The safety of our young travellers is our number one priority
Our commitment to provide a proper duty of care guides everything we do
World Youth Adventures has an unblemished record in the operation of school & youth adventures
We will only operate tours in accordance with strict operational standards that have built our reputation as leaders in the student travel industry
Every tour is underpinned by an industry leading risk assessment plan that exceeds the benchmark standard in Australia, New Zealand, the UK as well as the USA and Canada
Three decades of tailoring successful student expeditions adds another dimension to the overall student experience
Our Price & Value Guarantee
Thanks to careful management and thorough consultation with local partners our track record is exemplary
Our industry leading risk management procedures have become a skill that we continue to refine
All of our school group experts are highly trained and experienced consultants who have safety as their number one priority
Expert leaders, risk assessments, quality inclusions and your financial security all come standard when travelling with World Youth Adventures
Learn more about our safety practices on our Safety page
World Youth Adventures is committed to responsible travel and true sustainability
Our cycling trips operate as small groups averaging 6-7 people per group and never more than 14 people. We do this to minimise the impact we have on the villages we pass through ensuring that we don’t overwhelm communities.
When designing our cycling itineraries we always try to arrange our routes so that we ride from hotel to hotel so that a transfer vehicle is not required. This means that we reduce the vehicle requirements and produce less carbon.
Well-defined environmental plans exist on every trip within this country
Learn more about our commitment, and view our free Responsible Travel Guidebook, on our Responsible Travel Page
Bangkok: Bangkok is one of Asia's most vibrant and captivating cities with the intriguing contrast of a fast-paced modern lifestyle interlaced with a peaceful traditional culture. Travel beyond the fancy shopping malls to explore the heart of Bangkok with its lively markets, river life, delectable cuisine and magnificent temples.
Chiang Rai & The Golden Triangle: The area earned its name due to the wealth that opium trading used to bring. Nowadays the opium has gone but the area still retains an allure. The mountains of Myanmar and Laos are easily visible and ruined cities such as Chiang Sean and The Hall of Opium Museum offer evidence of a long and chequered history. The area around Chiang Rai has been cultivated using organic, sustainable agricultural techniques and is farmed by the hill tribe people of the area. It is a great place to explore the picture-postcard vision of verdant Thai rice terraces and orchid-clad hillsides. The Mekong River forms the border with Laos for a few hundred kilometres from the Golden Triangle to the south offering a scenic route to access the beauty of northern Laos and the city of Luang Prabang by river.
Chiang Mai: Thailand's second-largest city is the gateway to the country's rich cultural north. Chiang Mai has grown quickly into a large and dynamic city in recent years but it still retains a great deal of charm within its ancient walls and has much to offer travellers. Much more compact and easier to navigate than Bangkok, it is here that visitors come to immerse themselves in some of Thailand's extraordinary culture.
The South: Most travellers to the south of Thailand have only one thing on their mind - the beach. However a drive down the south coast can be a great way to discover Thailand. Peninsula Thailand also has some great national parks such as Kraeng Krachan, Thailand's biggest park, or Sam Roi Yot, arguably Thailand's most scenic with its hundreds of limestone peaks and caves waiting to be explored. Thailand's beaches are the stuff of legend. Whether you are looking for a classic palm-fringed hideaway, a friendly family resort or all night partying, Thailand has it all. And there is quite a wide range of choices too. Everybody has heard of Phuket and Samui, but the last decade has seen the growth of many new beach destinations, such as Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Yao, Koh Chang and Koh Tao and it is often at these lesser known beaches where the real paradise feeling can be found.
Sukhothai; This is one of Asia's most under-rated World Heritage sites. Although not as extensive as Angkor Wat, Sukhothai really should be compared to its more famous neighbour in Cambodia as a truly world class heritage site and visitors to Thailand who don't make the effort to go are really missing out on something special. Between Sukhothai and Ayuthaya, the cities of Lopburi, Kampaeng Phet and Uthai Thani are all historical treasures lying in the Chao Phraya River basin waiting to be discovered.
Isaan: If you are searching for true Thai hospitality you should look no further than northeastern provinces of Thailand, also collectively known as Isaan. Often overlooked in favor of the more obvious charms of Chaing Mai and the north, what Isaan lacks in genuine tourist attractions it makes up with its old world charm. The people of Isaan are by far the friendliest in Thailand, which is quite a claim to fame, and the food is simply outstanding as long as you don't mind it hot! The main attractions are the Khmer temples in Phimai, Phanom Rung, Muang Tam and Khao Phra Viharn to name a few heritage sites located along the southern corridor. While in the far east, the Mekong River provides a continually scenic backdrop for your explorations. The city of Ubon Ratchathani not only provides a gateway into neighboring Laos but also can act as a base to explore the eastern area of Isaan.
Thailand is an intoxicating land of brilliant green rice paddies, forested mountains, meandering rivers, white sandy beaches, jungle-clad tropical islands, giant Buddhas and splendid temples—a heady mix of ancient cultural traditions, colourful Buddhist ceremonies, fragrant cuisine and bustling cities. Some flock to Thailand to shop and party hard; some to study cooking or yoga or Thai massage; others just to unwind in nature. It’s stunningly beautiful, fascinating, affordable and easy to travel around; as a holiday destination, Thailand has it all.
The Thai people are part of the larger group of Tai-speaking peoples, a family of closely related languages within which the 55 million speakers of Thai language constitute almost three-quarters. Thais are descendant from Tai-speaking people who originated in northern Vietnam and spread throughout Southeast Asia about 1,000 years ago. By the 11th and 12th centuries, the Tai had established small settlements in modern day Thailand, coming into contact with the Mon people of modern day Myanmar (Burma), who were the first Buddhists in Southeast Asia; and the Khmer people of modern day Cambodia, who were heavily influenced by Hinduism. From their interactions with the Mon-Khmer peoples, the Tai gathered the many Chinese and Indian religious and cultural influences that are apparent throughout Thai history.
By the turn of the 13th century the Tai had settled throughout Thailand’s Chao Phraya basin and had established rule as far south as the Malay Peninsula, placing pressure on both the Mon and Khmer empires. By the mid-13th century a Tai ruler had led a successful local revolt against the Khmer in the upper Chao Phraya basin, establishing the kingdom of Sukhothai. It was also during this time that the new branch of Theravada Buddhism had spread from Sri Lanka to mainland Southeast Asia, and was being carrying by monks throughout Mon and Khmer regions as well as emerging new Tai provinces. Sukhothai was a small provincial power until the reign of its third king, Ramkhamhaeng, who between 1279-98 extended the power of the Sukhothai Kingdom as far northeast as Luang Prabang in modern day Laos; as far south as Nakhon Si Thammarat on the Malay Peninsula; and as far west as modern day Myanmar, with many states choosing to join the Sukhothai confederation out of kinship ties or loyalties rather than force. Ramkhamhaeng had established the first great Tai empire, and is responsible for leaving a stone inscription that is considered to be the earliest known written example of any Tai language, in which Ramkhamhaeng details the structure and philosophies of the Sukhothai Kingdom. The Sukhothai period from the mid-13th to mid-15th century is considered a Golden Age of early Thai culture, during which classical Thai religious architecture, sculpture, pottery and decorative arts flourished.
During the same period, another Tai state was established is Southeast Asia, the Lan Na, with Chiang Mai as its capital. Before being conquered by the Burman empire in the 16th century, the Lan Na kingdom was prolific in producing Buddhist literature and scholarship, and its capital was an important node in the further spread of Theravada Buddhism among the Tai peoples of what are now northeastern Myanmar, southern China, and northern Laos.
The empire to follow the Sukhothai was the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1351–1767), which began as a small city-kingdom gradually consolidated its power through successful wars against neighbouring states to rule what is now central, north central and southern peninsular Thailand for more than 400 years, from its base in the fertile rice-growing plains of the Chao Phraya River basin. It was from this time that the country was known as ‘Siam’ and the Tai people of the Ayutthaya Kingdom the ‘Siamese’. In 1431 the Siamese sacked Angkor, the great capital of the Khmer Empire, bringing back to Ayutthaya many captives from the Khmer royal court, from whom they adopted many Hindu influences into their religious, cultural, political, legal and bureaucratic systems. Theravada Buddhism was deeply entrenched in the region during the Ayutthaya period, with the sangha (Buddhist monastic order) playing an integral part in society. It was during the 16th and 17th centuries that European merchants and travelers first began to visit Siam, reporting that Ayutthaya was one of the richest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world. However, in 1767, Ayutthaya ceased to exist when the capital city was sacked by Burman armies. The royal family and thousands of captives were deported to the Burmese Kingdom, Ayutthayan records were burned and artworks destroyed.
After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, a skilled and charismatic military leader by the name of Taksin established a new capital for himself at Thon Buri, opposite present day Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River. Within a decade of the fall of Ayutthaya, Taksin had succeeded in ejecting the Burmans and installing himself as king of Siam, also extending Siam’s power base to include parts of Cambodia and Laos. Taksin was overthrown in 1782 by his former military commander Chao Phraya Chakri, who founded the Chakri Dynasty which continues today. Chakri, who would later be known as King Rama I, swiftly moved his capital across the river to the then small village of Bangkok, and by the mid-1800s Bangkok’s population had swollen to 400,000. Heavy Chinese migration occurred during this period, with Chinese settlers establishing small townships further inland.
The Burmese continued to launch attacks on Siam until the advancement of British troops into Burmese territory during the 1820s forced the Burmans to take a defensive stance, allowing Siam to relax its western border. Kings Rama I and his successor King Rama III (1824-51) managed to reduce the eastern Khmer territories to vassal states, and under Rama III Siam strengthened its control over the northern Malay Peninsula and sacked the Laotian capital of Vientiane. Under the early Chakri kings, much of the cultural heritage that fell with the Ayutthaya was reestablished: new palaces and temples built, Buddhist scholarship reignited, legal systems and court rituals established, and arts and literature encouraged.
The British declaration of war in the Burmese Kingdom spurred Rama III to sign the Burney Treaty (1826), establishing a code of conduct for trade between the two countries. As the British continued their advance deeper into Southeast Asia, pressures for free trade with Siam escalated. Throughout the 19th century, the opening up of world trade with Britain and other major international markets brought major change to Siam, with the development of canal systems for the transport of goods, marketing networks, and a cash economy; the planting of cash crops such as rice throughout the Chao Phraya basin; and the increasing infiltration of Western influence.
However, modern Siam really began to take shape under King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910), a time during which a huge number of reforms were made and many territorial concessions to the West were made in the hope of retaining Siam’s independence. Increasing threat of occupation by the French and British saw the creation of a modern Siamese military, and the young king Chulalongkorn embarked on a gradual reformation of Siam’s inner workings that was so monumental in scale that his reign is often considered to be one of the greatest in Thai history, with the modern state of Thailand being his legacy.
Chulalongkorn’s policy of reform was continued by the sons who succeeded him, with the early decades of the 20th century seeing the strengthening of the armed forces, the adoption of Western-style surnames and styles of dress, the opening of the country’s first university, the introduction of universal compulsory primary education, and many policies which focused on protecting a national language (Standard Thai/Siamese) and cultural heritage.
The emergence of a growing middle class, economic hardships from the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the notorious extravagance of Vajiravudh (Rama VI) contributed to a growing discontent with the monarchy that would lead to a bloodless coup in 1932. Young members of the newly formed People’s Party lead a revolutionary group to seize control of the army, imprison royal officials, and convince the king to rule under a new constitutional monarchy.
A State Council and National Assembly were created and Siam’s balance of power was fundamentally restructured, as the military expanded greatly under a tripled budget and close allegiances with Japan. By December 1938, military official Phibunsongkhram effectively installed himself as military dictator of the increasingly militarised Siam. Phibunsongkhram changed the name of the country to Thailand the following year, as part of his administration’s aggressive nationalistic policy.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Thailand’s allegiance to Japan led Phibunsongkhram to declare war against Britain and US in 1942. Thailand received some territorial concessions as a result of its allegiance to Japan, however the country’s economy and public confidence in Phibunsongkhram’s leadership both suffered greatly as a result. Mountin pressure from resistance groups forced Phibunsongkhram to resign in 1944, and Japan surrendered the following year.
Thailand focused on repairing its standing in the international community, amid the turbulent years that followed Phibunsongkhram’s resignation. Increasing fear of the spread of communism in Southeast Asia resulted in the creation of the US-supported anticommunist defense group, Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), of which Thailand was a charter member. The heavily funded military staged a coup again in 1957, installing a military dictatorship that would last until the death of leader Sarit in 1963. The huge sums of investment that the US began pouring into Thailand’s economy during the 1950s stimulated the economic boom that would continue into the late 1990s. The combination of Thailand’s newly prosperous economy and a carefully staged royal tour of the country reestablished the monarchy as a significant institution in the country once more.
The 1960s saw continued economic growth, heavy involvement with the Vietnam War, and the further alienation of marginalised groups such as the Hmong of the north and the Malay Muslims of the south. As elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Thailand’s growing middle class was producing an increasing number of educated young people who were studying abroad and bringing Western democratic ideas back to Thailand. Students protested en masse in favour of a new constitution, escalating in a violent clash between students and the government on 14 October, 1973 in which over a hundred protesters were killed. The aftermath saw a military power installed once again, with the monarchy taking a politically active role for the first time since 1932. A new constitution was drafted and promulgated in in 1974, and Thailand enjoyed a brief period of democratic stability. This would be short lived, however, as the Thai military used the threat of communism in Southeast Asia as justification to take control of the government once more in October 1976, abolishing the parliament and constitution.
The 1980s saw a partial democracy with increasing challenges both internally, with the Communist Party of Thailand, and externally, with an increasing number of refugees arriving from newly Vietnam-occupied Cambodia. By the late 1980s Thailand had an elected, rather than imposed military, government, but the military still had supremacy over the government. The military-dominated elections of March 1992 angered the country’s urban middle class, who gathered in large-scale antigovernment protests, forcing new elections to be called later that year. The decade following the September 1992 elections was to be the most democratic period in Thai history, with all elected governments being drawn from the parties commanding majority in parliament. The creation of a new constitution in 1997 saw a significant re-shift of focus towards the interests of the environment, farmers, minorities, NGOs and Thai citizens overall. As a successful businessman and an ethnic Chinese-Thai from Chiang Mai, the leader of TRT Party, Thaksin Shinawatra, seemed to embody this new modern direction for Thailand. Thaksin ran a successful populist campaign, becoming Thailand’s first popular democratic leader and serving as Prime Minister from 2001, before he was ousted in 2006 for financial corruption charges, igniting a turbulent period of civil unrest and a revolving door of leadership changes.
Thaksin’s political party was banned in 2007 and citizens voted in a referendum to support a new military-approved constitution. The People’s Power Party—the party deemed by many to be a proxy for Thaksin’s outlawed party—then won the 2008 general election, with Thaksin’s political ally Samak Sundaravej being sworn in as Prime Minister. ‘Yellow Shirt’ antigovernment groups who saw Sundaravej as merely Thaksin’s puppet reacted by launching huge protests. Thaksin fled to the UK, thereby avoiding his court appearances for corruption charges, and the Constitutional Court dismissed Sundaravej for conflicts of interest. Antigovernment protestors continued to mount large-scale rallies, halting business with occupations of major airports. ‘Red Shirt’ pro-government groups then began to mount their own large-scale protests, rallying tens of thousands of people in support of Thaksin, leading to a violent clash between protestors and the military in May 2010, in which 90 were killed and thousands injured.
The pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party then won the 2011 election by a landslide victory, and Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra became Thailand’s first female prime minister. The second decade of the 21st century has since seen ongoing violent street clashes involving huge numbers of Red Shirt (pro-Thaksin, pro-government) and Yellow Shirt (antigovernment) supporters, the military and the government.
2013 and 2014 have seen ongoing unrest between pro- and antigovernment protest groups, with antigovernment protestors calling for Yingluck Shinawatra to resign and end the rule of Thaskin’s family. It appeared that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would again win in the February 2014 elections, but with many provinces having their polls interrupted by protester activity, the Constitutional Court ruled that the elections were invalid. Thailand has not has a functioning parliament since December 2013, during which time it also only had a ‘caretaker’ interim government. Thailand has now been operating under martial law after the Thai army, led by military chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, took power in a coup d'état against the caretaker government on 22 May 2014. With Prayuth being officially appointed as Thailand’s new interim Prime Minister as of 24 August 2014, he now holds three positions: leader of the Thai army; Prime Minister; and leader of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the military junta in control of the Prime Minister.
Despite Thailand’s current political stalemate, Thailand’s economy has been slowly rebuilding following the Southeast Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, and daily life is relatively stable for most Thais. Tourism, one of the cornerstones of the Thai economy, continues to draw tens of millions of visitors per year. The country has had, and still has some obvious issues, and yet the country’s rich and ancient culture, the humble and playful spirit of the Thai people, and the national focus on sanuk—seeking out fun and enjoyment in everyday life—has earned Thailand the nickname of ‘The Land of Smiles’.
Thailand, like most Southeast Asian countries, is multi-cultural. The majority of Thais are descendant from speakers from the Tai group of languages, and the balance of the country is comprised of many different non-Tai ethnic groups, plus a large number of immigrants from China. However, most of the minority and immigrant populations closely identify with Thai culture and speak Thai language.
Thailand is an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, with nearly 95% of the population practicing the Theravada branch of Buddhism. Thai Buddhism incorporates many elements from local religion and Hinduism.
Around 4% of the population (mostly Malay communities in southern Thailand) follows Islam, and the balance of the population is comprised of small communities following Christianity, Taoism, Confucianism and Hinduism.
The cultural values that are central to Thai identity draw heavily from so-called common “Asian values”, which include community, order, harmony, modesty, thriftiness, respect, self-control and upholding ‘face’. Buddhist spirituality and philosophy is central to daily life, and in addition, Thais tend to be very friendly and gregarious people who are known for their sense of humour and the importance they place on ‘sanuk’, deriving fun or satisfaction from daily life.
Historically, the two major intertwined influences on Thai cultural life have been the wat (the Buddhist temple-monastery) and the royal court. Buddhist beliefs and customs are all-pervasive in daily life, with many young Thai men entering the Sangha, or Buddhist monkhood, for at least a short period. The Thai royal family, who are treated with absolute respect and reverence, are important patrons of traditional Thai culture, arts, customs and dress, and often perform Buddhist ceremonies when officiating festivities and other important national occasions.
Be careful not to lose your temper, raise your voice in anger or embarrass someone. To do so will bring shame and a loss of ‘face’ for all involved, something to be avoided at all costs.
Under no circumstances should you show disrespect for Thailand’s King or monarchy in any way.
Ask permission if you wish to photograph people.
Ask permission before entering a temple.
Remove shoes before entering someone’s home. Remove shoes and hats before entering a temple.
Always walk around temples, shrines, burial sites or any other religious buildings or objects in a clockwise direction (likewise, always spin prayer wheels in a clockwise direction).
When meeting a Thai family, show respect for the eldest member of the group by greeting him or her first.
Please be modest about your clothing. While shorts are fairly acceptable, one should avoid wearing high-cut shorts, skimpy tops or otherwise overly revealing clothing.
Please be reminded that the purchase of endangered animal products not only lead these animals toward extinction, it is also against the law in most western countries to import them.
People usually like to see pictures of your home country, family and friends, so take along a few photos or postcards from home. It’s a great way to break the language barrier and start conversations with people you meet.
The Western New Year’s Day (1 January) is the first of three annual New Year celebrations in Thailand, followed by the Chinese and Thai New Year celebrations.
Chinese New Year (which falls between late January-February) is celebrated by Thailand’s significant ethnic Chinese population, as well as by the majority of Thais, with the country’s largest festivities happening in Bangkok’s Chinatown.
In February, thousands of Thais make the pilgrimage to the Wat Phra That Phanom in northeastern Thailand, for a special 10-day festival honoring one of the country’s most sacred Buddhist temples.
One of the Buddhist calendar’s important holy days, Makha Bucha (aka Magha Puja) falls on the full moon of the third lunar month (mid February-early March).
The 3-day Songkran water festival, the traditional Thai New Year celebration, falls on 13-15 April each year and is Thailand’s most important public holiday. Songkran is a Buddhist New Year celebration in which people gather with family, visit temples and seek blessings from the elders of their hometowns, but it predominantly a giant, exciting water fight, with locals dousing each other with water pistols and buckets of ice cold water. The water (often steeped with fragrant herbs when poured over Buddha statues or the hands of elders) symbolises the washing away of bad fortune, and marks the end of the dry season and beginning of the rains.
Visakha Bucha is the holiest day in the Buddhist calendar, celebrating the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. Visakha Bucha falls on the full moon of the sixth lunar month (usually in May).
Each year in June-July, the 3-day Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon Festival (Ghost Festival) comes to the small town of Dan Sei. It’s one of Thailand’s most colourful and lively festivals, with music, dancing, rockets, and outrageous masks and costumes parading amid a lively Carnival atmosphere.
Khao Phansa Day marks the beginning of the ‘Buddhist Lent’ (Vassa) period, in which Buddhist monks retreat for 3 lunar months’ study and meditation in the same temple. Khao Phansa falls during the rainy monsoon season, usually from July to October.
Thais celebrate the Vegetarian Festival in September-October each year, with the biggest festivities happening in Phuket. During the 9-day festival, Thais abstain from meat, alcohol, sexual activity, dress in white, and many people perform gruesome acts such as fire-walking and piercing cheeks with knives and other objects.
Loi Krathong, Thailand’s unforgettable ‘Festival of Lights’, usually falls in November. In a spectacular display, local families celebrate the end of the monsoon season by sending thousands of glowing ‘krathongs’ (floating sculptures containing flowers, incense and candles) sailing off down Thailand’s rivers. As well the glowing krathongs, thousands of floating lanterns are released into the night sky.
Other public holidays include: Chakri Day (commemoration of the Chakri Dynasty, April 6); Coronation Day (current monarch’s ascension to the throne, 5 May); Queen’s Birthday (12 August); and King’s Birthday (5 December).
Total population is 65.98 million (2010 census), making Thailand the 21st most populous country in the world, growing at an annual rate of 0.35%
The median age is 36.2 years, with 17.6% aged 0-14 and 9.8% aged 65+.
Sex ratio is 1.05 males to 1 female.
34.1% of the total population lives in urban areas (as of 2011), with an average annual rate of urbanisation at 1.6%.
Thai 95.9%, Burmese 2%, other 1.3% (including Mon, Khmer and Malay-speaking communities), unspecified 0.9%
Thailand’s climate is heavily influenced by its location in the tropical monsoon zone of mainland Southeast Asia, with three distinct seasons: the hot season (March-May), the monsoon/rainy season (June-October) and the cool season (November-February). Thailand’s tropical climate means you can expect temperatures ranging from mild to very hot year-round.
Most of the country is extremely humid, with the exceptions being Chiang Mai and the mountains to the north and the Khorat Plateau to the northeast, where it is cooler and drier.
Thailand receives generous precipitation during its rainy season, with the southern regions receiving the most rainfall and for the longest period. Diurnal (daily) and annual temperature ranges in the southern regions are very minor, and more pronounced in the northern regions.
In Bangkok and further south, the tropical monsoon climate is much more apparent and average daily temperatures range from a minimum of 20°C (68°F) to a maximum of 35°C (95°F) year-round, with very little variance from month to month.
In Chiang Mai and further north, the tropical monsoon climate is less apparent and average daily temperatures vary from a minimum of 14.2°C (57.6°F) to a maximum of 29.4°C (84.9°F) in January; to a minimum of 23.8°C (74.8°F) to a maximum of 31.8°C (89.2°F) in July.
Laos to the north and east; Cambodia to the southeast; the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia to the south; the Andaman Sea to the southwest; Myanmar (Burma) to the west.
513,120 sq km / 198,117 sq mi (51st largest country in the world)
Thailand is ranked at 78 out of 178 countries with a slight improving trend, on the Environmental Performance Index (2014), which quantifies and benchmarks performance of government environmental policies and outcomes.
Environmental issues include air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, soil erosion and illegal hunting of wildlife.
Natural hazards include damaging floods, storms, typhoons and tsunamis, droughts, and land subsidence in Bangkok area resulting from the depletion of the water table.
Thailand is a signatory to various international environmental and conservation agreements.
Thailand's great variance in topography, climate and soil type is reflected in its diversity of flora. Unfortunately, less than a third of the country is now forested, due to excessive land clearing for agriculture, timber logging and poor forestry management. Many forested areas that have been cleared are now thinly covered in grass and shrub vegetation.
Where stands of forest remain, hardwoods such as teak are commercially important, along with other timber and resin producing species. Tropical species such as bamboo, rattan, ferns, coconut palms and wild fruit trees abound in Thailand’s jungles and rainforests. The southern coastal areas are home to swampy wetlands and mangrove forests dotted with water lilies and lotus flowers. Thailand is famous for its beautiful and varied orchids, with species growing in the wild in the country’s wet tropics and on orchid farms for export to international markets.
Thailand’s rapid rate of deforestation and urbanisation, coupled with the persistent international demand for exotic animal products, has been detrimental to the country’s wildlife populations. Wild elephants, rhinoceroses and tapirs are now very rare, as are populations of gibbons and some monkey and bird species. Overfishing and disruption of waterways have depleted freshwater and marine fish stocks, with snake and crocodile populations also now much smaller.
The forests of Thailand’s western border with Myanmar are home to tigers, elephants, black bears, leopards and gaurs. Other species found in Thailand’s forests include sun bears, deer, leopard cats, civets, gibbons, monkeys, bats, otters, wild cattle and hogs, wild dogs, lizards, monitors, frogs and various snakes.
Water buffalo, horses, oxen and elephants have been traditionally used for plowing fields and transporting goods and people, however, machines and vehicles have now replaced the transport function in most areas of the country.
The coastal waters, lakes and mangrove forests of southern Thailand are home to sea birds, sharks, crocodiles, dugongs, whales, turtles, the rare Irrawaddy dolphin, fish and other marine life
Insects are varied and plentiful in Thailand, as are the many lizards that survive on them. The silkworm is one of the country’s most important species, supplying the raw material to Thailand’s major silk textiles industry.
Occupying a large portion of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand is home to a variety of physiographic regions with distinct geographical features, climate, flora and fauna as a result.
Thailand’s major geographical features are its mountains to the north and west; the Khorat Plateau to the northeast; the fertile alluvial plains of the central Chao Phraya River basin; and the sandy beaches, islands and jagged karst outcrops on the coastline.
Thailand’s mountains start in the north and extend southward along the Myanmar border, stretching as far south as the Malay Peninsula. Doi Inthanon in the northwest is the country’s highest peak, sitting at 2,585 m (8,481 ft). Doi Suthep (1,685 m / 5,528 ft) overlooks the city of Chiang Mai, containing the royal summer palace and a famous Buddhist shrine, as well as caves in its limestone cliffs that have yielded archaeological evidence of prehistoric humans.
Northeast Thailand is dominated by the vast dry Khorat Plateau and the sparsely forested hills of various low mountain ranges.
The Chao Phraya River is Thailand’s principal waterway, draining around a third of the country’s land area into its vast river system. Southeast Asia’s longest river, the mighty Mekong, runs along eastern Thailand’s border with Laos, with much of the country’s northeast draining into the Mekong’s fertile lower basin. Together, the Chao Phraya and the Mekong feed the nation by irrigating the fertile central alluvial plains where Thailand’s major rice crops are cultivated, and by allowing passage of goods and people along their waterways.
The geography of southern Thailand is dominated by jagged coastline, dramatic jungle-clad karst outcrops, sandy beaches, turquoise waters and tropical islands.
Historic City of Ayutthaya (1991) The ancient city of Ayutthaya flourished as the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom from 1350 AD until it was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. Although incomplete and never reconstructed, the extensive ruins of the city still stand as a reminder of the past, with the spectacular temples, monasteries and giant towers indicating the size and splendor of the ancient empire. Ayutthaya is one of the country’s most important and comprehensive archaeological sites, and one of its most popular tourist draw cards.
Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns (1991) Sukhothai was the first capital of the Siamese Kingdom from the early 13th to late 14th century, the period considered to be the Golden Age of Thai civilisation. This UNESCO site comprises the three nearby ancient cities of Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet, which together capture the elements of classical Thai architecture, sculpture and decoration that are known collectively as the Sukhothai style. With its many abandoned temples and monasteries, Sukhothai is a spectacular reminder of the sophistication of the Siam empire and one of the country’s most visited ancient sites.
Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries (1991) This UNESCO site encompasses a 6,000 sq km (2,317 sq mi) tract of forest flanking Thailand’s western border with Myanmar. The area’s pristine forest habitats provide sanctuary for a wide diversity of wildlife including elephants and tigers, leopards, sun bears, black bears, buffalo, gibbons, macaques, monkeys, deer, gaurs, bats, amphibians, and a wide variety of birds and insects. The property encompasses many different landscapes of great natural beauty including steep forested slopes and mountains; lush valleys; and the streams and waterfalls of the Upper Khwae Yai and the Huai Khakhaeng river systems.
Ban Chiang Archaeological Site (1992) Ban Chiang in northeast Thailand is an archaeological site encompassing over two thousand years of continuous human habitation. The site is so rich in information about life in the region that it is considered by UNESCO to be the single most important prehistoric settlement discovered thus far in Southeast Asia. The site, a large buried-earth mound, was discovered in the late 1960s and has since been carefully excavated to reveal different stratified layers that capture an unbroken timeline of human settlement in the area. From the earliest layers up to the most recent, this outstanding archaeological site encapsulates human history in the area from the time of the earliest sedentary villages in the region, through to the beginnings of agricultural activity and on to the production of early metal tools.
Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex (2005) This large protected wilderness in northeast Thailand encompasses the five separate adjacent protected environments of the Khao Yai, Thap Lan, Pang Sida and Ta Phraya National Parks, and the Dong Yai Wildlife Sanctuary. Together, these environments form one of the world’s most important tropical forest ecosystems, providing sanctuary to over 800 different species of fauna, including populations of globally threatened and endangered mammals, birds and reptiles.
World Youth Adventures can tailor make a school expedition to Thailand to your school’s budget and curriculum requirements.
Talk to us about your next school expedition, or if you need some ideas check out the trips below.