Thailand’s Geography : A Brief Guide
Thailand covers an area of around 513,000 km2 (or 198,000 sq. mi) and it is the 51st largest country in the world. However, with a population of 66 million people, Thailand is the 20th most populous country you will find. Thailand has a number of borders, with Burma and Laos being found to the north, Laos and Cambodia being found to the east, Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand lying to the south and to the west lies the Andaman Sea and Burma.
The capital city, and largest city, in the country, is Bangkok, which is at the centre of Thailand’s cultural, industrial, commercial and political activities.
With respect to its position in the world, Thailand is found in the heart of what is known as mainland South Asia. This has had a huge impact on the culture and society in Thailand, with many influences from other countries in the area coming into Thailand. This can be seen as being a result of the fact that the only land route which links Asia to Singapore and Malaysia runs through Thailand. This means that the country has been an important thoroughfare over the years, welcoming many different people and allowing different cultures to pass through and leave their influence on the nation.
The main population in the country is ethnically Thai, coming in at between 75 to 95% of the population, and there are four main regional groups in the country:
• Central Thai
• North-eastern Thai
• Northern Thai
• Southern Thai
However, some people refer to 6 main regions of Thailand, adding separate Eastern and Western areas to the four areas mentioned above.
Bangkok is located in the central Thailand region and this is the most populated region in the entire country. It is covers the plain of the Chao Phraya River and it is separated from the northeast of Thailand by the Phetchabun mountain range while the Tenasserim Hills provide a natural barrier to the west of the country. This area came to the fore during the Ayutthaya Kingdom and it remains the dominant region in the country.
The North-eastern part of Thailand, sometimes referred to as Isan, is the largest region in the entire country. It is found on the Khorat Plateua, sharing the Mekong River border with Laos at its north and eastern points. Cambodia lies to the southeast while the Phetchabun Mountains provide a barrier to the north and central Thailand regions.
The northeastern area of Thailand was previously one of the poorest regions but the introduction of industrial zones has helped to transform this area into one of the fastest growing economies in the entire nation. Private nations have been supported by the Government and the Industry Minister, bringing a wave of employment opportunities to this region.
The most notable aspect of Northern Thailand is the number of mountain ranges found in this part of the country. This begins in the Shan Hills which border Laos and Myanmar and continues all the way through the river valleys.
This region has a strong historical connection to the culture and times of the Lanna Kingdom, but it has less of a role to play in modern day Thailand. Due to the high altitude of the area, the north of Thailand has a more varied temperature and climate than the rest of the country and the winters in the north of Thailand are notably cooler than the winters in the rest of Thailand.
Southern Thailand can seem like a distinct part of the country with the narrow Kra Isthmus, the narrowest part of the Malay Peninsula, connecting it to the rest of the country. This part of the country has around 9 million inhabitants but with 5 international airports and 9 domestic airports, it is a part of the country that is well disposed to welcome tourists and travellers from all over the world.