Thailand has an area of 517,000 square km, making it slightly smaller than the state of Texas in the USA, or about the size of France. Its longest north-to-south distance is about 1,860 kilometres but its shape makes distances in any other direction a lot less. Its shape on the map has been compared to the head of an elephant, with its trunk extending down the Malay Peninsula, but it looks as if someone had squeezed the lower part of the 'boot' of Italy, forcing the volume into the top portion while reducing the bottom. The centre of Thailand, Bangkok, is at about 14° north latitude, putting it on a level with Madras, Manila, Guatemala and Khartoum.
The topography varies and can be divided into four main regions: the fertile centre region, dominated by the Chao Phraya river network; the north-east plateau, the kingdom's poorest region (thanks to 'thin' soil plus occasional droughts and floods), rising some 300 metres above the central plain; northern Thailand, a region of mountains and fertile valleys; and the southern peninsular region, which extends to the Malaysian frontier and is predominantly rainforests. The southern region receives the most annual rainfall and the northeast the least, although the north has less general humidity. Thailand's climate is ruled by monsoons, resulting in three seasons: rainy (June to October); cool and dry (November to February); and hot (March to May). See our climate page for more information on climate.
For administrative purposes, Thailand is divided into 74 changwat or provinces. Each province is subdivided into a number of amphur or districts, which are further subdivided into tambon (precincts), and muu baan (villages). Municipal zones are called thetsabaan. The capital of a province is an amphur muang; it takes the same name as the province of which it is capital.
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