attractions, outstanding facilities, and opportunities to see animals in Thailand. Those interested in trekking, mountain biking, photography, birding, camping, scuba diving, or getting up close to exotic animals in Thailand have many options to choose from.
A visit to a Thailand beach or one of the many Thailand islands is an opportunity for visitors to relax, experience exotic marine life, or even learn to scuba dive. However, across Thailand, whether at a beach, island, or Thailand National Park visitors will discover unique flora and fauna and distinct ecological zones, from the temperate forests of the northern mountains and the plains of central Thailand to the savannahs of the northeast and the mangrove forests of the southern coasts. Animals in Thailand include not only elephants and monkeys but also bears and whale sharks, the world’s largest fish.
The islands off the coast of Thailand are famous throughout the world for their beautiful beaches, others for their gorgeous scenery and some even claim their fame for the party atmosphere. There are three main sets of islands in Thailand. To the east of Bangkok there are Ko Samet and Ko Chang, in the Gulf Ko Samui lie Ko Pha Ngan and Ko Tao, and in the Andaman Phuket and Ko Phi Phi. Phuket is the country’s largest and most developed island, connected to the mainland by two bridges. Ko Phi Phi is famous for the movie “The Beach”, while Ko Tao is Thailand’s diving mecca. But there are many, many more beautiful islands to choose from.
Phang Nga Bay, also known as James Bond’s Island is a 400 km² bay in the Strait of Malacca between the island of Phuket and the mainland of the Malay peninsula of southern Thailand. Since 1981, an extensive section of the bay has been protected as the Ao Phang Nga National Park.
Thailand’s capital city and by far the largest city in the country, Bangkok, is a buzzing cosmopolis of high rise buildings, magnificent palaces, ancient temples, glittering nightclubs, bustling markets and streets lined with vendors hawking souvenirs and tantalizing foods. While the city is sometimes described as a concrete jungle jam-packed with noisy traffic and air pollution, Bangkok is not without its natural beauty that is seen in its scenic canals, green spaces and flowering tropical plants.
Surrounded by the mountains of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a flourishing city often used as a base among both backpackers and tourists wishing to explore the lush landscapes, hill tribes and outdoor adventures of the region. Nevertheless, Chiang Mai itself is a large and culturally important city where historical and modern Thai architecture and traditions coexist.
Located in western Thailand and admired for its beautiful scenery and accessibility to national parks and waterfalls, Kanchanaburi is best known for the Bridge over the River Kwai that is linked with the historic Death Railway to Burma in which thousands of Asian laborers and POWS died during its construction under Japanese occupation during WWII.