Geography of Thailand

Thailand is bordered on the west and northwest by Myanmar (formerly Burma); on the northeast and east by Laos and Cambodia; and on the south by the Gulf of Thailand (also known as the Gulf of Siam, the northwestern portion of the South China Sea), peninsular Malaysia, and the Andaman Sea. With an area of 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq mi), Thailand is similar in size to France. Its distinctive shape is often compared to an elephant’s head, with the “trunk” extending south into the slender Malay Peninsula. This unusual shape means that Thailand is more than twice as long from north to south (about 1,770 km/1,100 mi) as it is wide from east to west (about 800 km/500 mi). The country as a whole pivots around the Gulf of Thailand.

Natural regions of Thailand

Thailand comprises five major natural regions. The first is the country’s heartland: a wide alluvial plain whose fertile soils are replenished by the Chao Phraya and other rivers flowing out of the northern mountains. This central plain has been described as one of the “rice bowls” of Asia because of its high agricultural productivity. The plain was originally a swamp, created by a much older river system that was partially submerged when the sea level rose at the end of the last Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago). The plain is still subject to severe flooding during the wet season of the southwest monsoon (approximately April to September).

Thailand’s second natural region consists of mountain ranges lying north of the central plain. Oriented on a north-south axis, the ranges are formed of granite and limestone. Separating them are valleys, where the first Thai settled between the 9th and the 14th centuries.

Thailand’s highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, rises among the northern mountains southwest of the city of Chiang Mai to a height of 2,595 m (8,514 ft). The northern ranges are part of a wider mountain system that was created when sections of the Indo-Australian plate moved north, pressing against the Eurasian continental plate and forcing up the Himalayas and the mountains of Indonesia. Thailand’s third natural region, which lies to the west along the border with Myanmar, is also marked by north-south trending mountains. These mountains create a natural frontier that is breached at Three Pagodas Pass, which has been a strategic crossing point and defense outpost throughout Thailand’s history.

Landscape of Thailand. Encarta

To the east of the central plain, the Khorat Plateau, an undulating sandstone area that rarely rises above 200 m (660 ft), forms the fourth natural region. Dry and infertile, the plateau is drained by tributaries of the Mekong River.

Lastly, a long peninsula—part of the greater Malay Peninsula—makes up the south of the country, forming the fifth region. Although dominated by north-south mountains, this region is also noted for its coastal beaches and its many islands, some formed of limestone. Encarta

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