Geography

Geography

Thailand is the third largest country in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Burma / Myanma. At 513.115 square kilometers and has around 70 million inhabitants. Thailand borders Laos to the east and northeast, Kampuchea to the east and southeast, Burma / Myanma to the west and northwest, Malaysia to the south and the Andaman Sea and Indian Ocean to the southwest.

Regions

Thailand consists of the mainland and a long peninsula in the south that extends to the Malay Peninsula. About 40% of the area is mountainous. The rest is flat. According to the topography and the climate, Thailand can be divided into 6 large regions

The North

The north of Thailand is mountainous and overgrown with tropical rainforests. The highest mountain in the country, Doi Inthanon (2,565 meters) is located in this region. The main city for trade and tourism is Chiengmai. Other important cities are Lampang, Chiengrai and Lampon. With the exception of the large city of Chiengmai, the north is sparsely populated.

Central Thailand

Central Thailand is a fertile lowland area, flooded up by Chao Phra Ya river. Central Thailand consists of two parts: the upper central region – from the northern border to Nakorn Sawan and the lower central region – from Chainaat, Sing Buri and Lopburi to the Gulf of Thailand. In the upper central region there are some mountains, the lower central plain being the main growing area for rice.

The country’s capital, Bangkok, is located in this region. Other important cities are Phitsanulok, Samutprakarn, Nonthaburi, Ayutthaya, Supanburi.

The East

This region borders the East Coast, which is known for its beautiful beaches, such as Pattaya, Rayong and Trat.

The Northeast

The north-east consists mainly of the Korat plateau. It is about 100 to 200 meters above sea level. The northeast is relatively dry and poor in vegetation. Rice (mostly sticky rice) is only grown in the river valleys. The important cities are Nakorn Ratcha Srima (korat), Kon kaen, Ubon Rat Cha Tha Ni and Udonthani.

The West

Similar to the north, the west is mountainous. The west is known for the River kwai (or Kwai River), the bridge of which was built by prisoners during World War II and made famous by the famous American film.

The South

The south is also mountainous. There are many islands in front of the coast lines on the Gulf of Thailand and the Indian Ocean, e.g. Phuket, the largest island of Thailand. Many islands are excellent areas for scuba diving. The climate in the south is humid due to the coastal location and the fairly regular rainfalls. In the south, especially on Phuket, formerly there is mining. Tin, tungsten, petroleum and natural gas are extracted here. Provinces like Songkla, Surat Thani, Nakorn sri thammarat, Yala, Phuket and Phang nga are in the south. 

The Climate

Thailand has a tropical climate with high humidity. The average daily temperature in central Thailand is 28 degrees Celsius. At night, the temperature rarely drops below 17-20 degrees Celsius.

You can clearly distinguish three seasons.

  1. The dry season from late February to mid-May
  2. The rainy season from May to October
  3. The cooler season from November to February.

About the history of Thailand

Where do the Thais come from?

Historians have long been interested in this question. The old thesis that the Thais came from the Altai mountains in Mongolia south of China is no longer valid. There are three hypotheses about the origin of the Thai people:

  1. The first says that the Thais come from South China (near Canton, Kwang si, Yunnan). Almost 10 million Thais still live in this area today. Around 650 Thai tribes had founded the Nan Chao Empire in western Yunnan in South China. The empire was smashed in the 13th century by an invasion of the Mongols under Gublei – Khan. But before that, many Thais had migrated south into the valleys and plains of Indochina.
  2. For the past 30 years, Dr. Paul Benedict, an American archaeologist, put forward another hypothesis: The ancestors of the Thais were Austronesians who originally lived at the level of the equator. They emigrated to South China, but later returned to the Indochinese peninsulas.
  3. The discovery of skeletal bones, pottery shards, vases, weapons made of iron and bronze, jewelry and other devices in the small village of Ban Chieng in northeast Thailand leads to the third hypothesis that the Thais have always settled in Indochina. It was found that all the areas found are up to 7000 years old.

All three theses are still controversial. They need to be proved. 

About the national language

The national language of Thailand is Thai or Thai.

Thai is a tonal language. Many words can be pronounced in five different pitches or pitches. Like other isolating languages, the structure of Thai is like a mosaic. A sentence is formed by stringing together several individual words. There is no article, no grammatical cases such as nominative or accusative etc. Nouns Verbs, pronouns and adjectives are not inflected. A sentence consists of uninflected words that are put together in a certain order. This should be illustrated by his example:

The meaning of time, namely> present> past> and future, is usually differentiated and expressed in Thai by the adverbs of time available in the sentences, whereby all verb forms remain unchanged.

King Ramkhamhaeng created the first Thai alphabet in 1283, which was based on Mon Khmer and old South Indian characters. Real Thai words are mostly monosyllabic. Polysyllabic words come mainly from Sanskrit, Pali and khmer. In the time of King Ramkhamhaeng, consonants and vowels were written on the same line. With the Sukhothai period came the influence of the khmer, and the way of writing was changed: vowels were written either above, below, before or after consonants.

The Thai script is written and read horizontally from left to right. In contrast to European scripts, it has no punctuation marks and no space between words.

The end of the sentence is only indicated by a space. The alphabet of the Thai language consists of 44 consonants and 32 vowels. 

Cultural diversity

The cultural development

Thai culture is based on the ancient Thai way of life mixed with the culture of the peoples with whom they had contacts. The cultural life as such is adapted, modernized and handed down to the next generations, which is mainly reflected in the language, literature and art. For the cultural development of Thailand, Indians, Mon khmer, Chinese and Europeans play a decisive role.

The Mon and Khmer

Before the founding of the kingdom of Siam, the Mon and Khmer were rulers in the areas of Southeast Asia, whose culture is visible in the Thai religion, art tradition and administration. The influence of Mons Theravada Buddhism. Sculptures and art of the Dvaravadi period, the influence of the khmer – the Thai script invented by king Ramkhamhaeng in the Sukhothai period, the absolute monarchy and sculptures and art of the Lopburi period. Even the culture of the Mon and Khmer is strongly influenced by Indian culture.

The Indians and the Chinese

The influence of Indian culture on Thai culture both directly and indirectly. Brahmanic teachings and rituals were indirect through the Brahmins who came to Thailand. Immediately the Thai got to know about the Mon and the kmer, the Indian culture. Furthermore, it was the Chinese whose cultural traits had an impact on Thai culture, especially in terms of art and tradition. During the reign of King Rama III, due to the intensive trade between Siam and China, the elements of Chinese architecture were adopted, which are represented in the architectural style of numerous royal temples and statues that are used as decorations in the courtyard of the Buddhist temples.

The western influence

The influence from the west only became apparent in Thailand in the earlier Bangkok period, in the time of Rama III, although the Thais have been in contact with the Europeans through trade since the Ayutthaya period.

The Chinese

The Chinese, who are considered foreigners, make up less than 1% of the total population, i.e. about 300,000 people. The number of second or third generation Chinese born in Thailand is about two million. Most Chinese people live in cities and are business people.

These Chinese only immigrated from China to Thailand after the Second World War, when there were no immigration restrictions.

The hill tribes

The hill tribes settle in north and west Thailand, especially in Chiengmai, Chiengrai, Mae Hong Sorn and Taak.

A total of 6 larger hill tribes live in Thailand, to which about 400,000 people belong. The important groups are Karen, Yao, Mao (Hmong), with the Karen being the largest group. These hill tribes immigrated to Thailand from southern China and are now part of the Thai people.

Many hill tribes used to make a living from growing poppies. Drugs were then made from poppy seeds. Their cultivation method was slash and burn. Due to a project of His Majesty King Bhumibol, it has been possible to gradually reduce the destruction of the forests and the cultivation of poppies. Instead of poppy seeds, the hill tribes should grow coffee, tobacco, soybeans, corn, fruit and vegetables.

Religion

Around 95% of Thai people are Buddhists, 0.5% profess Christianity and 3.8% Islam. The Muslims mainly settle in the four provinces in the south: Narathivat, Satun, Pattani and Yala while most of the Christians live in Bangkok, Chiengmai, Chiengrai, Sakhonnakorn, Chantaburi, Nakorn Pathom and Ratchaburi.

Currency

The Thai currency is the baht. There are currently coins to the value of 25, 50 Satang as well as 1, 2, 5 and 10 Baht. There are also banknotes of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 Baht. Travelers checks can be exchanged at any bank. For credit cards, the tourist should show his passport to the bank staff.

Economy

The basis of the Thai economy was and still agriculture. About 60% of the arable land is used for growing rice. The Thai farmers own an average of 10 acres of rice fields (about 4 hectares or 25 Rai according to Thai standards). A rice field in the central, eastern and western regions is usually larger than one in the north, northeast and south. According to the statistics, most of the farmers are landowners, only 18% of them who settle in central and northern Thailand are tenants.  

Education

King Ramkhamhaeng introduced the Thai script in the middle of the Sukhothai period. Some stone inscriptions from this period are still preserved. In the past only nobles and monks had the opportunity to receive an education. It was not necessary for ordinary people to master reading and writing.

The sponsor of the public school system was the Buddhist monastery. Thai boys lived with the monks in the monastery and learn to read and write there. Only men therefore received training.

With the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) came the stronger influence of the West. The first printing press began its work; curricula were drawn up for the schools. English was also introduced as a subject. King Chulalongkorn continued the modernization in 1892 the Ministry of Culture was established. Stately primary schools have been set up all over Thailand. In 1916 the following four faculties were founded:

  1. Medicine
  2. right & political science,
  3. Technology & Mind
  4. Natural sciences.

Since 1921 there has been compulsory education for primary school.

The modern school system

The current public school system is as follows:

Six years of elementary school

Three years of lower secondary education

Three years of upper secondary school

And four years of college.

There is also the possibility of pre-school education (kindergarten). Attending the kindergarten is not compulsory. The majority of such preschool sites are located in Bangkok and are privately run.

General compulsory schooling begins at the age of seven and ends at the age of 14. Attending public schools is basically free of charge.

The basic level

During the first year of school the children learn to read, write and do arithmetic. They are also taught community studies and health education. You will also receive lessons in Misic subjects. At the beginning of the 5th year of primary school, English lessons are added as the first foreign language and compulsory subject.

The secondary school

The education in the secondary level is divided into lower and upper level. The subjects taught are Thai, English, math, nature and social sciences.

After (successfully) completing the second three-year section in secondary school, the student can apply for the university entrance exam. The entrance exam takes place annually in April.

Vocational training and technical schools

The educational courses have eight levels. They correspond to the previous school education of the vocational students.

Teacher training

Teacher training is offered on two levels.

  1. After two years of training, you can teach in elementary school.
  2. After four years of training you can teach in a secondary school.

Universities

An entrance exam is required for admission to a university degree.

The State University Department is responsible for the state universities and private universities in Thailand.

There are currently 14 universities in Thailand. Ten of them are in Bangkok, the other four in the provinces of Chiengmai, Pattanie, kon Kaen, Nakhorn Pathom 

The Buddha’s teaching

The basic principles of Buddhist teaching are

  1. The right disposition
  2. Avoiding evil deeds
  3. The right action
Important aspects of Buddhist philosophy

The teaching of Buddhism assumes that life is pain and suffering from which the sage seeks to escape. Man’s entry into his existence, i.e. his birth, is just as connected with suffering as his death. Everything in this world, like man himself, is compared. Only through total salvation can man escape the cycle of birth and rebirth. Buddha recognized the character of life. These insights are called the “Four Noble Truths”

  1. He realized that life is suffering
  2. He recognized the source of suffering
  3. He recognized the need to remove suffering
  4. He recognized the way to the abolition of suffering, the eightfold path.
The eightfold path > the way to the abolition of suffering

Buddhism places great emphasis on the middle Way. Following the eightfold path represents a middle way between the extremes of life.

  1. Right view
  2. Right thought
  3. Right speech
  4. Right behavior
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration
Kama

The most important law of Buddhist philosophy is the law of cause and effect – kama. Everything that happens must have a reason and can be explained either from past or present deeds (kama). An act is connected only with the intent of the perpetrator. The ultimate cause of all events, especially a person’s problems, is ignorance (avicha). Desire, especially in its extreme forms, is the root of all suffering.

Buddhist ethics

Buddhist ethics consists of two levels.

  1. The Logieyatamm provides guidelines for laypeople to live happily and fairly in this world. The lowest level of the Logieyatamm is keeping the five commandments. ;
  • Prohibition of killing
  • Prohibition of cheating
  • Prohibition of adultery
  • Prohibition of stealing
  • Ban on the consumption of alcoholic beverages

The higher level of the Logieyatamm is keeping the Ten Commandments. The principle of the Ten Commandments is to renounce evil deeds and desires.

The deeds are divided into three groups

  • What one does (the act)
  • What one speaks (verbal acts)
  • What you think (mental actions)
  1. The Loguttarathamm, the highest level of Buddhist ethics, consists in professing the Four Noble Truths and observing the Eightfold Path. It leads to liberation from all desires or to nirvana (nippan).