Thailand is often referred to as ‘The land of Wats’ due to its abundance of Buddhist temples. Although it has become one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations in the last decade, Thailand has still managed to retain much of its original charm and beauty. From Bangkok to its beaches, there is something for everyone. With the population being 65 million in a land area around three times the size of England (514, 000 km2), it is clear that Thailand offers plenty of room for exploration.
Located on the southeast tip of Asia, it boasts a year-round temperate climate. The many islands attract travellers from around the world, and amenities are popping up to cater for their needs. Monthly ‘full-moon’ parties have given Thailand the reputation for being a party destination, which many of its tourist destinations are trying to echo. Quieter refuges can be found, although these are often further off the beaten track. The mainland has not been developed in the same way that its islands have, and thus exploring this region is recommended for the more intrepid voyager.
Thai - Thai script differs from our alphabet so it is recommended to buy a book that helps translate common phrases.
Hello – sa-wat deeThank You - khorb koonHow much? – gee bathPlease - KarunaYes – ChaiNo – Mai Chai
Thai Baht. At the time of writing the rate was around 70 Baht to £1 (August 2006).
The weather varies greatly according to where you are. The monsoon season falls from July to November but this mainly affects the west coast and its islands. The east coast will go largely unaffected by this weather, and boasts a more constant climate throughout the year. A cooler period follows the rainy season, from around November to mid-February, after which temperatures soar again. Northern Thailand is often muggier, the clear skies that bless the islands are not often found here, although the nights are pleasantly cooler.
Bangkok offers enough entertainment to keep you busy for days; just wandering around the streets provides plenty of extraordinary sights. The Grand Palace, Bangkok’s most famous landmark, is sumptuously decorated in gold and looks dazzling in the sun. Within the complex is Wat Phra Kaeo, a royal chapel, which houses a small yet exquisite Emerald Buddha.
Wat Po is the Temple of Reclining Buddha. This Buddha-statue is 46 metres long and decorated with gold leaf and mother of pearl. Within the grounds of the temple is Thailand’s most famous 'massage university', where you can receive a discounted massage from one of its trainees. The floating markets, which take place at dawn each morning, offer a glimpse of how the city uses its river to trade on. You can hire a boat to ‘sail’ around each of the stalls, stopping to barter yourself some spices or just soak up the atmosphere.
Chang Mai, in the north of Thailand, is the most popular start and end destination for ‘jungle trekking’. These can be arranged from Bangkok or from accommodation in Chang Mai.
Thailand is famous for its islands, and although there are many the following are the main tourist destinations:
- Phuket is a glamorous location, with 5* hotels and resorts. Most accommodation is available for those that have pre-booked from home, and its beaches are its main attraction.
- Kho Lanta is more popular with families, which dictates a more relaxed pace of life and attractions.
- Kho Samui is the largest of the islands which means that it caters to tourist needs; the island has its own bowling alley and McDonalds.
- Kho Pha Ngan’s main reputation centres around its ‘full-moon’ parties, which means an increase in people, price of accommodation and amount of Samsung that is drunk.
- Kho Tao is Thailand’s scuba diving island. Most of the accommodation here is based in dive centres, although there are a few other huts for rent.
- The directors of The Beach used this destination for a reason. Although visitors flock here to see where the film was set, Phi Phi has managed to retain its outstanding beauty. Daily boat trips are available to take you to the film’s destinations, as well as to the surrounding captivating islands.
Bangkok is every shop-a-holics dream! The streets are filled with rows of shops and stalls that sell anything from wedding dresses to spices. Prices are not fixed in most of these and haggling is the only way to buy. However, some of the more expensive shops will display their prices and will not appreciate trying to be bartered with! Stalls selling jewellery and clothes can be found on all of the islands, often the same wear will be found again and again, and beach sellers are common. 7-Eleven is Thailand’s main convenience store, and these can be found literally everywhere. Chang Mai is renowned for its night markets which offer an array of goods that can be purchased at a cooler temperature.
Thailand’s islands are famed for their nightlife; Kho Pha Ngan and Kho Samui in particular offer nightly parties that run into the small hours. Bangkok’s nightlife has a slightly seedy edge to it, and has to be seen to be believed. The Kho San Road is a favourite with travellers and is filled with backpacker bars.
Food and Drink
Restaurants offer familiar dishes as well as local ones. Street stalls also sell surprisingly tasty treats, although it is not always easy to identify what they are! Thailand’s most famous drink is Samsung whiskey, which should be drunk in moderation, and no Thai curry is complete without a Singha Beer.
Although the highways between cities have been well maintained, driving elsewhere in Thailand can be hazardous and care should be taken. Bangkok, with its maze of roads and thousands of inhabitants, is notoriously treacherous. You must drive on the left hand side of the road, and the speed limit is 60 km/h, around 35mph, in cities and towns, and 90 – 120 km/p on highways. Speed traps are very common on major routes and police are keen to enforce the laws in more rural areas.
Many of the Thai driving laws are based on English ones, for example it is compulsory to wear a seatbelt and the same alcohol limits apply – 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath or 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The Thai police are no way near as strict at enforcing drink driving laws as the UK police are, and therefore, unfortunately, drink driving is quite common. This is another reason to take care and not consume any alcohol yourself before driving.
A red box on the road indicates a no parking zone; otherwise parking is available in places which will not obstruct other traffic. In Bangkok, multi-story car parks are commonly found next to large hotels, although they can be used by anyone.
Tourist Information1600 New Phetburi Road, Makkasan, Rajatevee, Bangkok 10310.
Tel: +66 2250 5500Fax: +66 2250 firstname.lastname@example.org
All car hire locations in Thailand
- Ban Khao Lak
- Ban Patong
- Ban Sam Poeng
- Cha Ian Airport
- Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai International Airport
- Chiang Rai
- Chiang Rai International Airport
- Don Mueang International Airport
- Hat Yai
- Hat Yai International Airport
- Hua Hin
- Hua Hin Airport
- Khon Kaen Airport
- Ko Samui
- Krabi Airport
- Patong Beach Airport
- Phi Phi Island Airport
- Phitsanulok Airport
- Phuket International Airport
- Samui Airport
- Surat Thani Airport
- Suvarnabhumi Airport
- Tambon Si Sunthon
- Trang Airport
- Ubon Ratchathani Airport
- Udon Thani Airport
- Udorn Air Base Airport