The Kingdom of Thailand Draws more visitors than any other country in southeast Asia with its irresistible combination of breathtaking natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality, robust cuisine and ruins of fabulous ancient kingdoms. Few countries are so well endowed. From the stupa-studded mountains in the northern part and the verdant limestone islands of the Andaman Sea, to the pulse-pounding dance clubs of Bangkok and the tranquil villages moored along the Mekong River, Thailand offers something for every type of traveller.Thailand was known for centuries by outsiders as
. It first made a real impression on the West atthe end of the 17th century, through the reports of a series of inquisitive Frenchmen. They were not the first Europeans to spend time in the kingdom, however. The Portuguese sent an envoy to the capital in 1511, shortly after theyseized Malacca. The Portuguese joined resident Chinese, Japanese, Malays andPersians to make the Siamese capital one of the most cosmopolitan cities in thevast region now known as Southeast Asia.