Thailand was known for centuries by outsiders as Siam. It first made a real impression on the West at the end of the 17th century, through the reports of a series of inquisitive Frenchmen. They were not the first Europeans to spend time in the kingdom, however. The Portuguese sent an envoy to the capital in 1511, shortly after they seized Malacca. The Portuguese joined resident Chinese, Japanese, Malays and Persians to make the Siamese capital one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the vast region now known as Southeast Asia. Modern and predominantly Buddhist, it is a Southeast Asian kingdom whose ancient equilibrium and present standing mingle in evolving harmony. Thailand is a country of scenic diversity and ancient traditions, of tranquil temples and modern urban excitement. With and independent history going back more than seven centuries, it has managed to absorb a variety of cultural influences and blend them into something uniquely and memorably Thai.
WEATHER & CLIMATE
Thailand has a warm, tropical climate affected by an annual monsoon, with a rainy season from June to October and a dry season the rest of the year. Temperatures average 75 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit, with the highest temperatures from March to May and the lowest in December and January. Tropical, rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon from mid-May to September. Dry, cool northeast monsoon from November to mid-March, southern isthmus always hot and humid. There are three seasons: the cool season (November to February), the hot season (April to May), and the rainy season (June to October), though downpours rarely last more than a couple of hours.
Thailand is described by travelers as "the west exotic country in Asia", and with good reason. It is colored by a distinct culture, with a rich and varied heritage, and it posses a remarkable range of scenic beauty. Whatever your interests you'll find this a unique land, a place of kaleidoscopic wonders unseen elsewhere. The Thais have their own culture (including literature, drama, architecture, music, painting, sculpture, folk dances, and many handicrafts), their own language, their own cuisine, their own martial arts, and their own beliefs. Though many fortuitous Indian and Chinese cultural traits have partially influenced Thai culture in many aspects, it is the mixture of these and Thai eclecticism that has, over the centuries, developed the idiosyncratic culture that is unique to Thailand.
PLACES TO VISIT
The cosmopolitan & international city of Bangkok offers an exciting, vibrant and chaotic mixture of Buddhist temples, opulent palaces, ultramodern architecture, classy hotels, street vendors, tuk tuks, elephants, floating markets, transportation canals, delicious cuisine, and huge open air markets. It is truly a place where east meets west. Bangkok's major tourism attractions include the fabulous Wat Phra Kaeo (Emerald Buddha Chapel) and Grand Palace complex; Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Saket (Golden Mount),Rose Garden etc. Also well worth a visit is the world's largest Crocodile Farm, and a 200-acre open-air museum called the Ancient City. Bangkok also boasts entertainment and recreational complexes such as Siam Water Park, Safari World, King Rama IX Park and Dusit Zoo, together with exceptional shopping, fine dining and a legendary nightlife.
CHIANG MAI PROVINCE
Popularly known as the Rose of the North, Chiang Mai is blessed with stunning natural beauty and unique indigenous cultural identity. This former capital of the independent Lanna Thai Kingdom, founded in 1296, flourished as a major religious, cultural and trading centre, leaving a lasting heritage in its buildings, art, sculpture, and crafts. A great place to shop for ethnic handicrafts of silk, silver and wood and to see a different side of Thailand.
Phuket is the gem of the Andaman Sea with golden-sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters and coral reefs rich with sea life. Surrounded by 32 smaller islands, all close enough to visit on a 1-day cruise, Phuket is a Mecca for diving, snorkelling and sun bathing. Close by is the mainland province of Phang Nga with its eerie limestone seascape and Khao Lak, further north, on the fringes of 3 national parks. Eco-tours, rafting, nature walks, elephant trekking; adventure in the cool green forest interior. Mountains, rainforest, coral reefs, idyllic islands. Just 70 minutes flying time south of Bangkok, Phuket is Thailand's largest island and offers all the essential ingredients of a fantastic holiday, and lots more...
Pattaya is a city in Thailand, located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand , about 165 km southeast of Bangkok in the province of Chon Buri.Pattaya's main attraction are its beaches. Pattaya Beach is situated along the central city in close proximity to shopping, hotels and bars.
PHI PHI ISLAND
Phi Phi Island, located just 45 minutes by boat from Phuket, offers a great laid back tropical lifestyle. Picture postcard perfect, with classic white sandy beaches, surrounded by impressive limestone cliffs and sunlit crystal water, Phi Phi actually consists of two islands, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley, so gorgeous it was used as a location for the Hollywood film, "The Beach."... Fine, white sandy beaches and breathtaking rock formations rising from the vivid turquoise waters that surround the islands will instantly confirm you've arrived in paradise.
Butterflies are one of the most beautiful examples of the island’s biodiversity. See many of vividly-colourful tropical butterflies in this scenic hillside setting. The garden has a great display of caterpillars, set in the hillside and with a spectacular view of the sea, the Butterfly Garden is located on the south-east part of the island at Laem Sea Beach.
THE BIG BUDDHA BEACH
The beach it is so named, because you can see the Big Buddha temple from the whole length of one of the island’s longest beaches, from Bophut to Samui Airport. While this quiet beach is a ways off the main road there are a couple of good reasons to make the trip.
Most Thai food is highly spiced, chili hot, and varies from region to region. The traditional ingredients of Thai food have changed little up to the present day, consisting largely of seafood and locally grown vegetables and fruits, a diet common to most of the country. What gives the distinctive Thai flavor, and the differing taste from region to region, is the carefully blended sauces and chilies. In short,Thai cuisine is famous for the blending of four fundamental tastes: sweet (sugar, fruits, sweet peppers) spicy hot (chilies) sour (vinegar, lime juice, tamarind) salty (soy sauce, fish sauce) Most of the dishes in Thai cuisine try to combine most, if not all, of these tastes. It is accomplished by using a host of herbs, spices and fruit, including: chili, cumin, garlic, ginger, basil, sweet basil, lime, lemongrass, coriander, pepper, turmeric and shallots.
SHOPPING & ENTERTAINMENT
Thailand offers a wonderful experience for a shopholic , with a fantastic variety of goods on offer. Handbags, backpacks, wallets, purses, briefcases and suitcases in just about every size and style can be purchased in Thailand markets. Bangkok is one of the most competitively priced cities in Asia. Friendly bargaining in most stores and markets ensure favourable prices and service.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Bangkok is Thailand's major gateway. Most visitors arrive through Bangkok's Don Muang International Airport which is connected by daily flights to Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia aboard the world's major airlines.
Regular rail services link Singapore and Bangkok. Intermediary stops include Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth and major southern Thai towns.
Overland entrance to Thailand is restricted to three road crossings on the Thai-Malaysian border in Songkhla, Yala and Narathiwat.