Moving to Thailand
The region of southeast Asia in which modern day Thailand is located has been a shifting tapestry of kingdoms, empires and nations for thousands of years. As a result Thai culture takes in influences ranging from the Buddhism of northeastern India – the country’s main religion – to the Chinese pastime of kite flying.
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok, is far and away the country’s largest city and the home of most of the 200,000 expats. Bangkok became a global economic hub during the Asian financial boom of the 80s and 90s and still provides the regional headquarters of many major multinationals, often the workplaces of the aforementioned expatriates.
But the hustle and bustle of the densely populated capital is just one side of this multi-faceted country. Others include the glorious beaches of the Gulf of Thailand, stretching down into the Malay peninsula where you find the backpackers paradises of Ko Samui and Ko Pha-ngan; the mountainous highlands in the north, foothills of the Himalayas and covered in lush vegetation; the 9.2 million hectares of rice plantations which make Thailand the world’s largest rice exporter.
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Thailand has its own national language and a populace that is highly literate due to a well organised public school system. Health care is universal, of good quality and improving though there is a shortage of GPs and foreign nationals need to be privately insured. The collapse of the Thai baht in 1998 precipitated the Asian financial crisis but the Thai economy has since recovered under policies of the Shinawatra governments. It certainly hasn’t been plain sailing politically though – a coup in 2006 installed a military junta and started a long period of instability, suppression and violent rioting (including clashes between the anti-Shinawatra Yellow Shirts and the pro-democracy Red Shirts) which only ended in 2011 with the landslide election victory of the Shinawatra led Pheu Thai Party.