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Thailand's Central Region consists of 22 provinces: Ang Thong, Bangkok, Chachoengsao, Chai Nat, Kanchanaburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Nayok, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phetchaburi, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (Ayutthaya), Prachin Buri, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ratchaburi, Sa Kaeo, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Samut Songkhram, Saraburi, Sing Buri and Suphan Buri. It is the country's most fertile land rich in rice farms and fruit orchards. The region also abounds in tourist attractions which lie prominently on both natural resources and historical ancient remains.


The first sign of prehistoric culture emerged some 12,000 years ago, with formal burial of the dead at a Cave in Kanchanaburi. Some 3,000 - 2,000 years ago, groups of settlements requiring developed social and cultural structures began to occur. The early civilisations influenced by the dominant Indian Culture include Lawa, Dvaravati and Khmer.


The Lawa civilisation centred on Lawo (modern Lop Buri) and spread south to north in the Chao Phraya River basin. To the west, the Mon people subsequently established the Dvaravati civilisation, one of whose main centres was Nakhon Pathom. Buddhism was their major religion. To the east, the Khmer empire formerly occupied most of the northeastern region some 1,000 years ago and became so powerful that its influence spread towards the west as far as Kanchanaburi.


After the decline of the Khmer power in the 13th century, Sukhothai emerged in the north. It is regarded as the first kingdom dominated by the Thai race. In the 15th century, the focus of Thai history moved to the Central Plains when the Ayutthaya Kingdom was established and expanded its power over most of the northern and central Thai states. This most prosperous city was ruthlessly sacked by a Burmese invasion in 1767. Then, Thon Buri emerged after the fall of Ayutthaya, but it lasted only for a short period. In 1782, King Rama I established Bangkok as the new capital, opposite to the Thon Buri site. He is the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, of which His Majesty King Bhumibol (King Rama IX) is the ninth monarch.


By road - All provinces and major districts in the Central Region are linked by highways while the distant districts and villages are accessible by rural roads.


Bus transportation services are available at two main stations in Bangkok. From the bus terminal on Kamphaeng Phet II Road (Tel 936-0649, 936-1972), there are both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses leaving for Chai Nat, Nakhon Nayok, Prachin Buri, Lopburi, Saraburi, Sing Buri, Suphan Buri, Ang Thong, Ayutthaya, Bang Pa-in, Bang Sai, Aranyaprathet, Chachoengsao and Samut Songkhram. The Southern Bus Terminal (Tel 435-1199, 434-5557-8) on Boromarajajonani Road operates daily buses to Kanchanaburi, Cha-am, Damnoen Saduak, Phetchaburi, Ratchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Bang Saphan, Nakhon Pathom, Suphan Buri, Samphran, Samut Songkhram and Samut Sakhon.


On arrival in each city, the easiest way to travel around is by local transport like tricycle (Called samlor by Thais) or motor tricycle. Songtaew or a van with two rows of benches at the back serves as transport for travelling to the outside of the town. However, a vehicle should be rented from Bangkok or a major tourist town in case travellers need more convenience and would like to explore more attractions in the rural areas.


By train - The Bangkok Railway Station (Hua Lamphong) is the major terminal where daily trains leave for Chachoengsao, Bang Pa-in, Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Lop Buri, Nakhon Pathom, Suphan Buri, Ratchaburi, Phetchaburi, Hua Hin and Phrachuap Khiri Khan. To get to Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi, one can take a train at the Thon Buri or Bangkok Noi Railway Station. Samut Sakhon and Samut Songkhram can be also reached by train from the Wongwian Yai Station. Schedules can be obtained at the Information Unit, Tel. 223-7010, 223-7020.


By boat - Travelling by boat is quiet popular in the riverside cities or towns including Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Ayutthaya, Samut Songkhram, Nakhon Pathom and Kanchanaburi. In those provinces, river excursions are operated by local tour operators. Boats for rent are also available at major piers. The price should be established before beginning the trip.


Between Bangkok and Nonthaburi, regular boats run along the Chao Phraya River with frequent stops to pick up and drop their passengers. The boats are usually crowded during the rush hours of a working day.


Extracted from Thailand Guidebook: Central Thailand

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