Driving Directions Thailand
THAILAND, formerly known as Siam, is a constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. The only country in the region to have escaped being made into a European colony (although Japanese troops occupied it during World War II). It is a tropical country of mountains and jungles, rainforests, and green plains.
Central Thailand consists of the densely populated, fertile plain and valley of its principal river, the Chao Phraya. The mountainous Isthmus of Kra joins southern Thailand to Malaysia, and the country has an extensive coastline surrounding the Gulf of Thailand (South China Sea).
The coastal region’s natural vegetation is a tropical forest that is home to a variety of animals, including tigers, leopards, Asian rhinoceros, gibbon, water buffalo, crocodile, snakes, and birds. As in other parts of southeast Asia, elephants are used as work animals, particularly in the northern upland forests where commercially valuable trees such as teak are extracted. Buddhism is the principle of religion. Followed by 95 percent of the population, it exerts a strong influence on everyday life.
The central plain of Thailand contains vast expanses of paddy fields that grow enough rice to rank Thailand as one of the world’s leading producers. The narrow southern peninsula is very wet, and it is here that rubber is produced. Other crops grown are cassava, maize, pineapples, and sugar cane. Fishing is an increasingly important industry, with prawns sold for export.
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Thailand lies on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate at the center of continental Southeast Asia. Features of the terrain include mountain ranges, an alluvial central plain, and an upland plateau. The mountains of southern China and northern Thailand extend to a fertile central plain formed by the mighty Chao Phraya River. The settlement has concentrated in the Chao Phraya Valley, with its fertile floodplains and tropical monsoon climate so ideal for wet-rice cultivation. The Khorat Plateau to the east is arid. The very narrow Malay Peninsula extends to the south from the north-central area, shared in part with Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. Numerous islands are scattered off of both of the peninsula’s coasts. Thailand’s part of the continental shelf extends to a depth of 200 meters (656 feet).
The southwestern shoreline of Thailand meets the Andaman Sea of the Indian Ocean to the west. The south-central coast and the eastern shoreline of the Malay Peninsula both border the Gulf of Thailand (formerly the Gulf of Siam). The Gulf of Thailand’s offshore depths ranges from 30 to 80 meters (98 to 262 feet). Thailand has 2,130 square kilometers (822 square miles) of coral reefs. An estimated 96 percent of Thailand’s coral reefs are considered “threatened,” as they are endangered by dynamite fishing, pollution, oil spills, shrimp farming, and tourist activities.
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Thailand has several sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Bung Khong Long, in the north near Nong Khai, has several endemic fish species. In the south of Mae Klong Bay, Don Hai Lot includes a rare ecosystem of inter-tidal mudflats. The Princess Sirindhorn Wildlife Sanctuary (Pru To Daeng) is a large biodiverse peat swamp forest near Narathiwat and the Malaysian border. Kuan Ki Sian, near Thale Sap Songkla, has a varied freshwater ecosystem, and Nong Bong Kai is an important bird habitat in the north.
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