Putting Thailand on the Map



Putting Thailand on the Map

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Thailand is located at the heart of Southeast Asia, between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. The country covers 198,000 sq miles (513,000 sq km) and has a population of 68 million, the majority of whom are concentrated in the fertile Central Plains and in the capital, Bangkok. The verdant North is mainly mountainous, and towering ranges run along the long western border with Myanmar (Burma). In contrast, the Northeast is a flat, poor, arid region. Much of the eastern border with Laos is defined by the Mekong River. Further south are the hills of northern Cambodia. Thailand’s Southern peninsula offers many of the best beaches and islands.

Northern Thailand

An extensive road network covers most of the North, Northeast, and Central Plains of Thailand. Air-conditioned buses run between many of the major towns, and local buses are plentiful. Only in isolated border areas are road links unreliable. The railroad system connects Bangkok to the Central Plains and Chiang Mai. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai have international airports, and many major towns are served by domestic flights.


The city has some of the world’s worst traffic jams, but there have been improvements, with the Skytrain, MRT subway, and airport rail link easing congestion. If you have to drive around the city, try to avoid rush hour and the rainy season, when the streets can become flooded.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has good road and rail links with Bangkok and the rest of Thailand. The “Super Highway” connects to the airport and main routes into the city. City roads can be very congested at rush hour.

Southern Thailand

Thailand’s long coastline, fine beaches, and idyllic offshore islands are a major attraction for visitors to the Gulf of Thailand and the South. Good-quality roads stretch from the Cambodian border in the east to the Malaysian border in the south and along the western Andaman Sea coast. Air-conditioned buses operate regularly between the main towns. There is one north-south railroad line from Bangkok that passes through, or has connections with, most of the towns on the Gulf of Thailand. The Eastern Seaboard has good road connections with Bangkok, but the railroad line terminates at Sattahip. Ferry services from ports to the main islands are frequent, and it is possible to buy tickets in Bangkok that combine train, bus, and ferry trips. Many towns have regional airports; Ko Samui, Phuket, Hat Yai, and Krabi are also served by international flights.

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