A Practical Guide to Thailand
Different people find different things in Thailand. Thailand is a land of variety and diverse vibrant culture, that has something to offer for everyone. The country has plenty to satisfy single travelers, couples, or families, from Bangkok’s shopping and nightlife to adventure sports in the northern hills or a pampering spa at a beach resort. Thailand remains Southeast Asia’s most popular destination with its sparkling temples, idyllic beaches and mountain trails.
Thai culture cannot be fully appreciated without some understanding of Buddhism, which is practiced by 95% of the population. Most Chinese and Vietnamese living in Thailand follow Mahayana Buddhism, and several temples and monasteries in the country support this tradition as well. The Sukhothai period (13th–14th c.) is regarded as a period of notable achievement in Thai culture, with big advancements made in art and architecture. One of the lasting legacies of the Sukhothai period is its sculpture, characterized by the graceful aquiline-nosed Buddha either sitting in meditation or, more strikingly, walking contemplatively. These Buddha figures are considered to be some of the most beautiful representations ever produced of this genre.
Thailand’s different geographical regions provide a large variety of ecosystems, which support a great diversity of animal and plant life. Most of the country’s forests are deciduous or montane, such as those in the northern hills, where the summit of Doi Inthanon forms the highest point in Thailand at 2,565m (8415 ft.). There are a few pockets of primary rainforest on the southern peninsula, in places such as Khao Sok National Park. Other ecosystems that predominate on the southern peninsula and eastern seaboard are coastal forests, mangrove swamps, and coral reefs. Around half of these reefs are under the nominal protection of marine national parks, such as Ko Similan and Ko Tarutao, both off the Andaman Coast. Several regions of the country, most notably Phang Nga Bay, are characterized by karst outcrops – islands or mountains of porous limestone that conceal caves and pristine lagoons. Continue reading