Regime: Constitutional monarchy under military junta
Area: 514 000 km2
Population: 67 091 120 (2014)
Currency: Baht (THB)
Time Zone: GMT +7
Official language: Thai
Calling Code: +66
GDP (PPP per capita): $ 15 319
This bustling capital has much to offer and is full of amazing discoveries. Indeed, Bangkok is home to some of the most beautiful temples in the country, such as the Wat Arun or Wat Pho with its huge reclining Buddha. Other historic monuments and museums are also worth visiting, for example the Erawan Shrine or Vimanmeck, the former royal palace which became a museum. The possibility for an authentic Thai massage presents itself rather often, with parlours located almost everywhere.
As a world-renowned beach destination, this resort island will delight fans of diving and nature. Caves, white sand beaches and the turquoise sea guarantee the dream island experience. Mangrove forests and wildlife provide the opportunity for beautiful excursions.
Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, situated at the heart of a mountain range. There are no less than 300 temples and many national parks. Hiking or for the more energetic of tree climbing and zip lines are ideal activities for exploring the beautiful landscapes. Some trips also offer meetings with local tribes. Finally, the elephant nature park offers a unique excursion which includes shows and a casual walk while riding on the back of an elephant.
Koh Tao / Koh Samui
Koh Tao, or Turtle Island is not far from the island of Koh Samui. These two islands are one of the most heavenly experiences of Thailand with their white sand beaches lined with palm and coconut trees. These islands are becoming increasingly more known to tourists for scuba diving thanks to the transparent waters that allow excellent visibility and the chance to witness the rich marine life.
Its Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and walk among its ruins and famous temples full of history allow visitors to travel back in time. As the Former capital of the Kingdom of Siam, this beautiful site retains many traces of its past glory.
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From the most luxurious to the more Spartan, Thailand has it all: youth hostels, opportunity to stay in national parks, luxury hotels or sleep with the locals. Just take your pick!
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Weather/ When to leave:
Thailand has a tropical and equatorial climate in the south, near Malaysia. From March to May, the dry season, is hot during the day with cold temperatures at night (especially in the mountains). The rainy season is from June to October with hot, humid winds and lots of rain.
Although infrequent, typhoons may arrive between the months of September and October.
For the best chance to enjoy pleasant temperatures, a trip between November and March, will allow you to experiences the fresh and dry season and avoids the rainy season or the scorching temperatures of spring.
Thailand is one of the few Asian countries to have never been colonized by a foreign power. Due to the successive waves of immigration that the country experience, the population is made up of a mix including Mons, Khmers and Thais.
We also find many Chinese, Malaysian and Laos symbols in local Thai culture. A culture that is gradually opening up to Western culture, while adapting to its particular lifestyle.
The basis of Thai traditions stems from the family and the balance within its society is based on a value system which emphasises the religion, traditions and the monarchy.
Religion plays an import role in the daily life of the Thai, with 95% of the population representing Buddhism. The remaining population is made up of 4% Muslim and final 1% includes Christianity, Confucianism, Taoism and Hinduism.
Note that the religious and ceremonial arts still hold a prominent place in the Thai way of life.
The classical Thai architecture is mainly found in monastic monuments, temples or pagodas with various Chinese, Indian, Khmer and Burmese influences and can be seen in a different style when compared to the royal palace.
Thai sculpture is for the most part dedicated to Buddha, with the use of numerous materials including: wood, ivory, metals and precious stones. This religious representation is equally present in many works of literature or paintings.
Thailand is also considered one of the pioneers of Asian cinema, which spans many different genres.
Finally, the Thai music is quite unique thanks to its particular octaves and the instruments used.
Thai cuisine is varied, refined and world renowned. Besides being tasty, it is also healthy since many of the fresh plants and ingredients, which cannot be found elsewhere, used to flavour dishes are known for their therapeutic qualities.
A typical Thai meal consists of soup, a fried dish, a spicy salad (yam) and a curry or fried fish dish with fresh vegetables and rice. It is usually served with a variety of condiments and sauces and eaten with a fork and a spoon (no knives).
Some local dishes to test:
- Phat Thai: thin rice noodles
- Laap: minced meat dish with rice
- Khao soi: curry based noodle soup
- Green curry: curry made with coconut milk, to be eaten with jasmine rice
- Khao phat: limitless variation and often improvised
Places not to miss:
In Bangkok, also known as the City of Angels, there is the Royal Palace, Wat Phra Kaew with its famous Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho and the Temple of Dawn/Wat Arun, all of which should not be missed.
In the north, the city of Chiang Mai and its many temples deserve attention. A trek in the mountains to discover the traditional tribes is also needed. Finally in this region, the Loei province , the Khmer sanctuaries , the National Museum and Nan Khao Yai National Park complete this essential list.
In the south, the islands of Samui and Phuket as well as their surroundings offer the kind of landscape that dreams are made of. Krabui near the cave temple of Wat Tham Seua dug into the limestone rock is quite unique.
The floating markets are really something to see for their exceptional charm and in order to discover the local atmosphere: Taling Chan in Bangkok, Damnoen Saduak on the Klong Lat Phli or Bang Khu Wiang.
Things to do:
- Visit the old kingdoms such as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai
- Hiking amid the rice fields and discover the local culture in the northwest (the golden triangle, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai)
- Relaxation, rest and diving in the Southeast Islands (Ko Tao, Ko Samui, Ko Phanghan ) or Southwest (Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Lanta, Krabi)
- Diving and snorkelling in Pattaya, islands in the South or in the Andaman Sea
- Thai boxing ( Muay Thai )
- Golf for the diversity of landscapes
- Trekking in the many national parks
Festivals and events:
- Celebrations of Full Moon or Full Moon Parties
- Chinese New Year (February)
- Flower Festival in Chiang Mai ( February / March)
- Kite Festival in Bangkok (March)
- Songkran : Thai New Year or water festival (April)
- Full Moon of the 6th lunar month : Visakha Bucha Day , the anniversary of the birth and death of Buddha (May)
- Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara birthday and Mother’s Day (12 August)
- Light Festival Loy Kratong or (November)
- Surin Elephant Round (November)
- Birthday of King Rama IX ( December 5)
Passport and Visa:
Before your departure, it is imperative to contact the embassies or consulates to fully know the modalities of entry into the country. Moreover, the rules for obtaining or extending the length of a visa have evolved in recent years, which can be verified on this list.
In all cases, you must be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of first entry into the Thai territory.
If you arrive in Thailand by land you will be permitted to stay for a period of 15 days, while arriving by air allows a stay of 30 days. On top of this, visitors are limited to 90 days within 6 months, and need to provide proof of onward travel plus adequate finances for the duration of the stay.
The transport options are multiple and travel is generally easy and cheap in the country but because of this, scams are possible.
The railway network runs between the three main regions: north, northeast and south. The train is the ideal means of transport for long journeys and allows you to observe the scenery. There are 3 classes depending on the comfort you want.
The Thai bus network has the advantage of providing access to almost all location, day and night, and is reasonably reliable. It is advisable to make use of the busses belonging to the Transport Company or Baw Khaw, as private bus companies experience an elevated risk of theft.
The urban transport possibilities are: the tuk-tuk (a kind of half-motorcycles equipped with a bench in the back), the songthaew which is a shared taxi which follows a fixed route, or traditional taxis.
Finally, do not hesitate to try and negotiate prices and do not rely on your driver, as they have a keen eye for tourists and will take you to other places in order to earn a commission.
Health and safety:
No vaccinations are needed, however, you must be up to date in terms of routine vaccinations. In addition, vaccination against hepatitis A and typhoid are not a bad ideas as these diseases are present within the country. If you plan to get in rural areas, a preventive vaccine against rabies is also advised.
Police: 11 55
Ambulances and hospitals: 02 255 81 11
The extreme southern parts of Thailand remain plagued by violence, especially in certain provinces (Pattani, Songkhla, Yala, Narathiwat). Caution should be taken at the borders shared with Burma due to reported trafficking and Cambodia due to risk of clashes in the temple area.
Be aware that the penalties for drug use/trafficking are very severe.
Finally, theft and robbery are present in Thailand but do not pose particular problems. Pay attention to your belongings, keep your passport and credit card with you (or locked in a safe) and just stay alert!
The electrical supply in Thailand is 230V via a combination of plug types including the American and European norms (socket types A/B/C).
Get ready for an amazing party atmosphere with a wide variety of activities, countless restaurants, night markets, bars, clubs and discos. The nightlife is particularly lively in the capital but the resorts are do not lack entertainment either.
- In temples or private homes, remove your shoes and be sure to dress well in places of worship
- It is forbidden to smoke in all enclosed public places and the fine is 2,000 baht
- Thais have great respect for the royal family and as soon as the national anthem is broadcast, it is recommended to get up to pay tribute to the King
- Touching the head of another person is a sign of disrespect and frowned upon as this part of the body is considered to be the seat of the soul
- Meeting the inhabitants’ greetings with a smile or “wai” is the traditional hello, which is to join both hands as if praying and slightly bowing your head. It is considered rude to not return a wai.
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