Ancient Wonders :
As always with history, it is difficult to know when to begin.The further you go, the more you find. For instance, primitive stone tools some 30,000 years old have been found in
Krabi province in the south. One can, however, say that a civilized culture, indicated by evidence of burial sites discovered near Tham Phra (Monk’s Cave)
in Kanchanaburi province, was present in Thailand at least as far back as 12,000 years in the past. The first truly distinctive local culture to emerge from these
early beginnings was Ban Chiang, perhaps 5,000 years ago. Its elegant pottery with its beautiful designs is now world famous.
The next major cultural development in the region was the absorption of Indian influenced which eventually produced Angkor Wat and the Khmer
civilization. As that waned, interaction between the newly arrived Thai people and the Khmers produced a distinctive culture based on the rich
alluvial plain of Sukhothai. The Sukhothai kingdom lasted less than 200 years. It was replaced by the breathtaking grandeur of the Ayutthaya
kingdom, which, at its height some 300 years ago, was the most powerful state in Southeast Asia. Ayutthaya was ruthlessly sacked by the Burmese
in 1767. Not even all its wealth or defenses were sufficient to prevent its downfall. Its successor, Rattanakosin, the present period in Thai
cultural history, is to a large extent a perpetuation of Ayutthaya’s illustrious lagacy of absorbing outside influences and through modification
making them into something entirely new. This unfurling process is fascinating to watch, and by no means near its culmination.
The World Cultural Heritage Sites:
Thailand’s contributions to the world’s cultural heritage have been recognized as World Heritage Sites since 1991. Sukhothai, with its sister cities, Si Satchanalai to the north and Kamphaeng
Phet to the south were where Thai history really begins when King Ramkhamhaeng first used a written script, a gentle religion, and a clear royal code of law to unify the scattered Thai tribes into a nation.
This is also where Thai artisans developing their own architectural and artistic traditions to replace the hitherto predominant Khmer Bayon style. The heavy all-stone symbolic monuments and Hindu
Shrines gave way to the light, spacious masonry and wood structures of the soon-to-be-typical Thai Buddhist temple.
This capital of a truly fabulous kingdom for 417 years built on what Sukhothai had begun and carried it onward with remarkable flair and panache. It also set the standards for Bangkok to follow.
Ayutthaya was established at the confluence of three rivers at the heart of extensive flood plain therefore the waterways gave access to commerce from all over the world.
The city nurtured a spectrum of artistic styles. Foreign influences are clearly visible at St Joseph’s Church, a Catholic house of worship for 300 years,
Chinese-style hexagonal chedi at Wat Mahathat, and the European arches at Wat Phra Si Sanphet etc.
Ban Chiang :
The world already knows of Thailand’s third major contribution to world culture, Ban Chiang pottery. The sites of this prehistoric civilization
lie just 50 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Udon Thani. At Thailand’s first open museum at Wat Po Si Nai in the modern village,
the Fine Arts Department has retained the conditions of the archaeological excavations where the pots first came to light. They were buried
along with other items as part of the ancient civilization’s funeral rites.But those just show you the pots. At Banchiang National Museum,
you will of course see here much more than pots. The tools and utensils that went along with the Ban Chiang culture are on display, as are
stone tools and depictions of ancient hominids that reach right back to the beginnings of prehistory.
Natural Wonders :
Few countries in the world have such a wealth of plant and animal life, up to 20% of which is unique to Thailand. It has for example 920 species
of birds compared with only 500 for the whole of Europe. Its 15,000 vascular plants account for some 6% of the world total. The country has at
least eight distinct types of forest that include not just tidal mangroves, tropical rain forests, but bamboo, pine, and even temperature forests
above 1,600 meters.This astonishing abundance of vegetation fosters an equally amazing wealth of wildlife: Tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, bears,
gibbons, leopards, and massive gaur, the world’s largest species of wild cattle etc. All this is not free from threat. However, beginning in
September 1962, it has so far established 77 national parks, 35 wildlife sanctuaries, 46 non-hunting areas, and 35 forest reserves. It also
has other kinds of protected area such as national forest reserves, botanica gardens, arboretums, and three biosphere reserves, No less than
10 protected areas are marine and coastal reserves.
Best Known National Park :
Khao Yai National Park
Northeast of Bangkok, which cover 542,000 acres of forest, jungle and grassland spread over rolling hills. It is an area of magnificent natural
beauty and protected within its borders are bears, tigers, elephants, monkeys, deer and various species of birds and butterflies.
Thung Yai Naresuan, Huai Kha Khaeng
This on its own is by far the largest site in the whole of Asia which covering 622,000 hectares. Yet its already vast extent is further
protected by adjoining reserves around it including the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary to the north, and the Si Nakharin and Khao Laem national
parks to the south.
Tarutao Marine National Park
A group of protected islands off the western shore.