Overview

The shape of Thailand has been likened to an ancient type of axe, or to an elephant’s head and trunk. Situated in the middle of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand’s topographical features include high mountains, valleys, an upland plateau, and a vast central plain, embellished with forests, rivers, seacoasts, and numerous islands, making Thailand a resource- rich country.

Thailand shares boundaries with four neighboring countries, namely the Union of Myanmar, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the Kingdom of Cambodia, and Malaysia. The entire land boundary is 5,326 kilometers long, while the maritime boundary on the Gulf of Thailand measures 1,878 km, and on the Andaman Sea 937 km. In length, Thailand measures about 1,260 km, from the northernmost point at Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai province to the southernmost point at Betong district, Yala province, and in width, from the westernmost point at Sangkhla Buri district in Kanchanaburi province to the easternmost point at Sirindhorn district in Ubon Ratchathani
province, about 780 km.

Total area 513,115 square kilometers
Location Between latitude 5° 37’ and 20° 27’ North and between longitude 97° 22’ and 105° 37’ East
Time zone +7 GMT
Border countries Lao PDR and Union of Myanmar to the north Lao PDR and Kingdom of Cambodia to the east Andaman Sea and Union of Myanmar to the west Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south
Border shared
with Myanmar
10 provinces: Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son, Tak, Kanchanaburi, Ratchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Chumphon, and Ranong
Border shared
with Lao PDR
10 provinces: Chiang Rai, Phayao, Nan,Uttaradit, Phitsanulok, Loei, Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom, Mukdahan, and Ubon Ratchathani
Border shared
with Cambodia
Seven provinces: Ubon Ratchathani, Si Sa Ket, Surin, Buriram, Prachin Buri, Chanthaburi, and Trat
Border shared
with Malaysia
Four provinces: Satun, Songkhla, Yala, and Narathiwat

Thailand comprises 76 provinces, each subdivided for administrative purposes into amphoe, tambon, and mu ban or village. (In late 2010, the Government was considering the creation of a 77th province from Bueng Kan district in the northeastern province of Nong Khai.) The nation’s capital is Bangkok, which is the center of the political and administrative system, trade, industry, education, and art and culture.

Four Regions of Thailand

Thailand is divided into four regions: the central region, the North, the Northeast or Isan, and the South. Each region has its specific natural features. The North is mountainous, while the northeastern plateau, with volcanic features, is abundant in archeological and historical sites. The fertile floodplain in the central region is the food basket of the country, with the Chao Phraya River as the main water source. The South, with two great seas on both sides, is resplendent with isles and islets, diverse seascapes, and important natural resources, such as minerals, natural rubber, and coconuts.

Central and Eastern Regions

The central plain and the East of Thailand cover an area of 103,947 sq km, comprising 26 provinces: Ang Thong, Bangkok Metropolis, Chachoengsao, Chai Nat, Chanthaburi, Chon Buri, Kanchanaburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchaburi, Ayutthaya, Prachin Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Rayong, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri, and Trat.

Central Thailand is the heartland, made up of a vast flatland around the Chao Phraya River, a fertile basin perfect for wet-rice agriculture and crop cultivation, so much so that it is often referred to as “the Rice Bowl of Asia” and the food basket of the country. The western part borders the Union of Myanmar, and the coastline to the north of the Gulf of Thailand totals about 400 km in length. Along with rice, the fruit farming and fishery industries are major components of agriculture in the area, while tourism plays a strong part in the economy.

Several of the country’s major rivers flow within the central region. They include the Chao Phraya, the Mae Klong, the Tha Chin, the Pasak, and the Bang Pakong, all contributing to the fertility of the region. Also, as the region where Bangkok, the nation’s capital, is situated, the central region is the focal point for many facets of the nation’s prosperity, contributing to agriculture, the economy, trade, and foreign contacts. As a result, the region is the most densely populated area in the country.


Northern Region

The North commands an area covering 169,600 sq km, comprising 17 provinces: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Kamphaeng Phet, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Nakhon Sawan, Nan, Phayao, Phetchabun, Phichit, Phitsanulok, Phrae, Sukhothai, Tak, Uthai Thani, and Uttaradit. The Upper North, from Nakhon Sawan up to the boundaries shared with the Union of Myanmar and the Lao PDR, has Chiang Mai as the center, while the Lower North, from Nakhon Sawan down to Sukhothai, has Phitsanulok as the center.

The North is mostly mountainous, making the region the origin of streams and rivers in Thailand, including the Chao Phraya River, formed at the convergence of four rivers: the Ping, Wang, Yom, and Nan. With its natural features of high mountains, steep river valleys, and upland areas, summer storms occur quite often. The winter months can be cool enough for the cultivation of temperate-zone fruits and plants such as strawberries.

Northeastern Region

The Northeast, or Isan, covers an area of 168,854 sq km, comprising 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. Mukdahan, Nong Khai, and Nakhon Phanom share the border with neighboring Lao PDR.

Geographical features of the northeastern region comprise the flatland in the center, with rugged hills to the west and the south. The soil is mostly sandy and can hardly store water, resulting in generally dry conditions unfavorable for cultivation. Livestock raising is therefore the main occupation of the people. However, the Mekong flows past much of the northern and eastern edge of the region, enabling cultivation in several provinces. Most of Thailand’s jasmine rice, or Hom Mali, is produced in the region. The weather can be quite cold in winter and hot and dry in the long summer months.

Southern Region

Southern Thailand is made up of a long and narrow peninsula situated between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, with high mountains down the middle. The region commands an area of 70,715 sq km, comprising 14 provinces: Chumphon, Krabi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Narathiwat, Pattani, Phang-nga, Phatthalung, Phuket, Ranong, Satun, Songkhla, Surat Thani, Trang, and Yala.

The region is influenced by the sea on both sides, which means that it is heavily rained on for most of the year. Most areas are flat, with rolling and mountainous terrain made up of major mountains such as the Tanaosi mountains to the west, lying from Kanchanaburi in the central region down to Ranong, as well as the Nakhon Si Thammarat mountains in the middle, and the Phuket mountains along the west coast to Phuket Island, with the Tanaosi and the Sankala Khiri forming the boundary with Malaysia. All southern provinces except Yala have a seacoast. The region is rich in minerals, such as tin, found in Phang-nga, Phuket, and Ranong, and gypsum, abundant in Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Fishing and tourism are the mainstays of the South’s economy.


Climate

Most of Thailand has a tropical or savanna climate, influenced by tropical monsoons most of the year. The southwestern monsoon results in the rainy season, and the northeastern monsoon from the South China Sea brings chilly days.

The temperature in Thailand averages from 18° to 34° Celsius, with rainfall totaling around 1,500 millimeters a year; humidity is about 75% in summer with an average temperature of 34° Celsius, 87% in the rainy season with 29° Celsius, and in winter a low relative humidity and 20° Celsius on average.

Seasons

The overall climate of Thailand is divided into winter (November to February), summer (March to May), and rainy season (June to October). However, region by region, the seasons differ, as shown in the table.

Region Seasons Periods
Central and eastern region 3 Summer – February to April Rainy – May to October Winter – November to January
Northern region 3 Summer – March to April Rainy – May to October Winter – November to February
Northeastern region 3 Summer – February to April Rainy – May to October Winter – November to January
Southern region 2 (Summer is the tourism season) East coast: Summer – May to September Rainy – October to June Andaman coast: Summer – November to April Rainy – May to October