Thailand, formerly known as Siam until the mid-20th century, is famous for meticulously ornate palaces and temples, vibrant nightlife, white sand beaches, tropical limestone islands, and beautiful wild places, making it the most visited country in Southeast Asia. Thailand serves as the entry point for many first-time visitors to Asia, and is sometimes dubbed the "Land of Smiles" due to its friendly and welcoming nature toward tourists.
Immaculate landscaping around the Grand Pavilion at Royal Park Rajapruek in Chiang Mai.
Small chedis (stupas), known as Phra Chedi Rai, at Wat Pho in Bangkok.
Elephant with freckling from natural depigmentation at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai.
The elephant is the national animal and symbol of Thailand. Asian elephants, the native species, were once numerous in Thailand, but now number no more than a few thousand in the wild. Unlike African elephants, in which both sexes are tusked, female Asian elephants either lack tusks or have only small ones that are barely visible. Due to years of poaching, many males now also lack tusks, as those with atypical genes that result in no tusks are more likely to survive to pass on the trait.
Mausoleums at Wat Suan Dok (Flower Garden Temple) containing ashes of Chiang Mai's royalty.
Bua Tong "Sticky" Waterfall at Si Lanna National Park in Chiang Mai.
King Rama VI Monument facing the downtown center of Bangkok, Thailand.
Thailand takes respect of the king very seriously, including objects that bear his image. Comments that are deemed to be disrespectful of the monarchy, whether verbal or online, can land the offender in prison. So too can stepping on Thai currency, as notes and coins are printed and engraved with the king's face.
Building containing the Golden Buddha statue of Wat Traimit in Bangkok.
Chakri Maha Prasat and Dusit Maha Prasat throne halls at the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Two Buddhist monks climbing the stairs to the Golden Mount at Wat Saket.
Surnames only became commonplace in Thailand in the 20th century, before which most Thais used a first name only. Thai surnames differ from those of most East Asians in that they are unique to a family and follow the Western tradition of being preceded by a given name. Thai law requires that surnames be unique, so it's uncommon that two or more people will share the same surname unless they're related. This has resulted in some long names, which has occasionally been problematic for online systems with character limits.
Tantima birds guarding the entrance to the Viharn Yod at Wat Phra Kaew.
View of Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, from the Grand Palace Outer Court.
Stilt houses along the Chao Praya River in Bangkok.
In the past, Bangkok was connected by a vast network of canals stemming from the Chao Praya River, earning it the nickname of "Venice of the East" during much of the 19th century. The waterways made boat transport and floating markets commonplace at the time. Although some of the canals (and floating markets) still exist today, most were filled in and paved over long ago to make way for roads as the city modernized.
Traditional and modern buildings side by side in the Thai capital, Bangkok.
Thai farmers sowing waterlogged paddy fields with young rice plants.
Interior Lanna architecture of the Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion at Royal Park Rajapruek.
Owning too many playing cards could get you arrested and jailed in Thailand due to the country's very strict anti-gambling laws. The Playing Cards Act, enacted in 1935, prohibits individuals from possessing more than 120 playing cards unless they have been approved by the Excise Department.
Golden Mount chedi overlooking Bangkok, atop the artificial hill at Wat Saket.
Asian water monitor searching for food at Lumphini Park.
Overnight train on the scenic railway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
The Mae Klong Railway Market, one of the largest produce and seafood markets in Thailand, is intersected by an actively used railway. The market is also known informally as Talat Rom Hup (folding umbrella market) because at the blast of a 3-minute warning, vendors must fold back their awnings and move their wares off the rails to make way for trains multiple times daily.
Ruins of Wat Chedi Luang (Temple of the Royal Stupa) in the historic center of Chiang Mai.
Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn of Wat Pho, four giant chedis dedicated to the first four Chakri kings.
Hummingbird hawk-moth feeding on the nectar of a petunia in the Royal Park Rajapruek gardens.