Thailand in a Nutshell

What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn't really much that you can't do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand's temples - known as wats - are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai's Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand's islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok's Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai's Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand's charms will draw you back time and again.

Read more...

Sport in Thailand

Sport in Thailand
Sport in Thailand
Sport in Thailand
Sport in Thailand
Undoubtedly the most famous Thai sport is Muay Thai, which is Thailand's unique version of boxing. This sport, which originated in Thailand, is a type of martial art and is now practiced in countries all over the world. Known as The Art of the Eight Limbs, Muay Thai is Thailand's national sport.

Unlike Western boxing, in Muay Thai the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively. The origins of Muay Thai come from Muay Boran (ancient boxing), which was the type of unarmed combat used by Siamese soldiers hundreds of years ago. Muay Thai has been practiced as a sport in its own right for centuries, and in fact the first written documents describing the Muay Thai appeared in Chiang Mai around the start of the 15th century.

There are many strict rules governing public Muay Thai matches. For example, only boxing shorts are permitted to be worn, and the colour depends on which corner the fighter is in; red, pink, or maroon or with a red stripe for the red corner; blue, bright blue, black for the blue corner.

Long hair and/or beards are prohibited and amulets can only be worn on the arm or waist and covered by material.

Both fighters perform the Wai Kru (paying respect to the teacher) before the start of the first round, and a special dance called Ram Muay (accompanied by the appropriate Thai traditional music.

A Muay Thai matches last for five rounds; 3 minutes per round with a 2 minute break between each round.

Muay Thai matches can be scene all over Thailand, especially in tourist areas, where small rings are often set up in go-go bars.

A great place to enjoy a match is Lumpini Stadium, where matches are generally of a very professional level.

Another uniquely Thai sport is takraw which is very similar to volleyball except that it uses an odd looking rattan ball and players are allowed to touch the ball using their feet, knees, chest and head. Traditional Western-style boxing is also very popular.

Groups of people (usually boys and young men) can be seen in the streets all over Thailand playing this highly addictive and entertaining sport.
 
There are even murals at Wat Phra Kaew that show the Hindu god Hanuman playing takraw in a ring with a troop of monkeys.

All you need to play is a special rattan ball, a net and an area of roughly 13 m x 6 meters free from all obstacles.

Football is naturally very popular in Thailand and many people worship teams from the English Premier League such as Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. Thailand also has its own Thai League.

Golf is also quite popular and there are many beautiful golf courses throughout the country.

Read more...

Shopping in Thailand

Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand
Shopping in Thailand
Many items can be purchased inexpensively in Thailand, as long as you know where to look. Reasonable copies of Billabong shorts, Nike trainers and hundreds of other products can be bought for surprisingly low prices. However, quality varies widely, so have a close look before you buy.

Thailand operates under a bartering system, which means that goods sold by street vendors in markets or in some shops are flexibly priced and you can get a very good deal if you know how to haggle powerfully and politely. Like many aspects of Thai culture, bartering is an intricate system that is easy to underestimate. The trick is to let the vendor make the first offer then ask 'Can you make a discount?' A good benchmark is to offer half the quoted price. Be firm, but make sure that you smile and possibly make a joke - if you are seen as too pushy or aggressive you will not be taken seriously and many traders will refuse to deal with you. Remember not to start to bargain unless you're serious about buying. Also remember that a difference of a few baht may not really make much difference to you, but it may be a big deal to the vendor.

The best bargains can usually be found at large markets. Chatuchak Market in Bangkok is a great place for bargain hunting, as is the night market in Chiang Mai.

Most towns have at least one large local market, where you can find everything from kitchen utensils, cheap clothes, bags and baubles at incredibly cheap prices.

Night markets are also a great place to shop. Usually opening around 5 pm and often packing up as late as 11 or 12 pm, these are also a great place to find a cheap meal, buy fruit and people watch.

Thailand's Floating Markets are much photographed and provide an interesting appeal for tourists. The most visited floating market is Damnoen Saduak, which is also the largest. Most tour operators in and around Khaosan Road offer tours to Damnoen Saduak. However, these days the market is very crowded and sells mainly souvenirs and other tourist items. For a more authentic experience, head to the Bang Khu Wiang Floating Market, which is open daily from 04:00 and 07:00, or the Taling Chan Floating Market, which is open on weekends until around 2 pm.

If you're looking for cheap technology, Panthip Plaza in Bangkok has it all. With 5 floors filled of every type of technological gadget and gismo you could possibly dream of, it is easy to spend half a day here. Remember to barter as most prices are negotiable and seem to be cheaper on the upper floors.

Siam Square in Bangkok is the place to go if you like large shopping centres. There are a wide range to choose from, including MBK, Paragon and Siam Discovery.

Big C is another shopping center chain and can be found all over Thailand in towns, cities and even quite small villages. As well as having its own store, which usually spans several floors, you can usually find dozens of other stores, including international stores such as Boots and The Body Shop.

Read more...

Nightlife in Thailand

Nightlife in Thailand
Nightlife in Thailand
Nightlife in Thailand
Nightlife in Thailand
From fantastic costumes and gorgeous girls, pumping beats and delicious cocktails to simply relaxing under the stars, Thailand offers a wide range of entertainment options for those out and about in the evening.

Most of the more vibrant nightlife can be found in Bangkok, but there are also colourful options in Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and large towns. On the islands, wild beach parties and bar hopping form the main types of entertainment. It is worth remembering that most bars, restaurants and clubs have a 1 am curfew. However, there are usually one or two places around where you can continue drinking if you want.

Here is a rundown on some of the types of entertainment available.

Cabaret Shows can be found in the cities and large tourist areas. This is an extremely colourful affair where dozens of stunning women dance on stage in dazzling sequin covered outfits. Thailand also offers Tiffany Shows, a own unique twist on the traditional cabaret show. Now world famous, these transvestite or 'lady boy' shows are extremely entertaining. The performers are stunning and the shows contain comedy and dramatic displays as well as singing and dancing.

Bangkok is by far the best place to go clubbing in Thailand. There is an incredible variety of clubs where you can dance the night away, from the classy Bed Supperclub in Sukhumvit, to the male-orientated DJ Station in Silom. Another great option is Royal City Avenue (RCA), where there are dozens of clubs and bars playing everything from Thai disco music to hardcore Drum and Bass, Hip Hop and Techno. Expect to pay a cover charge at most clubs (300 baht+) and take a photocopy of your passport for identification.

Go-Go bars can be found in most cities and large towns, especially Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. They are generally located in special areas and can be easily identified by the flashy neon signs and scantily dressed women in the doorways. In Bangkok, head for Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza or Patpong.

Karaoke Bars can be found all over Thailand. Imported from Isaan, these bars specialise in loud Isaan music, flashing coloured lights and sexily dressed women crooning on stage. Many bars also have a selection of Western songs and Westerners are welcome to sing, although be aware that a charge for this is often included in your bill.

Full Moon Parties are another Thai speciality. The most famous of these can be found on Koh Phangan, where is it so popular that they now hold a half moon party as well. Other good places to party on the beach include Koh Phi Phi and Raleigh Beach. Bars usually play loud music until dawn and you can expect a selection of DJs, spectacular decorations and fire shows.

Alternatively, if you just want to take it easy, there are movie theatres all over Thailand. All show movies in English with Thai subtitles, even in small villages. When booking, make sure you ask for the 'subtitle' movie. A tribute to the king is played at the start of the movie, and you are expected to stand and show respect along with everyone else. The movie theatres are highly air conditioned and can be a bit chilly, so it is a good idea to take along a light jumper or jacket.

Read more...

Money Matters in Thailand

Money Matters in Thailand
Money Matters in Thailand
Money Matters in Thailand
Money Matters in Thailand
The currency used in Thailand is the Baht. Baht notes come in denominations of 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple) and 1000 (brown). All notes feature pictures of the current king, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and you must be careful when handling the notes not to tear them as it is an offence to defile his image. Coins are large 10 Baht coins, 5 Baht, 2 Baht and 1 Baht. The two Baht and 1 Baht coins look very similar, although the 2 Baht coins are slightly bigger and have a picture of The Golden Mount on the back.

Satang coins are much smaller and bronze coloured. There are 100 satang in one Baht and these coins are available in 25-satang and 50-satang pieces.

Compared to the West, Thailand is actually a very inexpensive country for visitors. If you are willing to dine at small street stands or markets, you can eat a good meal for less than 50 Baht. Public transport is very cheap too, as are clothes and accessories.

For those travelling on a tight budget, 500.00 Baht a day should be enough anywhere in Thailand. If you want to stay in comfortable hotels and eat at restaurants, you should increase your budget to around 600.00 - 1000.00 Baht a day outside Bangkok and major tourist hot spots such as Phuket, where you can expect to pay around double.

For those with deep pockets, there is no end to the luxury that you can find in Bangkok and key tourist destination. Bangkok boasts some excellent dining options, top of the range hotels and shopping opportunities.

Changing Your Money

Banks or legal money-changers offer the best rates. ATMs that accept Visa and other credit cards are easy to find throughout Thailand, although an obvious exception is small villages to the north of Thailand. Many exchange booths will give you a cash advance on your credit card.

When buying Baht, US dollars are the most eagerly accepted currency and it is a good idea to have a supply of travellers' cheques as they receive a better rate than cash. British pounds are the next-best alternative. Credit cards are becoming increasingly acceptable in shops, hotels and restaurants, with Visa being the most useful, followed by MasterCard.

Sample Prices:

Pad thai on the street: 40 Baht
Bottled water: 10-12 Baht
Bus fare: 6-16 Baht
Small Singha beer: 70-100 Baht
Souvenir t-shirt: 200-300 Baht
Cinema tickets: 120-170 Baht +

Average Room Prices Baht:

Budget: 130 (limited number) -600 Baht

Mid: 600-1500 Baht

High: 1500+ Baht

Tipping

Tipping is not generally expected in Thailand, although change is often left at the end of a large, expensive meal. However, most Thais will generally only leave a token tip of 20 baht or so.

There is often a 10% service charge will be added to your bill at many top class restaurants and in this case tipping is not expected.

Read more...

Accommodation in Thailand

Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Hotels, Guest Houses and other Accommodation in Thailand
Thailand offers a wide range of accommodation options, from the flimsiest wooden shack to luxury, five star hotels. Generally, accommodation goes up by as much as a third during the peak tourist seasons and around two or three days before the full moon party on Koh Phangan. Opting for a room with a simple fan and cold water can save a lot of money, whilst luxuries such as power showers, air conditioning and satellite television are often available but don't come cheap.

Here is an overview of what is available and how much you can expect to pay:

Beach Huts tend to be very rough and ready. If you are looking to save a few baht this might be a good place to hang your hat, although it is a good idea to keep your valuables in a separate safety deposit box - most places offering beach huts also have these. It is a good idea to make sure that your hut comes equipped with a mosquito net as insects come as standard. Prices start from as little as 50 baht per night for the most basic hut away from the beach to 1000 baht for a hut with a bathroom and ocean view.

Tents are another cheap option, especially if you are spending the night in a national park. You can generally get away with paying just 30 baht per night if you have your own tent, or tents can be hired for around 100 baht. Many camp sites have very limited facilities, so it is a good idea to bring your own provisions.

Bungalows are usually found in beach areas. They are generally more comfortable than beach huts as the mattress tends to be thicker and the amount of insects fewer. Most bungalows also have bathrooms, which saves you staggering into a tree in the middle of the night. Prices range from 150 baht for a basic bungalow with a fan and bathroom with cold water to around 500 baht for air conditioning.

River Rafts make an interesting way to view an area, especially if you are staying in a place with stunning scenery such as Kanchanaburi. Most river rafts have large wooden balconies where you can sit and watch the world go by. Expect to pay a minimum of 600 baht for a fan room on the river.

Guesthouses are generally very cheap and cheerful. Many are set up to cater for backpackers and you can get a basic room with a fan and shared bathroom for as little as 100 baht. Most guesthouses serve popular backpacker food such as French fries, pad thai and banana pancakes.

They usually have a communal garden or restaurant to chill out in, which can be a good place to meet other backpackers and swap tall tales and travel advice. Most guesthouses do not make a profit from renting out rooms, so it is a good idea to sample one or more of their other services such as food or booking a tour.

Hotels vary dramatically in terms of luxury, facilities and cleanliness. The most basic hotels rooms tend to be very small, have noisy fans and shared bathrooms. Prices start from around 200 baht, whilst the equivalent rooms with air-con start at around 400 baht.

If you have more money to spend there is no limit to the kind of luxury you could find. All the standards found in luxury hotels in the west are available, still at a fraction of the price. The best hotels have rooftop swimming pools and bars, gymnasiums, spas and saunas and just about anything else you could ask for. Be aware that most of the top hotels add a 7% government tax and an additional 10% service tax.

Although resorts often have all the same facilities as luxury hotels, with prices to match, in Thailand the term can refer to general accommodation and it is a good idea to check out the facilities before you book.

Read more...

Food and Drink in Thailand

Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Thai food: colourful, inexpensive, full of flavour, often spicy and always available - you just can't beat it. There are five flavours which make up every Thai meal - hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Thai people are very passionate about their food, and love nothing more than sitting down to a huge meal with family or friends. Usually, several dishes will be ordered at one time for people to share. Most visitors quickly become hooked on trying the hundreds of Thai dishes, which can be anything from extremely spicy vegetable salads, rich curries or incredibly sweet deserts.

Although each dish is different there are certain ingredients that are essential for Thai cuisine. Almost all dishes contain nam pla, a pungent and strong tasting fish sauce as well as shrimp paste, a combination of ground shrimp and salt. Most Thai dishes contain a range of chilies and spices as well as curry pastes, soy sauce, dried shrimp, Thai pepper, and roasted chili paste.

Vegetarian food can be found if you know what to ask for. If you tell a waitress you are vegetarian (mung-sawirat), they will usually be able to suggest vegetarian dishes. Fish and seafood is easy to find.

Here are some of the most popular Thai dishes which should not be missed.

Breakfast is very different to what is served in western countries and can take a little getting used to. There are two main breakfast dishes, Jok, a kind of rice porridge with pieces of meat, ginger and herbs and Khao Tom, a Thai style rice soup.

In Thailand, main meals can be eaten at any time of the day and are often enjoyed 3, 4 or even 5 times a day.

Khao Pad literally means friend rice and is very popular. It is usually made with chicken, beef, shrimp or pork.

Pad Thai is pan fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chopped peanuts, and egg mixed with chicken, seafood, or tofu. Look out for carts selling this incredibly cheaply on Khaosan Road.

Tom yam is rather spicy and sour soup with meat. With shrimp it is called Tom yam goong or Tom yam kung with seafood. Eat this dish with rice to reduce the spiciness.
Tom kha gai is hot sweet soup with chicken and coconut milk.

Rad na is wide rice noodles in a thick gravy-like sauce with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or seafood.

Khao pad naem is found in the Northeast and is fried rice with fermented sausage.

Pad see ew is noodles stir-fried with thick soi sauce, fish sauce and pork or chicken.

Gai Pad Khing is chicken stir-fried with sliced ginger.

Red curry or gaeng phet meaning 'hot curry', is made with large amounts of dried red chillies.

Green curry or gaeng khiew-waan, meaning green curry, is made with fresh green chillies and Thai basil, chicken or fish balls. This dish is spicy, rich and creamy.

Massaman curry is an Indian style curry which is not quite as spicy as the Thai alternatives, containing roasted dried spices, chicken and potato.

Pad pak ruam - stir fried vegetables, great a vegetarian option or side dish.

Som tam is a fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them. Som tam poo is made with salted black crab, Som tam Thai has peanuts, dried shrimp and palm sugar and Som tam plara is from north eastern part of Thailand with salted gourami fish, white eggplants, fish sauce and long bean.

Larb are very spicy sour salads containing meat, onions, chillies, roasted rice powder and garnished with mint.

Yam is the name for any type of sour salad, such as those made with glass noodles.

There are a large selection of deserts available, all sweet and many involving banana or another fruit and coconut cream.

Kao niao ma muang is the world famous sticky rice and ripe mango.

Kao niao Durian is sticky rice and durian in coconut milk.

Gluay buad chee is banana in coconut milk.

Make sure you try Cha Yen - Thai Iced Tea and Kah-Feh Yen - Thai Iced Coffee. Very sweet and creamy, they can be a good way to cool down.

Although beer is widely available, most Thais choose to drink whiskey, sharing a bottle between the group and adding water and ice.

Read more...

Festivals and Holidays in Thailand

Festivals and Holidays in Thailand
Festivals and Holidays in Thailand
Festivals and Holidays in Thailand
Festivals and Holidays in Thailand
Festivals and Holidays in Thailand
festivals_and_holidays_6
Festivals and Holidays in Thailand
There are a wide variety of festivals in Thailand, all of them vibrant and colourful. Although the majority of festivals take place from November to February when the weather is cooler, practically every month is marked by some sort of celebration or public holiday.

Most festivals are full of traditional cultural practices, and although many celebrations seem light-hearted, most are also marked with a visit to the local temple to give gifts, say prayers and make wishes (known as making merit).

Although usually revolving around traditional Thai and religious practices, most Thai people are happy for westerners to join in the festivities and welcome the opportunity to show off their culture and as a way to make new friends.

Here is a list of the main festivals. Most festivals revolve around the phases of the moon, so these are only rough dates.

King's Birthday

December 5th provides people with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their love and devotion to His Majesty the King. The best place to experience this festival is Bangkok, which is lavishly decorated, especially along Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang, near the Grand Palace.

That Phanom Festival

This festival is celebrated in January and involves 10-day homage to the northeast's most sacred Buddhist stupa (Phra That Phanom) in Nakhon Phanom Province. The festival is attended by pilgrims from all over Thailand and Laos.

Bangkok International Film Festival

Also in January, this is a great way to enjoy some award winning films and get an introduction into Asian cinema. (www.bangkokfilm.org).

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

A must see if you are in Chiang Mai in January. The city explodes in colour as the streets are filled with floats and parades exhibit Chiang Mai's diverse plant life.

Chinese New Year

Not to be missed, this vibrant festival usually takes place around the end of January and is known as trut jiin in Thai. Celebrated all over Thailand with a week of house-cleaning, lion dances and fireworks, a good place to witness the festivities is Bangkok's China Town.

Magha Puja

Held around the full moon of the third lunar month, this festival commemorates Lord Buddha's preaching to 1250 enlightened monks who came to hear him 'without prior summons'. Naturally, alcohol is banned during this festival, which features a candle-lit walk around the (main chapel) at every wat.

Songkran

Also not to be missed, this celebration of the Thai New Year takes place between April 13 - 15. Perhaps the liveliest festival of the year, people celebrate by visiting the temple, exchanging gifts and throwing water at each other.

Khao Phansa

In mid-late July, this festival marks the start of Buddhist 'Lent'. This is the time of year when many young men enter the monkhood, where they will stay for three months during the monsoon season. The festival is celebrated in most towns and especially schools by parades of huge carved candles on floats in the streets, culminating in a visit to the temple, where offerings are made to the monks.

Vegetarian Festival

Usually taking place in October, this is a great opportunity for visitors to try the delicious selection of Chinese and Thai vegetarian food which suddenly fills the streets during this nine-day festival. As well as visiting the temple, many people demonstrate their devotion with displays of self-mortification, especially in Phuket!


Loi Krathong

One of the most awaited festivals of the year, Loi Krathong takes place at the start of November, when people float small boats made from lotus leaves, candles and incense to apologise to the water spirits for polluting the water. This is a vibrant celebration filled with fireworks, dancing and drinking.

Surin Annual Elephant Roundup

Held on the third weekend of November, Thailand's biggest elephant show is an unusual experience which is worth a look if you are around Surin at the time.

Read more...

Survival Tips for Thailand

Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Survival Tips in Thailand
Generally, Thailand is a very friendly place to visit, however a few precautions and a measure of common sense can go a long way to making your experience smooth and enjoyable.

It is a good idea to carry a selection of change such as 20 baht notes and coins as many people cannot change large notes, especially in small towns and villages. If you are stuck for change, buying an inexpensive item at 7/11 or a similar shop usually does the trick.

Touts at airports and other tourist areas are there for one reason only: to make money. Unfortunately, this usually involves parting unwary travelers from their cash. You should always question any offer that seems 'too good', and get a good idea of average hotel prices before agreeing to go with someone.

Always use the meter in taxis or, if taking a tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi, makes sure you agree the price before hopping on board.

Young, fresh coconuts are much more refreshing than water, great if you are spending the day on the beach or suffering from a hangover.

Although the tap water is drinkable in large cities, it is best to stick to bottled water. The larger bottles of UV treated water are the cheapest, although not the healthiest. It is worth paying a few baht more for brands such as Singha or IO.

In Bangkok, the entire city becomes gridlocked during peak commuting hours of 8-10 am and 5-7 pm. It is best to try to avoid travelling at these times.

Essentials such as suntan lotion and mosquito spray tend to be a little bit more expensive on the islands, so it is a good idea to stock up before you go. Internet access is often much more expensive as well.

Guesthouse owners a generally a good source of local information, it is worth getting to know them.

Make sure you check the expiry date of your visa carefully as there is an overstay fine of 500 baht per day.

Many bathrooms do not provide toilet tissue, so it is a good idea to carry some with you. Remember to throw it into the bucket provided rather than into the toilet.
 
Sarongs are an essential item as they dry much quicker than towels and can also be used as a blanket, a privacy screen and an item of clothing.

Learning a few words in Thai can go a long way to getting what you want and forming friendships. Compliments and jokes are always effective.

It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport, especially when going out drinking as police perform random checks and may ask to see it.

It's easy to become dehydrated, make sure you carry water and drink small sips frequently.

If you need to get away from the heat for a while, cinemas, expensive hotels and even 7/11 shops provide sanctuary.

A small dab of perfume or aftershave under your nose is a great way to avoid suffering from bad smells.

Read more...

Dos and Don’ts in Thailand

Dos and Don'ts in Thailand
Dos and Don'ts in Thailand
Dos and Don'ts in Thailand
dos_and_dots_in_thailand_4
Thailand is a rather liberal country and Thai people are very accepting of the differences in the behaviour of foreigners. Generally, the need to save face means that Thai people will not draw attention to it if you have made a mistake or comment if you have offended them, so it is up to you to be aware of expectations.

However, there are a few things which are guaranteed to cause offence and should be avoided when possible.

The Monarchy

All Thai people think very highly of the royal family and will not permit criticism. In fact, Thailand's lese majeste laws mean that criticising the king can result in 7 years imprisonment, which applies to both Thais and foreigners. Pictures of the king should also be treated with respect and if placed on the wall - as they are in most homes and businesses - must hold pride of place. Defiling a picture of the king also carries a serious penalty, as a tourist in Chiang Mai discovered when he drunkenly drew a moustache on an image of the king. He was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment, but was later pardoned by the king and released.

Religion

Always dress 'politely' when entering a temple or religious shrine. Many temples require you to cover your knees and shoulders and it is very important to remember to remove your shoes. Shoes should also be removed when entering private homes and some shops.

Buddha Images

Buddha images are sacred and must be treated with respect. Never climb on a Buddha image, and be very careful about taking photos - some images are so sacred that photographs are forbidden. When sitting on the floor, you must be careful not to point your feet at a Buddha image. Sit with your legs crossed or with your feet tucked to the side, the soles pointing backwards.

Monks

Women must be careful not to touch monks as they are forbidden female contact. If a woman wants to give something to a monk it must first be given to another man or put on a piece of cloth. Often, special seats are allocated on public transport for monks only, be careful to avoid them and give up your seat for a monk if there are none available.   

Head and Feet

In Thailand, the head is very scared, whilst the feet are seen as unclean. Be careful not to touch a Thai on the head and avoid touching them with your feet or pointing to things with your feet.

Saving Face

In Thailand it is considered very impolite to shout and show of anger, regardless of the situation.

General

Showing affection between partners such as kissing and cuddling in public is frowned upon - especially amongst older Thais.

Thailand is quite conservative and people do not appreciate seeing too much bare skin. Men should avoid walking topless as what are often mistaken for looks of appreciation are actually shares of disgust! Spaghetti tops, sleeveless tops and bottom revealing micro shorts should also be avoided.

Smoking and dropping litter in the street are illegal a 2,000 Baht fine awaits anyone who is caught.

Read more...

When to Visit Thailand

When to visit Thailand
When to visit Thailand
When to visit Thailand
When to visit Thailand
Thailand has three main seasons: the monsoon or 'rainy season', which occurs from July until November, the cooler winter season from November to mid-February and the hotter summer season from March to June.

Many people find the summer season far too hot, whilst newcomers to Thailand find the monsoon season humid and sticky. Generally, it only rains for two or three hours a day during the monsoon season, usually in the early morning and then again around 5 pm.

Most people prefer to visit Thailand between November and February, when the weather is dry and relatively cool and the beaches are at their best. This is also when most of Thailand's festivals take place.

The peak tourist season is from November to late March, with a secondary peak season in July and August. However, this is also naturally when accommodation is the most expensive. People wishing to save money and avoid the crowds would do well to visit during September and October, when the fear of rain keeps most tourists away.

Regional variations:

Thailand's size and location naturally means that different areas of the country are better to visit at different times of the year.

Central Thailand and the East

Often roasting during the summer (40 degress C is not unusual), it rarely gets cold in the capital and surrounding area. If you want to beat the heat and the often torrential rain of the monsoon season, it is best to visit between November and February, with the coolest weather usually in January.

Northern Thailand and the Northeast

This region is quite a bit cooler than the rest of Thailand. Although you may need a jacket, November-February is the best time to visit as it is a good time to see the flowers and spectacular scenery. If in Thailand during April, the north is a little cooler, so this region makes a good summer retreat.

Southern Thailand

This region is probably best avoided during the monsoon season, especially if you are planning to visit the islands. The island regions often experience heavy storms during the monsoon season, and it can be difficult to travel by boat. Once again, November to April is probably the best time to visit this area.

Read more...

Introduction to Thailand

thai_mapThailand, a country of interesting contradictions and rich diversity, where just about anything is possible and likely to happen.

Most visitors are instantly captivated by the famous Thai smile - Thailand is often referred to as 'The Land of Smiles' - and the sense of fun that runs through every situation and even the most mundane task.

Although exotic and mysterious, Thailand is a lot more accessible than many other Asian countries. There are many familiar features, such as the 7/11 shops that grace every corner in cities and large towns and many people choose to wear western clothing such as jeans and t-shirts or brightly-coloured shorts.

The role of women is noticeably more equal than in many other countries, with female family members often inheriting property and controlling the finances. Women comprise roughly 50% of the workforce and there are a large number of female professionals in occupations such as doctors and dentists.

Thailand draws more visitors each year than any other country in Southeast Asia, and with its combination of stunning scenery, rich culture and history it is easy why many find it difficult to leave. Whether you want to go trekking in the jungle, climb rocks, become a dive master, party hard in trendy clubs, explore the countryside or simply soak up the sun on a beautiful sandy beach, Thailand is the perfect destination.

Situated in the tropical region of the northern hemisphere, Thailand was previously known as 'Siam'. In 1939 the name officially changed to Thailand or prathet Thai or Ratcha Anachak Thai in the Thai language.

Thailand consists of a total of 514,000 square kilometres, which is roughly the same size as France or about the twice the size of Wyoming in the USA. Located in Southeast Asia and bordering Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia, Thailand has a population of more than 65 million.

Thailand is a tropical country and the weather is typically hot and humid, with periodic rain during the monsoon season. Thailand has a variety of geographic regions - varying from mountainous regions, jungles, plains and plateaus, as well as a number of stunning beach areas and numerous islands.

There are 76 provinces in Thailand with Bangkok (krungthep) forming the capital. More than 10% of Thailand's population live in Bangkok and around 60% of the country's wealth is concentrated there.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a long and interesting political history. The current monarch is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who celebrated his 60th year on the throne in 2006, making him the world's longest reigning monarch. The King is highly revered within Thailand and respected throughout the world.

Thailand's political history has proved rather turbulent, with an impressive total of 18 coups d'etat since 1932. However, not a single shot was fired during the last coup on September 19th 2006, and Thailand is generally a safe and friendly place for visitors.

Despite the economic crash in 1997, which severely affected the country's prosperity, Thailand now enjoys a booming economy once more. Thailand's strong export growth allowed the economy to expand by 4.5% in 2007.

Exports include computer technology, office machine parts, transistors, rubber, motor vehicles, plastic, seafood and rice.

Read more...

Diving in Thailand

Diving in ThailandSawadee Krap!

Welcome to Thailand the land of smiles. Rich in culture and abundant in natural beauty, this tropical paradise is a SCUBA divers dream. We will take you to the warm clear waters in the gulf of Thailand where you can explore coral infested pinnacles and immerse yourself in shoals of barracuda and batfish or quietly seek out Nemo amongst the flourishing anemone gardens. We will take you to the west coast of Thailand to the Andaman sea where you will find some of Thailand's most stunning dive sites. Here, the heavily protected marine parks contain luxurious, multi coloured, coral quilts teeming with life. Manta rays, leopard sharks and turtles are not unusual here and in the right season expect to come face to face with gentle whale sharks as they migrate along Thailand's coastlines feeding on plankton. Whether you are a qualified diver or a total novice, there are experienced, multilingual instructors and divemasters eagerly waiting at PADI dive centers throughout Thailand, ready to lead you into these beautiful waters and teach you new underwater skills.


Welcome to Thailand and the underwater beauty it has to offer!

diving_in_thailand_2 diving_in_thailand_3 diving_in_thailand_4

THE WEATHER IN THAILAND - What's the weather like? Is it good for diving?

Generally the weather in Thailand is hot, and the dive seasons are dictated by the monsoons. On the west coast of Thailand there is a long monsoon, that runs from May through to October. Dive operations to the Similan and Surin Islands and the Burma Banks cease to operate during this time. Koh Lanta closes down! On the East coast of Thailand, the monsoon runs from November until mid January. Dive operations on Koh Tao will still continue during this period, but the visibility and weather can be unpredictable.

PADI DIVE COURSES - What sort of courses are available in Thailand? 

PADI OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandWelcome to the underwater world! Over 4 days we will teach you basic dive theory and techniques to make you into a safe, happy and competent diver. There are many beautiful, shallow and protected bays or custom built swimming pools ideal for learning all the basic dive skills and adapting to breathing underwater in a gentle and controlled environment. Once these skills are mastered, we will take you into the sea for 4 `open water` dives - the real deal! Prepare to come face to face with cheeky turtles, immerse yourself in shoals of curious batfish and marvel at nature's treasure trove of colour amongst all the beautiful coral. We will take you to a maximum depth of 18 metres and the PADI open water license is internationally recognized - your passport to the underwater realm all over the world!

PADI ADVANCED OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandNow you have your open water license, we want you to explore even more of the underwater world as you make 5 more dives over 2 days to attain another PADI license to add to your collection. We will take you deeper to 30 metres on the Deep Dive to get close to those bottom dwelling leopard sharks. On the Navigation Dive, you will learn how to use the compass, which will allow you to navigate around the vivid red fan coral to the nearby bright yellow table coral. You can also choose 3 more dives from the following - Night Dive - its like being on the moon! Watch everything glow when you turn off the torch and wave your hands about, Photography Dive - learn how to use an underwater camera to take pictures of all your favourite fishes! Multi Level Dive - use the wheel to plan your dives so you can say hello to the giant moray eel at 26 metres, pop up to check out the clown fish dancing in their anemone homes at 16 metres and then glide around at 10 metres with a graceful manta ray! Naturalist Dive - I spy underwater as you get to see and learn more about all the magnificent marine lifearound you ! Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive - practise your underwater balance using breathing control as you cartwheel above the coral and levitate like a leopard shark!

diving_in_thailand_6PADI EFR COURSE (EMERGENCY FIRST RESPONSE)

The EFR course takes 1 day and you will be taught resuscitation and heart massage as well as basic first aid relevant to many different situations. You will learn how to deal with a variety of emergency scenarios including choking, shock, hyperthermia and, bleeding as well as marine life and diving related injuries. This is a recognised first aid course and is valid for 2 years.

PADI RESCUE COURSE 

During this course, we will teach you how to anticipate and respond to problems to take care of other divers and yourself. We will return to the shallow bays close to the islands to learn underwater search patterns for missing divers. If your buddy starts to panic, don't worry! We will teach you how to rescue them above and below the water. We will show you how to rescue unconscious divers from the bottom and how to bring them to the surface and then how to use different lifting techniques to get them out of the water and resuscitate them. We will teach you to be a confident, aware and prepared diver.Lets keep the sea a safe place for us all!

Diving in ThailandPADI DIVEMASTER COURSE

The divemaster course usually runs as an internship and has unlimited time and unlimited dives depending where you make your course. ou make the DM course at your pace and will have theory lectures on physiology, physics, decompression sickness, skills and the environment, equipment as well as divemastership. You gain experience with instructors assisting OW, AOW and rescue courses as well as with our divemaster guiding certified divers.

You will map a dive site, make swim tests, an underwater equipment exchange, perform a skill circuit and another rescue scenario. Anytime during the course you can make fun dives. It is like being in your very own diving university! There is a great social atmosphere whilst you make the course and there will always be a lot of people diving of some sort and usually a big bunch of divemaster trainees all at different stages of their courses so you are guaranteed a lively atmosphere. Everyone is interested in diving and you are all living in a tropical paradise so you will find that many of these people and the instructors will become good friends for life.

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) 

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) For the IDC we work directly with BUDDHA VIEW 5 star IDC RESORT on Koh Tao. BUDDHA VIEW has a very experienced course directors- Mark from Brisbane who works with his team of staff instructors to hold an IDC every 2 months and sometimes every month. What makes these guys so successful is that they are very experienced and have been holding IDCs for many years so that whilst you learn in a professional atmosphere they are relaxed and you will have a lot of fun. The big plus for BUDDHA VIEW is that they have their own separate IDC center for the IDC candidates only, with air con lecture theatre, digital projector, surrounds sound and all the materials you will ever need during your IDC. It is the only IDC center in Thailand and means you will not be disturbed by open water, advanced courses etc being conducted nearby. During the IDC you will go through the divemaster theory exams again and you must simply get a higher percentage of questions right than in the DM course.Mark and the team will teach you how to instruct PADI dive courses the way PADI wants you to instruct and you will give lots of presentations so you know how to conduct the academics of PADI dive courses. They will show you how to brief on the dive boat before diving and how to debrief after dives with your students and they will show you how to problem solve underwater.You will also learn how to navigate the PADI standards and procedures manuel or CD ROM that every instructor uses. Well done you are now a PADI dive instructor !

Diving n ThailandEAST COAST DIVING - KOH TAO

Koh Tao (Turtle island as it is otherwise known) is Thailand's most popular diving island. Located 500 kms south of Bangkok in the gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is tiny, beautifully natural, charming and most importantly close to a myriad of lovely dive sites. Koh Tao has rapidly developed in popularity since it was 'discovered' by backpackers in the late 1980's. In those days when the first backpackers arrived they were greeted by a few local fishermen harvesting coconuts. The word spread quickly amongst travelers around Thailand about this tiny island with beautiful beaches, lush jungle interior and surrounding crystal clear waters bursting with tropical marine life.

As more travelers arrived so did the first SCUBA diving sets of equipment, the first PADI dive schools commenced operations and Koh Tao's underwater secret was out! Today, there are now more than 30 dive operations on Koh Tao and the island boast more than 25 dive sites within close proximity that can suit every standard of diver with shallow protected bays for total beginners to deeper world class rocky pinnacles for experienced professionals. Expect to see shoals of barracuda, batfish, snapper and butterfly fish around the coral covered boulders. Small rays, moray eels and boxfish hide amongst the many cracks and crevasses whilst the titan triggerfish graze on the coral. Giant groupers and turtles are not uncommon and Koh Tao is famous for one giant seasonal visitor, the whale shark, which often appear around March and April. We work directly with BUDDHA VIEW dive resort who are based on the quieter Chalok Ban Kao beach in the south of Koh Tao.

Diving in ThailandWEST COAST DIVING - KOH LANTA

Koh Lanta is a bigger island just to the south of Krabi off the west coast of Thailand. Long rolling beaches with a dense vegetative interior make this getaway a nature lovers delight. Koh Lanta is a very tranquil island where peace and quiet is not hard to find and nestled in the Andaman sea is close to some superb dive sites. There are many lovely dive spots close to the island with beautiful corals and teeming with tropical aquarium fish.

Two of the best dive sites near Koh Lanta are the famous Hin Daeng and Hin Mouang which are world class dive sites. Deep pinnacles embalmed in spectacular soft and hard corals, they attract huge shoals of tropical fish and graceful Manta rays. Here, you will find exciting swim throughs and caverns festooned in dazzling gorgonian fans and soft corals. As you quietly drift through don't be surprised if you come face to face with a giant potato cod. We have teamed up with the excellent Scandinavian run LANTA DIVER who are a PADI 5 star IDC center.

Diving in ThailandTHE SIMILAN AND SURIN ISLANDS

The Similan islands are an uninhabited isolated tropical chain of islands located north east of Phuket in the Andaman sea. Just to the north of the Similan islands are a cluster of superb dive sites including the world renowned Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu rock famous for Manta rays and whale sharks. Further north, just before Burmese waters, await the Surin islands. This whole area is nestled like a cluster of jewels in heavily protected marine parks and offers the finest diving in Thailand without a doubt. The turquoise Andaman waters reveal 30/40 meters visibility in high season and contain luxurious coloured blankets of soft and hard corals that hug the rocky outcrops and granite pinnacles.

This whole area is a cosmos of marine life with huge shoals of roving assorted tropical fish. Manta rays are normally seen around the deeper dive sites and whale sharks often feed on plankton around Richelieu rock during March and April. Everywhere you will see leopard sharks, turtles and giant morays but keep an eye out for the small animals like seahorses and ghost pipefish. Diving in the Similan and Surin islands is conducted on specially modified dive boats that operate 3, 4 and 7 day liveaboard cruises. We work closely with 2 PADI dive centers that run cruises to the Similan and Surin island marine park. SEADRAGON DIVE CENTER who are based in Khaolak just north of Phuket and they have 3 boats that run 3 or 4 day dive cruises. WORLDWIDE DIVE AND SAIL who are based in Phuket and operate 7 day/7 night dive cruises aboard their boat the SY Sampai Jumpa that incorporates sailing as well as diving, kayaking and snorkeling.

Read more...

Transport in Thailand

Transport in Thailand
Transport in Thailand
Transport in Thailand
Transport in Thailand
Outside Bangkok, there are fewer transport options and in many places you need to have your own transport. However, motorbikes and bicycles can be found in most places and are cheap to hire.

Motorcycle taxis are usually available in most parts of Thailand, even in small towns. Look out for clusters of young men wearing orange jackets with numbers printed on the back in Thai. Remember to agree the price before you get on the back of the motorbike.

Meter taxis are usually only available in large cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket. In the rest of the country many interesting alternatives are available.

Buses are available throughout Thailand. However, outside Bangkok the destinations are rarely printed in English and you cannot expect the conductor to speak English. The best way to make sure that you arrive at you destination is to ask someone (preferably at a travel agency or tourist cafe) to write the address in Thai and teach you how to pronounce it correctly. Also, most buses fill up quickly and are crammed to bursting point. In order to guarantee a seat, get on at a bus station.

Intercity Coaches are a fine, cheap way to travel around Thailand. The good road system means that they are quite comfortable and travel between most cities, large towns and tourist destinations. Much cheaper than the train (a journey of 220 kilometres costs around 90 Baht) as with local buses it is best to embark at the bus station to guarantee a seat.

Songthaew means 'two rows' in Thai, referring to the two rows of wooden benches that line the walls of these small, open-backed mini vans. Very common in small towns and villages, songthaews follow a designated route which is not always obvious. It is best to flag down the driver, state where you want to go and add the word 'mai?' to the end. Fares typically cost between 6 and 20 baht.

Saburus are a more modern and comfortable version of the songthaew, with padded seats. Expect to pay about double the price of a songthaew, although many people say the comfort is worth the extra few baht.

Known as Samlaews, these are the same as the bicycle rickshaw, which can be found all over India. Not exactly the fastest or most comfortable form of transport and only recommended for short journeys, although they can be a nice way to get to know a place or enjoy a romantic sunset ride.

Read more...

Religion in Thailand

Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Religion in Thailand
Most Thai people (around 95%) are Buddhist, whilst 4.6% are Muslim, and Christianity comprises 0.7%. Most of Thailand's Muslims live in the south of Thailand. There are also a significant number of Hindus and Sikhs. Thailand also has a history of animism - which generally means the belief in souls and spirits - and this is still practiced by some of the people of the hill tribes in the north of Thailand.

Although Buddhism is by far the main belief, Thailand prides itself on religious freedom and welcomes the emergence of newer religions and beliefs.

The strain of Buddhism worshipped in Thailand is Thai Theravada Buddhism, which is supported and overseen by the government. Most men are expected to become a monk at some point in their life, and this is often undertaken during the three monk Khao Phansa period, which begins in July.

Monks can be easily recognised by their saffron coloured robed and shaved heads. Monks cannot carry money and so can be seen early in the morning collecting their daily food. Monks also receive a number of government benefits, such as free use of public transport.

Religion forms a cornerstone of most Thai people's lives, entwined with daily activities and special events. Most people will worship at the temple (known as a wat) during festivals and monks and spirits are consulted when important decisions need to be made such as weddings and starting a business.















Read more...