Thailand Information

1. GENERAL INFORMATION

Originally called Siam, Thailand is a country rich in culture and natural beauty. It has been blessed with expansive natural parks, fertile plains, remote jungles, beaches washed by turquoise waters and tropical islands bathed in endless sunshine. The country has more visible historical evidence of its past cultures than any other country in Southeast Asian. Its history is very complex, involving the invasion of many different peoples, the rule of different kings, the establishment of various kingdoms and the interaction of diverse cultures. The period of time from the mid 1800’s until now is probably the most important in terms of the formation of modern day Thailand. King Mongkut, who ruled the country from 1851 to 1868, was a well educated, ex-monk who kept Thailand safe from European expansion. His son, Chulalongkorn, took over in 1868 and continued the enlightenment and modernization of Thailand. King Chulalongkorn made great strides in improving the country. Thailand was changed from an Absolute Monarchy to a Constitutional Monarchy by Thai intellectuals, along with military help, in 1932. The name of the country was changed from Siam to Thailand in 1939 by Prime Minister Phibun Songkhram, mainly because he wanted to disassociate his country from the past. Translated literally, Thailand means “Land of the Free.”

 

The Thai race was previously believed to have originated somewhere near Mongolia, later moving southward. However, new theories based on historical discoveries regard the northeastern part of Thailand as the birthplace of the Thai race. Over the years, the country has become home to many immigrants. The Thai people have managed to preserve the traditions of their unique culture, at the same time absorbing the practices of modern living. Nevertheless, the combination of cultures and backgrounds of these immigrants make Thailand an interesting and memorable country to visit.

Tourism has become an important industry in the country. More people visit Thailand than any other country in Southeast Asia. In 1999, 9 million people visited Thailand.

 


2. WEATHER CONDITIONS

Thailand has a humid, tropical climate, and it is hot all year round. Summer is from March to May with average temperatures around 93ºF (34ºC), but the temperature can reach over 105ºF (40ºC) for extended periods. Summer monsoons begin as the warm humid air masses flow towards the north from the Indian Ocean. The monsoons end in the fall when the wind reverses direction with the dry southwesterlies. The rainy season, with periods of sunshine, lasts from June to September, with temperatures ranging fro m 80ºF to 89ºF (27ºC to 32ºC). The amount of rainfall varies with topography. The northeast receives the least rain, while the south is flooded during the summer months. The best time to visit Thailand is during the cool season, from October though Feb ruary, when it is not as humid as during the summer and the rainy seasons. The average temperature is around 65ºF to 89ºF (18ºC to 32ºC). During this season, it can be very chilly in the north, with temperatures dropping to 44ºF (7ºC) at night.

 


3. PEOPLE AND CULTURE

Over the years, Thailand has attracted many immigrants. The people of Thailand share a rich ethnic diversity consisting of Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Burmese, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian descendants. As a result, it is not possible to speak of a typical Thai physique.

The Thais are, on the whole, a group of people who believe that life should be enjoyed, but no one should infringes on others’ rights. The Thas are tolerant and hospitable, and it is easy to get along with them. Good manners, common sense and a smile are necessities in Thailand.

Women have considerable influence in Thai society. Although the men’s role is usually accentuated in public, in private, all affairs such as finances and all other trading transactions are generally managed by women.

Monarchy and religion are sacred in Thailand, and it is against the law to criticize them, especially in public. Mocking the monarchy, or joking about it, is a serious offense and is punishable by imprisonment. Don’t push your luck in these areas.

Ethnic Groups: 75% Thai, 14% Chinese and 11% other. The majority of Thai people are mixed Thai/Chinese.

Languages:
The national language is Thai. English is fairly widely understood, particularly in Bangkok, where it is almost the major commercial language. English is spoken in most hotels and restaurants and at major tourist destinations.

Religion:
95% of the population practice Buddhism, 4% are Muslim and the remainder are Christians, Hindus or Sikhs.

 


4. LOCAL CUSTOMS

General:
The Thais are extremely tolerant and forgiving people with an easygoing approach to life. Nevertheless, there are certain moral, social and religious customs visitors should know and observe to avoid embarrassment and misunderstanding.

Never lose your temper or raise your voice no matter how frustrating the situation is. Only patience, humor and cai yen (cool heart) yield results in Thailand.

Thais believe that the head is the most sacred part of the body, so never touch or pat anyone in Thailand on the head, even in the friendliest of circumstances.

Standing over someone, especially someone older or wiser, is considered rude behavior since it implies social superiority. As a sign of courtesy, lower your head as you pass a group of people. When in doubt, watch the Thais.

The feet are considered the lowest part of the body, so don’t point at things with your feet. When sitting down, make sure the soles of your feet are not facing anyone.

Wearing shorts is considered improper and low-class attire, but acceptable for children. No matter how hot it is, long pants should be worn in urban areas. If you are planning to visit a Buddhist temple, dress conservatively and remember to take your shoes off when you enter the temple.

Public display of affection and nudity at beaches are offensive.

Never have your picture taken on any Buddhist images. They are considered extremely sacred, no matter what their age or condition.

Buddhist monks must be treated with respect at all times. Women are not allowed to touch the monks, nor can the monks accept anything from a woman’s hand.

Rear seats on buses are reserved for the monks, and other passengers have to vacate these seats when necessary. Never stand over a seated monk, since a monk should always remain at the highest elevation.

Business:
The Thais are not fanatical about productivity or deadlines. Foreign visitors are often frustrated with their resistance to the Westerners’ fast-paced life.

The Thais detest any form of conflict and will go to great pains to avoid confrontation and preserve harmony.

Traditionally, Thais greet each other not with a handshake but with the wai (a prayer-like posture with the palms of the hands pressed together).

Meetings are usually held in offices, hotel lobbies and restaurants.

The Thais are sociable and often mix business with pleasure. The person who has extended the invitation pays for the meals or drinks. If it isn’t clear who extended the invitation, the most senior person at the table has the honor of paying. If you are the only foreigner present, it is polite to offer to pay.

Avoid scheduling a meeting after 3:30pm, because the Thais like to get an early start on the evening rush-hour trip home.

 


5. CURRENCY

The unit of currency in Thailand is the Baht, which is worth a little less than a US dollar. It is divided into 100 satang. There is no currency black market in Thailand. Traveler’s checks can be cashed at banks throughout the country – even small town s have foreign exchange services. Visitors are allowed to bring up to B2,000 per person and unlimited foreign currency, although amounts exceeding US$10,000 must be declared. A maximum amount of B500 per person is allowed to be taken out of the country.

Copper coins are valued at 25 and 50 satang while silver coins are in denominations of 1, 2 and 5 Baht. A 10-Baht coin is composed of both silver and copper.

Bank notes come in denominations of 10 Baht (brown), 20 Baht (green), 50 Baht (blue), 100 Baht (red), 500 Baht (purple) and 1000 Baht (gray).

40 Baht = US$1

 


6. THINGS TO KNOW

Population: 68,000,000
Capital: Bangkok

Flag: The flag of Thailand has five horizontal bands of red (top), white, blue (double width), white and red (bottom).

Shop Hours:
Stores are generally open Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm. Larger shops are open from 10am to 7pm.

Bank Hours:
Bank hours are usually open Monday-Friday 8:30am to 3:30pm. They are usually closed Saturday and Sunday. Many banks close for lunch.

Holidays:

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • February 14 – Makha Bucha (Full Moon Day)
  • April 6 – Chakri Memorial Day
  • April 12-14 – Sonkran Festival (Thai New Year)
  • May 1 – National Labor Day
  • May 5 – Coronation Day
  • May 13 – Wisakha Bucha (Full Moon Day)
  • July 11 – Asanaha Bucha (Full Moon Day)
  • July 12 – Buddhist Lent Day
  • August 12 – H.M. The Queen’s Birthday
  • October 23 – Chulalongkorn Day
  • December 5 – H.M. The King’s Birthday
  • December 10 – Constitution Day
  • December 31 – New Year’s Eve

Time:
Thailand has one time zone. It is 7 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. It is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 11 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time.

Tipping:
Tipping is not customary, except in big hotels. If a service charge has been added to the bill, tipping isn’t necessary.

Restaurants:
If a restaurant service charge is included, a tip is not necessary but will be very much appreciated.

Taxis:
Most taxis in Bangkok use their meters. If a taxi don’t have a meter, fares must be agreed upon from the start. Fares range from a minimum of 30 Baht to maximum of 300 Baht. Tuk-Tuk or three-wheel taxis are quite popular among tourists for short journey s inside Bangkok. Fares range from 30 Baht to 150 Baht for this means of transportation.

 


7. VISAS AND PASSPORT

All visitors must have a passport valid at least six months beyond than their intended stay in Thailand. Those who are staying for 30 days or less and have a ticket for an onward journey may enter the country without a visa. Visitors who stay longer than their limit are fined B200 for each day upon departure at the airport. Foreign nationals who intend to stay more than 30 days must obtain a visa in advance from a Thai diplomatic mission.

 


8. CUSTOMS REGULATIONS

Duty-Free Items: Cigarettes, cigars or smoking tobacco must not exceed a total of 250 grams in weight. Cigarettes not exceeding 200 in quantity and one liter of wine or spirits may be brought in free of duty. One still camera or one movie camera, five rolls of still camera film or three rolls of 8 to 16mm movie camera film may be brought into the country. All kinds of narcotics and obscene literature, pictures or articles are prohibited.

 


9. TRAVEL TO THE COUNTRY

Airports
Don Muang International Airport
Located 14 miles (22km) north of Bangkok
Vibhavadi Rangsit Hwy.
Tel (02) 535-1301 or (02) 535-1254

Airlines
Air Canada: (02) 233-5900
Air France: (02) 233-9477
American Airlines: (02) 252-3520
Bangkok Airways: (02) 535-2498
British Airways: (02) 236-8655
Canadian Airlines: (02) 251-4521
Cathay Pacific: (02) 233-6105
China Airlines: (02) 253-4438
Continental Airlines: (02) 231-0113
Delta Airlines: (02) 237-6837
Japan Airlines: (02) 233-2440
Korean Airlines: (02) 234-9283
Philippine Airlines: (02) 233-2350
Qantas: (02) 235-9193
Singapore Airlines: (02) 236-0440
Swissair: (02) 233-2930
Thai: (02) 233-3810
TWA: (02) 233-7290
United Airlines: (02) 251-6006

Trains:
The International Express will take you from Butterworth (Penang) to Hat Yai and Bangkok without a change of trains. There are also connecting services to or from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The train, which offers only first- and second-class tickets, now operates every day. Border delays, which used to be a problem on the trains, are less frequent.

The International Express that departs from Singapore every morning arrives in Kuala Lumpur by nightfall. Visitors may stay overnight in the Malaysian capital or continue north by night train to Butterworth (Penang). This train, which links Singapore an d Bangkok, has a romantic appeal and is probably the most luxurious train in Southeast Asia. The journey can be a long and exhausting and may be best experienced in shorter segments.

Buses:
The only road access into Thailand is from Malaysia. There are occasional buses that run back and forth between countries. The main overland border crossings into Malaysia are near Betong in Yala Province and at Sungei Golok in Narathiwat Province.

 


10. TRAVEL WITHIN THE COUNTRY

Cars
Thailand is an outstanding country to tour with rented transport. Traffic is moderate and manageable, except in Bangkok. Highways are in good condition, and directional signs are often in English. Less expensive rentals are available from local agencie s, but make sure to check the condition of the car thoroughly before handing over your money. An international driver’s license is required, and insurance is mandatory to be able to drive in Thailand.

Trains
An efficient rail system links major northern and northeastern towns with the capital. A southern route permits the visitor to travel by train into Malaysia and Singapore. Domestic express trains include first-, second- and third- class cars. Slower tr ains may have only third-class seats.

For more information regarding railway schedules, contact:
Bangkok Railway Station
Tel (02) 223-7010 or (02) 223-7020

Buses
Bus transport in Thailand is fast, clean and reasonably comfortable for shorter journeys. Most buses provide reclining airline-style seats and video movies. Both air-conditoned and non-air-conditioned buses are available on major routes. The cheapest a re the ordinary coaches operated by the government bus company called Bor Kor Sor. Air-conditioned buses operated by independent companies are usually 30 to 70% more expensive but complimentary meals and transportation from your hotel to the bus terminal s are often included.

Bangkok’s Northern/Northeastern Bus Terminal
Phahonyothin Road
Air-conditioned: Tel (02) 279-4484 or (02) 279-4487
Regular: Tel (02) 271-0101 or (02) 271-0105

Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal Pinklao-Nahkon Chaisri Road
Air-conditioned: Tel (02) 435-1190 or (02) 435-1200
Regular: Tel (02) 434-5558

Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal
Sukhumwit Road
Air-conditioned: (02) 392-9227 or (02)391-9829
Regular: (02) 391-2504 or (02) 392-2521

 


11. SIGHTSEEING

For additional information on the following sights, contact:
Tourism Authority of Thailand
Tourist Assistance Center
4 Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
Bangkok 10100
Tel (02) 281-5051 or (02) 282-8129
Fax: (02) 280-1998

Ancient City
(Muang Boran)
This outdoor museum is filled with replicas of Thailand’s most magnificent monuments and temples.
Samut Prakarn
Bangkok
Tel (02) 224-1057

Crocodile Farm and Zoo
This is the world’s oldest and largest crocodile farm.
Bangkok
Tel (02) 387-0020

Emerald Buddha
(Wat Phra Keo)
This is the most respected Buddha image in Thailand, carved from green jade.
Maharaj Rd.
Bangkok
Tel (02) 222-8181

River Kwai Bridge
This is it! – the famous bridge from the novel and the movie.
Kanchanaburi

Rose Garden Country Resort
Thai cultural village with dance performances, elephants at work and Buddhist ordination ceremonies.
Petkasem Rd.
Tel (02) 253-0295
Saphran Elephant Ground and Zoo
Filled with elephants and numerous other forms of animal life.
117 Moo 6 Petchakasem Highway
Samphran
Nakhon Pathom
Bangkok Office: Tel (02) 284-0273

Temple of Dawn
Wat Arun
This is the tallest tower in Thailand.
Arun Amarin Rd.
Bangkok
Tel (02) 282-1143

Temple of the Reclining Buddha
(Wat Pho)
This temple is the oldest center of learning in Thailand with a 145ft (46m) long, 49ft (15m) high, gold-plated, reclining Buddha.
Chetuphon Rd.
Bangkok
Tel (02) 222-0933

Thailand Cultural Center
This is the center for domestic and international cultural exchange. It is often the venue for art shows by the country’s leading artists.
Ratchadaphisek Road
Bangkok
Tel (02) 245-7711

Vimanmek Palace
This is the world’s largest building made entirely of golden teak. Rachvithi Rd.
Tel (02) 222-0859

Ocean World Amusement Park
Kids will enjoy the water-oriented activities in this amusement park.
Beach Rd.
Bang Saen

Nao National Park
This beautiful park has caves, waterfalls and assorted flora.
Phetchabun
Northern Thailand

Phuket Orchid Garden and Thai Village
Acres of lush greenery and breathtaking orchid gardens.
5/11 Moo 6 Thepkasattri Rd.
Phuket
Tel (076) 214-860

Phuket Butterfly Garden and Aquarium
A large display of different kinds of butterflies and fish.
71/6 M. 5 Soi Paneang
Phuket
Tel (076) 210-859

Siam Park City
This is a water world, theme park and fair rolled into one.
101 Sukhapibarn 2 Rd.
Bangkapi, Bangkok
Tel (02) 517-1032

Sukhothai Historical Park
Among the attractions here are the remains of the Royal Palace, several Buddhist temples and a system of canals and ponds.
Sukkothai
North Thailand

Kamthieng House
Ethnological Museum
Preserves the traditional technologies and folk arts of Northern Thailand.
131 Soi 21 (Asoke) Sukhumvit Road
Bangkok
Tel (02) 258-3491

Museum of Forensic Medicine
This is one of the more unusual sights in Thailand. On display are preserved bodies of infamous murderers and a bisected head with a bullet lodged in the brain.
Sirirat Hospital
2 Prannok Road
Thon Buri
Bangkok
Tel (02) 411-2003 or (02) 411-0241

National Museum
Artifacts here date back to the Neolithic times. Guided tours are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
4 Na Phrathat Rd.
Bangkok
Tel (02) 224-1396

Prasat Museum
This is a private collection of Thai arts.
Bangkok
Tel (02) 253-9772

SPORTS

The Thais have adopted a number of such modern forms of recreation as golf, tennis and bowling, but the local sports of boxing and kite fighting are still very much enjoyed in the country.

Kick boxing is one of the most popular and exciting spectator sports as well as a means of self-defense for the Thai people. Unilke the Western-style boxing, kick boxers are allowed to use their feet, elbows, legs and shoulders. Bouts are held at the Ra tchadamnoen Stadium and Lumpini Stadium.

An ancient local sport played and patronized by the kings of Thailand for centuries is kite fighting, a contest which is held from March to April at the Sanam Luang in Bangkok. The Thais make kites in hundreds of different forms and colors. Each kite is huge in size and require a number of people to fly it. Kites are classified as “chulas” (male) or “pukpaos” (female). The object of the contest is to force the opposition’s kite to land in your half of the field while thousands of people cheer.

Takraw is another traditional Thai game. It involves the use of a takraw ball, five to six inches in diameter, made of rattan. Using their head, feet, knees or elbows, players hit the ball over a net to another team.

 


12. DINING AND DRINKING

Despite influence from the Chinese and the Indian cuisine, Thai food is distinctive. The combination of spices, herbs and fresh ingredients makes dining a special experience in Thailand.

Thai meals are heavily based on rice accompanied by soup, curry and a number of side dishes followed by dessert. Dessert would most likely consist of fresh fruit (mangos, pineapples, coconuts, oranges, rose apples, durians, bananas, papayas, longans, guav as or jackfruit). Thai food blends five major tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot. Common spices used are: coriander, garlic, tumeric, ginger, lemongrass, cardaman, basil and pandamus. The hot ingredients are chillies and pepper. Accompanying most meals are shrimp paste, fish sauce and tamarind sauce.

At the table, all dishes are served at the same time. The idea is to take a spoonful of rice and top it with a spoonful of one of the dishes; the foods are then eaten one by one in this combination. Chopsticks are not used for eating Thai food. The cor rect method of eating is with a spoon and a fork. The fork is held in the left hand and used to push the food onto the spoon.

Traditionally, Thai food is not served with alcohol. At an informal meal, though, beer may be served.

Short courses are available for foreigners interested in learning Thai cooking. For more information contact:

UFM Food Center Co. Ltd
593/29-39 Sukhumvit 33/1
Bangkok
Tel (02) 259-0620
Fax: (02) 265-0530

Soft drinks in Thailand are widely available and inexpensive, as is bottled water. It is risky to drink tap water, especially in smaller restaurants. Beer in the country is good but fairly expensive as it is heavily taxed by the government. Singha, the most popular brand, costs B25 to B30 for a small bottle and B45 to B55 for a large one. The most popular spirit among Thais is Mekhong, a local cane whiskey that you can drink straight or with mixers. It is rather sweet for the Western palate, but it i s the cheapest form of alcohol.

 


13. ENTERTAINMENT

Cinemas in Thailand are inexpensive, with daily scheduled showings and matinees on weekends and holidays. There are a number of cinemas that show American or French movies. Remember to stand when the National Anthem is played a t the beginning of every performance.

Thai classical dances are very elegant and considered to be the country’s highest form of art. Influenced by the great Indian epic called Ramayana, the country’s famous masked dance drama or “khon” is a form of entertainment that requires strict discipli ne from the performer. Nowadays, khon performances are very rare, but there are occasional performances at the National Theater. Sometimes performances are held at several Thai restaurants catering to tourists. “Lakhon” and “likay” are very famous danc es similar in costume and movements to khon but without the use of face masks.

Aside from the theaters and cinemas, nightlife in Thailand includes bars and nightclubs. During the day, Thais enjoy watching or participating in local and international sports.

 


14. EMERGENCY NUMBERS

Police: 191
Tourist Police: 195

Fire: 199
Ambulance: (02) 252-2171

International Access Code: Call directory assistance:13 (Bangkok), and 183 (other) to speak with an English-speaking operator.

Country Code: 66

City Codes:
Bangkok: 02
Chiang Mai: 053
Pattaya: 038
Phuket: 076
Koh Samui: 077
Hat Yai: 074

When calling from within the same city, delete the city code from the number. When calling to another city within Thailand, use the entire city code. When calling from outside Thailand, delete the first digit (0) from the city code.

 


15. VISITORS INFORMATION

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
Tourist Assistance Center
4 Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
Bangkok 10100
Tel (02) 281-5051 or (02) 282-8129
Fax: (02) 280-1998

TAT Airport Office
Arrival Lounge
Bangkok International Airport
Vibhavadi Ragsit Road
Bangkok 10210
Tel (02) 523-8972 or Tel (02) 523-8973

Other TAT offices:
Cha-am: Tel (032) 471502 Chiang Mai: Tel (053) 248604 or (053) 248607
Chiang Rai: Tel (053) 717433
Hat Yai: Tel (074) 243747
Kanchanaburi: Tel (034) 511200
Khon Kaen: Tel (043) 244498 or (043) 244499 Nakhon Ratchasima: Tel (044) 243751
Nakhon Si Thammarat: Tel (075) 356356
Pattayà: Tel (038) 428750
Phitsanulok: Tel (055) 252742 or (055) 252743
Phuket: Tel (076) 211036 or (076) 212213 Surat Thani: Tel (077) 281828
Ubon Ratchathani: Tel (045) 243770 or (045) 243771

Tourism Authority of Thailand
12th Floor, Royal Exchange Bldg.
56 Pitt Street
Sydney, 2000
Australia
Tel (02) 247-7549

Office National du Tourisme de Thailand
90, av des Champs Elysées
75008 Paris
France
Tel (01) 4562-8656

Thailandisches Fremdenverkehrsburo
Bethmannstrasse 58
D-6000 Frankfurt
Germany
Tel (069) 295704

Ente Nazionale per il Turismo Thailandese
Via Barberini, 50
00187 Roma
Italy
Tel (06) 487-3479

Tourism Authority of Thailand
Hibiya Mitsui Bldg.
1-2 Yuracucho 1-chome
Chyada-ku, Tokyo
Japan
Tel (03) 3580-6776

Tourism Authority of Thailand
Rm. #2003 20th Flr.
Coryo Daeyungak Center Bldg.
25-5 , 1-Ka, Chungmu-Ro
Chung-ku, Seoul
South Korea
Tel (02) 779-5418

Tourism Authority of Thailand
2B Central Commercial Bldg.
16-18 Nanking Wast Road
Section 4, Taipei
Taiwan
Tel (02) 778-2735

Tourism Authority of Thailand
49 Albermarle Street
London WIX3FE
United Kingdom
Tel (071) 499-7679

USA:
Tourism Authority of Thailand 5 World Trade Center, Suite 3443
New York, NY
Tel 212-432-0433

Tourism Authority of Thailand
3440 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA
Tel 213-382-2353

Tourism Authority of Thailand
303 East Wacker Drive, Suite 400
Chicago, IL
Tel 312-819-3990

 


16. USEFUL PHRASES

Yes – Chái
No – Mâi chái
Thank you – Khàp khun
No, thank you – Mâi ao khàp khun
Hello – Sawàt dii
How are you? – Pen yangai?
I’m fine – Sabàay dii
Excuse me – Khãw thôht
Please – Karuna
When? – Mêu-arai?
Today – Wan nií
Tomorrow – Phrûng nií
How much? – Thâo rai?
I do not understand – Mai Khao jai

No tags for this post.