:The Land of Smiles is perhaps the correct name for the Kingdom of Thailand, a country consisting of 60 million people, most of whom are Buddhists. Charming smiles are so contagious, that the visitor begins to become at ease by just being this beautiful country. The Thais are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality to strangers, and their delicious national cuisine needs no introduction.
Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya remained the Thai capital until 1767 when it was destroyed by Burmese invaders. During Ayutthaya's 417 years as the capital, under the rule of 33 kings, the Thais brought their distinctive culture to full fruition, rid of their lands of Khmer presence and fostered contact with Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and European powers. Ayutthaya's destruction was as severe a blow to the Thais as the loss of Paris or London would have been to the French or English.
However, Thai revival occurred within a few months and the Burmese were expelled by King Taksin who later made Thon Buri his capital. In 1782, the first king of the present Chakri dynasty, Rama I, established his new capital on the site of a riverside hamlet called Bangkok. Two Chakri monarchies, Mongkut (Rama IV) who reigned between 1851 and 1868, and his son Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910) saved Thailand from western colonization through adroit diplomacy and selective modernization.
North is an area of forested mountains, populated by hill peoples
and lowlanders. In the South, the beaches and islands contrast with
rainforests and rubber plantations in the interior. The Malay-Muslim
element in the population gives this region its special cultural flavor.
Between North and South lies the Central Plains, the country's rice
bowl and cradle of Thai civilization. The North-East has a tougher
climate yet possesses a rich culture from its long historical association
with Laos and Cambodia to the east.