Amazonia

Amazonia

The Tiputini Biodiversity Station, bordering Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

TREASURES OF WESTERN AMAZONIA | JOURNEY TO THE TIPUTINI BIODIVERSITY STATION AND YASUNI NATIONAL PARK

Steven A. Martin, Ph.D., Environmental Management

Click on Photos to Enlarge

The Rio Napo, Ecuador | Western Amazonia

Where is the most biodiverse place on the planet?

In my search for far-flung places to study, I met Professor Kelly Swing, an ecologist with the University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) in Ecuador, who believes the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) may well be that place.

Swing told me that the station's output of research marks it as a world-leading biodiversity hotspot. While there are other sites of similar importance, these do not offer the same level of access and safety for researchers.

Tiputini Biodiversity Station | Western Amazonia, Ecuador

Tiputini Biodiversity Station is adjacent to the Yasuni National Park, and together they form the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve.

Location of Yasuni National Park in the western Amazon, Ecuador

Experience of a lifetime

My arrival in the Amazon town of Puerto Francisco de Orellana, Ecuador, better known as El Coca, was little short of disaster. On flying out of Quito, the Andean city nestled at the foot of the infamously active Cotopaxi volcano, we hit turbulence and heavy rain as the plane descended into the Amazon basin.

Packed with an odd mix of environmental researchers and oil workers, the 12-seat twin-engine propeller plane was forced by the weather to turn back across the mountains and the safety of Quito.

Above Quito, Ecuador

Learning there was a second flight scheduled to depart in a few minutes, I cleverly jumped in. However, this plane got delayed on the runway and the previous flight took off ahead of us, arriving first at El Coca.

First sight of the Amazon Basin near Puerto Francisco de Orellana (El Coca)

First sight of an oil drilling station near El Coca

Stranded in the jungle

Just twenty minutes behind my original flight, I landed at a deserted jungle runway.

Since I was not on the original flight, and in the hurry of the storm, the cars and drivers for the university and oil companies had already left.

I was standing in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, completely alone.

Alone in the Western Amazon

Moi Enomenga

The sound of the jungle grew louder as I looked around and saw nothing but trees and mud. It was my first time in the Amazon and I started to think that I might just be in serious trouble.

There was a light rain, no shelter, and the only thing to do was follow the muddy track and see where it led. But which way to go, left or right?

At that moment, a tall, strikingly confident Indian strode out from the forest and walked straight up to me.

He spoke to me in Spanish, "What are you doing here alone?"

Moi Enomenga, Huaorani Amazon eco-warrior and environmental celebrity

I was half terrified, and half relieved to see someone. In halting Spanish, I explained that I was a visitor from the University, and that my car had left without me because I had arrived on a later plane than expected. I was worried he might stab me and steal my camera, but instead he offered to show me the way to the hotel normally used by the university in El Coca.

Although I was stranded for a few days until I got things sorted out, it allowed time to get to know my rescuer. It turned out that he was not just any random passer-by, but a famous environmental campaigner – Moi Enomenga, Huaorani Indian and Amazon eco-warrior.

Interview with Moi Enomenga

Amazon celebrity

Moi is an Amazon celebrity, the son of a proud indigenous leader who chose the traditional life over the ideology of early Christian missionaries. His father took his family deep into the Western Amazon to an area known today as Yasuni National Park, and so instead of learning the Bible, Moi learned deep indigenous knowledge and the cultural traditions of the Huaorani.

The man I met near the runway at El Coca, little did I know, was also the Huaorani jungle boy featured in Savages, a best-selling book by award-winning writer Joe Kane. Moi had matured to become a leader of the local indigenous movement trying to defend the rainforest against the oil companies.

He certainly helped me out – a total stranger in the forest.

"Savages" by Joe Cane, with Moi Enomenga

A voice for the forest

Moi's example shows that one man who chooses to raise his voice can speak for the collective resources of the largest – and most endangered – natural habitat on the planet. Protecting the Amazon rainforest is his life's work, and the Yasuni National Park and surrounding area are testament to his ongoing success.

His recent project is the creation of a new protected area named Yame Reserve, in honor of his late father. In the light of all the growing threats to his environmental and cultural heritage, his willingness to network with tourism organizations, conservation groups, the Ecuadorian government and the United Nations offers hope to this globally vital, and profoundly endangered, natural paradise.

National Geographic | Ecuador's Yasuní National Park

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC 2012 | "Ecuador's Yasuní Park is one of the Amazon's last wild frontiers, boasting an incredible biodiversity—treetop orchids, prowling jaguars, nearly 600 species of birds—and serving as home for two indigenous nations. But a vast untapped oil supply beneath the forest floor is attracting the attention of multinational oil companies. National Geographic sent a team of five photographers, each with a different specialty, into the heart of the Amazon to document the delicate balance of life in Yasuní and how it is being impacted by the demand for oil."

Oil pumping station and water pollution in the Amazon rainforest | Steven Martin

Puerto Francisco de Orellana (El Coca)

El Coca is Ecuador's gateway to what the locals call El Oriente – the East of Ecuador, also known to outsiders as the western Amazon. El Coca is a rustic frontier town of around 45,000 people built at the confluence of the Coca, Napo and Payamino Rivers.

Puerto Francisco de Orellana, or El Coca | Amazon frontier town of nearly 45,000 people and gateway to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Yasuni National Park

It was an Ecuadorian holiday weekend and I was unable to get a call though to USFQ. Given my limited time schedule, it was looking like the Tiputini trip was off.

I didn't know exactly where the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) was, and my assumption that it was "just down the river" was way off.

For several days, I explored El Coca. The Spanish I gained from studying abroad in Spain was a godsend. I met taxi drivers and boat transport services, and eventually a group of oil workers at a makeshift helicopter pad.

They told me it was next to impossible to get to TBS without an organized expedition. The oil companies and other interests had a variety of armed guards, checkpoints and road-blocks along the route. There were also the issues of traversing several rivers, and, of course, a wide range of natural predators, including snakes.

Making phone contact with the university was the only way in.

People of El Coca

People of El Coca

People of El Coca

Moonlight expedition

After several days of this, I returned to the hotel one evening, and reception informed me that USFQ had called. My transport to Tiputini was arranged.

Due to my delay and problems in scheduling transport, I would have to travel to the Biodiversity Station at night. My first reaction was shock, but I figured I was in good hands with USFQ, and there was a full moon and clear sky.

It was a long night, traveling by jeep, by boat, and on foot. First we traveled several hours downstream on the Napo River to the village of Pompeya and the entrance of an oil operation.

In order to pass the oil company's security checkpoint, I needed to produce my passport and the yellow fever vaccination card, which I had gotten in Quito a week earlier. The guards at the checkpoint were armed, dressed in military fatigues, and seemed larger than life.

Next, we drove several more hours by jeep to the reach the bank of the Tiputini River, arriving at just after midnight.

The best was yet to come – we had to navigate the river, a deep and narrow channel carved through the clay that forms the Amazon Basin.

Moonlight on the Tiputini River | Franklin, a Quechua guide with USFQ, whistles to signal our arrival

In a motorized wooden canoe, with the help of a small group of Quechua Indian guides, we powered down the Tiputini River toward the station, dodging obstacles in the water as insects pelted us in the face for two hours.

My knuckles turned white from clutching the sides of the canoe to avoid being catapulted into the river as it tilted sharply left or right to avoid rocks, branches and sand-banks.

Above, the river naturally created an opening to the sky, and the full moon was visible the entire night. The air was fresh and clean. Once my eyes adjusted, I could clearly see the river and banks in the moonlight, and I felt exhilarated to be in the real Amazon at last.

I never felt more alive.

Tiputini Biodiversity Station | Patrice Adret

Select Photos | Travels and Guides at Tiputini

Click on photos to enlarge

Quechua guides at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station

Franklin, my Tiputini guide

Tiputini River transport canoe and guide

Rainforest research observation tower at TBS

Bromeliads in the rainforest canopy at the Tiputini observation tower

View of the Tiputini River below the Rainforest

View of the Tiputini River from TBS during the dry season

Curious Toucan

TBS researchers accommodations


Learn more

If you feel motivated to learn more about the University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ)'s Tiputini Biodiversity Station, or would like to arrange for a public talk on this topic or other Learning Adventures, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

For study abroad, there is nowhere on earth more exciting, remote or rewarding.

Thank you.

–Steven Martin

Thank you for reading my story of the journey to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station and Yasuni National Park

At the request f the TBS administration, I wrote the following letters supporting public and private awareness.


 

Contact USFQ and TBS

Interested parties, including students and scientists, can contact USFQ for more information on joining or supporting education and conservation efforts for these outstanding programs:

Amazon Parrot - Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin - Tiputini Biodiversity Station Conservation
Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta

EXPLORATORY RESEARCH ON VIETNAM'S MEKONG DELTA

Over the past 10 years living and teaching in Thailand, one of my favorite past times is exploring the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

The GMS an intriguing mix of countries, brimming with diverse peoples and historical geographies, offering countless and affordable adventures.

Among my most memorable travels are those taken in 2014 and 2015 to the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam.

Friendly faces on the Mekong Delta | Click to Southeast Asian Civilization

Photos on this page link to the Southeast Asian Civilization course.

Mekong Delta, Vietnam | Click to enlarge

Agriculture and Fisheries

Mekong Delta is an expansive floodplain of 40,000 sq. km. populated by over 17 million people across 13 provinces. It is responsible for 60% of Viet Nam’s rice production (90% of this is exported) and 60% of the country’s fruit.

There is a large export industry of fish, and 65% of fishery production is sent to the USA. While there is a considerable fishing fleet working the offshore areas around the Delta, the majority of production is based in aquaculture. For the most part, local peoples eat the small fish and sell the big fish.

Mekong Delta food environment

Other important commodities include coconut products and honey. A burgeoning tourism industry is evident in nearly all eras in the Delta, ranging from individuals to small groups to mass tourism.

Exploratory research on the Mekong Delta

Topography and Land Reclamation

Once reaching Viet Nam, the Mekong splits into two main branches at the Delta. The north branch divides into four distributaries and the south branch into three distributaries.

The Delta consists of hundreds of islands formed over millennia of sedimentary deposits; an untold number of waterways create an exotic and dangerous maze of jungles and swamps.

Land reclamation is evident throughout the Delta, with gravel and dirt-laden barges destined for low-lying properties and canal banks. Farmers also dredge local canals every few years and use the silt to reinforce the sides. Busy barge-based cranes used for large-scale dredging of the main river branches are nearly always in view on the horizon.

The ancient network of rural mangrove-lined canals invite visitors to reflect on the country's enigmatic past, while the new palm-lined highway to Saigon represents the fast lane the country is taking to its future at the heart of the economically vibrant and socially diverse ASEAN community.

Crane loading a barge with gravel in the Delta

Vietnamese barge transporting soil for land reclamation on the Mekong Delta

Faith and Religion

There is a heritage of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and to some degree, American missionary influence, and this is evident in Vietnamese language, culture, architecture and religion. For example, Catholic and other denominational Christian churches speckle the banks of the Delta and constitute as much as 15% of the religious base.

However, 60% of the Delta population follows a type of ancestor worship and this may be attributed to an age-old relationship with Chinese culture.

Faith and religion on the Delta

The Delta Road

The government opened up the Mekong in recent years, completing the ‘Delta Road’, a collaborative effort with the Japanese, and this was engineered in part to keep the Delta’s produce fresh and undamaged, particularly rice, fruit and seafood, when they are transported to Saigon overland.

These new transport networks are key as the traditional floating markets are becoming impractical. Thus, there is an ongoing shift from a water-based trade economy to a land-based export economy.

Historically, there were much smaller human populations in the Delta due to the dangers associated with snake and crocodile-infested swamps.

Traditional Delta transport

The "Delta Road" represents an ongoing shift from a water-based trade economy to a land-based export economy

Environment

Winter is the dry season on the Delta and the rainy period is normally during the summer, although the Delta is indeed south of the typhoon belt which impacts central Viet Nam and the Red River area further north.

The water level is higher during the rainy season, and this ‘wet time’ is utilized for fishing, while the ‘dry time’ is best for vegetables and potatoes. Climate change is evident and local farmers explain that nowadays the seasons are not so distinct.

The biodiversity of the region is still wide-open to exploration and inquiry, with thousands of new species discovered in recent years. However, there is an unfortunate war-torn legacy of ‘agent orange’, the chemical defoliant dropped by American forces upstream of the Delta, and as many as 2 million people are affected by it today.

One of the many canals on the Mekong Delta

The watery world of the Mekong delta, Vietnam

Settlement

The Delta was once part of the Funan (68-550 AD) and Chenla (550-760 AD) empires with ties to early Chinese trade networks, and later saw Champa settlements (associated with central Vietnam) and Khmer settlements (associated with Cambodia). Some Khmer still live in the west of the delta region near Cambodia.

According to my Delta guide, the Khmer never actually left the region; rather they mixed and integrated with the North Vietnamese (i.e., the ‘Kinh’ ethnic group) who migrated to the Delta over time.

The feelings of the North Vietnamese about their Delta settlement are represented in the local music which carries sad tones and lyrics, voicing their homesick emotions.

There was also a significant era of assimilation 300 years ago, when Chinese, Vietnamese and Khmer cultures mixed together.

Personal interview with Sombo Manara | Champa Kingdom

Interview with Prof. Dr. Sombo Manara, a leading expert in Khmer ancient history. The interview took place at the Po Nagar Temple in Nha Trang, Vietnam, a 7th - 12th century Hindu temple and vestige of the once powerful Champa Kingdom.

Cham is an Austronesian language, part of a super-family of languages generally associated with the seafaring peoples of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Visit Chasing Jade: Archaeology and the Batanes Islands Cultural Atlas to learn more about Austronesian prehistory.

Life and settlement on the Mekong Delta

Cultural Stereotypes

Vietnam is polarized by Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh City in the south, two sprawling urban and cultural centers with unique cultural attributes.

Stereotypically, the north and central populations distinguish themselves as thinking, planning, hard-working, and saving for the future.

In contrast, and as my Delta guide, Nguyễn Minh Phương, himself from the central region, put it, "The people of the Delta live for today, and are sometimes typecast by their northern counterparts as being reliant on the good weather, having strong physical features, and a sweet palate."

Daily life on the Delta

Life on the Delta Road

Next generation on the Delta

Water color painting for sale on the Delta

Travelers, Traders and Invaders

The Mekong Delta is a beautiful place to visit, an exotic tropical landscape steeped in ancient tradition with modern geographical significance. At 4,350 km, the Mekong is the world’s 12th-longest river, the lifeblood of mainland Southeast Asia – a trans-boundary network known as the ‘Greater Mekong Subregion’ (GMS).

The Mekong derives its name from the Sanskirt word ‘ganga’ after the Ganges River in India, and the toponym evolved in Thai and Laotian languages to ‘Mae Nam Khong’, literally ‘mother water Khong’.

The mouth of the Mekong called to traders, invaders, and great cultures and philosophers from India and China, providing them safe harbor and entry to upstream riches, including Cambodia’s fish-laden lake, the ‘Tonle Sap’, and the Khmer Kingdom at Angkor.

Coined by the French as "Indochina", friends, foods and freedoms await in the mighty Mekong Delta, an eclectic blend of culture, race and religion along Southeast Asia’s greatest of rivers.

Vietnam | Modified from: portal.gms-eoc.org/maps | Click to enlarge

I hope you enjoy my photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to travel to the Mekong Delta, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Special thanks to my Delta guide, Nguyễn Minh Phương for his time and insight, which helped to make this short article possible.

If you’re traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, he can be reached at: guyenminhphuongjp@gmail.com

Nguyễn Minh Phương, certified Mekong Delta guide

Nguyễn Minh Phương, certified Mekong Delta guide

Silk Road

Silk Road

Teaching Demo | Silk Road | Eastern Civilization

ON ANCIENT TRACKS | THE SILK ROAD AND MY JOURNEY TO THE WEST

Kashgar, Xinjiang, China | Silk Road 1995

1995

I first traveled along the Chinese Silk Road in 1995, on a trip organized by Professor John Cheng through the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH). We journeyed by bus, train and short flights. Reaching Kashgar on China's westernmost border just in time for the Sunday Bazaar, I vowed to return one day with more time to explore.

2001

In June, 2001, I returned to explore the Silk Road. On this trip, I traveled overland from Xian to Kashgar, China, and across the Karakoram Mountains to Pakistan (see Silk Road Part II, Pakistan).

Although a long journey across deserts and mountains, it was certainly not as difficult as in the past. By 2001, modernization in Xinjiang had brought hotels, tourist amenities, and transportation networks, including a new rail link between Urumqi and Kashgar.

I hope you enjoy the highlights of the 1995 and 2001 photo journals below, and find the links to Silk Road maps, presentations and resources helpful.

For more information, please contact me or visit my university course at Eastern Civilization.

Jiayuguan Fort, Great Wall of China | A beacon of Eastern civilization and culture

Teaching Eastern Civilization

Sir Aurel Stein | Photo 1909

I have been sharing my Silk Road experiences with students of all ages for over twenty years. I am interested in the early works of European explorers, particularly Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943).

Stein's archaeological and geographical work is well represented in his 1933 publication: On Ancient Central Asian Tracks: Brief Narrative of Three Expeditions in Innermost Asia and Northwestern China.

Many of Stein's original works are currently royalty-free and available on Archive.org.

1933 Chinese Silk Road Map by Aurel Stein | Innermost Asia | Click to enlarge


1995 Experience | The University of Hawaii Silk Road Study Tour

The photos shown here are highlights from my first trip along the Silk Road.

The travel began at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian, and ended at the Kashgar Bazaar, also known locally as the Sunday Market, and now officially known as the International Trade Market of Central and Western Asia.

Click on photos to enlarge.

1995 Highlights

Monks at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

Big Wild Goose Pagoda | Xian

Rainy start on our Journey to the West | Xian

Riding the Iron Rooster to Western China

Exploring the Gobi Desert at 33 years old

Jiayuguan Fort | Western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

UH Hilo Prof John Cheng | Dunhuang, Gansu Province

Turpan and Urumqi | Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Flaming Mountain, from the epic tale, "Journey to the West"

Farmer in Turpan | Eastern Xinjiang

Taklamakan Desert | Xinjiang

Kazakh yurts in the Tianshan | Heavenly Mountains

Toordi Ashan | Our Uyghur driver in Urumqi, Xinjiang

Tianshan | Flight from Urumqi to Kashgar

Kashgar | Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Islamic culture | Kashgar

Musical instruments for sale | Kashgar

Knife seller | Kashgar Sunday Market

Islamic culture | Kashgar Sunday Market

Sunday Livestock Market | 1995

Tobacco seller | Kashgar

Afaq Khoja Mausoleum (c. 1640) | Kashgar


My 2001 Silk Road Independent Study Project

In the summer of 2001, I made an agreement with the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) to conduct independent research on the Silk Road. I proposed to travel overland from Xian, China, to Delhi, India.

My Liberal Studies Adviser, Prof. John Cheng, agreed, providing I visited Harappa, the Indus River Valley Civilization site, and Taxila, the Gandhara Civilization site.

Taxila was one of the most ancient universities in the world, where people from all over Asia and the Middle East came to study and teach. At least eighteen subjects were covered, including medicine, religion, and science. Instruction was available in at least five different languages, and this multicultural environment contributed to the pre-eminence of Taxila as a center of learning from the 5th century BC until the 2nd century AD.

Taxila was a key site where the ancient Greeks met the Buddhists, a cultural coincidence that occurred at the dawn of Mahāyāna Buddhism and the birth of the Gandhāran Civilization.

I was fortunate to be able to visit the Sirkap archaeological site at Taxila, evidence of an ancient Greek city in South Asia.

Sirkap archaeological site | Taxila, Punjab, Pakistan

Visitors today can explore the ruins of a two-thousand-year-old university, and stroll around the Taxila Museum filled with unique art history.

I kept a comprehensive photo journal of my travels, and after returning and presenting my photo journal at the university auditorium I earned enough credits to complete my undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii.

Journey to the West

My plan was to follow in the footsteps of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang (玄奘) (c. 602–664), who traveled to India in the 7th century, during the Tang Dynasty, and kept a detailed account of his travels.

His journal, Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (大唐西域記), is an outstanding treasure of Chinese history.

Nine hundred years later, Xuanzang's true story was brought to life in the16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West (西遊記), one of China's "Four Great Classical Novels."

Journey to the West | Xuanzang in the 16th century Chinese classic | Click to Learner.org

Journey to the West is a tall tale retracing Xuanzang's travels with an unlikely group of companions, namely the tricky and powerful Monkey King, the greedy and ravenous Pigsy, and the hideous and obedient Friar Sand. Mixing fact with fiction, the story incorporates Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and folklore into the groups' improbable pilgrimage of spiritual enlightenment.

Xuanzang travel map | Click to enlarge

National Geographic | Treasure Seekers: China's Frozen Desert

Based on the lives of Sir Aurel Stein and Xuanzang: "As commerce flourished along the Silk Road, Central Asia became a melting pot of cultures. Here on the edges of the Taklmakan Desert, an exotic blend of Indian, Mongol, Chinese, and European influences fueled an astonishing cultural Renaissance. In the 7th century, a Chinese monk, Xuanzang, plunged into the desert while on a Buddhist pilgrimage to India..."

2001 Journal Highlights

Starting in Xian, at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda built in Xuanzang's honor, I began my own journey. I tried to visit the same cultural sites and physical landscapes, and to keep a journal, like he did. While his trip to India and return took 15 years or more, I had just two months.

The photos shown here are highlights from the Chinese leg of the journey, placed in chronological order.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Statue of Xuanzang | Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

Bell Tower in Xian | Beginning of the Silk Road as a trade route

View from the train | Xian, Shaanxi Province, to Jiayuguan, Gansu Province

Sunrise at Jiayuguan Fort, Great Wall | Gansu Province

Jiayuguan Fort | Western end of the Ming Dynasty Great Wall

Singing Sand Dunes | Dunhuang

Dunhuang | Mogao Caves

Uyghur man with his taxi at the Gaochang ruins

Uyghur youth at the Gaochang ancient ruins

Uyghur dancer | Turpan, Xinjiang

Raisins for sale in Turpan

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Urumqi, Xinjiang Gateway to the Tianshan

Click on photos to enlarge.

Hui culture | Urumqi

Frank Li | Hui culture in Urumqi

Kazakh family erecting their yurt | Tianshan

Kazakh family arriving at lower pastures | Tianshan

Home for the summer | Lower pastures of Tianshan

Kashgar, Xinjiang China's western frontier town

Click on photos to enlarge.

Overnight train | Urumqi to Kashgar

Kashgar International Trade Market

Livestock market | Kashgar Sunday bazaar

Chili peppers for sale | Kashgar

Kashgar knives at the bazaar

Uyghur youth at the Kashgar Sunday bazaar | Xinjiang Province

Watermelon seller | Kashgar Sunday bazaar

Working at the Kashgar bazaar

Wooden pitchforks for sale | Kashgar bazaar

Id Kah Mosque (c. 1442)

Islamic culture at the Id Kah Mosque

Reading the Koran across from the Id Kah Mosque

Yusuf Balasaguni | 11th century Islamic philosopher

Yusuf Balasaguni Mausoleum | Kashgar

Online resources

Thank you for visiting my Silk Road Learning Adventure page.

I hope you enjoy the photos and information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to know more about the Silk Road or other Learning Adventures, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Thai Geography

Thai Geography

THAI GEOGRAPHY

ภูมิศาสตร์ ประเทศไทย

Course description

Geographical characteristics in each region of Thailand as well as the borders of neighboring countries; Regional resources; Geographic factors which cause local change, including careers, permanent settlements and important tourist destinations; Fieldwork is part of the course.

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Southwest Monsoon. Onshore winds and waves with passing heavy showers | Thai Geography

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the Northeast Monsoon, with light winds and calm seas | Thai Geography

Course objectives

Students are expected to understand and be able to express their own ideas in the following areas:

  1. The location, size and borders of Thailand.
  2. Physical and human resources of Thailand.
  3. Characteristics of Thailand in a regional context.
  4. Various map projections and thematic maps of Thailand.
  5. Important domestic and international tourist attractions in Thailand.
  6. Geographic terms and concepts in the Thai context, including location, space, and area.
  7. Geographical factors causing local change, including occupations, settlements, and migration.

CURRENT RESEARCH

Martin, S. A., & Ritchie, R. J. (2020). Sourcing Thai geography literature for ASEAN and international education. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 41(1) 61–85.

Abstract: This study surveys the available English-language literature and learning resources covering the field of Thai geography, and provides historical review of Thai geography education and an inventory of relevant, accessible materials for ASEAN and international undergraduate students, educators and researchers. We note that the discipline and context of Thai geography has shifted toward new technologies, particularly geographic information systems (GIS), and this has left a void in practical and accessible text for high school and undergraduate students in gaining broad and traditional knowledge of the field. Our study finds that the accessibility of introductory English-language texts on Thai geography is limited, and that existing texts appear mainly in the grey literature or widely dispersed across various disciplines of study. The paper provides a platform to help future researchers and to facilitate future production of English-language textbooks and other study materials in the field of Thai geography.

2018 | Conference Presentation

Exploring Ko Yao Noi | Thai Tourism Geography 2018


INTRODUCTORY PRESENTATIONS AND PHOTO ALBUMS

PDFs and Photos for Viewing and Downloading

  • A Case for Teaching Thai Geography in English – 2mb pdf
  • Intro to Karst Topography and the Andaman Coast, Thailand – 18mb pdf
  • Intro to Map Projections – 6mb pdf
  • Intro to Map Types and Themes (Emphasis on Thailand) – 8mb pdf
  • Koh Yao Noi, Phang Nga – Google Photos
  • Koh Yao Yai, Phang Nga – Google Photos
  • Nai Yang Beach, Phuket (Field Trip) – 17mb pdf
  • Phuket Aquarium – Google Photos
  • Site Visit in Ubon Ratchathani (Sao Chaliang) – 5mb pdf
  • Site Visits in Ubon Ratchathani (Emerald Triangle) – 11mb pdf
  • Surf Resource Sustainability (Phuket, Thailand) – 4mb pdf
  • Trash Talking (Marine Debris on the Andaman Coast) – 400kb pdf

Exploring Ko Yao Yai | Thai Tourism Geography 2018


THE SIX REGIONS OF THAILAND

The 76 Provinces of Thailand | Kids Learning Tube

REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY OF THAILAND | 76 PROVINCES + Bangkok Special Administrative Zone | Dr. Steven A. Martin © | Click to Thai Regions Page

1. NORTHERN Thailand | Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai | Highest peak in Thailand, at 2,565 m (8,415 ft)

2. NORTHEASTERN Thailand | Haew Narok Waterfall, Nakhon Ratchasima | Khao Yai National Park

3. CENTRAL Thailand | Phra Prang Sam Yot, Lopburi | Khmer historical site

4. EASTERN Thailand | Mu Ko Chang National Park | Trat

5. WESTERN Thailand | Phra Nakhon Khiri Temple | Petchaburi

6. SOUTHERN Thailand | Phi Phi Island, Krabi


HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY THE BAN CHIANG ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE AND MUSEUM

We visited this site on July 8, 2022

In the photos below, note the '3 periods' of Ban Chiang archaeological research on interpretation signage (as defined by American archaeologist Joyce White).

Some items on display are from other areas of Thailand and serve to broaden our thinking of Ban Chiang as a single location to include historical geography and cultural markers from across the region.

Ban Chiang Archaeological Museum | July 8, 2022

Artifacts of the Middle Period (c. 3000-2300 BP)

Ban Chiang World Heritage Site | NHK

According to UNESCO (2018), the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is considered the "Most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South-East Asia. It marks an important stage in human cultural, social and technological evolution. The site presents the earliest evidence of farming in the region and of the manufacture and use of metals."

Ban Chiang is located in Udon Thani Province in northeast Thailand, within the watershed of the Mekong River, and was continuously occupied from 1495 BC until c. 900 BC, placing it among the earliest scientifically-dated prehistoric farming and habitation sites in Southeast Asia. Research indicates that wet rice agriculture, associated technological complex of domesticated farm animals, ceramic manufacture, and bronze tool-making technology, represent a well-defined cultural complex distinctive from anything that preceded it.

Through it, we can "Trace the spread and development of prehistoric society and its development into the settled agricultural civilizations which came to characterize the region throughout history which still continue up to the present day" (UNESCO – Ban Chiang Archaeological Site, 2018).


STUDENT RESOURCES

Witherick, Ross, & Small. (2001). A modern dictionary of Geography. London: Arnold. [9mb pdf]

Thailand Base Maps

Based maps for Thai Geography student projects in jpeg and pdf formats:

Thai Geography 2012 Class Photo | Emerald Pool (Sra Morakot), Krabi, Thailand


Winichakul, T. (1997). Siam mapped: A history of the geo-body of a nation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Thongchai Winichakul's 1997 book, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-body of a Nation (with English and Thai versions), explores the Siamese understanding of territory and state before the delineation of geographic boundaries in the modern sense. Winichakul notes that as a Western discipline, modern geography was originally embraced by King Mongkut (1804-1868), and the field of study provided impetus to the overall educational reform process in Thailand.

Winichakul (1997) Siam Mapped


Kermel-Torres, D. (2004). Atlas of Thailand: Spatial structures and development. Paris: IRD Editions.

Atlas of Thailand, Spatial structures and Development, is a comprehensive English language resource featuring spatial maps. Scans provided below are intended for Thai Geography students and academic purposes only.


Aiemchareon, W. Phurahong, S., & Chuaywong, S. (2010). Thailand atlas. Bangkok: Aksorncharoentat.

Thailand Atlas is an introductory Thai language resource for students of Thai Geography. Scans provided below are intended for students and academic purposes only.


GMS – Greater Mekong Subregion

The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program (greatermekong.org) supports a variety of development projects, including the production of maps and other geographic information in the six nations that share the Mekong River. The high-resolution maps provided below are intended for students and academic purposes only.


ICEM – International Centre for Environmental Management

Established in 1999, International Centre for Environmental Management (ICEM), is an independent technical service centre that assists government, private sector and communities to enact policies for sustainable development. The organization specializes in biodiversity conservation, climate change, water resources management, strategic environmental assessment, and environmental and social economics. The maps provided below are intended for Thai Geography students and academic purposes only.

Relevant Thailand country maps – Archived from 2000 (low res only)


United States University Websites/ Projects


International Organizations

  • BOBLME – Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem Project
  • GMS – Greater Mekong Subregion
  • ICEM – International Centre for Environmental Management – Thailand
  • IUCN – The International Union for Conservation of Nature – Thailand
  • MRC – Mekong River Commission for Sustainable Development
  • UNESCO – The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture – Thailand
  • US-Aid – United States Agency for International Development – Thailand
  • WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature – Thailand

Governmental Departments and Organizations under the Thai Ministries (in Thai)

Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

Ministry of Information and Communication Technology

Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives

Ministry of Tourism and Sports

Ministry of Science and Technology


English Summaries of Thai Literature on the Geography of Thailand

Aiemchareon, W. & Aiemnor, A. (2008). Geography. Bangkok: Aksornchareontat. [วิโรจน์ เอี่ยมเจริญ และ อภิสิทธ์ เอี่ยมหน่อ. (2551). ภูมิศาสตร์. กรุงเทพมหานคร: อักษรเจริญทัศน์].

  • Aiemchareon and Aiemnor (2008) published Geography, an overview of Asian geography commonly used in first and second year Thai high school education and includes a chapter identifying six key areas in Thai geography: economics, society and culture, population, physical geography, interaction and environment, and the preservation of natural resources.

Aiemchareon, W. Phurahong, S., & Chuaywong, S. (2010). Thailand atlas. Bangkok: Aksorncharoentat. [วิโรจน์ เอี่ยมเจริญ และคณะ. (2553). ไทยแลนด์ แอตลาส (พิมพ์ครั้งที่ 5). กรุงเทพมหานคร: อักษรเจริญทัศน์].

  • Aiemchareon et al. (2010) provide an illustrated geography in terms of an atlas with images and maps which illustrate and overview physical and human features and resources of the country, including hydrologic, agricultural, mineral, and transportation. The book includes a map-based historical geography of the Kingdom and discussion on each of Thailand’s provinces. At the time of writing, Thailand has 77 provinces (76 provinces and Bangkok representing a special administrative area structured as a province).

Boonchai, S. (2006). Thai geography. Bangkok: Odeon store. [สุภาพ บุญไชย. (2549). ภูมิศาสตร์ประเทศไทย (พิมพ์ครั้งที่ 2). กรุงเทพมหานคร: โอเดียนสโตร์.]

  • Boonchai (2006) provides an overview of the study of geography in Thai, aimed mainly at secondary school students. The research includes an overview of Thailand’s physical regional geography. Of particular interest, the book identifies Thai aquifers and references the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) website and other academic resources.

Thai Geography Publications by Course Instructor

Thank you for visiting my Thai Geography course page.

If you feel motivated to know more about Thai geography, or would like to arrange for me to give a public talk, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

–Steven Martin

Sam Pun Boak (3,000 Holes) along the Mekong River | Geographic wonder in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand


NEW PHUKET AQUARIA | Dr Steven A Martin | Thai Geography | University Filmworks | พิพิธภัณฑ์สัตว์น้ำ | ภูเก็ต

When Phuket "Aquaria" opened in August, 2019, and we were among the first to visit and make this short video for our Thai Geography students. The new aquarium, located in the basement of Central Phuket Floresta, is the largest in Thailand, and features fresh and saltwater fish and turtles, otters, sharks, giant groupers, penguins, stingrays, jellyfish, lizards, insects, and snakes.  พิพิธภัณฑ์สัตว์น้ำที่ใหญ่ที่สุดในประเทศไทย | เซ็นทรัลฟลอเรสต้า

Phuket Aquaria | New 3:33 Video | พิพิธภัณฑ์สัตว์น้ำ | ภูเก็ต

Thailand

Thailand

SIX REGIONS OF AMAZING THAILAND

I have been teaching Thai Geography courses at Prince of Songkla University in Phuket for the last eight years.

Wherever I go, I always take my camera.

Sawadee Kap Thailand - Steven Andrew Martin

Sukhothai Historical Park | Thailand | Sukhothai Kingdom 1238–1438

REGIONAL GEOGRAPHY OF THAILAND | 76 PROVINCES + Bangkok Special Administrative Zone | Dr. Steven A. Martin © | Click to enlarge

Corresponding the map above, photos on this page are categorized into six geographic regions which help to physically and culturally define the country.

Northern Region

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Thailand Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep | Chiang Mai

Vachiratharn waterfall -  Thailand Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Vachiratharn waterfall | Chiang Mai

Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, the Highest Point in Thailand | Dr Steven Andrew Martin

Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai | Highest point in Thailand

Northeastern Region

Pha Mo E Dang | Dangrek Range, Sisaket Province | Thai/Cambodia border | Click to PDF...

Northeast Thailand - Isan - Steven Andrew Martin - Thai Geography

Bird's eye view of Northeast Thailand (Isan)

Sam Phan Bok - Thai Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Sam Phan Bok (The three thousand holes) | Mekong River, Ubon Ratchathani

Traveling in Isan, Northeast Thailand photo journal | Dr Steven Andrew Martin | Thai Geography

On the road in Northeast Thailand

Haew Narok Waterfall | Khao Yai National Park | Click to UNESCO...

Khmer temple - Phimai Historical Park Thailand Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Phimai Historical Park | 12th century Khmer temple

Central Region

Sukhothai | 1238–1438 | Click to UNESCO...

Ayutthaya | 1351–1767 | Click to UNESCO...

Royal Palace, Bangkok | Chakri Dynasty from 1782 | Click to TAT...

Eastern Region

Ko Chang Island, Trat Province - Thai Photo Journal - Dr Steven Andrew Martin

Ko Chang Island | Trat province | Gulf of Thailand

Surfing Mae Ramphung Beach, Rayong | Click to read...

Eastern Gulf of Thai Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Fishers on the Eastern Gulf of Thailand

Southern Region

View of Phang Nga Bay from Phuket | Click to PDF...

Phang Nga Province, Andaman Coast Thailand Photo Journal - Dr Steven Andrew Martin

Phang Nga province | Andaman Coast

Ko Samui Ferry, Surat Thani Province, Gulf of Thailand - Thai Photo Journal - Steven Andrew Martin

Ko Samui ferry | Surat Thani province | Gulf of Thailand

Kata Karon lookout point, Phuket, Thailand Photo Journal - Dr Steven Andrew Martin

Kata Karon lookout point, Phuket

Surfing in Phuket | Click to more photos...

Chalong temple, Phuket | Click to video

Typical day at the beach in Phuket during the monsoon season. Onshore winds and waves with passing heavy showers


 

The 76 Provinces of Thailand | Kids Learning Tube


Thank you for visiting my Thailand Regional Geography Photo Page.

I hope you enjoy my photos and the information in the links provided. If you feel motivated to learn more about Thai Geography, please let me know – I’d love to hear from you.

Hi-res photos available on request.

–Steven Martin

Study Abroad Journal

Study Abroad Journal

Study Abroad Journal (SAJ) encourages international education for social transformation across countries and economies. Our mission is to build goodwill between America and the world through enlightened engagement in global issues among diverse peoples.

I developed the Journal to promote and support international studies, educational and cultural exchanges, and all aspects of learning which foster a better understanding of the world and cultivate environmental responsibility.