Thailand is naturally divided into four topographic regions:
Central Plain or Chao Phraya River Basin
Northeast or the Korat Plateau
South or Southern Isthmus
The North is a mountainous region characterized by natural forests, ridges and deep, narrow, alluvial valleys.
Chiang Mai is the major city of the North, it is also known as “Rose of the North”. Chiang Mai is a popular tourist destination with both Thai and overseas visitors, who enjoy the city’s slow pace of life. It has many ancient temples, and various cottage industries which are generally concentrated in villages on the city outskirts. Umbrellas, silverware, woodcarving and silk are just some of the best known products from Chiang Mai..
The north has many ancient historical sites and
monuments, among them are the Sukhothai Historical Park, the Doi Suthep Shrine in Chiang
Mai, and the Phra Buddha Chinarat image in Phitsanulok. The north is also home to
several hill tribes -the Musers, Yao, Meo, E-kaw, and Karen-who each possess
their own distinctive culture and way of life. The region abounds with many natural attractions such as mountains,
caves, waterfalls, and lakes. Tourist attractions include bargain hunting for local and tribal handicrafts in the bazaars and markets, while in the major towns
like Chiang Mai, western-style night entertainment is widely available.
The north is a mountainous area where winter temperatures are cool enough to allow the cultivation of temperate fruits such as apples, strawberries and peaches. In the northern forests, visitors can see elephant training camps [these huge beasts are still used in the teak forests] as well as the colorful nomadic tribes that still roam this corner of Thailand. There are also opportunities for rafting and trekking.
The Central Plain
Central Thailand, the basin of the Chao Phraya River, is a lush, fertile valley. It is the richest and most extensive
rice producing area in the country and has often been called the “Rice Bowl of Asia.”
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is located in this region.
This is the heart of Thailand, the region where the original Thais first settled, attracted here by the fertile land to be found on either side of the Chao Phraya River.
The Northeastern region, or Korat Plateau, is an arid region characterized by a rolling surface and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions often result in this region being subjected to floods and droughts.
Known also as “Isan” the Northeast is a huge region with over 20 million inhabitants, most of them are engaged in agriculture. Because of its inaccessibility in the past, the Northeast was able to develop its own version of the Thai culture. This is characterized by exotic festivals, folk dances, spicy food, as well as local accents and dialects influenced by neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Isan people owe their roots to the Laotians, though evidence of Vietnamese and Khmer influences abound. Khmer temples dating back to the 12th century can still be found here. Recent excavations also suggest that the Northeast was home to a flourishing Bronze Age civilization, some 5,000 years ago. As a whole, the Northeast is a colorful and culturally rich part of the country.
The Southern region is hilly to mountainous, with thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. This region is the
center for the production of rubber and the cultivation of other tropical crops.
Apart from being geographically different from the rest of Thailand, with its thick jungles, dramatically shaped mountains and countless beautiful islands, the South has its own economic, ethnic and political features.
The south, which is flanked on two sides by the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, is lined with sandy beaches and palm-fringed islands lying just offshore. Some of the finest beaches in the country are to be found in Phuket, Samui, and the islands in Phangnga Bay. Many significant ruins of historical importance have been discovered, such as the Chedi Wat Maha That in Nakorn Si Thamarat, which is more than a thousand years old.
The south is rich in culture and festivals.. Unique to the region is the sport of bull fighting. Local products of interest include ornaments made from sea shells, pearl oysters and hand-woven cloth.
The south's wealth has for centuries been based on rubber and tin industries. This is changing with the advent of tourism, it is now the fastest growing tourist region in Thailand. This is being spear headed by the island of Phuket, now an international tourist destination, with such places as Koh Samui, Krabi, Hatyai and Songkla playing supporting roles.
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