The history & society of Thailand

Reclining buddha, Thailand

Thailand's history

Although there is evidence that people settled in Thailand well before, the ‘birth’ and history of Thailand is considered to have begun in 1238 when Sukhothai was established as the capital in the central northern region. 

A new capital
In 1350 King Uthorn established another Thai capital at Ayuthaya, just north of present-day Bangkok, which eventually overshadowed Sukhothai and prospered for over two hundred years.  However, neighbouring Burma eventually destroyed Ayuthaya after a prolonged history of warfare in 1767.
The new capital was founded on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River at Thonburi and in 1782 moved to its present site, Bangkok, or Krung Thep as it is known to the Thai’s.

Independent Thailand
During the 19th century, while the rest of South East Asia was being colonized, Siam (as Thailand was formerly known) managed to remain independent. By playing off one European power against another, Thailand’s rulers managed to obtain many of the material benefits of colonisation, including the expansion of the road network, introduction of railways, and other western-based reforms.

Recent History
Recent Thai history has been characterized by an unstable government and a number of military coups, however what has remained stable is the monarchy.  King Bhumibol is the world’s longest reigning monarch having ascended the throne in 1946.

While gaining Western influence, the lack of colonization meant that the country has retained the rich culture it is so famous for. Thailand boasts the most amazing palaces, temples and sites, which are particular to each of the historical periods, so many of which can still be seen today. 

Culture and society of Thailand


While you’ll find Bangkok to be a crazy mish-mash of traditional temples and modern Western-style buildings, beyond the capital many of the regions still maintain their cultural roots.  The women of the long neck Karen villages in Northern Thailand continue the tradition of wearing rings around their neck and curious tourists to this area provide a main source of income.

The majority of the population is still made up of farmers and the predominant form of agriculture is wet-rice cultivation.  Others cultivate tapioca and jute (in the North East), vegetables (in the North), rubber (in the South) and a large variety of fruit and coconuts.

Thailand religion
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist and you’ll find shrines and temples dotted around the cities and countryside dedicated to the religion.  A must-visit is the largest Buddha in Thailand, the reclining Buddha, housed at Wat Pho in Bangkok.


*The Small Print
We’ve tried to make this destination guide as accurate as possible but please double check the essentials like visas, health and safety, airport information etc with the relevant authorities before you travel.  STA Travel takes no responsibility for loss, injury or inconvenience caused as a result of this guide.  All prices listed are in the currency of the destination, unless otherwise stated.

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