Thailand is one of the most strongly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, a branch of Hinayana Buddhism, practiced by more than 90 % of all Thais. The remainder of the population adheres to lslam, Christianity, Hinduism and other faiths
all of which are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast strong influence on daily life. Senior monks are highly revered. Thus, in towns and villages, the temple (wat) is the heart of social and religious life. Meditation, one of the most popular aspects of Buddhism, is practiced regularly by numerous Thai as a means of promoting inner peace and happiness. Visitors, too, can learn the fundamentals of this practice at several centres in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.


There are 26 provinces that make up Central and Eastern Thailand, and Bangkok is one of them. Geographically, this is Thailand’s heartland, extending from Lop Buri in the north and covering the rice bowl of the Central Plains around the Chao Phraya River. Further south, the area embraces the east and west coasts of the upper Gulf of Thailand.
This is Thailand’s most fertile farming area, a wide-ranging landscape of paddy fields, orchards and plantations. More than 1,000 years ago Thai settlers moved down from the north, gradually replacing Mon and Khmer influences and establishing communities at Lop CENTRAL & EAST COAST Buri then at Sukhothai, before founding a kingdom that lasted 417 years with Ayutthaya as its capital. When the Burmese destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767, the capital moved to Bangkok.

The Central region has a dramatic history, and its heritage of ancient temples, battlefields and ruins and two capitals, Ayutthaya and Bangkok, are a continuing fascination for visitors. The east and west sea coasts at the region’s southern end also draw huge numbers of visitors every year. Bangkok residents spend long weekends enjoying the relaxing seaside atmosphere, while holiday-makers from around the world to discover the delights of the tropical beach life.

On the eastern side, 400 kilometres of coastline extend from Chon Buri to Rayong with some of the finest beaches in Asia. Pattaya, with an enormous range of resorts, hotels and guesthouses, is its centre. If you are seeking a more relaxing experience, travel further down the coast to Rayong or Ko Samet, and the lovely islands of Ko Chang National Park near the Cambodian border.
On the west coast, the resorts of Cha-am and Hua Hin attract international travellers who prefer their more sophisticated yet laid-back atmosphere.
Far from the sea in the northwest of the region is Kanchanaburi, whose forested mountains, waterfalls and caves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries on the border with Myanmar provide some of Thailand’s most enthralling scenery.

The 26 provinces of Central and East Coast are Ang Thong, Bangkok, Chachoengsao, Chai Nat, Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Kanchanaburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchaburi, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Prachin Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri and Trat.


The North is the birthplace of the earliest Thai civilisation and has many sites of archaeological and cultural interest. Northern people are famous for their courtesy and hospitality, and the region is also noted for its variety of cultural traditions. Many tourists from the surrounding provinces converge on Chiang Mai for the annual Songkran Festival, and to Sukhothai for Loi Krathong.
The North falls into two distinct areas, the plains of the lower north from Nakhon Sawan to Sukhothai, and the mountainous upper north leading to borders of Myanmar and Laos. The mountain ranges along the borders are breathtaking, with waterfalls and fast-flowing rivers ideal for rafting. They are also the home of many ethnic hill people.
The region has three seasons, hot from March to May, wet from June to November and cool from December to February. High up in the mountains, though, “cool” may often mean extremely cold.
The Thai nation had its origins in the North, in city states that were gradually incorporated into the Lanna kingdom centred on Chiang Mai. Sukhothai became the first capital of Thailand, but the influence of the Lanna states of Laos and Myanmar can be clearly seen in the architecture and cuisine of the North.
The nomadic hill people of the region pursued their own course, moving back and forth across frontiers. There are six main tribal groups, Karen, Hmong, Lahu, Mien, Akha and Lisu, each with its own unique customs and clothing. Today, they are settled in villages on the mountainsides, a great attraction for travellers.
Most overseas visitors make for Chiang Mai, the northern capital, as a base for visiting ethnic tribes, soft adventure activities and shopping. Further north still, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son are centres for rafting, trekking and tours of tribal villages. To the south, the Historical Park at Sukhothai is an essential destination for all those wishing to discover more about the history and culture of Thailand.
The 17 provinces that comprise the North are Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Uthai Thani, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, and Uttaradit.

The Northeast of Thailand, a vast plateau covering nearly one third of the country, is usually known as Isan. It extends northwards to the Mekong River which divides Thailand from Laos, and to the south and it ends at the Dong Rek mountain range along the border with Cambodia.
It is known to be an arid region with soil of poor quality, but for tourism, Isan is one of the country’s most intriguing destinations with many Stone Age and Bronze Age dwellings and artifacts, and several significant temples that are a legacy of the great Khmer empire.
The sandstone shrines are popular tourist attractions, particularly the superbly restored sites at the historical parks of Phimai in Nakhon Ratchasima and Phanom Rung in Buri Ram. The great temple complex at Khao Phra Viharn in Si Sa Ket on the border with Cambodian is now accessible to visitors after a long period of isolation.
The Bronze Age settlements at Ban Chiang in the province of Udon Thani provide fascinating evidence of the work of the local potters some 5,000 years ago. The red and white pottery with characteristic “fingerprint” designs are thought to be the first earthenware vessels known to man.
Two of Thailand’s best-loved national parks, Khao Yai, Phu Kradung and Phu Rua in Loei, are in Isan. Other major attractions include the villages in Khorat and Khon Kaen where the beautiful local silk is woven by hand.
Isan is a comparatively poor region whose main income is from agriculture, and many of the younger people in the villages migrate to the city. But Isan folk have a distinctive character and dialect and a vigorous culture, with their old traditions still reflected in the many festivals unique to the region.
With its strategic position bordering Laos and Cambodia, Isan has in recent years risen to become a useful starting point for adventurous journeys to destinations along the mighty Mekong River. There have been important developments in infrastructure to accommodate what is expected to be a boom in tourism.
Travel in the region has been improved by domestic airlines with regular flights to regional airports; and it is no longer impossible to find luxury accommodation, especially in large provinces of Khon Kaen, Udon Thani Nakhon, Ratchasima and Ubon Ratchathani.
The Northeast consists of 19 provinces: Amnat Charoen, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Loei, Maha Sarakham, Mukdahan, Nakhon Phanom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Bua Lamphu, Nong Khai, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Yasothon.

This region extends southward along a narrow peninsula lying between the Andaman Sea its west side and the South China Sea on the east. It is a rich land in terms of the abundance of its natural resources, the fertility of its soil, the diversity of its people and its commercial viability.
The South is made up of 14 provinces from Chumphon in the north down to the Malaysian border 1,200 kilometres from Bangkok. It has a long coastline on either side with sandy beaches and offshore islands on both, and a rugged central hinterland of mountains and forests.
The east coast on the Gulf of Thailand always seems to be more relaxed, with long, wide bays and calm seas; the Andaman Sea coast tends to be more rugged and exhilarating, with its strange limestone rock formations and cliffs.
The occurrence of two seasonal monsoons means that the climate differs from the rest of Thailand. The southwest monsoon sweeps the west coast and the Andaman Sea from May to October, while the northeast monsoon moves across the Gulf of Thailand form November to February. The peninsula forms a barrier so that rain rarely falls on both coastlines simultaneously.
The area was once part of the Buddhist Srivijaya Empire but later came under the rule of Ayutthaya and then Bangkok. Chinese and Malaysian influences have played a large part in the cultural makeup of the region; the further south, the stronger the Malaysian influence, with a dialect akin to Malay, a predominance of Muslim communities and mosques. Rice fields give way to rubber plantations, and Chinese tin mining operations become evidence.
The coastline attracts most tourists, though Samui island in the Gulf of Thailand is growing in popularity as a laid-back holiday spot with first class diving opportunities nearby on Tao and Pha-ngan islands.
The Andaman Sea coast offers more sophisticated choices in the island province of Phuket, Thailand’s premier holiday resort. However, the fascinating rock formations and offshore islands at Phang-nga, Krabi and Trang are extremely popular for the diving and sailing opportunities they offer.
The mountains, rivers and forests in the national parks in the interior of the peninsula are also gaining popularity with eco-tourists, as can be seen with the growing numbers of safari expeditions on foot, by elephant and in canoes.
The South of Thailand consists of 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang-nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang and Yala.



History of Thai currency – from beads to bahtThe history of Thai currency dates back more than 1,000 years when ancient beads and stones were used as a medium of exchange to the minted coins and bank notes in current use.
The history of Thailand currency traces the evolution of the medium of exchange used in Thailand prior to the 1st century. This dates from the days of barter trade, ancient beads and money in various shapes and sizes till the currency in modern times. Ancient beads, seeds, bracelets and pebbles used as a medium of exchange in the early days around 200 – 300 BC, have been discovered in Thailand, including old Roman copper coins dating back to 270 BC! During the 1st – 7th centuries, metallic coins of the Funan Kingdom in Indochina made their appearance in Thailand, followed by Dvaravati coins in the 7th – 11th centuries. This was followed by a period in the history of Thai currency when money in different shapes and sizes from various places were in use. Sandal wood flower coins or Dok Jan coins from the Sri Vijaya Kingdom in SE Asia were introduced in trade in the region in the 8th – 13th centuries. Cowrie shells and baked clay coins were also used from the pre-Sukhothai era until the reign of King Rama IV, after which they dropped from circulation. From the 14th – 19th centuries, coins from the Lanna Kingdom in the northern Thailand embossed with various designs were also in circulation. Around the same period, 15th – 19th centuries, Lanchang, the kingdom in northeastern Thailand introduced silver and copper pieces in long and narrow boat shapes. In the history of Thai currency, the money that was most enduring was Pot Duang or bullet money. This first appeared during the Sukhothai era, 13th – 14th centuries. Pot Duang money were hand-made coins. Metal strips were bent and folded into spheres very much like a bullet, thus the name, bullet money. Bullet money was in circulation for 600 years from the Sukhothai era to Rattanakosin until its withdrawal from circulation in 1904 during the reign of King Rama V. The most profound changes in the history of Thai currency occurred during the Rattankosin era in the reigns of King Rama IV and King Rama V. Standardized factory minted coins and printed bank notes were officially issued. During the reign of King Rama IV, when foreign trade and diplomatic relations expanded, paper money, in the form of royal promissory notes, was issued in 1853. These were followed by bank notes issued by the foreign banks to facilitate trade clearance. In 1857, Queen Victoria of Britain presented Thailand with the first minting machine and the minting of the first Thai silver coins commenced. In 1858, a minting machine was purchased from Britain to set the Royal Mint in the Grand Palace. The minting of coins went ahead full steam. In the reign of King Rama IV, money was denominated in satang, tho, phi, padueng and baht. During the reign of King Rama V, or King Chulalongkorn, coinage was streamlined. The numerous denominations were reduced to only two, satang and baht, based on the metric system, which remain till this day. Bank notes issued were in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 40, 80, 100, 400 and 800 baht. Today, the denominations have been streamlined to 25, 50 satang coins, 1, 5, 10 baht coins and 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 baht notes. The history of Thai currency goes back more than 1,000 years, evolving from ancient beads and bracelets to the modern baht that’s in current use. The old Thai currency can be viewed at the Bank of Thailand Museum. The history of Thai currency first appeared in Tour Bangkok Legacies a historical travel site on people, places and events that left their mark in the landscape of Bangkok.

The economy of Thailand is export-dependent, with exports accounting for 60% of GDP. The exchange rate has reached 37.00/usd (GDP $7.3 trln baht) as of October 26, 2006, for a nominal GDP at market rates of approximately US$ 200 bln. This keeps Thailand as the 2nd largest economy in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia, a position it has held for many years. Thailand's recovery from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis relied on exports, largely on external demand from the United States and other foreign markets. The Thaksin government took office in February 2001 with the intention of stimulating domestic demand and reducing Thailand's reliance on foreign trade and investment. Since then, the Thaksin administration has refined its economic message, embracing a "dual track" economic policy that combines domestic stimulus with Thailand's traditional promotion of open markets and foreign investment. This set of policies are popularly known as Thaksinomics. Weak export demand held 2001 GDP growth to 1.9%. In 2002-3, however, domestic stimulus and export revival fuelled a better performance, with real GDP growth at 5.3% and 6.3% respectively.Currency Notes Paper baht comes in denominations of 10 (brown), 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (beige). Currency CoinsThere are 100 satang in one baht; coins include 25-satang and 50-satang pieces and baht in denominations of 1, 2, 5 and 10.
Thai baht is in denominations of: