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Thailand is a country of scenic diversity and ancient traditions, of tranquil temples and modern urban excitement. With and independent history going back more than seven centuries.
North Eastern Thailand (Isan) bordered by the Mekong River and Laos were inhabited as far back as 10,000 years ago with cave Paintings can be seen at Pha Taem National Park in Ubon Ratchathani. From about 4000 BCE Thailand became the first true agriculturists in the world growing rice using stone tools before moving onto Bronze and later Iron at around 500 BCE.
Thai people are believed to have come from southern China migrating between the 10th and 13th century AD. During this period the area was ruled by Angkor with the main capital at Wat Phu Temple in what is now called Laos before moving to Siem Reap Angkor Wat!
During the 13th century several states in Thailand united to form the Sukhothai Kingdom with its heart at the temple of Sukhothai a few hours north of Bangkok. This kingdom soon declined in the late 14th century, giving way to the rapidly growing kingdom of Ayuthaya which is about an hour from Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River.
European influence arrived with the Portuguese who where the first to arrive in the early 16th century followed by the English and then the French. Thailand favoured a kingdom of Isolation and cut contact with Europe until the early 19th Century and is the only Southeast Asian country never to be colonized.
With the demise of the Khmer Kingdom Thailand found itself invaded by another growing kingdom from the west. In the mid 18th Century the Burmese invaded and destroyed the capital at Ayuthaya.
Soon after it was the turn of the Thai’s to expand their kingdom with a Thai general becoming king, building a new capital at Thoburi across the river from Bangkok. Thailand then invaded Laos and other parts of Southeast Asia. Bangkok was made capital in the late 18th century and from the beginning of the 19th century Thai culture flourished.
In 1851 the British were allowed to live in Thailand and several trade agreements were signed, treaties where signed with Britain as well as other nations. Thailand aligned itself with the British but ceded Laos and Cambodia to French rule and also ceded territory in Malaya to Britain.
During the Second World War the Japanese were allowed to pass through Thailand to invade British Malaya but the Japanese then occupied Thailand and tried to expand west sending supplies by train on the infamous “Death Railway” seen at Kanachaburi at the River Kwai.
Thailand has now grown to be a successful nation, with strong economic growth and a booming tourist industry visiting its amazing sites and beaches.
The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism and there are a few things that you have to adhere to so as not to offend the people. These are simple things and there are information in brochures and posters in the main cities that will help you along the way.
Young Thai's have been influenced by the West especially in the modern cities where you will see the same mod cons as in any developed country. In reality the Thai people and culture is becoming more and more aligned with the western way of thinking and more materialistic although Thai culture has strong roots and these will not be forgotten in a hurry.
Thai people are friendly and tolerant but there are a few Do's and Don'ts which you should observe.
Avoid touching people on the head, and keep your feet on the ground where they belong. Stay calm, smile and enjoy the hospitality of your hosts.
The official language is Thai, but English is widely spoken in all major tourist locations. It would be great to buy a phrasebook on your travels and try interacting with the local people giving an authentic travel experience.
Thailand is a predominately Buddhist culture celebrating their religious New Year Songkran in April. They sprinkle water on the Buddha images, and on the hands of the monks and novices at the temple, as an offering to express confidence that the supply of water will be adequate to cover the dry season. There are lots of festivities and the customary water throwing can be enjoyed by tourist and locals alike. If you are travelling during Songkran you may find yourself with a bottle or bucket of water in the street playing water games, take it in good spirit! it is a traditional custom and the water also cools you down in one of the hottest months of the year.
Buddhism comes from the Buddhist teaching of Lord Buddha who was born in Nepal. It's main belief being karma and the belief that it is in your own hands to determine your next life for better or for worse. The Thai proverb "do good and receive good, do evil and receive evil" sums up this concept well. Buddhism is ever present in Thai life from the myriad Buddha images to the saffron-robed monks and many wat (temples) at which local people worship.
As a visitor to Thailand you are welcome to visit the Wats but please remember to dress respectfully, no shorts or vests. Remove your shoes before entering any temple building, and never touch the head of a Buddha image. Other Religions About 4% of the population, mainly living in the south of Thailand, are Muslim. The remaining 1% are Confucians, Taoists, Christians, and Hindus. Thai people are very tolerant of other faiths and treat all religions with respect.
Chinese New Year (Around the Beginning of February (Dependent on the Lunar Calendar)
Up to half of the population of Bangkok have Chinese roots so not an official holiday Chinese New Year is a big event in the Thai Calendar. The majority of the events are held in Chinatown where thousands gather to eat and watch the parade.
Makha Bucha Day: Around the Beginning of March (Dependent on the Lunar Calendar)
The date is dependent on the Lunar Cycle and commemorates two separate events that occurred on the same date 45 years apart, during the Buddha's lifetime 2,500 years ago. The first event was the coming together of 1,250 monks from all locations and directions, to meet and be ordained by the Buddha. This event occurred seven months after the Buddha began his teaching. The second event, which occurred 45 years later, was the Buddha delivering his teachings shortly before his death. Both of these events occurred on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month, a month known in the Buddhist Pali language as 'Makha'. The 'Bucha', also a Pali word, means to venerate or to honour.
Chakri Day: April 6th
Chakri Day commemorates the founding of the Chakri Dynasty in 1782 by King Rama I. In the new capital city of Bangkok; after the Burmese destroyed Ayuthaya a new capital was built in Thoburi. The country was in a state of rebellion broke out and their beloved Thong Duang who became known as Chakri became King Rama I. As a military commander knowing that Thonburi was vunrable to another Burmese attack he commanded a new capital be built on the other side of the Chao Phraya River and Krung - Thep (Bangkok) was created.
Songkran: April 13th – 15th
Songkran, the Water Festival, coincides with the Thai New Year's celebrations of the new solar year. Songkran is one of Thailand's biggest holiday celebrations, during which every town and province will engage in 'wet' and 'fun' revelries.
Loi Krathong: Around the End of November / beginning of December (Dependent on the Lunar Calendar)
Loi Krathong is celebrated on the night of the full moon of the 12th lunar month (end of November / beginning of December) with the release of a Krathong. A Krathong is a traditional floating device made from a slice off the trunk of a banana tree that is decorated with banana leaves, flowers, candles and sticks of incense.
Every year thousands of Thais light the candles on their own Krathong and float it down the river or lake. The thousands of Krathongs with their flickering candles make for a great spectacle and the actual act of floating a Krathong symbolises releasing of one’s personal anger, frustration and grudges. It’s also an act to honour the goddess of water.
H.M. The King's Birthday: December 5th
National celebration of His Majesty King Bhumibol's Birthday and also celebrated as National Father's Day.
Make sure you check your passport and you have more than 6 months left as this may cause problems when going through immigration
Make sure you have enough passport pages in your passport. Usually try to have at least 2 pages in your passport for each country you will be visiting (not transiting at the airports). This is if you will get your visa on arrival at the country you are visiting.
Current Visa Regulations entitle you to a 30 Day Visa on Arrival if you are arriving by plane into Thailand, if you arriving by Land you will be allowed a 15 Day Visa on arrival. If you are looking to obtain a 90 Day Visa this has to be done in advance via the embassy or an agent.
The healthcare in Thailand is excellent and General Practitioners, dentists and opticians are ready available, offering a private service at affordable prices, although it is essential that you have travel insurance as any major incident can be very costly. Doctors and staff at clinics and larger hospitals generally speak good English. Both Hospitals and Clinics offer a walk in service. Bottled water is provided in most hotels, and can also be bought easily and inexpensively at most shops. Imported water such as Evian, Perrier, Volvic etc is also available, but quite expensive. Ice cubes served in drinks at established restaurants are not a problem as they are usually prepared from boiled or bottled water.
Please consult also consult your doctor about the inoculations and anti-malaria precautions required for Thailand. In general cover against polio, rabies, cholera, typhoid, tetanus, malaria, hepatitis A and meningitis is recommended (though not mandatory).
Thai currency is the Thai Baht and it is roughly 31 Thai baht to the dollar which has been reasonably stable for the last few years. There are ATM machines offering international withdrawals all over the country and there should be no trouble finding one. The majority of banks have exchange services, accept traveller checks and have western union facilities. You will need you passport or a copy when exchanging and withdrawing money from a Thai Bank.
Electricity in Thailand is 220 volts, this means for those arriving from the UK you will not need a Voltage adapter. You will probably need an adapter as most plugs in Thailand have2 prongs missing the third grounding / earthing prong. This is starting to change with more awareness and better building standards though and many more places are starting to have the same 3 prong plugs as in the UK.
Tipping is generally not expected in Thailand. In some upper class restaurants or accommodations they will directly charge you with a 10% service charge, you should clearly see that on the bill. Feel free to leave a tip for good service of between 5-10 %, it is of course up to you and dependant on the service received.
Guides are usually tipped $10-15 USD/day, and drivers about $5-10 again all dependant on the level of service received.
It is essential that you call your credit card company and let them know you will be travelling overseas as any unusual payments tend to put a temporary block on your credit card which could leave you in a little bit of trouble whilst abroad.
Always have spare passport photos while this may not be needed for Thailand it will certainly be needed for other neighbouring Southeast Asian countries you may be visiting.
Keep a copy of your passport separate to where you keep your passport just in case this situation does arise.
Health Insurance: Make sure you have your insurance details with you and know what your policy covers.
If you don’t want to use roaming take a spare old phone sim cards are cheap in Thailand and you can use them instead of being charged international roaming rates!
Keep our contact handy and that of our local operators as we will be there to assist you in any emergency.
Avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes is often the best defence take plenty of DEET mosquito repellent and wear long sleeves and trousers at night!