From idyllic beaches with turquoise seas and white sands, tobustling cities sporting exotic markets, and a vibrant, colourfulnightlife, it is easy to see why Thailand has become one of themost popular tourist destinations for the adventurous and young atheart.
A turbulent, bloody history spanning several millennia has leftThailand scattered with ruins, forgotten temples and desertedcities, revealing a rich tableau of past eras that contrastssharply with the more modern aspects of the nation's contemporaryface.
As Thailand's tourist industry has boomed, helped tosome extent by Hollywood's influence (the country has been thesetting for movies like The Man with the Golden Gun, The Bridgeover River Kwai, and Alex Garland's The Beach), numerous large andluxurious resorts have been developed. Yet, for those with asmaller budget, many cheap, comfortable but more basicaccommodation options are still readily available on the islandsand beaches.
The size and geographical diversity of Thailand provides for avariety of activities: snorkelling, diving and a host ofwatersports are very popular around the islands, while inlandenthusiasts can trek into the mountains or cycle along the flatriver areas of the northeast. Bustling, crowded cities like Bangkokdisplay the wilder urban side of Thailand, ensuring the country hassomething to offer everyone who visits.
There is so much to see and do in Thailand that few visitors canresist returning. With an expansive coast line and gorgeoustropical islands, Thailand is justly famed for its wonderfulbeaches and laid-back lifestyle. Inland, there are the iconicsights of lush jungles, rolling hills and rice paddies. As acountry of Buddhists, there is also an abundance of golden templesand beautiful, spiritually-inspired architecture. One word ofcaution though: to avoid the common fate of temple fatigue,visitors shouldn't try to see too many. They should ratherconcentrate on a few key attractions and spend some quality time ineach of them.
In contrast is the buzzing atmosphere of Bangkok, whose neonlights and smoggy streets blend with gardens and floating marketsto create a unique hybrid of old and new - at a frenetic pace.
One reason why Thailand is such a rewarding sightseeingdestination is that it has retained its distinctive identity in theface of significant western influence. That makes visiting here anexciting and exotic experience, whether travellers areresort-loving beach bums or adrenaline junkies exploring hilltribes and river rapids. More good news is that Thailand is blessedwith year-round temperate weather, so travellers can visit at anytime - although in the months from June-October, rough seaconditions may make some islands unreachable via the ferrysystem.
Getting around is fairly easy and remarkably safe. An excellentbus network connects even far-flung towns with the major cities,while a comfortable sleeper train connects Chiang Mai in the farnorth with the capital Bangkok. Many people prefer to see thesights via organised tours and air-conditioned buses, but by doingso visitors risk missing out on the fun of getting betweenattractions, where they will encounter local people in unexpectedways.
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is an escape from theWestern-style shopping malls of Bangkok and a glimpse into thepast, revealing the centuries-old way of life of the residentswhose stilt-houses perch on the canals and make their livingselling fruits, vegetables and flowers. Visitors can explore themarket with boat trips and sample the wares of local farmers asthey do so. They can also enjoy the experience of floating throughone of Thailand's many river villages.
The Royal Grand Palace is a popular Bangkok attraction.Construction of the palace began in 1782 and was completed in timefor the coronation of King Rama I, and opened in 1785 to signifythe end of the Burmese invasion of Thailand. The palace itself ismade up of a complex array of smaller buildings, most notably theWat Mahatat (the Palace Temple) and the Wat Phra Keow (the RoyalChapel), which houses the famous Emerald Buddha sculpted from asingle piece of jade, one of the most revered objects inThailand.
The Royal Barges National Museum houses several decorative royalbarges, the earliest of which dates back to 1357. Most of thebarges served as War Vessels at one point, and were subsequentlyused on royal or state occasions on the Chao Phraya River. Due totheir age, the barges are now rarely used, but their intricatedesigns reflecting Thai religious beliefs and local history are ofgreat importance to the country's heritage. The barges were lastused at the end of 1999 to celebrate the king's 72nd birthday.
Situated adjacent to the Royal Grand Palace, Wat Pho isBangkok's oldest, largest and most famous temple, recognised by theUNESCO Memory of the World Programme. The grounds of Wat Phocontain over 1,000 statues of Buddha, and the temple houses one ofThailand's most spectacular sights, the Reclining Buddha: a151-foot (46m) long and 49-foot (15m) high statue that isgold-plated and inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl on the soles of itsfeet. In the 19th century King Rama III turned Wat Pho into acentre of learning and it is considered the birthplace of thetraditional Thai massage. Visitors today can still have a massageand learn about the ancient art of Thai Medicine.
American silk entrepreneur Jim Thompson deserves most of thecredit for the current popularity of Thai silk around the world.Having travelled to Bangkok with the US Army in World War II,Thompson was struck by the beauty of Thai silk and began marketingit to US buyers in 1948, establishing the Thai Silk CompanyLimited. His fame increased when, in 1967, Thompson disappeared inthe Cameron Highlands of Malaysia under mysterious circumstances.He has never been heard of since. The house itself is an excellentexample of Thai residential architecture, and inside is a displayof his Oriental art and antique collection, as well as an array ofhis personal belongings.
Some 13 miles (21km) west of Chiang Mai lies the Doi SuthepMountain, famous for the Wat Phrathat temple perched on the summit.Legend has it that in the late 14th century King Ku Na was lookingfor somewhere to house a collection of holy relics. He placed themin a howdah (canopied seat) on the back of an elephant and let theanimal wander. The elephant proceeded to climb Doi Suthep, on topof which it trumpeted, turned round three times and knelt toindicate that this was the spot. Within the site are bells,pagodas, statues and shrines influenced by both Buddhist and Hinduculture, including a model of the Emerald Buddha and a statue ofthe Hindu god Ganesh. Wat Phrathat can be reached either by aflight of about 300 steps, or by funicular, and offers breathtakingviews of the countryside.
Set in the lush Doi Suithep-Pui National Park, only 10 miles(15km) out of town, the Mae Sa Waterfall is definitely worthvisiting on any Thailand holiday. Travellers should follow thewinding pathway to the waterfall's plummeting 10-tiered cascades.There are various little secluded areas along the trail wherevisitors can relax with a picnic. The jungle villages dotting theriverbanks are also fascinating to see. This popular picnic andswimming spot gets a bit over-crowded on weekends.
Boasting giant pandas from China, Chiang Mai Zoo has earneditself quite a reputation with travellers as one of the topattractions in the region. The perfect destination for a day tripwith the kids, the Chiang Mai Zoo also features exhibits such as awalk through aviary, Gibbon Island, an aquarium, a Cape Fur sealexhibit and even a special Children's Zoo. With two waterfalls,plenty of space to run around and a fabulous variety of exoticresidents, a trip to the zoo is a must for all animal lovers and agreat way to spend the day. Seal shows and other animal shows areconducted several times a day.
Dating back to the 13th century, the buddha at Wat Traimitstands nearly 10 feet (3m) tall, weighs over five tons and isbelieved to be solid cast gold, the largest gold statue in theworld. It was discovered by accident in 1957 when an old stuccoimage was dropped by a crane, shattering the plaster shell toreveal the brilliantly shining gold underneath. The statue isbreathtaking and is thought to have come from Ayutthaya covered inplaster to hide it from the Burmese invaders.
Originally built in 1874, the Bangkok National Museum is locatedwithin the grounds of the Royal Palace, just a 15-minute walk fromthe palace of the Emerald Buddha, and displays thousands ofartefacts ranging all the way from Neolithic times to present day.It is known as Thailand's central treasury of art and archaeology.Many of the actual buildings are works of art themselves,surrounded by brightly-coloured pavilions and boasting some ofSoutheast Asia's most ornate jewellery and historical treasures. Avisit to the museum is a must for anyone who wants a betterunderstanding of Thailand's rich culture and history. Guided toursare conducted on Wednesdays and Thursdays in various internationallanguages.
Wat Suthat is among the oldest and largest temples in Bangkokand is home to the beautiful 13th-century Phra Buddha Shakyamuni, a25-foot (8m) tall bronze Buddha image that was brought fromSukhothai and containing the ashes of King Rama VIII. It is alsoknown for its exquisite wall paintings, done during the reign ofRama III. The enormous arch made of teak outside the wat is allthat remains of an original swing which was used to celebrate andthank Shiva for a bountiful rice harvest. Teams of men would ridethe swing on arcs as high as 82 feet (25m) into the air, grabbingat bags of silver coins with their teeth. The swing ceremony wasdiscontinued in 1932 due to countless injuries and deaths, but thethanksgiving festival is still celebrated in mid-December after therice harvest.
Few places in the world can match Phuket for its array ofbeautiful beaches with white sands and crystal clear waters. Fromthe popular Patong Beach, which daily draws hundreds of visitors toits shores, to the quieter Kata Noi hidden away from the crowds,Phuket has a strip of sand for everyone. For those who want to burnoff some energy, activities such as parasailing, jet skiing andsnorkelling can be found on many of the more popular beaches. Thebest beaches in Phuket for snorkelling would be Ao Sane andParadise Beach. For those who prefer to sit back and enjoy theatmosphere, there are beachside massages, restaurants and cocktailbars around every corner. In this regard, the best beaches inPhuket for relaxing, with a more secluded, hidden feeling would beMai Khao, Had Sai or Freedom Beach. When the day is done, Phuketoffers some of the most beautiful sunsets travellers will ever see,framed by sheer limestone cliffs and the lazy coconut palms whichline the beaches.
Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the Marble Temple, isconstructed of white Carrara marble (even the courtyard is pavedwith polished white marble) and is known as one of Bangkok's mostbeautiful temples. The temple's name literally means 'The Temple ofthe fifth King located nearby Dusit Palace'. Built of Italianmarble and designed by Prince Naris, a half-brother of the king, itis unique in that, unlike older complexes, there is no wihaan orchedi dominating the grounds. The temple houses many Buddha imagesrepresenting various regional styles. Inside the ornate OrdinationHall (Ubosot) is a Sukhothai-style Buddha statue named PhraBuddhajinaraja, and buried under this statue are the ashes of KingRama V. The site also contains the Benchamabophit NationalMuseum.
Built by King Rama V in 1900, the exquisite golden teakwoodmansion, also known as Vimanmek Palace, is located in the DusitPalace complex. It was restored in 1982 for Bangkok's bicentennialand King Rama IX granted permission to transform Vimanmek Mansioninto a museum to commemorate King Rama V by displaying hisphotographs, personal art and handicrafts, and to serve as ashowcase of the Thai national heritage. The informative hour-longtour takes visitors through a series of apartments and rooms, astaggering 72 in total, in what is said to be the largest teakbuilding in the world. It is now a major tourist attraction and adefinite must for anyone visiting the intriguing city of Bangkok.Visitors to the Vimanmek Palace are required to dress modestly,meaning men must wear long pants and women must wear skirts orpants below the knee and have their shoulders covered. Sarongs areavailable to hire if visitors need to cover up, but theyoccasionally run out.
The Chatuchak Market (also known as the JJ Market) is said to bethe largest flea market in the world. 'Organised' along narrow gridlines under tin roofs, this enormous market is packed tight withall of Thailand's wares. Around 15,000 stalls are looselycategorised into clothing, crafts, food, and animal sections and itis easy to become disoriented quickly. Some of Thailand's illegallytraded animals are sold here and vendors are quick to spot signs ofoncoming raids. However, a host of legal but bizarre goods are alsotraded; cock-fighting roosters, monkeys, fake designer gear andantiques are just the tip of the iceberg. The market is only openon the weekends from 8am to 6pm and on Fridays for wholesalers. Itis easily reached by the Skytrain from the Mo Chit station and bysubway. Visitors should keep the import restrictions of their homecountries in mind when shopping at Chatuchak Market, and buyaccordingly.
Fight fans will get a kick out of Thailand's national sport,Muay Thai. The matches are best watched at the Rajadamnern stadium,though visitors should be warned that the prices for foreigners orfarang are much more than local's. Usually fewer than 10 matchesare arranged for a night but the brutality of the style means thatsome of these result in quick knockouts. The events are a mix oftraditional Thai music and traditional pre-match customs before thehard hitting fight that utilises elbows, knees, fists, and shins toknock out the opponent. Several types of tickets are available, themore expensive fight floor, and the more rowdy informal gamblingarea on the second tier. Tourists should watch their hand movementsas they can be interpreted as willingness to bet. Fights can beseen on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays in the evening.Lumpinee Stadium also showcases fights to a more touristyaudience.
The two and a half hour, 100-mile (150km) train ride to theMonkey Temple in the town of Lopburi is an easy day trip out ofBangkok. Legend has it the temple was founded by a fallen arrow ofHanuman, the Hindu Monkey God. The animal kingdom hierarchy isreversed here as the temple gives the monkeys free roam and food.Often novelty turns into nervousness as visitors are followed bycrowds of the impolite inhabitants. Visitors can buy packs ofsunflower seeds for THB 10 to feed the monkeys, but should keepwatch of loose items like glasses, purses, and especially food asthe monkeys are keen pickpockets and they bite. November is theMonkey Festival in Lopburi but it is interesting to visityear-round.
Located 83 miles (135km) up a coiled mountain road from ChiangMai in the extreme northwest of Thailand, Pai is an unlikelytourist attraction. The town has undergone a number of transitionsfrom hill tribe village to hippie hideaway to a tourist playground.Its relaxed atmosphere and peaceful mountain scenery have enlargedits widening reputation and it is now a tourist hot spot. Pai is apopular base camp for treks into the hills which can be arrangedthrough hotels or travel agencies in the city. Closer waterfallsand hot springs are worth a visit, and elephant camps are nearby aswell. An airport now connects Pai to Chiang Mai, but the best wayto get there is by motorbike or bus in order to see the beautifulscenery on the way.
Chiang Rai's Hilltribe Museum and Education Centre is a greatplace to visit before heading on a trek to visit the hill-tribes inthe region around Chiang Rai. The centre has several exhibits aimedto give visitors a better understanding of the culture and historyof the tribes, but also gives an honest account of how the tribesare exploited by the Thai tourism industry. Tourists can alsoarrange hill-tribe tours from the centre. There is an excellentrestaurant downstairs whose proceeds fund social programmes.
High in the mountains of central Thailand, the Doi Tung RoyalVilla was the residence of the late Princess Srinagarindra, alsoknown as the Princess Mother. The Princess Mother built herself asummer residence in the area as part of her development project todiscourage local farmers from growing opium and employing harmful'slash and burn' practises. After her death, the residence wasconverted into a museum, and the rest of the property, includingthe Mae Fah Luang Garden and Mae Fah Luang Arboretum, is also opento the public. The complex has a hotel, restaurant, coffee shop andgift shop.
Temple tours of Chiang Mai are a wonderful attraction forvisitors. The old town is home to the most honoured temples andsome tranquil Buddhist sanctuaries. The historic Wat Pra Singhholds the revered Phra Singh Buddha, which possibly dates from the14th century. The oldest temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Chiang Man(established by King Mengrai), noted for its ancient bas reliefsand massive teak columns. Wat Chedi Luang boasts a gigantic chediruin, said to be the tallest structure in the old town, and wasonce home to the sacred Emerald Buddha (now in Bangkok).
The Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center is an interestingattraction near the Three Kings Monument (Saam Kasat). Thismultimedia history and cultural education centre offersEnglish-subtitled video displays of Chiang Mai, followed by toursof the rooms documenting the region's history and culture since thepre-Muang period. There are also exhibits showcasing Buddhism andregional beliefs, as well as agricultural history, hill tribes andother regional cultures, and the royal dynasties are alsorepresented. The guides are elegantly outfitted in traditional Thaiclothing. The Center is a must-visit for anyone interested inlearning more about the rich culture and history of Chiang Mai.
A worthwhile Chiang Mai attraction is the Lisu Hill-Tribedisplay at the Hill-Tribe Research Institute Museum. The lives andcultures of the hill-tribe people of Thailand are exhibited herethrough photographs, agricultural implements, religious artefactsand musical instruments. Household utensils and ethnic costumes arealso displayed. The non-hill-tribe ethnic minority, the Mlabri (whoare often associated with the 'spirit of the yellow leaves'), areincluded in this extraordinary exhibit.
The royal winter palace of Bhubing has beautiful, regalstructures and extravagantly landscaped gardens for visitors totake in. The palace may not be entered but the gardens can beexplored when the Thai royal family is not in residence. Thegardens of Bhubing Palace are known for their stunning roses, andare home to a variety of bird and insect life. Visitors can walk upto the Queen's water fountain and find some shade under a pagoda.There is a strict dress code which must be adhered to when visitingthis royal site, including a ban on shorts and dresses that showthe shoulders.
A beautiful Chiang Mai attraction, the first genuine botanicalgarden in Thailand was the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in the MaeSa Valley. It now also serves as a centre of botanical research andstudies. The main feature of this attraction is the GlasshouseComplex, made up of four exhibition conservatories and eightdisplay glasshouses. A lovely river runs melodically through thegrounds. The Thai Orchid Nursery and Rock Garden are otherhighlights of the gardens, as well as various walking trails andshaded rest areas. Facilities for visitors include a restaurant, afirst-aid station, souvenir shops and toilets.
Maesa Elephant Camp is a popular attraction located up in theMuang hills, about a half hour's drive north of Chiang Mai. Thecamp is home to dozens of Asian elephants, and is dedicated toconservation and breeding. Visitors to the camp will be privy toshows which include elephants playing football and even painting!There are also elephant rides available for the more adventurous.Although this is not a natural environment for these great animals,they are well cared for and very entertaining. The best time tovisit Maesa Elephant Camp is on March 13th, which is National ThaiElephant Day and is celebrated by an enormous banquet for thepachyderms.
Featuring fun, interactive exhibits, the Children's DiscoveryMuseum in Bangkok encourages hands-on experience in science,nature, culture and society. With galleries themed Body and Mind,Culture and Society, and Technology, children can learn about amultitude of sciences in an interesting and enjoyable way. The besttimes to visit are in early morning and late afternoon, in order toavoid large school groups.
Built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) as his private gardenadjacent to the royal palace, the Dusit Zoo is Thailand's oldestzoo. The zoo boasts an animal hospital, zoo museum and educationalcentre, sightseeing train, activity ground and cafeteria. Kids willlove exploring everything that the Dusit Zoo has to offer andmeeting rare animals like the White Bengal Tiger and Albino BarkingDeer, along with others such as monkeys, penguins and camels.
Located in the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, the Bangkok SeaLife Ocean World is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast Asiaand features seven different zones; from weird and wonderful anddeep reef, to living ocean and rocky shore. The aquarium features30,000 marine animals, including Oriental Small-Clawed otters,ragged-tooth sharks, stingrays and giant groupers. Children willsimply love Siam Ocean World, where they can watch live shows, havea shark encounter, ride in a glass-bottom boat, or enjoy a 4Dcinema experience.
Originally set up to for research to extract the venom fromsnakes to make anti-venom, the Snake Farm is a great place to takethe kids if they're interested in these slithering creatures.Featuring Malayan Pit Vipers, King Cobras, Banded Kraits andRussell Vipers, the Snake Farm educates the public on snakes andsafety surrounding them. Venom-milking and snake-handling shows areheld daily at 10:30am and 2pm on weekdays, and 10:30am on publicholidays.
Located between the Queen Sirikit Gardens and the Children'sDiscovery Museum, this massive enclosure with rockeries, plants,ferns and a waterfall features some of the most dazzlinglybeautiful butterflies in Thailand. Boasting dozens of species,including rare butterflies, looking up at the dome at any givenmoment, visitors to the Bangkok Butterfly Garden and Insectariumcan see more than 500 types of butterflies, such as the GoldenBirdwing or Siam Tree Nymph. The Queen Sirikit Gardens are awonderful place to take a walk and feature magnificently colouredflowers, mazes, ponds and shady trees. Visitors who come here canenjoy a wonderful day of stunning gardens and scenery, butterflyspotting and even picnicking.
Kids will love this wonderland of interesting creepy crawlies.Founded in 2002 by Manop Rattanarithikul (nicknamed 'The MosquitoMan') and his wife, Dr Rampa Rattanarithikul, a distinguishedacademic with 44 papers published in her name. The couple both havea keen interest in insects and have been studying them for most oftheir lives. Manop guides curious visitors through his vast andrare collection of insects and invertebrates that comprises 422species of insects in Thailand.
The best place to learn more about Phuket's past and present isthe Thalang National Museum, which chronicles the island's dailylife as well as its long history. There are exhibits on tin mining,military history, the Sea Gypsy culture and artefacts of theancient Sukothai kingdom, dating back to the 9th century. One ofthe most interesting exhibits is the Monument of the Two Heroines,sisters Thao Thep Krasattri and Thao Si Sunthorn, who helped torepel the Burmese invasion in the 18th century.
Wat Chalong is the most famous of the 29 Buddhist temples inPhuket, welcoming thousands of visitors every year. The site isdedicated to two monks who used their knowledge of herbal medicineto assist in the tin miners' rebellion of 1876. The many buildingsof the temple complex contain gilt statues, paintings, and relics,including a splinter of bone said to belong to the Buddha. A uniqueaspect of Wat Chalong is the regular sound of firecrackers, whichare set off to show gratitude for answered prayers. Visitors toBuddhist temples should take care not to wear revealing clothing(with knees and shoulders covered), and be prepared to leave theirshoes at the door.
Now a small city in southern Thailand, Sukhothai was once theseat of an ancient Siamese culture. The Sukhothai National HistoricPark has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is dedicatedto preserving the area's many temples, palaces and monuments, whichdate back to the 13th century. The old city covers roughly 27square miles (70 sq km) and is divided into three zones, each ofwhich charge separate admission. There are bicycle rentalsavailable, and there is a privately-run tour by tram. NewSukhothai, 7.5 miles (12km) from the historic park, features afresh market with great local food, and a few shops andrestaurants.
Nestled into the lush mountains of northernmost Thailand, ChiangRai is a hotspot for travellers who want to get a real culturalexperience from their stay in Thailand. The region is home to theremote hill tribe communities that make up about 10 percent ofThailand's population. Scattered through the mountains and valleysof the province, the tribes are descendents of nomadic peoples fromTibet and southern China. Each tribe is unique, with its owncolourful culture and traditions. Many travellers arrive in ChiangRai from Chiang Mai (a three-hour bus journey) to begin their treksto hill tribe villages, but there is plenty to see and do in ChiangRai itself including many beautiful temples and interestingmuseums. Visitors will also find good restaurants and food stallsoffering a taste of northern Thai cuisine. The city has a lively,if not endless, nightlife, with a few good bars and pubs hostinglive music. Chiang Rai is situated near the coming together of thethree modern nations of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, a region knownas the Golden Triangle, which is dissected by the mighty MekongRiver.
Thai Phrase Book
|Thank you||Khawp khun|
|My name is...||Cheu...|
|How much is this?||Raa kaa tao-rai?|
|Where is...?||...yoo nai?|
|Does anyone speak English?||Mee krai pood ang-grit dai mai?|
|I don�t understand||Mai kao chai|
|One, two, three, four, five||Ne-ung, song, saam, see, haa|
|I need a doctor||Tong-gahn maw rahk-saa|
The climate in Thailand experiences high temperatures andhumidity levels throughout the year. The hottest months in Thailandare between March and May, and monsoon season runs from June toOctober. In September and October, much of the country suffers fromflooding, particularly in the north, northeastern and centralregions. The cool season is the best time to visit Thailand,running from November to February. Temperatures are fairlyconsistent throughout the year, especially in southern regions,ranging between 74°F (23°C) and 86°F (30°C).
Across the Ratchadamnoen Klang road from Banglamphu district isa popular but low key hangout for the local trend setters. Mostcome for the ambiance rather than the food as the first floorusually hosts a live band, the second an art gallery, the third apool hall, and the fourth an open air terrace with beautiful views,all filled with cheerful diners and drinkers.
A firm favourite in Bangkok's dining scene, May Kaidee is reallyinformal, but serves some of the most mouth-watering vegetarian andvegan food the city has to offer. Known for serving the bestmassaman curry in Thailand and an array of dishes, from sweet greencurry to good stir-fries and black sticky-rice with mango fordessert, this eatery is a must! May Kaidee is also a Thai cookingschool. Open daily from 7am to 11pm. Cash only.
This 80-year-old Siamese restaurant house features its very owntropical garden and offers a quiet retreat from Bangkok's chaoticPatpong area. The food may not be the most authentic, but it'sdelicious and the diverse menu with choices such as mild, greenchicken curry and crispy spring rolls won't leave guestsdisappointed. Live traditional music and classic Thai decorativetouches create a wonderfully charming atmosphere. Open daily forlunch and dinner. Reservations advisable.
This restaurant may not have the most charming atmosphere, butthe food is simply delicious and well worth it for those who arewilling to make the sacrifice. A popular eatery, Somboon Seafoodhas friendly staff, is regularly packed and has such a vast menu,guests will find themselves coming back time and again. Therestaurant also features a large aquarium full of live seafood suchas prawn, fish, lobster and crab. The house specialty, chilli crabcurry, comes highly recommended. Open daily from 4pm to 11pm.Credit cards not accepted.
The Rain Tree Café offers a buffet of Thai and internationalfood for breakfast, lunch or dinner and is ideal for family meals.Their Vodka Oyster Bar has four kinds of imported oysters, andspecial seafood buffets are offered on Fridays and Saturdays. Comeon Sunday between 12 and 3pm for a Champagne Sunday Brunch.
This vibey Bangkok restaurant has live music and karaoke inaddition to spicy Thai food at reasonable prices and a Japanesesushi corner. The large restaurant has good views from its positionon the riverside, and the lavish décor of waterfalls and springsadd to the festive atmosphere.
The very popular South Indian aromatic cuisine known as is a Punjabi dish traditionally eaten with the hands.Consisting of a rice and lentil pancake, crepe or tortilla, foldedwith a potato curry or other savoury filling, and served with avegetable and lentil broth called . A purely vegetarian restaurant in Bangkok, Dosa Kingis ideal for a quick and healthy meal for those exploringSukhumvit. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Just around the corner from the bustling backpacker district,this quiet coffee shop is a great stop for breakfast or earlylunch. The dark wooden interior transports diners to old Siam,although omelettes and baguettes are often welcome tastes of thewest. Ricky's has added Mexican food to the menu. Open 8am to11pm.
Popular with Westerners and just a short walk from the skytrain,Lemongrass serves some of Bangkok's finest Nouvelle Thai cuisine.Favourites on the menu include pomelo salad and chicken satay. The (a spicy sweet-and-sour prawn soup with gingershoots) is delicious and comes highly recommended. Open daily forlunch and dinner. Bookings are advisable.
The unit of currency is the Baht (THB), which is divided into100 satang. Currency can be exchanged at the airport, banks,hotels, and bureaux de change. Banks are open Monday to Friday.ATMs are available in most cities and tourist resorts, but there isa surcharge for each withdrawal. Most major credit cards areaccepted at hotels and larger businesses.
Thai is the official language, although English is widelyspoken in tourist areas.
220 volts, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs areused.
US passports must be valid for six months beyond date ofarrival. No visa is required for tourist stays of up to 30days.
Passports must be valid for six months beyond date of arrival.British nationals with passports endorsed 'British Citizen' or'British National (Overseas)' do not require a visa for stays of upto 30 days. British travellers carrying passports with otherendorsements should check official requirements.
Canadian Passports must be valid for six months beyond date ofarrival. No visa is needed for touristic stays of up to 30days.
Australian passports must be valid for six months beyond date ofarrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30 days.APEC Business Travel Card holders endorsed for travel to Thailandmay stay up to 90 days.
South African passports must be valid for six months beyond dateof arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to 30days.
Irish passports must be valid for six months beyond date ofarrival. No visa is required for stays of up to 30 days.
US passports must be valid for six months beyond date ofarrival. No visa is required for tourist stays of up to 30days.
Passports from New Zealand must be valid for six months beyonddate of arrival. No visa is required for touristic stays of up to30 days. Holders of APEC Business Travel Cards endorsed for travelto Thailand may stay up to 90 days.
Travellers entering Thailand are required to prove they havesufficient funds to cover the length of their stay, and arerecommended to hold documentation for return/onward travel. As ofFebruary 2017, if visitors are using the 30 day visa exemption,they can only enter Thailand through a land border twice percalendar year. To cross more frequently, travellers must obtain avisa in advance of travelling. It is highly recommended thatpassports are valid for six months beyond travel.
As a health precaution, travellers should take medical advice atleast three weeks before travelling to Thailand. There is nomalaria risk in major tourist resorts or in the cities of Bangkok,Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Ko Samui, and Ko Phangan. But inrural, forested areas that border Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, andLaos, preventions against malaria are recommended and immunisationagainst hepatitis A and typhoid fever is also advised. Yellow fevervaccination certificates are required for travellers from infectedareas.
There has been an increase in reported cases of dengue fever,particularly in the south, and vaccination against Japaneseencephalitis is also recommended. Outbreaks of leptospirosis occurduring the rainy season and after flooding. There have beenoutbreaks of waterborne diseases in the Provinces of Khon Kaen, LopBuri, Phitsanulok and Prachin Buri. Outbreaks of cholera have alsobeen reported. Travellers should drink or use only boiled orbottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If they suffer fromdiarrhoea during their visit, they should seek immediate medicalattention. HIV/AIDS is prevalent in the major cities and resorts.Medical facilities are good in major cities, but good medicalinsurance is vital - without insurance, or cash/credit card,travellers will not be treated. Bangkok has excellent internationalhospitals.
Note: Thailand has reported cases of Zika virus infections. TheUK foreign office classifies the risk of transmission as moderate.Pregnant women are advised to postpone Thailand travel plans untilafter the pregnancy. Visitors should be sure to use mosquitorepellent and be aware that the virus can be transmitted sexually;appropriate precautions should be taken.
Tipping is not expected, but is becoming more common in placesfrequented by tourists. Tipping 10 to 15 percent on a restaurantbill is usual, but ultimately this is left up to the customer todecide based on service performance. Sometimes a 10 percent servicecharge is added to the bill at hotels and restaurants, but this isnot common. All help with carrying bags, tour guides etc. welcomesmall tips. Taxi drivers are not generally tipped.
Though most visits to Thailand are trouble-free, tourists shouldfollow a few safety precautions. They should avoid all politicalgatherings and marches and stay well-informed about the situationin the country - as they should when visiting any destination.
Like many parts of the world, South East Asia has been a victimof terrorism, meaning travellers should be vigilant in publicplaces. They should also avoid the border regions and shouldn'tcamp in undesignated areas in national parks. The securitysituation in the southern provinces near the Malaysian border isunstable and travel to Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat and Songkhla isto be avoided.
Visitors to major cities are advised to secure their passportsand credit cards and not carry too much money or jewellery. InBangkok, visitors should be aware of scams, often involving gemsrecommended by kind strangers. In tourist areas, particularly atthe Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan, travellers should be carefulabout accepting drinks from strangers as there have been reports ofdrinks being drugged. Incidents of sexual assault do occur andfemale travellers should be cautious.
The monsoon season in September and October (November to Marchon Koh Samui) brings about flooding in the north, northeast andcentral regions, causing mudslides and flash floods; visitorsplanning to trek in the jungle during this time should checkconditions with licensed tour guides before leaving.
While Thais are well known for their friendliness, visitorsshould remember that they frown on public displays of affection.Visitors should also save their beachwear for the beach and respectthe custom of taking off shoes when entering a home. Most shops andrestaurants won't expect tourists to remove their footwear.
Foreigners should avoid putting their feet on tables or chairs,as lifting a foot toward someone is disrespectful - especially theunderside of the foot. And though haggling is common when buyingitems (especially at markets), Thais are generally very calm andsoft spoken people. Tourists should avoid arguing loudly or raisingtheir voices when haggling, as this is considered disrespectful inThai culture. They should avoid touching others' hair or heads(rubbing a child's hair, for example) for the same reason.
Party goers should note that drugs are illegal throughout thecountry, and that the possession of small quantities can land themin prison.
Business culture in Thailand is considerably more relaxed thanother Asian countries within the region. However, Thailand sharesits neighbours' work ethic and value systems, as well as emphasison hierarchy and building relationships. Senior managers must beconsulted on all matters and decisions. Appearance and age areimportant in Thai business culture as they illustrate socialstanding and status. Older individuals are generally afforded agreat deal of regard in Thailand. Building relationships is centralto business culture in Thailand. It is ill regarded for abusinessman to start negotiating before being properly acquaintedwith his business associates.
The concept of 'face' and saving face is important in Thailand;so if travellers make a mistake, they shouldn't expect it to bepointed out to them. Also, if a business associate makes a mistake,it is impolite to draw attention to it or correct them. In 2010,Thailand was the fastest growing economy in SouthEast Asia. Despitethis, Thais value family time and time to actually live life.Placing family in front of business priorities is the norm.
English is the language of business in Thailand, but translatorsare often needed. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pmwith an hour for lunch. Dress styles tend to be quite formal, butdue to the humid climate, heavy suits are rare. However, meetingswith senior management tend to be slightly more formal and jacketsare usually worn. Men generally wear shirts, slacks and a tie whilewomen wear below-the-knee skirts and blouses. Pants-suits for womenare quite rare.
Shaking hands is not a popular form of greeting and the wai(putting a prayer-like gesture in front of oneself and bowingslightly) is more acceptable. The higher the hands compared to theface when bowing, the more respect is meant by the wai. It iscustomary to wai first to those older than oneself. When addressingothers, Thais use first names rather than surnames preceded by Kuhnfor both men and women. As with many Asian nations, giving gifts tobusiness associates is generally a good idea. When receiving gifts,foreigners shouldn't open them in front of the giver. Also, theyshould wait to be introduced to others, as it is an indication ofrank. Often the hierarchical structures favour the elders in agroup and respect must be given accordingly.
The international country dialling code for Thailand is +66. Theoutgoing code is 001, followed by the relevant country code (e.g.00144 for the United Kingdom). Mobile phone networks cover mosttowns, cities, and holiday resorts, and wifi is, relativelyspeaking, easily available.
Travellers to Thailand do not have to pay duty on 200cigarettes, 250g tobacco or equivalent amount of cigars or 1 litreof alcohol. Goods to the value of THB 20,000 per person for holdersof tourist visas are allowed. Family allowances are double theindividual allowances. Prohibited items include firearms andammunition, fireworks, and drugs. Trafficking in drugs carries themaximum penalty. Restrictions apply to meat imported from countriesaffected by BSE or mad cow and foot-and-mouth diseases. Antiques orobjects of art and religious articles may not be exported without alicense.
Thailand Tourist Office: +66 2 250 5500 (Bangkok) orwww.tourismthailand.org
Royal Thai Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 (0)202 9443600
Royal Thai Embassy, London, United Kingdom: (also responsiblefor Ireland) +44 (0)20 7589 2944
Royal Thai Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 (0)613 722 4444
Royal Thai Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 3425470
Royal Thai Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6206 0100
Royal Thai Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 4962900
United States Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 205 4000
British Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 305 8333
Canadian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 646 4300
South African Embassy, Bangkok: + 66 (0)2 659 2900
Australian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 344 6300
Irish Embassy, Bangkok: +66 (0)2 016 1360
New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok (also responsible for Cambodia,Laos and Myanmar): +66 (0)2 254 2530
Located 89 miles (143km) west of Bangkok, the town ofKanchanaburi has secured its position of infamy as the originalsite of the Bridge Over The River Kwai, where during World War IIallied prisoners of war were used by the Japanese to build theDeath Railway, killing thousands in the process. With its modernhotels and welcoming air, Kanchanaburi seems an unlikely setting,but the bridge is still in use and the graves of the Alliedsoldiers are testament to the town's unfortunate past. Worth avisit is the JEATH (Japan, England, Australia/America, Thailand andHolland) War Museum in Kanchanaburi, which recounts experiences inthe Japanese POW camps during the War. The Sai Yok Yai Waterfall inthe Sai Yok National Park is a place of idyllic beauty and makes agood excursion from Kanchanaburi; the falls are widely celebratedin Thai poetry and songs. The turquoise waters of Erawan Falls arealso reachable from Kanchanaburi as an interesting day trip.
The T-shaped island of Koh Samet is within easy distance ofmainland Thailand, and at only 104 miles (168km) from Bangkok agreat weekend excursion to get out of the city. A popular islandfor both foreigners and locals on holiday in Thailand, Koh Samet isa small island known for its white sandy beaches and crystal-clearwaters. Koh Samet has just one (rather bumpy) main road, andgetting around the island is accomplished either by songthaew (apick-up truck-style taxi), or by hiring a motorcycle or ATV. Thisway, tourists can visit the stunning beaches on Koh Samet,including the busy Hat Sai Kaew, quiet Ao Hin Khok, and romantic AoWai. Most of the activity is centred on Hat Sai Kaew, whereholidaymakers can enjoy activities like swimming, windsurfing,jet-skiing, yachting or just sunbathing. There are also nightlyfire-twirling shows at 6pm and 10:30pm. The tourist centre of KohSamet, tourists can also enjoy excellent Thai seafood restaurantsand lively bars, and take classes in Muay Thai boxing orfire-spinning.
Ayutthaya is the former capital of Siam, from 1350 untilmid-18th century, and at one time was one of the largest cities inthe world. The capital was relocated to Bangkok in 1768 when theBurmese army destroyed much of Ayutthaya. Today, tourists needn'timagine too much to experience the splendour of the old capital, asmany of the enormous structures are still there, and the ruins ofAyutthaya have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Multiple buses (a trip that takes a bit over an hour) and trainsarrive daily from Bangkok and a boat up the Chao Phraya River toAyutthaya can be organised through travel agencies. Although manyorganised tours in Thailand can be a frustrating experience, a tourguide here can give some fascinating history to the alreadyimpressive wats. This is an easy way to experience some of theancient history of Siam as Bangkok is relatively new.
The holiday spot of Phang Nga Bay is characterised by sheerlimestone cliffs that jut vertically out of the emerald greenwater. The bay contains a fascinating collection of 3,500 islands,most of them uninhabited, which are unique in that they havecentral hollows or 'rooms', actually collapsed cave systems,containing hidden realms of unspoilt fauna and flora. Many of thesecan only be reached by inflatable kayak, which makes exploring thebay on the water an exciting way to enjoy the spectacular scenery.The largest and most popular Phang Nga Bay islands are James BondIsland and Koh Pannyi, the first named for having been where themovie The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed. Koh Pannyi or SeaGypsy Island is where a village has been built on stilts in thewater with a giant monolithic rock guarding its rear. Regular boattrips carry holiday tourists from Phuket to Phang Nga Bay, and itcan be overcrowded during high season.
The Similan Islands have a reputation, even among the many Thaiislands, as one of the world's top scuba diving sites. The intenseblue waters are framed by white coral sand beaches, and are home tointricate coral reefs and rock formations. The most famous divesite in the Similan Islands is Richelieu Rock, where whale sharksare commonly spotted. The Similan archipelago consists of nineislands: Ko Bon, Ko Bayu, Ko Similan, Ko Payu, Ko Miang, Ko Payan,Ko Payang, and Ko Huyong. Not all are open to visitors, and all arevirtually uninhabited. Many charters offer day trips to the SimilanIslands from Phuket and Phang Nga, but there are limitedaccommodation opportunities as well. Note that the park is closedfrom May 1st to November 1st every year, and it is illegal to visitduring this period; guests who do so put their lives at risk asthere are is no emergency support.
The Koh Yao Islands are located in Phang Nga Bay, halfwaybetween Phuket and the Krabi mainland. The islands are known asquiet retreats from the bustle of Phuket, and are popularexcursions for tourists in the Thai islands. In 2002, Koh Yao Noireceived the World Legacy Award for Destination Stewardship fromConservation International and National Geographic TravelerMagazine for its innovative home stay programmes offered by locals.Maintaining their traditional way of life is important to theresidents, as is preserving their environment; the top activitieson the islands include hiking, kayaking, swimming and snorkelling.Though the islands are both small and have few facilities, Koh YaoNoi has recently added amenities like restaurants, shops, andinternet service. The islands are a quiet and secluded refuge fromthe hordes of tourists in nearby resorts. Visitors are advised tobring cash with them, though there are a few ATMs.