Destination Guide - Thailand

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Thailand

Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia which borders Myanmar (Burma) to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia to the south.  It used to be known as Siam before the name was changed to Thailand in both 1939 and 1949 (after changing back to Siam again). A huge 95% of the population of Thailand are Buddhists.   Bangkok’s Head of State is King Rama IX, who has reigned since 1946, and is the world’s longest serving Head of State.

Thailand is a favourite with travellers because of its tropical climate, great beaches, unique culture and appetising food.  In fact, the vibrant capital Bangkok, has been cited as the most visited city in the world.  The peak time to visit for us Brits, is during the bleak Winter months. 

Thailand offers a great diversity of attractions including World Heritage sites, lots of Buddhist temples, great wildlife, archaeological sites, varied nightlife, diving sites and hundreds of tropical islands. 
British tourists are often keen to expand their holiday from Bangkok into the southern beaches and islands, perhaps inspired by the idyllic scenery featured in the film The Beach, set on Koh Phi Phi island. 

Health
Although healthcare in Thai hospitals is considered adequate by Western standards, there are some problems in the Thai system.  One of these is the shortage of GP’s, as most doctors are specialists and don’t have a broad expertise.  Another is that ambulances are not accorded the same courtesies as in this country by motorists, and it can take a long time to reach emergency treatment.  There is a larger emphasis on money in the Thai system than in this country, and healthcare providers will want money upfront before providing treatment.  Specific diseases that are a threat include dengue fever, which is a mosquito-borne illness, which can leave the sufferer feeling ill for weeks, the similarly passed-on Chikungunya  virus , plus take care, as rabies is carried by some stray dogs.  In addition to this, there is a higher rate of the population carrying the HIV/AIDS virus than in the UK – 1.4% compared to 0.2%, so take the necessary precautions. It is best to consult your doctor before travelling to get advice on immunisations.

Cuisine
Thai cuisine is very popular in British culture, as well as for visitors to Thailand.  It is known for being spicy and aromatic, and using fresh herbs and spices in their often complex list of ingredients.  Well-known dishes include Thai curry, sticky noodles and Jasmine rice – indigenous to Thailand.  There are regional variations, but ingredients include coconut milk, lime juice and coriander.  The one ingredient that is present in most Thai dishes is fish sauce, which lends Thai food its distinctive flavour.  Dessert is normally an exotic fruit such as papaya, lychee or mango.  There is also a choice to try an unfamiliar fruit such as jackfruit, durian or langsat. 

Electricity
The voltage in Thailand is 220-240AC, but plug sockets are not standardised, and there are at least 3 different pin patterns, so it is essential to bring a universal adapter.

Currency
The currency in Thailand is the Baht(B).

Driving
The simple answer is that motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road in Thailand, however, some vehicles (especially motorcycles) sometimes drive the wrong way up the hard shoulder of the road (most frequently in rural areas). 

Climate
The best description for the Thai climate is tropical and humid.  The area north of Bangkok has a climate influenced by three seasons whereas the southern peninsular region of Thailand has only two.  Generally, the best time to visit Thailand is from November to February when the northeast monsoon is blowing cool, dry air and is a welcome respite from the heat.  During this slightly cooler season, temperatures range from 18degrees to 32degrees in Bangkok, whilst in northern Thailand temperatures are cooler, with temperatures as low as 8degrees to 12 degrees with the odd 20degree day.  Nights can be chillier and temperatures can drop below freezing at high altitude.  April is a month to avoid, as it is the hottest month across the country.  The monsoon season runs from July to October and flooding can be a big problem, there is also very high humidity.

Clothing
Pack some swimwear, a raincoat/umbrella if travelling in rainy season and some warm clothes if travelling in October to December when it can be cooler.  You can wash clothes cheaply in Thailand, and buy inexpensive clothes too, but it can be hard to find women’s shoes in larger sizes.

Where to go?
For history and culture – Chiang Mai has got a lot to recommend it.  It’s a beautiful and ancient city known as the “Rose of the North” and has a wealth of places to visit, in addition to offering a variety of cultural performances and traditional handicrafts made of silk, wood, ceramics and silver.  Choose from intricate and scared temples, lots of museums, Chiang Mai zoo and the Bhuping Royal Palace gardens.

For kids and teens – Pattaya is a good option as it is a beach destination but there is also plenty to keep all the family occupied.  There are sporting options both on land and at sea, theme and amusement parks, the underwater world, offbeat museums and botanical gardens.

Relaxation - Phuket is a good choice to kick back and unwind but also have the option to explore, it’s glorious beaches are perfect for snorkelling, swimming, relaxing, scuba diving, wind surfing and sunbathing.  Hat Nai Yang is a good family beach for picnics, relaxing, scuba diving, wind surfing and sun bathing.  There is also Phuket Butterfly farm to appeal to all ages.  Wat Phra Nang Sang temple will also be a great cultural outing.

Action – There are many options, ranging from elephant trekking in the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park to heading for the water and bamboo rafting, sea kayaking, diving or snorkelling.

Nightlife – By day (and night), Thailand offers a host of bargains for the keen shopper, and by night it has a pulsating and open-minded nightlife to explore.  It has had a rowdy reputation in the past, but this is being reversed with reduced crime-figures and it is viewed as one of the safest and most relaxed cities in the world.  Apart from a multitude of bars and nightclubs, there are also the famous cabaret shows of the exquisite ‘lady-boys.’

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