A unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II , Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. Thailand is currently facing armed violence in its three Muslim-majority southernmost provinces. Top
Cool: From November to the end of February, it doesn't rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.
Hot: From March to mid-June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40C. Quite nice when sitting on the beach with a Singha in hand, but not the best time of year to go visiting temples in Bangkok .
Rainy: From May to October, although it only really gets underway in September when tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn't mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding are common. Top
January 1: New Year's Day
Thailand is naturally divided into four topographic regions: 1) the North, 2) the Central Plain, or Chao Phraya River basin, 3) the Northeast, or the Korat Plateau, and 4) the South, or Southern Isthmus.
The North is a mountainous region characterized by natural forests, ridges, and deep, narrow alluvial valleys.
Central Thailand, the basin of the Chao Phraya River , is a lush, fertile valley. It is the richest and most extensive rice-producing area in the country and has often been called the “Rice Bowl of Asia.” Bangkok , the capital of Thailand , is located in this region.
The Northeastern region, or Korat Plateau, is an arid region characterized by a rolling surface and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions often result in this region being subjected to floods and droughts.
The Southern region is hilly to mountainous, with thick virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. This region is the center for the production of rubber and the cultivation of other tropical crops. Top
Ordinary passport holders of 39 countries including USA , EU, Australia , etc, do not need visa if the purpose of their visit is tourism and if their stay in the Kingdom does not exceed 30 days. Visa-on-arrival is available at certain entry points for passport holders of 14 other nations, including India , China and the Russian Federation . Get the latest information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
By Airport : The New Bangkok International Airport and the domestic airport of Suvarnabhum. Airport departure taxes are required at both domestic and international departures (international passengers: 500 baht/person; domestic passengers: 30 baht/person). Is located 25 km Southeast of downtown Bangkok in the Bang Phli district and only 1 hour from Pattaya.
By Bus : Inter-city bus services offer a fast means of transport to all corners of the country. Air-conditioned buses service many provincial areas and bookings for both regular and tour coaches can be made through major hotels and travel agents. Top
Banks or legal moneychangers offer the best rates. For buying baht, US dollars are the most readily acceptable currency, though travellers' cheques get a better rate than cash. Credit cards are becoming increasingly acceptable in quality shops, hotels and restaurants. Visa is the most useful, followed by Master Card. ATM's which accept Visa and other credit cards are easily found and many exchange booths will give you a cash advance on your credit card.
|Where To Go:|
Being one of the world's most exciting cities, Bangkok features the fascinating temples, museums, palaces and the lively nightlife, markets, shops and restaurants and a lively night, Established as Thailand 's capital in 1782 by the first king of the Chakri dynasty, King Rama I, this city is known to the Thais as Krung Thep or City of Angels , a shortened form of a full name in excess of 150 letters. Bangkok has developed in various ways reflecting the modern dynamism. Today, the city has become the major gateway and leading cultural attractions for both international and domestic travelers.
Phuket is 862 kilometers south of Bangkok with an area of 543 square kilometers, lying in the Andaman Sea and referred to as the ‘ Pearl of the South'. It is the largest island off the coast of Thailand . Its wealth is derived from tin, copra, rubber and tourism, as the fine sandy beaches along the west coast attract visitors all the year round. Phuket town, capital of the island where one-third of the population (45,000) live, is an interesting place blending Portuguese and Thai architecture, retaining its charm despite traffic and recent building in concrete and glass. There are still many fine examples of late 19c and early 20c Chinese shop-houses and some magnificent mansions, formerly the homes of wealthy merchants. The island is best explored in two sections: a northern circuit taking in the National Museum , the small National Park, the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center and the charming Butterfly Garden and Aquarium; and a southern circuit which takes in the south coast and the aquarium at Cape Phanwa .
Popularly known as the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is blessed with outstanding natural beauty and a unique cultural identity. Located about 700 kilometers from Bangkok and being Thailand 's second most popular city, Chiang Mai is the economic, communications, cultural and tourism center of Northern Thailand . It has over 300 temples, almost as many as in Bangkok , making it visually striking. Many visitors stay here longer than planned because of the high quality and low price of accommodation, food , shopping, the cool nights, the international feel of the city and the friendliness of the people.
Known today as the “Gateway to the Golden Triangle”, Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 by King Mengrai. With its magnificient scenery, Chiang Rai the capital of Thailand 's northernmost province, is an excellent venue for hill-tribe handicrafts. The Chiang RaiHandicraft Center highlights a variety of costumes and artifacts of the hill-tribes such as Akha coin headdresses, Lahu geometric blankets and cushion covers, wooden boxes with carvings and woven rattan, etc. Also, being the base for visiting the rest of the far north, visitors will be fascinated by the hill-tribe trekkings and the boat trip down the Kok River from Tha Ton of Chiang Mai.
One of the most attractive destinations in Southern Thailand is located 814km from Bangkok . Krabi occupies an area of 4,708 sq km. To the west, it borders on the Andaman Sea where countless natural attractions abound, including white sandy beaches, fascinating coral reefs, numerous large and small islands, verdant forest with caves and waterfalls. It contains rainforests that remain the habitat for the fortunate Gurney's Pitta. This small, yellow-bellied bird was thought to be extinct. For the birdwatcher, the rainforest is a must as it is also home to other feathered rarities. Krabi Province has only two seasons, the hot and the wet (May till December). Krabi town can be completely explored on foot in about half a day. The majority of travelers tend to breeze through heading for some of the surrounding very scenic beaches or the offshore islands of Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Jam (Pu) and Ko Si Boya.
Mae Hong Son:
Bordered by Chiang Mai to the east, Tak to the south and Mynmar to the west and north, this far norhern Thailand province is becoming one of its most popular with spectacular scenery, beautiful rivers and the many hill-tribe communities. It is also named the province of three mists and it seems as if the outside world does not exist. It is a favored base for those wishing to trek through the jungles to less commercialized hill-tribe villages. Most of the population of the province are either Thai Yai (Shan) or members of one of the hill-tribes (Hmong, Karen, etc.) and strong Mynmarese influence is evident in the monastery architecture. A word of warning: in spring, around late March and April, the surrounding hills are often alight with brush fires set by farmers to clear the land. It can make breathing unpleasant and often prevents the scheduled planes from landing at Mae Hong Son.
The city is best recommended for those interested in the spectacular temple ruins. Being one of Thailand 's most significant historical attractions around the city island, Ayutthaya is just an hour or two north of Bangkok . Located 76 kilometers north of Bangkok , the city island is surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers . Long tail boats can be rented for a tour to glimpse the view of the several old temple ruins and the unique river life from the canal. Ayutthaya was the Thai capital for 417 years with thirty three kings of different dynasties. Today, the historic ruins and museums stand among the modern buildings of this provincial town.
Located 788km from Bangkok and covers an area of 4,170 square kilometers, most of which is mangrove and evergreen forest, Phang Nga is small province bordering on the bay of Phuket . The area is bordered to the west by the Andaman Sea and consists of plenty of spectacular islands with pristine beaches. A number of sea kayaking operations also run kayak trips in the area. It is also home to Thailand 's most spectacular diving destinations, the Similan and Surin island groups. Phang Nga Bay and surrounding areas were declared a marine national park in 1981. Wildlife in the national park includes dolphins, crab-eating macaques and huge fruit-eating bats and numerous species of birds. Most of the attractions of Phang Nga's countless caves lie in their limestone formations and more than forty islands are shaped like animals. Intricate stalactites and stalagmites and the atmospheric lighting from cave openings produce a theatrical effect.
Phi Phi Islands :
About 2 hours from either Phuket or Krabi by fast boat, the Phi Phi Islands offer breathtakingly beautiful scenery and a number of good beaches for swimming both have snorkeling. The 2 islands - Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le heavenly beaches and awesome coral at the bottom of clear turquoise seas, together with Hat Nopparat in Krabi on the mainland, have been designated by the government as a national park. Most excursions to the Phi Phi Islands are in large boats, leaving Phuket either from Chalong or Rawai Beach about 8am and starting back around 3.30pm. When hiring smaller fishing craft, be sure to check on the weather since the crossing can be rough during the monsoon season. Top
|What to do:|
For the active traveller, Thailand presents endless opportunities for new and exciting adventure. Hiking, jungle treks, scuba diving, birdwatching, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, are just some of the ways to explore the country's immense natural and cultural wealth.
To do all and see all that the country has to offer, you will need months or even years, but if you are planning an adventure holiday, you have a wide range of choice. For beach and sun: Pattaya and other beach resorts on the Eastern Seaboard; Phuket, Phangnga and Krabi in the South; and the islands in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman.
For trekking, mountain hiking and hilltribe culture. You have the mountains of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and the forest land on the Western border with Myanmar, in Tak and Kanchanaburi.
For diving and marine life. There are the Islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea especially Koh Tao, Koh Pangan, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Similan.
For animal spotting and bird watching: Khao Yai to the North of Bangkok, Doi Inthanon in Chiang Mai and other wildlife sanctuaries around the country are boundless
“BOAT/CANAL TRIPS Bangkok’s water highways are a fun and exotic way to explore the city no matter how old you are. There are various trips offered along its many meandering waterways, passing by old teak houses and temples. You can choose to do a quick trip lasting an hour or join in on a longer trip such as the Mekhala River Cruise which takes in much of the waterway history, visiting palaces and ancient wats (temples). Boats can be hired along the Choa Praya River or through your hotel or nearby travel agent. Visit this site for further information about the Boat/Canal Trips in Bangkok.” Top
Nanchao Period (650-1250 A.D.) The Thai people founded their kingdom in the southern part of China , which is Yunnan , Kwangsi and Canton today. A great number of people migrated south as far as the Chao Phraya Basin and settled down over the Central Plain under the sovereignty of the Khmer Empire, whose culture they probably accepted. The Thai people founded their independent state of Sukhothai around 1238 A.D., which marks the beginning of the Sukhothai Period. (1238-1378 A.D.)
Thais began to emerge as a dominant force in the region in the13th century, gradually asserting independence from existing Khmer and Mon kingdoms. Called by its rulers "The Dawn of Happiness", this is often considered the golden era of Thai history, an ideal Thai state in a land of plenty governed by paternal and benevolent kings, the most famous of whom was King Ramkamhaeng the Great. However in 1350, the mightier state of Ayutthaya exerted its influence over Sukhothai.
Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767) The Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer cultural influences from the very beginning. No longer the paternal and accessible rulers that the kings of Sukhothai had been, Ayutthaya 's sovereigns were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja (god-king). The early part of this period saw Ayutthaya extend its sovereignty over neighboring Thai principalities and come into conflict with its neighbours, During the 17th century, Siam started diplomatic and commercial relations with western countries. In 1767, a Burmese invasion succeeded in capturing Ayutthaya . Despite their overwhelming victory, the Burmese did not retain control of Siam for long. A young general named Phya Taksin and his followers broke through the Burmese encirclement and escaped to Chantaburi. Seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya , he and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the Burmese occupation garrison.
Thon Buri Period (1767-1772) General Taksin, as he is popularly known, decided to transfer the capital from Ayutthaya to a site nearer to the sea which would facilitate foreign trade, ensure the procurement of arms, and make defence and withdrawal easier in case of a renewed Burmese attack. He established his new capital at Thon Buri on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River . The rule of Taksin was not an easy one. The lack of central authority since the fall of Ayutthaya led to the rapid disintegration of the kingdom, and Taksin's reign was spent reuniting the provinces.
Rattanakosin Period (1782 - the Present) After Taksin's death, General Chakri became the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, Rama I, ruling from 1782 to 1809. His first action as king was to transfer the royal capital across the river from Thon Buri to Bangkok and build the Grand Palace . Rama II (1809-1824) continued the restoration begin by his predecessor. King Nang Klao, Rama III (1824-1851) reopened relations with Western nations and developed trade with China . King Mongkut, Rama IV, (1851-1868) of "The King and I" concluded treaties with European countries, avoiding colonialisation and established modern Thailand . He made many social and economic reforms during his reign . King Chulalongkorn, Rama V (1869-1910) continued his father's tradition of reform, abolishing slavery and improving the public welfare and administrative system. Compulsory education and other educational reforms were introduced by King Vajiravudh, Rama VI (1910-1925). During the reign of King Prajadhipok, (1925-1935), Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. The king abdicated in 1933 and was succeeded by his nephew, King Ananda Mahidol (1935-1946). The country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939. Our present monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty. Top
Thailand has a well developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy, and welcomes foreign investment. Thailand has fully recovered from the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis and was one of East Asia 's best performers in 2002-04. Increased consumption and investment spending and strong export growth pushed GDP growth up to 6.9% in 2003 and 6.1% in 2004 despite a sluggish global economy. The highly popular government's expansionist policy, including major support of village economic development, has raised concerns about fiscal discipline and the health of financial institutions. Bangkok has pursued preferential trade agreements with a variety of partners in an effort to boost exports and maintain high growth, and in 2004 began negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with the US . In late December 2004, a major tsunami took 4,500 lives in Thailand and caused massive destruction of property in the southern provinces of Krabi, Phangnga, and Phuket. Top