In the heart of mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand is equivalent with nightlife, paradise-like beaches, and spicy cuisine. Thailand was officially called Siam up until 1939 and never fell under European colonial power. A monarchy until 1932, the nation is currently a constitutional monarchy in which there’s an elected parliament.
Traveling to Thailand can be a once in a lifetime experience. Thailand can win foodies hearts ten times over with its rich street food. Some of the best tom yum soups can be bought from road vendors. And while some enjoy backpacking and getting to know people at hostels, there are luxury hotels with incredible views. There are options for everyone's taste or budget. But before we dive into Thailand's most worthy attractions, find out some of its history below.
A Brief History of Thailand
Thailand's earliest inhabitants were hunt-gatherers. Around 4000 BC, Thais began farming and grow rice. What is now Thailand was divided into states called Meuang, and modern Thais are believed to come from southern China. Throughout the 9th and 13th centuries, the Khmers ruled the region. By the end of this period, several Thai states in the Mekong River formed a kingdom called Sukhothai. In the 14th century, the kingdom of Ayuthaya arose and took over the Sukhothai.
The Portuguese arrived in 1511, followed by the Dutch, the English, and the French. In 1675 the Greek Constantine PhauPhaulkon became an official at the Thailandese court and he granted French soldiers permission to station soldiers in Thailand. This did not last long and he and the French were expelled in 1688. Thailand avoided any contact or exchange with Europeans until the 19th century. However, the country had many other issues to be concerned with. The Burmese, for instance, invaded Ayuthaya in 1675 capturing the capital and wrecking it. A couple of years after, the general Phraya Taksin was crowned king and established a new capital.
Peace did not last long in Thailand and Taksin was quickly removed in a coup led by Chao Phraya Chakri, who named himself king and became known as Rama I. He made Bangkok the capital and ruled until his death. His son Rama II and his grandson Rama III continued his legacy until 1851. The reign of these three kings set the stage for Thailand's growth and flourishment. The following king Rama IV or Mongkut opened up to the Brits and let them live in the country. Rama IV allowed free trade and participated in treaties with other European nations.
As Thailand continued to evolve the fifth king abolished slavery and the custom that people should prostrate themselves in the presence of a monarch. Rama V is responsible for reforming Thailand's government. Though Thailand had successfully avoided being colonized by Europeans, Rama V was forced to cede Laos and Cambodia to France in the early 1900s.
Thailand supported the allied side in the first world war. A revolution sparked in 1932 forcing Thailand to become a constitutional monarchy. There were efforts to restore the previous king, Prajadhipok, but it was not successful and in March 1935 he abdicated in support of his 10-year-old nephew Ananda Mahidol. It is December 8th, 1941 and Thailand let Japanese troops pass to invade British Malaya. The next year, Thailand declares war on Britain and the USA.
After the war, Thailand signs a peace treaty with France and Britain in 1946. Following this action, the country joins the UN. The same year a new constitution is signed and the king is mysteriously killed. Bhumibol took over the throne but he was not there for long as Field-Marshal Phibul staged a coup in 1947 establishing a period of military ruling.
Thai students protested the regime in 1973, and it was the king that prevented a slaughter allowing Thailand to return to a civilian government with a coalition of 17 parties. However, students protested again three years later and on this occasion, the police didn't withhold, killing and injuring thousands. The army intervened and changed the government once more. THe following years were unstable. Another coup took place in 1991.
The lack of a stable government was still an issue by 2006 when Thailand underwent another military coup. Though there’s a painful history of military ruling and a power struggle, the Thai are open and generous people. The country has become a much sought-after destination for travelers from all over the world. It inspires honeymooners who seek calm beaches with romantic sunsets while youngsters head to the busy Bangkok for dining and partying.
Ultimately, the country offers a wide range of experiences. Travelers visiting Thailand can hop on a boat and visit any of its islands. For the adventurous souls, swimming with sharks is just one of the many options you can find in this proud nation. Many visitors going to Thailand also consider making a stop in Cambodia, another fascinating destination in the Asian continent.