Thailand Travel Guide

Geography | Weather | Population | Currency | Electricity | Adventure | Shopping | Thai Food | Fun Festivals | Public Holidays |
Hotels & Resorts | Tours & Packages | Flights | Visa Info & Important No.



Geography

Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world; most nearly equal in size to Spain.

Located just 15 degrees north of the equator, Thailand has a tropical climate and temperatures typically range from 19 to 38 degrees C (66-100 F).

Thailand’s largest peak, Doi Inthanon, is 2,565 meters (8,415 ft) tall.

Thailand covers 510,890 sq km of land and 2,230 sq km of water.

The coastline of Thailand is 3,219 km long.

Thailand’s longest shared border is with Myanmar (Burma), stretching 1,800 km.



Weather

The weather in Thailand is generally hot and humid: typical of its location within the tropics. Generally speaking, Thailand can be divided into three seasons: “hot” season, rainy season, and “cool” season, though Thailand’s geography allows visitors to find suitable weather somewhere in the country throughout the year.



Population

The population of Thailand comprises of roughly 65 million citizens, the majority of whom are ethnically Thai, though peoples of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Mon, Khmer, Burmese, and Lao origin are also represented to varying degrees. Approximately 7 million citizens live in the capital city, Bangkok, though this number varies seasonally and is otherwise difficult to accurately count.



Currency

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. Baht come in both coin and banknote form. The size of Thai currency, both coins and bills increases with value and varies in color.



Electricity

Electrical outlets in Thailand are charged to 220v at 50 cycles per second, which is compatible with appliances from the U.K. but not those from the US and many other nations. While most computer cables have adaptors for voltage, visitors from the U.S. and those not on the 220/50 v. will have to bring adapters to run most other appliances. Outlets in Thailand generally feature flat, two pronged plugs, though some feature holes for round plug ends. Few outlets feature three holes (grounded outlets) so it is often necessary to have a three to two prong adapter for using notebook computers in Thailand.



Adventure

For the active traveller, Thailand presents endless opportunities for new and exciting adventure. Hiking, jungle treks, scuba diving, birdwatching, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, are just some of the ways to explore the country's immense natural and cultural wealth.

For beach and sun: Pattaya and other beach resorts on the Eastern Seaboard; Phuket, Phangnga and Krabi in the South; and the islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman

For trekking, mountain hiking and hilltribe culture: The mountains of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and the forest land on the Western border with Myanmar, in Tak and Kanchanaburi.

For diving and marine life: Islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea especially Koh Tao, Koh Pangan, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Similan.

For animal spotting and bird watching: Khao Yai to the North of Bangkok, Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai and other wildlife sanctuaries around the country.



Thai Food

Thai food is internationally famous. Whether chilli-hot or comparatively bland, harmony is the guiding principle behind each dish. Thai cuisine is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai. The characteristics of Thai food depend on who cooks it, for whom it is cooked, for what occasion, and where it is cooked to suit all palates. Originally, Thai cooking reflected the characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle. Aquatic animals, plants and herbs were major ingredients. Large chunks of meat were eschewed. Subsequent influences introduced the use of sizeable chunks to Thai cooking.

With their Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use of large animals in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Traditional Thai cooking methods were stewing and baking, or grilling. Chinese influences saw the introduction of frying, stir frying and deep-frying. Culinary influences from the 17th century onwards included Portuguese, Dutch, French and Japanese. Chillies were introduced to Thai cooking during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who had acquired a taste for them while serving in South America.

Thais were very adaptive at 'Siamese-ising' foreign cooking methods, and substituting ingredients. The ghee used in Indian cooking was replaced by coconut oil, and coconut milk substituted for other daily products. Overpowering pure spices were toned down and enhanced by fresh herbs such as lemon grass and galanga. Eventually, fewer and less spices were used in Thai curries, while the use of fresh herbs increased. It is generally acknowledged that Thai curries burn intensely, but briefly, whereas other curries, with strong spices, burn for longer periods. Instead of serving dishes in courses, a Thai meal is served all at once, permitting dinners to enjoy complementary combinations of different tastes

A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. A spiced salad may replace the curry dish. The soup can also be spicy, but the curry should be replaced by non spiced items. There must be a harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the entire meal.




Fun Festivals

Songkran Festival

Splashing blessings on everyone in sight while the water splashing will flourish, the traditional values of Songkran are the focus of the 2009 celebrations.

Songkran is without doubt the most popular of all Thai festivals and rightly so.
It marks the beginning of a new astrological year and its exact dates are determined by the old lunar calendar of Siam.

The three-day festival falls on 13 to 15 April. Traditionally, April 13 is known as “Maha Songkran Day” and marks the end of the old year, April 14 is “Wan Nao”, while April 15 is “Wan Thaloeng Sok” when the New Year begins.

While the festival has its roots in Buddhist heritage, the washing of Buddha images, merit making, traditional family values and the sprinkling of water in respect for elders, it is best known for the fun and “sanuk” everyone gains from splashing copious quantities of water on all who happen to pass by.

Songkran is celebrated with gusto by young and old, throughout the country. City communities and villages in rural Thailand forget their troubles and concentrate on the serious of business of having fun as well as cooling off, during the height of the summer’s scorching tropical temperatures.







Probably of all the national festivals, this is the one that foreigners love to experience the most. They will come across water splashing festivities wherever they travel giving them an opportunity to share in a festival that is immensely popular, while still retaining a link to its traditional roots and values.

One of the traditional values points to the Thai family and the opportunity for family members to express their respect for their elders. Younger members of the family pour scented water on the hands of their parents, and grandparents. They may present them with gifts or tokens of their love. In return, elders wish youngsters good luck and prosperity.

In temples, elder members of the family gather to make merit, offering alms to the monks. They may help clean the temple courtyard, or perform bathing rites for Buddha images.

In by-gone days, the fun of splashing water on friends or strangers had to wait until the late afternoon when the religious duties and ceremonies were over.
Today, the lines are often blurred with the younger generation making the most of the three-day opportunity to splash water on everyone in sight.
Possibly the most famous of the Songkran celebrations takes place in Chiang Mai. It attracts thousands of visitors, from all over Thailand as well as international tourists determined to share in the fun.


Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong is a festival which occurs on the full moon of the 12th lunar month, a date which usually falls in November.

Loy means to float and a Krathong is a small, hand-made “boat” or “raft” traditionally made from the leaves or bark of a banana tree and decorated with origami-esque banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense sticks. In modern days, Krathongs are often made of specially baked bread, so the Krathongs are biodegradable, although many use styrofoam.
Many Thais believe that celebrating Loy Krathong by offering a krathong to the Water Goddess, Phra Mae Khongkha, will bring them good luck, particularly for couples, who will go to launch Krathongs together: a particularly auspicious event if the couple crafts their own krathong, although it is more common in modern days to simply buy krathongs from vendors near the water.




During the night of the full moon, many people will light their candles and incense and celebrate Loy Krathong by releasing their floating offering on a river or other body of water. Governmental offices, corporations, and other large groups will collaborate on larger, more elaborate rafts, which are often judged in contests. Loy Krathong celebrations also typically feature fireworks displays and beauty contests.
These beauty contests are known as Noppamas Queen Contests, named after Noppamas, a consort of the King of Sukothai in the 14th century, who is thought to be the first to float decorated krathongs.

Consequently, the tradition of Loy Kratong is believed to have begun in Sukhothai, although it is now celebrated throughout Thailand, with the festivities in Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya the most popular.

In Chiang Mai the Loy Krathong holiday is called Yi Peng. In addition to the krathongs floated in the waters around Chiang Mai, thousands of Lanna-style sky lanterns (khom fai) are released into the sky, part of the lantern oriented Lanna belief in their symbolically auspicious flames.


Thailand China Town Festival

Enjoy the Yaowarat commemorative exhibition, Thai-Chinese cultural performances e.g. puppet show, Chinese opera, Thai dancing, light and sound presentation, and dragon dance. Join in the “Worshipping at 8 Shrines” that the Chinese believe will bring good luck. Go shopping at famous souvenir shops e.g. readymade gold in a variety of designs, as well as enjoy and taste delectable cuisine all along this road.


International Wax Sculpture

While candlelight processions are not uncommon for Buddhist holidays, this one is the one where candles take the center stage. While the celebration of Asanha Puja to commemorate the Buddhist first sermon is carried out throughout the kingdom, it’s in Ubon Ratchathani that the event is most spectacular. Visitors during this period have a number of celebrations to attend and join in, beginning several days before the main event when the locals work on crafting their candles. On the days of the celebration, events and activities include alms-giving for Asalha Puja and the Khao Phansa Buddhist ceremony, a parade of the candles which are then showcased in the city park before being moved to nearby temples, and finally the ceremony of welcoming His Majesty the King’s royal candle and the international candle-carving competition featuring candles from various countries. Visitors can also taste “Pha Khao Laeng”, a local food especially prepared for tourists. In addition to candles, however, the locals of Ubon Ratchathani have evolved the ceremony to include wax sculptures that are now top attractions for visitors.





Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Phuket Island seems like a curious place for a vegetarian festival, but the Phuket Vegetarian Festival has become world renowned for its food and its curious religious rites. Held during the 9th Chinese lunar month, typically September or October, the vegetarian festival spans the first nine days of the lunar month. During that time, Buddhists of Chinese descent follow a strict vegetarian diet, wear white clothing, and observe a set of rules that are intended to purify their bodies and minds. All that seems well and good, but what has drawn the greatest publicity (other than the outstanding vegetarian food of course) is the unique manner in which some attempt to purify themselves during a procession of asceticism. On the 6th day of the vegetarian festival, after fasting for several days, devotees known as “soldiers of god” commit feats of self mutilation and tests of intense pain, including piercing themselves with needles and knives and walking across hot coals.

Around Phuket, in addition to large flags hung in honor of the event, 9 lanterns are lit up and placed aloft on Ko Teng poles to symbolize the presence of the deities throughout the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. On the last day, there is a “Koi Han” ceremony to exorcize ill fortune, and a finally a farewell ceremony for the deities at night.




Yasothon Bun Bangfai (Rocket) Festival

Parades of various sized and beautifully decorated rockets, cheer squad, Miss Bangfai, fancy rocket and highest soaring rocket competitions.




Shopping

What to Buy

A wealth of shopping opportunities awaits the visitor, and bargains abound throughout our country in traditional handicrafts, textiles, gems, jewellery and antiques, as well as more contemporary items.

Gems: Bangkok is the coloured gemstone capital of the world. Rubies and sapphires are indigenous stones, but virtually all coloured gems, as well as diamonds, are available. Shoppers should exercise caution and buy from reputable dealers only.

Clothing: We're one of the world's leading manufacturers of ready-to-wear clothing. Fashion boutiques are found in every shopping mall, while cheaper clothing such as T-shirts and jeans are available at bargain prices from street vendors. Custom tailoring is also very affordable and tailors can produce or copy most styles in just a few days.

Silk: Probably the most famous of all our kingdom's handicrafts, silk is available in a range of colours, patterns and plys, and is sold by the yard, or as ready-made clothing and souvenir items. A unique style of Thai silk is Mat Mee, a tie-dye silk traditional to the North-east. The best known outlet for Thai silk is undoubtedly Jim Thompson's shop at the top of Surawong Road in Bangkok.

Cotton & Batik: Our Thai cottons have become increasingly popular and are a good deal. Particularly notable are the hilltribe cottons woven by the tribal people of the North, typically displaying bold designs and often lavish embroidery. Equally distinctive are original batiks crafted at several studios in Bangkok.

Pewterware: Pewter is fashioned with great skill by Thai craftsmen, and the smooth, silky finish of this attractive alloy is enhanced by delicate relief decoration. Pewterware items include plates, boxes, vases and pocket flasks.

Antiques: Thai, Chinese, Burmese and Khmer antiques are excellent buys. There is an export ban on certain pieces, particularly Buddha images. Other pieces may require an export license, but any reputable dealer will be able to advise on restrictions and any necessary documentation

Ceramics: Both traditional and contemporary styles of pottery are available throughout our kingdom. Best known are the distinctive sea-green celadons from the Sukothai area, and the central provinces' colourful Benjarong (five color) porcelain, which are unique to our country.

Nielloware: Practiced in the South for hundreds of years, nielloware is the craft of decorating gold and silver objects with delicate etched designs filled with a metal ware. Nielloware trays, boxes, vases and other items are some of our best buys.

Lacquerware: A specialty of Chiang-Mai and the north, this craft involves coating split bamboo or wood with lacquer, then adding intricate hand-painted designs typically gold-on-black lacquer or yellow and green on a red brown background. Look out for lacquerware bowls, boxes, trays and other items for decoration or for souvenirs.

Thai Orchids: We're famous for our huge variety of orchids and their magnificent colours and durable beauty make them a popular purchase. Specially packaged flowers, complete with water supply, are easily transported and can be conveniently purchased at Bangkok International Airport

Furniture: Rattan and rosewood furniture items are available in many designs and styles and can also be made to order. Shops in Bangkok and Chiang Mai have a wide selection and can arrange shipment overseas

Hilltribe Crafts: The tribal groups who live in the hills of the north make a variety of beautifully embroidered textiles and silver jewellery. Chiang Mai is the centre for such goods.

Where to shop

In Bangkok: Shopping in Bangkok is not limited to one or two major streets, and there are many areas throughout the city affording ample choice and easy access. Here’s just a selection of some of the places to go shopping!

Chatuchak Park Weekend Market: A famous Bangkok landmark where you can buy just about everything from clothing to potted plants - a paradise for browsers and bargain- hunters alike.

Silom-Mahesak-New Road: Many gems and jewellery stores are found here, also the River City Shopping Complex, known for its quality antique stores and regular auctions.

Silom-Surawong-Patpong: The commercial heart of Bangkok houses dozens of specialist shops, boutiques and shopping plaza representing all the major buys. Street stalls also abound, most notably Patpong’s famous night market.

Ploenchit-Ratchadamri: Many department stores and shopping malls are here, including the World Trade Centre, with dozens of shops and restaurants, and the Siam Centre, which contains many fashionable boutiques. Opposite the World Trade Centre you will find the Narayaphand Pavilion, the official handicraft centre selling items from all parts of the country. Chitralada Shops: Outlets for Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s SUPPORT Foundation, which encourages the production of traditional Thai handicrafts. Chitralada shops can be found in Bangkok and other major travel destinations such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai.

Pratunam-Phetchaburi: Pratunam Market, one of Bangkok's garment districts, is the place to go for low-priced clothing of all kinds.

Bang Lamphu: Close to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Bang Lamphu has a lively market where clothing is a popular buy.

Beyond Bangkok: The main city for shopping outside the capital is Chiang Mai, which ranks as one of the world's largest centres for handicrafts and cottage industries. The extensive range of local products includes cotton and silk, hilltribe clothing, Burmese tapestries, hand-painted umbrellas and lacquerware, and many such items can be found at its fascinating Night Bazaar. Pattaya also offers plentiful shopping for Thai goods while virtually all other cities and resorts provide ample opportunity for buying gifts and souvenirs, as well as local specialties.





















Visa Info & Important No.

For more and updated information on Thailand Visa and Immigration, please visit www.immigration.go.th


Source: www.tourismthailand.org

 
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