Thailand is still a mysterious country, which is one of the things that really appeals to me and other regular travellers. For many people travelling to Thailand, even its location is a mystery. So let’s talk about where is Thailand, what’s around it, and how to get there. If you want to know more about what to do in Thailand, read our Thailand Travel Guide.
Thailand is located in what is commonly called Indochina – in South East Asia, north of Singapore and Malaysia, east of India and south of China. Some people may know it as “Siam”, from the movie “The King and I” which really made the country famous in the west.
Thailand shares its borders mainly with Burma and Laos in the north, but also has a border with Malaysia in the south and with Cambodia in the east. In the west and south, Thailand has long sea borders which it shares with Vietnam, India and even Indonesia.
In land area, Thailand is of a similar size to Spain or the United Kingdom although it’s stretched out into a long peninsula in the south, where most of the famous beach resorts like Phuket and Ko Samui are located. Here, the warm Andaman Sea makes swimming pleasant all year round. For Americans, Thailand is of a similar size to California.
The people of Thailand are mainly Thai (75%) – a distinct ethnic group who originally came from the south-west of China but have had their own independent kingdom since at least the 13th century. In fact Thailand is the only country in Indochina that was never occupied by European powers and the Thai are fiercely proud of that fact. The rest of the Thai population is ethnic Chinese (14%) or Malay (3%) as well as some hill tribe groups from Laos, Burma and Cambodia.
The primary religion of Thailand is Buddhism, practiced by around 95% of Thais. Thailand is a very religious country and you’ll find temples and religious shrines where ever you travel in Thailand. Religion is central to daily life, so the people leave many offerings at the temples and pray at every opportunity. Buddhism is a very gently religion, which makes the Thai a very gentle and friendly people.
Understanding Thailand’s geography
Thailand is divided into a number of distinct regions, each of which is well worth exploring for its amazing locations and cultural diversity.
In the north of Thailand you’ll find reasonably high mountain ranges with thickly forested jungles. While most of Thailand is very warm and tropical, in the north it’s much milder and there are highland areas like Isan where you can escape the tropical heat.
Much of Thailand’s population lives along the Chao Phraya River and the Mekong River, the two major lifelines of Thailand. But most of the luxury tourist resorts are located along the shores of the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. The Chao Phraya river rises in the centre of Thailand, running down through Bangkok and out into the Gulf of Thailand. The Mekong River forms the eastern border of Thailand with Laos and Cambodia – the famous “Golden Triangle”.
Getting to Thailand
Getting to Thailand is very easy. Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is a major international airport with flights in and out from most parts of the world every day. If you don’t have a local airline that flies directly to Bangkok, it’s very quick, cheap and easy to organise connections from Singapore or from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Thailand’s location is very convenient if you are interested in combining a holiday in Thailand with a visit to China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos or Cambodia.