Thailand , known for centuries as Siam , is now officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand . Thailand is found in Southeast Asia surrounded by Myanmar to its north and west, Laos on its northeast, Cambodia and the Gulf of Thailand on its southeast and by Malaysia and Myanmar on its south and southwest, respectively.
The largest city in Thailand is Bangkok , with about 5.5 million people living there in 1992. In addition to being the largest city, Bangkok has the distinction of being the capital of Thailand as well as the chief seaport.
Bangkok is the cultural, educational, political and economic center of Thailand , as well as being the only metropolis. Bangkok has grown and expanded to include the area Thon Buri, which had at one point been the capital of Siam , and the combined area is commonly known as Krung Thep Mahanakhon. The area of Bangkok , including Thon Buri and other provinces, is just over 1,568 square kilometers.
The population of Bangkok is close to 9 million people. This very highly populated city is currently faced with pollution problems in addition to traffic congestion and critical housing shortages
Dominating Thailand’ s terrain are mountainous areas, which can be found all through the country. Taking up a third of Thailand is the Khorat Plateau, a flat, barren plateau that borders the Mekong River valley. The main river in Thailand , Chao Phraya , goes through an alluvial plain that is sandwiched between the central and western mountains. This plain, along with a fertile delta near Bangkok , which was created by the Chao Phraya , is the most productive agricultural part of Thailand , and is the most densely populated.
Monsoon winds have an impact on Thailand’ s tropical climate. When the winds come from the southwest, the temperatures are usually a little higher and more humid (ranging from 78 -98 degrees F), while the northeastern winds bring the temperature down a little (ranging from 56 – 92 degrees F). Rainfall is more likely during the summer months of June through October, and the average rainfall varies from region to region. In the northern, central and western regions, about 1500 mm is expected, while the Thai section of the Malay peninsula usually gets over 2500 mm. The Khorat Plateau gets the least rainfall with about 1270 mm or less per year.
The Thai language is comprised of 44 consonants, 32 vowels and five tones in Thai pronunciation, along with a script that has Indian origins. The Thai language, belonging to the Tai family, is the main language in Thailand although there are several regional dialects as well.
Other languages spoken in Thailand are Chinese, Lao, Malay and Mon-Khmer, while English use is becoming more prevalent in government and commerce. English is also being taught as a second language in secondary school and universities, which enables the English speaking visitor in Thailand to have little trouble conversing.
The country has a population of about 60 million with about three-fourths of the population being ethnic Thais. There are many minorities to be found in Thailand , but the largest group is comprised of the Chinese, with almost fifteen percent of the population. Other races to be found include Vietnamese, Cambodian, Malays and hill tribes.