Thailand’s rich diversity, its gastronomic treasures, and its penchant for warm hospitality welcome visitors to the ‘Land of Smiles’ in the heart of Southeast Asia. Covering more than 500,000 square kilometers of land, the country is the 50th largest nation in the world. And with a 3,219-kilometer-long coastline, Thailand has more than its fair share of scenic beaches and famed tropical islands.

Only 15 degrees north of the equator, Thailand basks in temperatures ranging from 19 to 38°Celsius (66.2 to 100.4°F). Thus, the weather is generally perfect for exploring the sandy havens, lush forests, picturesque bays, or the daunting maze that is Jatujak Market in the Thai capital of Bangkok.

Don’t forget to bring an umbrella, as rains do come in Thailand every so often.

Visitors often find themselves at a loss for words when they see what Thailand holds beyond Bangkok. The northern region showcases exotic wildlife and hill tribes; the south, on the other hand, is dotted with spectacular islands and beaches such as Phuket and Samui.

Buddhism is the religion of 94.6% of Thais, while the rest are Muslims and Christians. The cluster of centuries-old temples seen in both cities and towns show a palpable sense of spirituality, which continues to dominate modern-day Thailand.

As well revered as the temples is the Thai monarchy – in particular, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He is the ninth Thai king from the Chakri dynasty, which has reigned over Thailand since 1782.

HM King Bhumibol’s word is held in utmost esteem in all matters regarding the nation, as Thailand follows a constitutional monarchy type of government. In fact, the nation takes pride in having the world’s longest reigning monarch: HM King Bhumibol ascended the throne in 1946.

Thailand has a very tight-knit culture, due largely to the fact that it is the only nation in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized by any European empire.

Despite the civil unrest that sporadically pops up in the capital, Thailand is quite tourist-friendly. The infectious smiles of the Thai people will surely make anyone feel like a welcome guest.