" Siam " is the name by which outsiders have known THAILAND for centuries. The country was known as SIAM to the world until 1939 and again between 1945 and 1949. On May 11, 1949, an official proclamation changed the name of the country to "Thailand" or "Prathet Thai" (in THAI language) , by which it has since been known. The word "THAI" means "FREE", and therefore "Thailand" means "Land of the Free."

Thailand first made a real impression on the West at the 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 they seized Malacca. The Portuguese joined resident Chinese, Japanese, Malays and Persians to make the Siamese capital one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the vast region now known as Southeast Asia. Thailand's traditional culture is delicately tuned to the time-honored Buddhist's non-confrontational approach to life, and ideals of charity, tolerance and loving-kindness.