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WHY VISIT THAILAND

The legendary friendliness of its people and its amazing cultural identity make Thailand a truly exotic destination.

Bangkok will surprise you in every way with its hustle and bustle: Buddhist temples and palaces, massage parlours, Chinese and Indian neighbourhoods, floating markets, parks and canals, will punctuate your walks with thousand of colours and smells that you will not forget.

Ko Samui, a touristic island, will seduce you with its beaches and Marine Park and it makes a relaxing stopover on your discovery of the country.

Chiang Mai is the cultural capital with its three hundred-odd temples of various styles, but it also has a National Museum and handicrafts market. Enjoy your stay with a visit to a Thai boxing match, and do not miss a mountain hike that will give you the opportunity to get in contact with local ethnic minorities.

Phuket and its beautiful coastline will offer you idyllic beaches, but also hidden wonders inland: Waterfalls, hiking trails, wildlife, pearl culture farms and the amazing Phuket Fantasia Park with its avant-garde technologies at the service of Thai tradition.

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Ko Chang or Elephant Island is a gem of unspoiled nature, which combines a lush flora, land fauna and marine wildlife and beautiful beaches.

WHAT TO SEE IN THAILAND

Top destinations in Thailand are:

  • Bangkok
  • Chiang Mai
  • Kanchanaburi
  • Ayuthaya
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Railay
  • Phanom Rung
  • Pai
  • Chiang Rai

WHEN TO GO TO THAILAND

The best period to visit Thailand is from November to March.

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

The country has an equatorial climate in the extreme south, while the central and northern areas have, in turn, a tropical monsoon climate. The north is hilly and even mountainous in places, but most of the country is situated at low altitude.

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The majority of Thailand suffers from heavy downpours, mainly from May to October. During the monsoon, the winds of the Indian Ocean bring warm moist air and a lot of cloudy weather.

From November to April there is the dry season. This is the period of the northeast monsoon and the wind blows from China. At the centre and south of the country, there is little climate variation, but it is generally colder in the northeast.

The hottest months are April and May. Sunlight is less between June and September as it only shines between 4 to 5 hours a day. The rest of the year, it shines 9 to 10 hours daily.

The wet season is quite oppressive in the majority of the country because of the combination of hot and moist weather.

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A tropical climate clearly dominates the country: The rainy season lasts from June to October, but this does not prevent beautiful sunny periods, but with occasional storms and increased rainfall in the north. The dry season is between November and May with high temperatures from March. The south is colder between April and June. So you can best enjoy a visit between November and March before the hot weather, avoiding the major tourist areas which are quite numerous.

Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Thailand.

January–March

Chinese New Year Nakhon Sawan (three days between mid-Jan and late Feb). In Nakhon Sawan, the new Chinese year is welcomed in with particularly exuberant parades of dragons and lion dancers, Chinese opera performances, international lion-dance competition and a fireworks display. Also celebrated in Chinatowns across the country, especially in Bangkok and Phuket.
Flower Festival Chiang Mai (usually the first weekend in Feb). Enormous floral sculptures are paraded through the streets.
Makha Puja Nationwide (particularly Wat Benjamabophit in Bangkok, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai and Wat Mahathat in Nakhon Si Thammarat; Feb full-moon day). A day of merit-making marks the occasion when 1250 disciples gathered spontaneously to hear the Buddha preach, and culminates with a candlelit procession around the local temple’s bot.
Ngan Phrabat Phra Phutthabat, near Lopburi (early Feb and early March). Pilgrimages to the Holy Footprint attract food and handicraft vendors and travelling players. For more information, see Ban Vichayen.
King Narai Reign Fair Lopburi (Feb). Costumed processions and a son et lumière show at Narai’s palace.
Ngan Phra That Phanom That Phanom (Feb). Thousands come to pay homage at the holiest shrine in Isaan, which houses relics of the Buddha.
Kite fights and flying contests Nationwide (particularly Sanam Luang, Bangkok; late Feb to mid-April).

April & May

Poy Sang Long Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai (early April). Young Thai Yai boys precede their ordination into monkhood by parading the streets in floral headdresses and festive garb.
Songkran Nationwide (particularly Chiang Mai, and Bangkok’s Thanon Khao San; usually April 13–15). The most exuberant of the national festivals welcome the Thai New Year with massive water fights, sandcastle building in temple compounds and the inevitable parades and “Miss Songkran” beauty contests. For more information, see Chiang Mai festivals.
Ngan Phanom Rung Prasat Hin Khao Phanom Rung (usually April). The three-day period when the sunrise is perfectly aligned through fifteen doorways at these magnificent eleventh-century Khmer ruins is celebrated with daytime processions and nightly son et lumière.
Visakha Puja Nationwide (particularly Bangkok’s Wat Benjamabophit, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai and Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Wat Mahathat; May full-moon day). The holiest day of the Buddhist year, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha all in one go; the most public and photogenic part is the candlelit evening procession around the wat.
Raek Na Sanam Luang, Bangkok (early May). The royal ploughing ceremony to mark the beginning of the rice-planting season; ceremonially clad Brahmin leaders parade sacred oxen and the royal plough and interpret omens to forecast the year’s rice yield.
Rocket Festival Yasothon (Bun Bang Fai; weekend in mid-May). Beautifully crafted, painted wooden rockets are paraded and fired to ensure plentiful rains; celebrated all over Isaan, but especially lively in Yasothon.

June–September

Phi Ta Khon Dan Sai, near Loei (end June or beginning July). Masked re-enactment of the Buddha’s penultimate incarnation.
Candle Festival Ubon Ratchathani (Asanha Puja; July, three days around the full moon). This nationwide festival marking the Buddha’s first sermon and the subsequent beginning of the annual Buddhist retreat period (Khao Pansa) is celebrated across the northeast with parades of enormous wax sculptures, most spectacularly in Ubon Ratchathani.
Tamboon Deuan Sip Nakhon Si Thammarat (Sept or Oct). Merit-making ceremonies to honour dead relatives accompanied by a ten-day fair.

October–December

Vegetarian Festival Phuket and Trang (Ngan Kin Jeh; Oct or Nov). Chinese devotees become vegetarian for a nine-day period and then parade through town performing acts of self-mortification such as pushing skewers through their cheeks. Celebrated in Bangkok’s Chinatown by most food vendors and restaurants turning vegetarian for about a fortnight.
Bang Fai Phaya Nak Nong Khai and around (usually Oct). The strange appearance of pink balls of fire above the Mekong River draws sightseers from all over Thailand.
Tak Bat Devo and Awk Pansa Nationwide (especially Ubon Ratchathani and Nakhon Phanom; Oct full-moon day). Offerings to monks and general merrymaking to celebrate the Buddha’s descent to earth from Tavatimsa heaven and the end of the Khao Pansa retreat. Celebrated in Ubon with a procession of illuminated boats along the rivers, and in Nakhon Phanom with another illuminated boat procession and Thailand–Laos dragon-boat races along the Mekong.
Chak Phra Surat Thani (mid-Oct). The town’s chief Buddha images are paraded on floats down the streets and on barges along the river.
Boat Races Nan, Nong Khai, Phimai and elsewhere (Oct to mid-Nov). Longboat races and barge parades along town rivers.
Thawt Kathin Nationwide (the month between Awk Pansa and Loy Krathong, generally Oct–Nov). During the month following the end of the monks’ rainy-season retreat, it’s traditional for the laity to donate new robes to the monkhood and this is celebrated in most towns with parades and a festival, and occasionally, when it coincides with a kingly anniversary, with a spectacular Royal Barge Procession down the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok.
Loy Krathong Nationwide (particularly Sukhothai and Chiang Mai; full moon in Nov). Baskets (krathong) of flowers and lighted candles are floated on any available body of water (such as ponds, rivers, lakes, canals and seashores) to honour water spirits and celebrate the end of the rainy season. Nearly every town puts on a big show, with bazaars, public entertainments, fireworks, and in Chiang Mai, the release of paper hot-air balloons; in Sukhothai it is the climax of a son et lumière festival that’s held over several nights.
Ngan Wat Saket Wat Saket, Bangkok (first week of Nov). Probably Thailand’s biggest temple fair, held around the Golden Mount, with all the usual festival trappings.
Elephant Roundup Surin (third weekend of Nov). Two hundred elephants play team games, perform complex tasks and parade in battle dress.
River Kwai Bridge Festival Kanchanaburi (ten nights from the last week of Nov into the first week of Dec). Spectacular son et lumière at the infamous bridge.
Silk and Phuk Siao Festival Khon Kaen (Nov 29–Dec 10). Weavers from around the province come to town to sell their lengths of silk.
World Heritage Site Festival Ayutthaya (mid-Dec). The week-long celebration, including a nightly historical son et lumière romp, to commemorate the town’s UNESCO designation.
New Year’s Eve Countdown Nationwide (Dec 31). Most cities and tourist destinations welcome in the new year with fireworks, often backed up by food festivals, beauty contests and outdoor performances.

HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH THAILAND

by plane, the main airports are:

by train

by car

GENERAL INFORMATION ON THAILAND

health tips & vaccination: vaccine against typhoid, hepatitis A and B are recommended

local currency: Thai Baht

local time zone: GMT+7

electricity: type A, type B, type C, and type F (220 V, 50 Hz)

mobile phone operators:

WHAT TO DO IN THAILAND

typical food in Thailand

  • Tom yam: A hot and sour soup prepared with kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, chilli and lime juice, plus prawns or chicken
  • Kaeng khiao wan: Thailand’s famous green curry, based on coconut milk, fish sauce and a curry paste made from green chillies, onions, ginger and lemongrass
  • Gang pet: A hot curry with coconut milk, herbs, garlic, chilli, shrimp paste, coriander and seasoning
  • Som tam: Pounded green papaya salad with green beans, dried shrimp, and peanuts in a lime juice, chilli and palm sugar dressing
  • Pad Thai: Stir-fried rice noodles, served with shrimp or chicken and garnished with peanuts
  • Satay: A Malay-inspired dish, made from grilled chicken served with a peanut, shallot and palm sugar dip
  • Kaeng phanaeng: A mild coconut curry with a curry paste including roasted spices and beef chicken or pork
  • Geng Kheaw Wan Gai: mild spicy green curry made from green peppers, coconut milk, Thai eggplant and vegetables
  • Massaman Curry: coconut milk, potatoes, roasted peanuts, bay leaves, sugar, cinnamon, and tamarind sauce
  • Pad Kaphrao: Chicken, beef, pork or prawns, fried with copious quantities of chilli, Thai basil and garlic
  • Khao soi: a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chillies fried in oil, and meat in coconut milk-based curry-like sauce
  • Laap: minced meat seasoned with roasted rice powder, lime juice, fish sauce and fresh herb
  • Gai Med Ma Moung: stir fry chicken with cashew nuts
  • Tod man pla: Thai fishcakes, flavoured with kaffir lime leaves and served with sweet chilli sauce and a cucumber relish
  • Kaeng massaman: A mild Thai curry with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, potatoes and beef or lamb, inspired by Indian and Persian cooking
  • Kha Gai: coconut milk with lemongrass, galangal (a ginger-like spice) and chicken
  • Mekhong: Thai whisky, usually served with coke and ice
  • Sam Song: Thailand’s most popular rum
  • Cha yen: Thai iced tea, made with locally grown tea, sugar and milk
  • Singha: The best of Thailand’s local beers
  • Chang: Cheaper than Singha and popular for just that reason
  • Coconut milk: Served straight from the shell during the harvest season

souvenirs from Thailand

  • silk
  • Thai clothing: moh hom (the typical short-sleeved shirt for men or a long-sleeved blouse for women), sador (a pair of pants that stop just above the ankles), pha zin (traditional long skirt for women) or a sarong
  • spa products and essential oils 
  • Tiger balm
  • Koh Samui coconut wood objects
  • temple bells and Tibetan meditation bowls
  • triangle pillows
  • silver objects
  • gold and handmade jewellery
  • handmade bags
  • ceramic statues, bowls and vases
  • soap carvings
  • leatherware
  • pottery and lacquerware dishes
  • rice boxes
  • silk dolls
  • snacks and spices
  • masks
  • Muay-Thai Shorts
  • wickerwork from bamboo, bulrush and rattan, Yan Lipao (southern fern-vine) woven handbags and woven hill-tribe baskets
  • artisanal household items
  • wooden carvings and teak objects
  • Thai sky lanterns
  • colourful Thai Loincloths, made of cotton or silk.
  • small bamboo furniture
  • hats
  • umbrellas, the structure is made of bamboo and the top from the combination of mulberry paper, bamboo, and cotton, and some also use silk.

SIMPLE DICTIONARY

Hello: S̄wạs̄dī

Goodbye: Lā k̀xn

How are you?: Khuṇ pĕn xỳāngrị?

Thank you: K̄hx k̄hxbkhuṇ

What is your name?: Khuṇ chụ̄̀x xarị?

How much is it?: Rākhā thèā h̄ịr̀?

Sorry: K̄hxthos̄ʹ

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