Introduction to Thailand
Did you know that Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city holds the Guinness World record for having the longest name of a place? Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice. You should also know that Thailand is one of the friendliest countries in the world!
Would you like to find oud more? Read the sections below!
Country local name: Kingdom of Thailand
Government type: constitutional monarchy
Time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
Independence: 1238 (traditional founding date; never colonized)
National holiday: Birthday of King PHUMIPHON (BHUMIBOL), 5th December (1927)
Etnic groups: Thai 95.9%, Burmese 2%, other 1.3%, unspecified 0.9% (2010 est.)
Languages: Thai (official) 90.7%, Burmese 1.3%, other 8%
Religions: Buddhist (official) 93.6%, Muslim 4.9%, Christian 1.2%, other 0.2%, none 0.1% (2010 est.)
Terrain: central plain; Khorat Plateau in the east; mountains elsewhere
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Gulf of Thailand 0 m
Highest point: Doi Inthanon 2,576 m
Natural resources: tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite, fluorite, arable land
Agriculture – products: rice, cassava (manioc, tapioca), rubber, corn, sugarcane, coconuts, soybeans
Industries: tourism, textiles and garments, agricultural processing, beverages, tobacco, cement, light manufacturing such as jewelry and electric appliances, computers and parts, integrated circuits, furniture, plastics, automobiles and automotive parts; world's second-largest tungsten producer and third-largest tin producer
Exports: electronics, computer parts, cars and parts, electrical appliances, machinery and equipment, textiles and footwear, fishery products, rice, rubber
Shopping hours: Monday-Sunday, from 10am to 10pm
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, and malaria
Climate: tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (November to mid-March); southern isthmus always hot and humid
Natural hazards: land subsidence in Bangkok area resulting from the depletion of the water table; droughts
Thailand has a climate determined by three seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter. Generally speaking, the weather is reasonably uniform through the country. The southern part of Thailand is an exception; it has only two seasons – summer and monsoon.
The cool season (winter) is from November to February and it is the best time for travelling. The temperature ranges from 18°C to 32°C in Bangkok while in the northeast it is cooler. Humidity is also at its lowest level. January is the peak-month throughout Thailand, which means that prices are the highest, streets are more crowded, the nightlife is busier and, in general, traffic is increased.
The rainy season (monsoon) is between May and October. The average temperature is 29°C (84°F) with 90% humidity, which means it is very wet. Heavy downpours usually gather force from June to October.
The hot season runs from March to May, with temperatures averaging around 35°C in Bangkok. April is usually the hottest month and the only thing that you can do is to be permanently submerged in the ocean. The summer period sees sporadic rain. Temperatures can reach 40°C with humidity levels of 75%.
Thai food is regarded by many people as one of the best in the world comprising various different flavours. You can try five kinds of tastes – sweetness, spiciness, saltiness, sourness and bitterness. Thailand’s cuisine is notable for it fresh ingredients and liberal use of herbs at almost every meal. That definitely satisfies the most demanding gourmet’s requirements.
Noodles come in different varieties. Phat thai (noodles prepared with tofu, egg, onion, shrimps, peanuts, lime), pad thai (rice-noodles, shrimp or chicken, peanuts), rad naa and gway tiow (served with beef, chicken or pork and condiments). Most noodles are made of rice (ba mee or mungbean). Normally noodles are eaten with chopsticks and a spoon. Beside these kind of dishes, noodles are usually served in soups.
Soups are eaten at the same time as other dishes. Popular is tom yam (a coconut-milk soup) prepared with sour prawns or chicken, ginger, makroot leaves and lemon grass. A similar soup, tom yam kung, has the same ingredients, but lacks the coconut milk. People also like kha kai, which is a creamy coconut chicken soup.
Thai people love desserts (khanom). A typical dessert is quite sweet and made of rice, coconut milk, sugar and other ingredients such as kidney beans or sweet corn. Luk cheum, coconut milk in various forms (ice cream, sangkhayaa (coconut custard), salim) or khao niaw mamuang (sticky rice with mango) is particularly common. Fruits are often served with sticky rice or covered in sweet coconut milk.
Salads (yam) such as yam som oh (pomelo), yam plaa duk foo or yam hua plee (banana flowers), som tam (papaya), yam neua (beef with tomato and onion), yam wonsan (shrimp) are well known and recommended. Salads can be made of many permutations e.g. with seafood, vegetables, noodles or meat mixed with chili and lime.
Popular fruits such as mangos, jackfruit, rambutans, mangosteens, pamelos or durians can be found at street food stalls all over the country. If you have not washed fruit yourself, only eat fruit that you can peel, in order to avoid any chance of getting a stomach bug.
Smoothies and fruit juices are very common and can be extremely sweet. You can find juices such as Limeade (nam manao), Grass Jelly (chao-guay), Tiger Grass Drink (nam bai bua-bok) and Wild Chrysanthemum Drink (nam gek-huay).
Thai ice tea (cha yen) is a traditional drink in Thailand. Normally, it is served with condensed milk which gives it a sweet flavor.
Tap water is not recommended but bottled water can be found everywhere.
Singha, Singha Gold and Chang are the most popular beers.
MeKhong, SongSam, Mekhong are some of the better whiskies that are available.
As a curiosity you have to know that Red bull energy drink was invented in Thailand.
SOME LINGUISTIC CURIOSITIES
· The word “Thailand” means “land of the free”.
· Bangkok is the shortest version of “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit” – and holds the Guinness World record for having the longest name of a place.
· Temples (Wats) are one of the greatest symbols of Thailand; Bangkok boasts the greatest number in any one city.
SAYINGS AND SLANG PHRASES
หมดตูด (Mod tood) – lack of money
เจ๋ง (Jeng) – cool!
สุดยอด (sut yord) – awesome
เป็นยังไงบ้าง Pen yang-ngai baang? – How are you?
แซบ (Zaab) – delicious
มิ้ง จะไปไหนอ่ะ /Mink, jà bpai năi à? – Where are you going?
วันนี้เท่หวะ /wan-níi tâu wà – You look cool today.
โชคดี /choke-dii – good luck
ไปเที่ยว / bpai tîao – to go out for pleasure
เอ้าเหรอ âo rěr? – Oh! really?
มื่อไหร่ /mûea-rài – When?
ช้า /cháa – slow, late
คุณพระช่วย! – Oh, my goodness!
ช่วยด้วย – Help!
ไชโย – Cheers!
· Around 90% of Thai people are Buddhist.
· Bangkok has around 12 million people and about 6 million cars. This causes traffic jams, which are often huge.
· Social status is fairly important. Hierarchy shapes the way people are treated and greeted e.g. a child is introduced before its parents, teachers are superior to their students and bosses to their subordinates. Status can be determined by family name, education, age, general appearance, clothing, job and social connections.
· Honesty is the cultural norm. Direct, honest conversation is always preferred.
· You should address people using the prefix “Khun” (Mr/Ms) before the first name.
· Avoid displays of affection in public. It can be considered inappropriate.
· Don’t touch monks especially if you are a woman.
· Exaggerated gestures and pointing with your hand is not encouraged.
· Modest and neat clothes are recommended. Don’t wear skimpy clothes showing too much of your body. If you are visiting a temple show respect by covering your shoulders and your legs to the knees and by keeping your voice down.
· Don’t open gifts after receiving them unless you invited to do so.
· Take off your shoes before entering a temple or someone’s house.
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city, the largest and the most populous city in the country. It is a magical place filled resplendent temples, floating markets, scenic canals, flowering tropical plants and beaches. The beauty of Bangkok is the clash of tradition and modernity. It’s also a great place to try amazing regional Thai and international cuisine. Recommended places to visit include Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha), Wat Pho, Banglamphu, Lumphini Park, the MBK Center and Chatuchak Weekend Market.
MBK Center (also known as Mahboonkrong), Bangkok’s legendary shopping mall, is a favourite among both tourists and locals. You can buy everything there. There are 8 floors, around 2000 shops and restaurants and the prices are reasonable.
Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s largest weekend markets, is situated in Bangkok. It offers more than 8000 market stalls. If you want to see everything, you will need a day to explore it all!
Thailand is known for its islands, which are famous throughout the world for their white sands, beautiful palm trees and romantic atmosphere. Whether you are looking for spiritual peace, relaxation or more energetic activities such as diving, swimming and sailing you can found them here! The best known islands are Ko Phi Phi, Ko Chang, Ko Samet, Koh Tao, Ko Tarutao, Ko Phangan, Ko Lanta, Ko Samui, Ko Lipe, Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Kood, Ko Tao and Ko Phayam. Phuket is the largest island and is connected to the mainland by two bridges.
Chiang Mai is the most popular city in Northern Thailand. It is a sanctuary, one of the most harmonious ensembles and breathtaking a place. Numerous spas and mountain resorts allow to keep smiles on the travellers’ faces. The local landscape is picturesque and lush and the town is full of arts, crafts and festivals. As if all that weren’t enough, the center of the city is vibrant.
Khao Sok National Park is located in South Thailand and one of the oldest rainforests in the world. The park is a fantastic place for tourists as it is relatively close to Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui and Khao Lak, which are very popular in Thailand. It is home to wild animals such as gibbons, Asian elephants or Malayan tapirs. You can also go canoeing, hike through the jungle, admire exciting lakes and caves and, in the heart of the National Park, you will be surprised to see raft houses and tents, which you can even rent. It’s not to be missed!
Ayutthaya is an ancient capital and one of Thailand’s major tourist attractions. The city is located in the Chao Phraya River valley. The many ruins of Ayutthaya are a must-see of your trip. You can sightsee by boat or explore the ruins by bicycle.
Pai is a small village in northern Thailand. Thanks to the picturesque views, partying and relaxed atmosphere, it is a favored destination for tourists.
Railay (or Rai Leh) is a quiet small peninsula. You can only get there by boat, because of very high limestone cliffs, which entice climbers from all over the world. It also has wonderful beaches and a sensual, fantastic climate.
Nakhon Sri Thammarat, a city in southern Thailand, offers plenty of beaches, two national parks, beautiful landscapes, historical temples of Buddhism and museums. You can also try local cuisine here.
Mae Hong Son Loop is definitely the most amazing mountainous route in Northern Thailand. It starts from Chiang Mai and heads south towards Hot along route 108 or you can go the other way along the harder and more challenging route 107 north to Chiang Dao. The route is approximately 600 km long, so you need no less than 4 days to finish the trip (which excludes sightseeing and other activities).