Thailand is an easy country to travel in, with efficient transport, cheap accommodation and a delicious national cuisine. The Thais are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality to strangers. Although they’re often depicted as fun-loving, happy-go-lucky folk (which they often are), they are also very strong-minded and have struggled for centuries to preserve their spirit of independence. Language: Thai is the official language. English is widely spoken, especially in establishments catering for tourists.
Religion: The vast majority adhere to Buddhism (Theravada form), four per cent are Muslim and there are Christian minorities.
Currency: Baht (Bt) = 100 satang. Notes are in denominations of Bt1000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Bt10, 5 and 1, and 50 and 25 satang. In addition, there are a vast number of commemorative coins which are also legal tender.
Thailand has a humid, tropical climate, and it is hot all year round. Summer is from March to May with average temperatures around 34C, but the temperature can reach over 40C for extended periods. Summer monsoons begin as the warm humid air masses flow towards the north from the Indian Ocean . The monsoons end in the fall when the wind reverses direction with the dry south-westerly winds blowing in. The rainy season, with periods of sunshine, lasts from June to September, with temperatures ranging from 27C to 32.7C. The amount of rainfall varies with topography.
The northeast receives the least rain, while the south is flooded during the summer months. The best time to visit Thailand is during the cool season, from October through February, when it is not as humid as during the summer and the rainy seasons. The average temperature is around 18C to 32C. During this season, it can be very chilly in the north, with temperatures dropping to 7C at night.
Thailand ‘s two coastlines antd countless islands attract schools of water babies. Take a dive and explore underwater or cruise caves in an inflatable canoe. If inland waterways are your thing, try a raft trip up North. The Northern regions are also the best place to head for trekkers and cyclists; while you’re there, learn a little about the arts of Thai cooking and massage. Meditation classes are a great way to bring yourself into tune on the road. If you’re a more aggressive type, try kick-boxing.
The Monarchy : Thai people have a deep, traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and a visitor should be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children.
Religion : Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines. They should never go topless, or in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable attireIt is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept.
Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as a sacred object. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect. Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it.
Thais don’t normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally a younger person wais an elder, who returns it.
Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. Therefore, avoid touching people on the head and try not to point your feet at people or an object. It is considered very rude.
Shoes should be removed when entering a private Thai home.
Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon.
– Beware of unauthorised people who offer their services as guides. For all tourist information, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tel : 1672. For information about Bangkok , contact the Bangkok Metropolitan Tourist Bureau, Tel : 0 2225 7612-4.
– Observe all normal precautions as regards to personal safety, as well as the safety of your belongings. Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not recommended. Be sure that all your valuables-money, jewellery, and airline tickets are properly protected from loss. Visitors needing assistance relating to safety, unethical practices, or other matters, please call the Tourist Police at Tel: 1155.
– Drop your garbage into a waste container. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration id no strictly enforcing the law in an effort to keep the city clean and healthy. The fine will be imposed on a person who spits, discards cigarette stubs, or drops rubbish in public areas.
– Do not get yourself involved with drugs. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in Thailand .
– Do not support any manner of wild animal abuse. Never purchase any products or souvenirs made from wild animals including reptiles like snakes, monitor lizards, and also turtle shell and ivory. Avoid patronizing local restaurants that serve wild animal delicacies. It is against the law to slaughter wildlife for food in Thailand.
Good buys include Thai silks and cottons, batiks, silver, pottery with celadon green glaze, precious and semiprecious stones, dolls, masks, lacquerware, pewterware, bamboo artefacts and bronzeware. The weekend market at Chatuchuk Park in Bangkok is a regular cornucopia with items ranging from genuine antiques to fighting fish. Tailor-made clothes are also good value and can be made in a matter of days.
Shopping hours: Mon-Sun 1000-2100; department stores 1000-2200.
There are many European and Asian restaurants. Thai food is hot and spicy, but most tourist restaurants tone down the food for Western palates. Pri-kee-noo , a tiny red or green pepper, is one of the hot ingredients that might best be avoided. These are generally served on a side plate in a vinaigrette with the main course. Thai dishes include tom yam (a coconut-milk soup prepared with makroot leaves, ginger, lemon grass, prawns or chicken); gang pet (hot ‘red’ curry with coconut milk, herbs, garlic, chillies, shrimp paste, coriander and seasoning) served with rice; kaeng khiaw (‘green’ curry with baby aubergines, beef or chicken) served with rice and gai yang (barbecued chicken); and kao pat (fried rice with pieces of crab meat, chicken, pork, onion, egg and saffron) served with onions, cucumber, soy sauce and chillies. Desserts include salim (sweet noodles in coconut milk) and songkaya (pudding of coconut milk, eggs and sugar often served in a coconut shell). Well worth trying is sticky rice and mangoes (rice cooked in coconut milk served with slices of mango), a favourite breakfast dish in the mango harvest season (March-May). Other popular fruits are papaya, jackfruit, mangosteens, rambutans, pomelos (similar to grapefruits) and, above all, durians , which farangs (foreigners) either love or hate. Owing to the strong smell of durians, the majority of hotels do not allow them onto the premises.
Local whisky, either Mekhong or SamSong , is worth sampling. The local beer comes in varying strengths. Fruit juices and shakes are also worth trying. Coconut milk straight from the shell is available during the harvest season. Bars have counter or table service. There are no licensing ws.
Bangkok offers a wide range of entertainment venues, from nightclubs, pubs, bars, cinemas and restaurants (many of which are open air), to massage parlours, pool halls and cocktail lounges. Performances of traditional religious and court dances can be seen at the Thai Cultural Centre. Elsewhere on the mainland, nightlife takes the form of traditional dances. The islands are renowned for their nightlife, and attendance is almost exclusively foreigners. The full moon parties are notorious and continue well into the following morning.
Bangkok is home to many spectacular historical sites, offering the culturally minded visitor diverse opportunities to explore Thailand ‘s rich heritage. Temples , shrines and palaces provide a calming haven for quiet contemplation, away from the bustle of urban streets, while the city’s museums provide fascinating insights into Thai history and culture
Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha The Grand Palace is a large, walled complex comprising several buildings dating back 200 years. The royal temple houses the Emerald Buddha, an intricate statue carved from a single block of jade. It is the most revered image of Buddha in all of Thailand . When you visit the palace, please abide by the rules and dress respectfully (no shorts or sleeveless shirts). Photography is forbidden inside the Temple . Women may not come into physical contact with the monks.
One of Bangkok ‘s oldest and largest temples, Wat Pho is famous for its gigantic, gold-plated, reclining Buddha. The temple has an enormous collection of Buddha images and is the centre for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine. Visitors may like to schedule time for a traditional Thai massage here
Jim Thompson’s House
The residence of the American silk entrepreneur is an excellent example of genuine Thai residential architecture and Southeast Asian art. Thompson helped to revive the Thai silk industry during World War II. In 1967 he mysteriously vanished while in Malaysia
This summer palace, commissioned by King Rama V (1868 -1910), was built entirely out of teakwood. The three-storey, 81-room mansion houses impressive furniture, royal jewellery and other interesting objects that were actually used by the king.
One of the most photographed landmarks in Bangkok , the Temple of Dawn predates the city’s founding and is beautifully adorned with glass and ceramic mosaics.
Royal Barge Museum
These beautifully decorated longboats were once used for royal and governmental functions. The most renowned for its beauty is the Suphanahongse, a golden swan barge used solely by the king.
Bangkok ‘s National Museum is situated on the bank of the river in Old Bangkok. It is the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia and holds a wonderful collection of Thai art. All styles and periods are well represented and good English language descriptions are available. Permanent collections focus on traditional musical instruments from Thailand , Laos , Cambodia and Indonesia , as well as Chinese weaponry, ceramics, clothing, woodcarving and textiles
This shrine is a small, open-air sanctuary, containing a four-headed bronze Brahman sculpture. Because of the miracles attributed to the goddess at this site, the shrine is highly revered by Buddhists worldwide. Traditional Thai dances are also regularly performed here.
Bangkok is rightly renowned as a shopper’s paradise. There’s literally something for every budget and every taste.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Located adjacent to Chatuchak Park , this famous weekend market is a Bangkok landmark. Here you can buy just about anything, from clothing to potted plants to furniture; it is a paradise for browsers and bargain-hunters alike. You will also find many professional and amateur artists hawking their wares.
Phloenchit – Rachaprasong
Top department stores and luxury shopping malls are concentrated in this area, namely Central, Sogo, Gaysorn Plaza , Isetan, Zen, Amarin Plaza and Peninsula Plaza , which together comprise Bangkok ‘s largest shopping promenade. Furthermore, the World Trade Centre and Narayana Phand Pavilion, host the official handicraft centre, selling handmade items from all parts of the country.
Silom Road is the main artery of Bangkok ‘s commercial heart and is paralleled by Surawong Road , while Patpong runs crosswise between the two. In addition to housing dozens of specialist shops and boutiques representing all the major buys, this area also boasts many branches of well-known retailers and several shopping plazas.
Centred on Yaowarat Road and Samphreng Lane , Bangkok ‘s Chinatown has existed since the Chinese-Thai began settling here since 1782. It offers a profusion of antiques, jewellery, hardware and food shops as well as several nearby traditional shopping districts such as Man Po Jewellery Street , Phahurat Cloth Market and Old Siam Plaza .
Phuket Town Home to about 50,000 of the island’s 180,000 population, this lively little settlement is at once a lazy tropical port, a bustling Asian bazaar and an international meeting point. Grand old stucco houses in Sino-Portuguese architectural style hark back to the days of rubber barons, and there are many beautiful temples throughout the city.
- Patong Beach This has long been Phuket’s most popular beach, and is nowadays one of the island’s main social and entertainment centers. The gently sloping beach is an ideal place for children to swim. Long-tailed boats offer excursions along the Indian Ocean coast, and there are facilities for windsurfing, boating, snorkeling and fishing.
- Thai Boxing Known in the local language as Muay Thai, this seriously aggressive activity is Thailand ‘s national sport, and is particularly popular in the south, including Phuket. If you are prepared to watch some highly skilled mayhem, there are matches every Sunday at the Saphan Hin Arena in Phuket Town.
- Khao Ping Gan Known as “007 Island ” because scenes from a James Bond movie were filmed there some years ago, this scenic and popular spot is easily reached by long-tailed boat from Phuket. Khao Ping Gan’s most spectacular attributes are its weirdly-shaped water-worn limestone cliffs and deep caves that beckon underground explorers.
- Night Life Phuket is as famous for after-dark activities as for beaches. The island boasts as many restaurants, bars and nightspots as most major cities, in Phuket Town and all the resort areas. These range from elegant to raucous, and there are special places including one that resembles a Swiss chalet, and one that’s full of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
- Wat Chalong This classical building is Phuket’s most striking and most famous Buddhist monastery, and is extremely photogenic from almost any angle. The monastery enshrines gilt statues of monk-heroes Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, who preserved peace in the area by stopping a violent tin miners’ rebellion in 1876.
- Phi Phi Island These two rocky, tree-covered islands offer long white powder-sand beaches and magnificent coral reefs for snorkelers and divers, mountain and jungle trails for hikers, and Viking Cave , where daredevils on rickety ladders collect birds’ nests to make into delicious soup.
- Sunset There are many places in tropical Asia where you can see spectacular sunsets, but Phuket’s sunsets have been famous for centuries and have drawn huge crowds. Everyday, thousands of people flock to Kata-Sai Yuan Hill and Promthep Cape to enjoy the daily show, and they are hardly ever disappointed. Be prepared to take many photographs.
- Kata and Karon beaches are another world away from Phuket’s busy, noisy and increasingly congested Patong Beach . Beautiful white sandy beaches, relaxed and easy going, tropical and idyllic are the words that we would use to describe them. Kata and Karon beaches are the choice beaches for those people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, for those who want to relax and soak up the Andaman Sun, yet, be close enough to all that Phuket Island has to offer.
While Phuket’s shops cannot match the big-city bazaars of Bangkok in variety, there are nonetheless many fascinating bargains to be found. Prime shopping areas are along Rasda Road , Montri Road and Yawaraj Road in Phuket Town , and at Patong, Kata and Karon beaches. Local specialties include dried seafood, pearls, seashells and shell ornaments.
Chaidee Gems & Souvenir
93/8 Bangla Road, Patong Beach
(66-76) 340 858 / 9
Phuket Shopping Center
62/20 Rasda Road, Phuket Town
(66-76) 213 416-7
Cheewa Thaicraft Center
88/3 Thepkasattri Road, Phuket Town
(66-76) 311 124 / 311 406
Koh Samui is one of the most reputed islands in Thailand , similarly to Phuket; it possesses the characteristic beauty and offers a wide variety of activities. Originally, Koh Samui was only the area of coconut plantations, but after being discovered by backpackers who found it a peaceful and magnificent paradise, Samui Island started to be invaded by tourists. For better or worse, its charming beaches together with scenic nature can always attract and enchant people that they cannot help going back there more than once. Here below is the basic information for you to appreciate this appealing island.
Koh Samui is not only the beach resort, but contains many attractions such as the Waterfalls, Snake Farms, Pearl Farms, Butterfly Garden , and etc.
Nah Muang Falls :
10 kilometers south of Nathon, nature lovers will find Nah Muang Falls . This area is accessible from the village of Ban Thurian via an unpaved road. There are actually two waterfalls: Nah Muang, which is 18 meters high and reachable by vehicle; and Na Muang Two, which is about 80 meters high, requiring a 30-minute walk to get to the top. The waterfalls are the most scenic place on the island and a great place to have a picnic.
Hin Lad waterfall:
Located 2 kilometers south of Nathon on the eastern coast. It takes about a 3-kilometer-walk from the main road. You will be refreshing with its green rain forest and cold water in the large pool below.
It is located in Taling Ngam Beach ; the shows feature snakes indigenous to SamuiIsland, as well as some of the more poisonous and scarier species found throughout Asia . Included are displays of centipedes and scorpions, as well as demonstrations of the famous Thai Cock Fighting show.
Naga Pearl Farm:
This is where you can discover how pearls are cultured, a 30-minute-boat-ride from Thong Krut Beach . There are lots of pearl shops offering many varieties of pearl products as well as special local handicrafts. It is a good idea to go shopping here.
Butterfly Garden :
A must for all visitors. The garden houses numerous species of butterflies, including the rare and endangered species.
Suan Nong Nooch
Suan Nong Nooch is a Thai village theme park, about 15km (9mi) south of Pattaya towards Sattahip (the Navy Base). Demonstrations include sugar making, elephant bathing, an elephant show and cock fighting. There are also a so-called Thai Handicraft Center and cultural and traditional performances (shaped to what is believed to appeal to tourists) including Phuthai Dance and Thai Boxing. The entire area of 200 hectares (500 acres) is beautifully landscaped, with separate coconut and mango plantations, an orchid nursery, cactus garden, and other botanical gardens.
Mini Siam near Pattaya Klang is a theme park displaying Thai heritage in miniature. It brings together models of important buildings and objects of Thai culture and civilization of various periods from the ancient time till present.
More than 100 models, each on a scale of 1:25 , are depicted on a 1.8 hectare (4.4 acre) plot, surrounded by a beautiful park with a total area of 4.6 hectares (11.4 acre) with many different types of trees. It is the third largest such miniature park in the world (after similar parks in Holland and Taiwan ).
This park between South Pattaya and Jomtien Beach is for water amusements. It has colorful water slides, whirlpools and large pool for young children. The park facilities include a restaurant, fast-food corner, game room and lockers.
The elephant roundup at the elephant village is literally a big gathering. The gigantic beasts have long been the backbone for heavy work in the forests and jungles of Thailand . The village has shows of elephants at work, elephants playing football , demonstrations on the daily life of pachyderms and their masters, feeding and care of the animals and the use of elephants as the predecessors of tanks in warfare, as well as in ceremonial rites. Another demonstration gives a fair account of the happenings during an elephant hunt.
The Kraal demonstrates elephants at work, elephants showing obedience to mahouts’ orders, and other performances of pachyderms. The Kraal is behind the Pattaya Orphanage on Sukhumvit Highway , near Central Pattaya Rd. Shows are daily at 10:00 and 14:30.
This unique temple in modern Thai architecture is under the patronage of King Bhumiphol. It is situated 12km (8mi) south of Pattaya and 3km (2mi) from the Nong Nooch Village . A meditation course is offered for men at 6:00 and 18:00