Welcome to Thailand
Land of the free, land of smiles. The former is a literal translation of Thailand, while the latter is a promotional slogan that is pleasingly truthful. Both define the Thai people and the welcoming nature of their land.
Introduction to Thailand
As the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonised, Thailand explodes with the boundless energy and self-confidence of its people. Founded in India, Buddhism first came to Thailand in 3BC, and thrived as the religion of kings and as a unifier of the people. Shrines, Buddha replicas and temples are found in abundance in every city and village. The Buddhist philosophy permeates all facets of national life. Wherever you go, you will see monks with orange robes and shaven heads strolling the streets. Visit a temple and you may even witness an ordination ceremony when saffron-robed novices are carried high above the shoulders of their friends and family.
Urban and rural
The kingdom of Thailand is ruled by an elected government, but retains the tradition of a ruling monarchy – which commands intense loyalty from the people. Bangkok is the country’s international gateway, and its seat of government, business and royalty. It is almost a city-state unto itself, and bears little similarity to the rest of the nation. The second-largest city in Thailand (Udon Thani) has perhaps one-fortieth the population of Bangkok. Most of Thailand is rural, a patchwork of rice fields, villages, plantations and forests.
Lure of the land
Since the East first encountered Siam a millennium ago and Westerners began trickling in during the 16th century, Thailand has been a powerful magnet for adventurers and entrepreneurs. An abundance of resources, a wealth of natural beauty, a stunning cultural tradition revealed in dazzling architecture and art, and a warm, hospitable people have proved irresistible lures.