|Thailand shares borders with Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Laos
and Cambodia. The country's east coast borders the Gulf of
Thailand and the west coast abuts the Andaman Sea. The country
is divided into four main zones: the fertile, central plains
of the Chao Phraya River; the poorer region of the 300m (985ft)
high northeast plateau; the fertile valley and mountains of
Northern Thailand; and the rainforested southern peninsula.
The highest peak is the 2596m (8512ft) Doi Inthanon in Chiang
|One-fifth of Thailand is covered by monsoon forest or rainforest,
and the country has an incredible array of fruit trees, bamboo
and tropical hardwoods. There are freshwater swamp forests
in the delta regions; forested crags amid the karst topography
of both the north and south; mangroves in the south; and
pine forests at higher altitudes in the north.
Over-development on Ko Phi Phi is starving the coral
reefs of sunlight and smothering the surface in pollutants:
the destruction of the reef is a micro-example of the problems
occuring on a national scale, with the finger being pointed
in the direction of tourism. In May 1999, protestors packed
the beach where the filming of 'The Beach' was taking place:
environmentalists were concerned that filming would destroy
the delicate eco-balance of the beach. Ironically, the
film was about the destruction of native cultures and environments
by hordes of dropped-out, alternative lifestyle-seeking
backpackers (curiously, the filmmakers were silent on the
issue of hordes of filmmakers destroying delicate eco-balances).
One of the main culprits according to Alex Garland, author
of the best selling novel, is Lonely Planet.
Thailand is particularly rich in bird life,
with over 1000 recorded resident and migrating species
- approximately 10% of the world's bird species. Insect
species number some 6000, and the country's rich marine
environment counts tens of thousands of species. Indigenous
mammals, mostly found in dwindling numbers within Thailand's
national parks or wildlife sanctuaries, include tigers,
leopards, elephants and Asiatic black bears.
Thailand's climate is ruled by monsoons that produce three seaons
in northern, northeastern and central Thailand and two in southern
Thailand. Generally the 'dry and wet monsoon climate' arrives
sometime between May and July and lasts into November. It is
followed by a dry season from November to May in which temperatures
are relatively lower until February and then begin to soar from
March to May.
Thailand is divided into 76 provinces.