Travel to Thailand

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Thailand

Thailand, the ‘Land of Smiles’ boasts tropical beaches, mountain jungles, quaint villages and bustling cities.  In Bangkok, a 21st-century playground, the scent of spicy street food fills the air, and the Grand Palace recalls the country’s ancient traditions.  Outside the capital, the wonders of the countryside enchant, whether you are trekking in the northern hills, exploring Ayutthaya’s splendid ruins, or diving in the waters of the idyllic southern coast.

The shopping is great and the sightseeing is diverse and compelling.  If that weren’t enough,  in Thailand you have 67 million new friends to make – the Thai people love to have a chat while standing at a food cart or waiting for a taxi. Thai culture is perfectly reflected in its cuisine: generous, warm, inspiring and casual.  From the golden temples that are as accessible as the home of a friend, to the islets that dot the coast like charms on a bracelet, Thailand is a destination that beckons visitors back time and time again.

Bangkok -  the Grand Palace and the adjacent Royal Temple, Wat Phra Kaew, appear like a fairy-tale castle of golden domes and glittering spires within white fortified walls. Royal Temple contains the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most revered religious image. Wat Po is Bangkok’s oldest temple, and is sometimes called the country’s first university due to the lessons in history and astrology inscribed on the walls. Of the many buildings and images on site, pride of place goes to the 147-foot-long Reclining Buddha, which shows the Buddha ascending into Nirvana after reaching enlightenment.  Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn is a must see. There are almost 10,000 stalls at Chatuchak Market, which operates in northern Bangkok each weekend.  For art lovers, Bangkok’s Museum of Contemporary Art is a pleasant surprise.

Chiang Rai -  This small delightful city is renown for its relaxed atmosphere, good-value accommodation and great local food. It’s also the logical base from which to plan excursions to the more remote corners of the province.

Chiang Mai -  was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lanna, and it retains a distinct culture. Chiang Mai was located on historically important trade routes, and still has a varied ethnic population and significant old temples such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang. Chiang Mai is also the gateway for jungle and hill-tribe treks.

Krabi  - quirky, compact and majestically situated among impossibly angular limestone karsts jutting from the mangroves. Krabi serves as base camp for exploring the rest of Krabi province, a lush region of jungles, limestone cliffs and idyllic isles floating just offshore in the Andaman Sea. Buddhist shrines still used by local monks are tucked into the chambers of the town’s top attraction, Tiger Cave. The riverside pier links travelers with ferries and longboats to the best scuba diving, rock climbing and white sand beaches on the coast.  The entire region is part of a marine National Park, and hence abundant in all types of marine life.

Phuket - Thailand’s largest island; 3 miles in length and 12 miles at its widest. Situated on the west-facing Andaman Sea coastline, Phuket is suspended from the southern tip of Phang Nga Province by a pair of short road bridges. Phuket is an international magnet for beach lovers and serious divers. Blue lagoons and peach hued sunsets make for a dream-like atmosphere. Watersports are the most popular activities, though once you’ve had enough sun there’s still plenty to explore at the island’s aquariums, gardens, and Buddhist temples.

Ko Phi Phi -  a small archipelago of six islands, offshore from Krabi, widely considered one of the most beautiful yet easily accessible island groups in the world. This area has something to offer everyone,  from the languorous sunbathers to the adrenaline junkies.

Ko Samui -  a small island in Thailand’s western gulf is best appreciated by those who linger over its many charms. Explore the interior, indulge in some seriously luxurious spa treatments and revel in the chilled-out nightlife that has made this an enduring favorite of those seeking the quintessential Thai beach vacation.

Ao Phang Nga - One of the most arresting natural sights in Thailand is formed by the jungle-clad limestone karsts and islands that rise like towers around the waters of Ao Phang Nga, a marine national park close to Phuket. The most famous of the islands is Koh Ping Kan, which was featured in the film The Man With The Golden Gun, and is hence better known as ‘James Bond Island’.

In terms of visitor arrival numbers, Thailand is Asia’s primary travel destination. Despite this statistic, Thailand has been able to absorb outside influences and maintain its own glorious rich heritage and culture. Outside of Bangkok, the typical Thai community is still a farming or fishing village, or a rubber plantation. Almost 40% of Thais earn their living growing rice.

People

With a population of around 66 million, Thailand has been shaped by many influences, including Indian, Lao, Burmese, Cambodian, and Chinese. The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is generally offered first by the younger of the two people meeting, with their hands pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch face to fingertips. As with other Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part of Thai culture. Taboos in Thailand include touching someone’s head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the lowest part of the body.

Language

The official language of Thailand is Thai. It is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout the country. English is a mandatory school subject, but the number of fluent speakers remains low, especially outside cities.

History

Formerly known as “Siam”, on May 11, 1949, the country’s name was changed to “Thailand”.  The word “Thai” means free, so the meaning of Thailand is the “land of the free”. Throughout the country’s 800-year history, Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized. 

Long before the emergence of what is conventionally called the Thai Kingdom, the area known as Chao Phraya valley was inhabited by ancient civilizations which can be traced back to pre-historic times. The discussion of the origin of the Thais has been a controversial topic showing no sign of definite conclusion, but one of the most reliable and recent theories is that the Thais might have first settled down in the village of Ban Chiang, where many significant instruments and artifacts were discovered.  By the 13th century the Thais had settled within the Southeast Asian mainland with Sukhothai as the “first kingdom”. Under King Ramkhamhaeng the Great, the land of Sukhothai was thriving and this time is regarded as a golden age in Thai history.

In 1350, a new dynasty led by King Ramathaibodi established a new capital at Ayutthaya. Following the defeat of a Burmese attack, King Taksin retreated to the south and established a new capital at Thonburi. After his death in 1782, the King was succeeded by King Phra Buddha Yodfah Chulaloke, who moved the capital to the present location in Bangkok due to the vulnerability of Thonburi to more Burmese attacks. The king founded the dynasty called Chakri dynasty which rules Thailand to the present day.

Currency

The baht - sign ฿; code: THB - is the currency of Thailand. It is subdivided into 100 satang.

Best Time to Travel

Generally speaking, the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February. During this cool season, the temperature ranges from 66 to 94 degrees in Bangkok, while in northern and northeast Thailand, temperatures can get quite cool with morning temperatures as low as 46 degrees , with the occasional 70 degree day.
The summer period, or hot and dry season, is from March to June. At this time temperatures in Bangkok average around 98 degrees, but can often reach 110 degrees with humidity levels of 75%. April is the hottest month across the country.
From July to October is the monsoon, when most of Thailand’s annual rainfall is accumulated and flooding can occur. The humidity averages just under 90%, with temperatures averaging around 88 degrees in a very wet and rainy Bangkok.

Health Requirements

No shots are required for Thailand unless you are coming from a yellow fever country, in which case a yellow fever certificate is required. Please check with your travel clinic for their recommendation based on your personal health history.

Visa Requirements

U.S. citizens carrying a tourist passport and in possession of an onward or return airline ticket do not require a visa to enter Thailand. The passport must have at least six months validity remaining.  Upon entry, Thai immigration officials will place an immigration stamp in the passport permitting a 30-day stay in Thailand if arriving by air or a 15-day stay if arriving by land.  This is subject to change without notice.

Tipping & Porterage

Tipping is expected and appreciated. Tipping guidelines will be provided with final travel documents.

 

 

Credit Cards

In hotels and major stores, Visa and Mastercard are accepted, American Express less so.  Cash is needed for shopping at street markets and local stores as Thailand is largely a cash based economy. ATMs are found in all major tourist destinations but fees to withdraw cash can be quite high.

Electrical Appliances

Thailand plug type: A, B; C, F. Residential voltage is 220 volts Frequency is 50 Hz. For more information on plugs and voltage, please visit http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/

Water

Tap water in Thailand is generally potable however bottled water is inexpensive, so recommended for short term visitors.


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This Destination

Thailand

Related Destinations

Bali & Indonesia
Bhutan
Cambodia
China
Hong Kong & Macau
India
Japan
Laos
Malaysia
Myanmar
Nepal
Northern India
Philippines
Singapore
South Korea
Southern India
Sri Lanka
Taiwan
Thailand
Vietnam

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