Thailand in a Nutshell

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.