Rawai Beach Pier, Phuket
Photograph by Narong Rattanaya, My Shot
Twilight settles on the Rawai Beach Pier in Phuket, the largest of Thailand's islands. Phuket's tropical climate, forested mountains, and wide beaches draw international tourists in droves—a popularity turned tragic when a tsunami swept the area in December 2004, killing hundreds in Phuket alone.
Photograph by Stuart Updegrave, My Shot
Inextricably joined with a bodhi tree—the same type of tree under which Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, achieved enlightenment—a Buddha head greets visitors to the ruins of Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya. The temple is part of Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Photograph by Kiat Uscharapong, My Shot
Bright colors—from umbrellas, clothing, and wares—brighten the muddy water of the Amphawa floating market in Samut Songkhram. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, and food tempt buyers at floating markets across Thailand.
Photograph by Cherie Faiella, My Shot
A dying custom of the Padaung people, some of whom found refuge in northern Thailand from war in Burma (now Myanmar), dictates that young girls are fitted with brass neck rings to ward off evil spirits. Over the years the weight of added rings crushes collarbones and ribs. Now tourist dollars impel long-necked women in Thailand to again collar their daughters.
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai
Photograph by William Albert Allard
"Elephants are pushed to the edge," says activist Sangduen Chailert, who runs the Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary north of Chiang Mai. Once common throughout Thailand, wild elephants now live in small, isolated groups.
Reclining Buddha, Bangkok
Photograph by Mike McCook, My Shot
Sprawling for some 150 feet (46 meters) across and reaching 50 feet (15 meters) high, the gold-plated Reclining Buddha dominates Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, in Bangkok. The spiritual soul of Thailand, Buddhism encourages temperaments steeped in serenity and gentleness.
Photograph by Theo Westenberger
Fine dining and attention to detail are the hallmarks of the Mandarin Oriental and other five-star hotels in Bangkok, Thailand's largest city. Package deals lure masses of tourists from Europe and Asia, and though most of them head for the beach, many stay to explore the capital.
Photograph by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Apinya Sor Pumarin, a transvestite Muay Thai kickboxer, prepares for a fight at Lumpini Boxing Stadium in Bangkok. Thailand has an unusually high number of "ladyboys," or katoeys, men who chose to live as women.
Photograph by Peter Adams/Getty Images
The Thai people don't call their capital Bangkok. The official name begins with the words Krung Thep (City of Angels) and unrolls in a litany that means, in part, "the Great City, the Residence of the Emerald Buddha, the Grand Capital of the World Endowed With Nine Precious Gems, the Happy City" and so on. Bangkok's Asian contours are now almost completely hidden by a welter of skyscrapers.
Loy Krathong Festival, Narathiwat
Photograph by Madaree Tohlala/AFP/Getty Images
A woman and boy prepare to launch a banana-leaf krathong float, carrying their hopes for good fortune, during the Loy Krathong festival in the southern province of Narathiwat.
Photograph by Tim Laman
Wings outstretched, a male rhinoceros hornbill heads back to its nest with prey in Budo Sungai Padi National Park. Female rhinoceros hornbills lay their eggs inside tree trunks, leaving the males to retrieve food.
Rajdamnern Avenue, Bangkok
Photograph by Associated Press
Electric lights illuminate a line of giant portraits of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit during the king's December 2009 birthday celebration in Bangkok. King Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch, turned 82.
Gulf of Thailand
Photograph by Jonathan Milnes, My Shot
A surprised diver looks on in wonder as a school of barracuda glides past him in the Gulf of Thailand near Pattaya. Sunken wrecks in the area lure divers and history buffs.
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