There is more visible historical evidence of past eras in Thailand than in any other South-East Asian country, so if you re interested in ruins, temples and deserted cities, this is the place to go. For pure holiday-making magic, Thailand’s islands and beaches are working definitions of heaven (once you get out of the shadows of the evil multinational hotels).
Thailand is an easy country to travel in, with efficient transport, cheap accommodation and a delicious national cuisine. The Thais are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality to strangers. Although they re often depicted as fun-loving, happy-go-lucky folk (which they often are), they are also very strong-minded and have struggled for centuries to preserve their spirit of independence.
Full country name: Kingdom of Thailand
Area: 514,000 sq Km
GDP Per capital: US$9100
Religion: 95% Buddhist
Border country: Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma)
Original name: Siam
Number of coups d’etat since 1932: 18
Number of 7-elevents currently: 3800
Highest point: 2565 m
Rice exports: 7.4 million tones in 2006 (number one of Rice exporter in the world)
Major industries: computer, Garments, Integrated circuits, gems, jewellery
Major trading international: ASEAN, USA, EUROPEAN UNION
Languages: Thai is the official language although English is widely spoken in tourist
Visas: Most visitors can stay for 30 days without a visa.
Health risks: AIDS, cholera, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, rabies
Time: UTC plus seven hours
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Weights & measures: Metric with local variations
When to go
The best time to visit most of Thailand is between November and February, primarily because it rains the least and is not too hot during these months. This period is also Thailand’s main season for both national and regional festivals.
If you plan to focus on the mountains of the northern provinces, the hot season (March to May) and early rainy season (June to July) are not bad either, as temperatures are moderate at higher elevations. Haze from the burning-off of agricultural fields during these months, however, does obscure visibility in the north. Northeastern and central Thailand, on the other hand, are best avoided from March to May, when temperatures may climb over 40°C during the day and aren’t much lower at night. Because temperatures are more even year-round in the south (because it’s closer to the equator), the beaches and islands of southern Thailand are a good choice for respite when the rest of Thailand is miserably hot.
Thailand’s peak – and we mean peak – tourist season runs from November to late March, with secondary peaks in July and August. If your main objective is to avoid crowds and to take advantage of discounted rooms and low-season rates, you should consider travelling during the least crowded months (typically April to June, September and October).
Watersports, Meditation, Trekking, Tai kick-boxing, spectator Sports
Thailand, two coastlines and countless islands attract schools of water babies. Diving and snorkeling are particularly popular around Phuket, Pattaya, and the Similan and Surin islands. The islands of Chumphon Province, just north of Surat Thani, are less developed and the reefs here are practically undisturbed. Touring the islands and coastal limestone formations around Phuket and Ao Phang-Nga by inflatable canoe has become an increasingly popular activity. The typical sea-canoe tour seeks out half-submerged caves, timing excursions so that they can paddle into the caverns at low tide. Inland raft trips are available down the Mae
Klong River in central Thailand in Kanchanaburi Province and on the Pai River in Mae Hong Son Province.
Wilderness walking is northern Thailand s biggest draw. Chiang Mai is the main center for treks into mountainous areas inhabited by hill tribes, but there are also trekking areas around Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai. Cyclists favour the flat terrain and lush river scenery of the Mekong River area in the north and north-east of Thailand.
Meditation study is a decidedly less sweaty activity popular with many visitors to Thailand. There are dozens of temples and meditation centres dotted throughout the country which welcome sincere guests. Instruction and accommodation are free of charge, though donations are expected. There are centres which provide instruction in English in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, amongst others. If you d prefer to direct your energies outward, tuition in Thai boxing is available in Bangkok and in Naklua, north of Pattaya. Be warned that the training is gruelling and involves full-contact sparring. Chiang Mai has also become a centre for classes in Thai cooking and traditional message.
Attractions - Bangkok
Damnoen Saduak Floating
The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is an escape from the Western-style shopping malls of Bangkok and a glimpse into the past, revealing the centuries' old way of life of the residents whose stilt-houses perch on the canals. Visitors can explore the market with boat trips and sample the wares of local farmers as they do so.
Royal Barges National Museum
The Royal Barges National Museum houses several decorative royal barges, the earliest of which dates back to 1357. Most of the barges served as War Vessels at one point, and were subsequently used on royal or state occasions on the Chao Phraya River. Due to their age the barges are now rarely used, but their intricate designs reflecting Thai religious beliefs and local history are of great importance to the country's heritage