About Thailand

Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand and formerly known as Siam, is a country at the center of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. With a total area of approximately 513,000 km2 (198,000 sq mi), Thailand is the world's 50th-largest country. It is the 20th-most-populous country in the world, with around 66 million people.

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and has switched between parliamentary democracy and military junta for decades, the latest coup being in May 2014 by the National Council for Peace and Order. Its capital and most populous city is Bangkok. It is bordered to the north by Myanmar and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the west by the Andaman Sea and the southern extremity of Myanmar. Its maritime boundaries include Vietnam in the Gulf of Thailand to the southeast, and Indonesia and India on the Andaman Sea to the southwest.

The Thai economy is the world's 20th largest by GDP at PPP and the 27th largest by nominal GDP. It became a newly industrialized country and a major exporter in the 1990s. Manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism are leading sectors of the economy. It is considered a middle power in the region and around the world.

Capital Bangkok
Largest city Bangkok
Official language and national language Thai
Area 513,120 km2 (198,120 sq mi)
Total Water (%) 0.4
Population 67,959,000
Currency Baht (THB)
Time zone ICT (UTC+7)

The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling to Thailand

It would be useful to write a post about things you should and shouldn’t do in Egypt. This post is very beneficial for expats and those who want to visit the country. The aim of this post is to help you understand what is socially acceptable from the locals’ point of view in order to make your life easier in this wonderful country.

DO’s

• Do try to learn a few phrases and greeting in Thai. You are in another country and showing effort, even if you don’t know too much, goes a long way. Show respect to the Thai people and say hello and thank you. You get a much better experience when you meet locals and speak a little Thai to them..

• Do buy big beers. Walk around the street enjoying the nightlife in various areas while sipping on a cold brew. Like many Southeast Asian countries, the big beers are the best deal. My favorite is Chang, though it does come with the infamous “Changover” if you have too many. Dress modestly and not too extravagant.

• Do get a traditional style Sak Yant bamboo tattoo. You ‘ll see plenty of backpackers around Bangkok with the Buddhist blessings tattooed on them, and many Thai people will too. It’s an experience and a great way to take home a memory, if you’re the tattoo type of course. It involves a monk tattooing and bestowing his magic into the blessing and was what I did for my birthday that day.

• Do take a short tuk tuk ride for the experience. It is a little zany and a bit nerve wrecking, but it’s a wildly different way of getting around. Some tuk tuts are pimped out with flashy lights and speakers, and you’ll experience your first scam while in them..

• Do take taxis over tuk tuks most places you go. Taxis are going to be the best way to get around Bangkok on a hot day since they all have air-con and are usually pretty fast. If you’re in a main area like near Khao San Road or a mall, walk a few blocks away and catch a cab there. It’ll be easier to convince them to do a meter...

• Do talk to the locals. If you need help they’ll always assist you with directions or most anything else if they can understand you. The best thing to do when you are looking for something like a monument or palace or mall is download a photo of it on your phone when you have wifi, and then you can show them a photo..

• Do get a suit tailor made for you IF you are a fancy pants. Feeling like puttin’ on the ritz? Always dreamed of having a tailor made outfit that fits you perfectly? Bangkok is one of the best and cheapest places in the world to get a fitted suit or outfit. They will take all of the measurements, let you pick out looks and fabrics, and you’ll be able to hit the Baiyoke Skytower in style.

• Do get a Thai massage. After a long flight to Thailand, a foot massage feels marvelous. And the back massage — well they’ll bend and break you into contortionist oblivion but you’ll walk away feeling like you can do backflips and scale walls. These shops are everywhere and usually have various choices like aromatherapy, foot massage, head massage, and back massages, so compare prices.

• Do tap into your wild or exotic foodie side. Try some extra bizarre foods like scorpions, crickets, and other creepy crawlies. It’ll be worth the experience and the awesome shocking photos. Sure, it’s cliché and most of them are only there for our selfie-obsessed pleasure, but it’s still pretty fun. And really, where else is better than Thailand to try your first bug? Also, for the love of the food gods, try Pad Thai! You may never eat anything else again. On the street you can get a heaping portion of Pad Thai for 20-30 baht, and surprisingly, Khao San Road has some of the best

• Do have a great time drinking beers and buckets. It’s very fun listening to the amazing Thai cover singers while drinking a bucket of Thai whiskey. Off of Khao San road there are many parallel streets that are perfect for having drinks and aren’t so flooded with debauchery and annoying hawkers. Hong Thong is my favorite cheap Thai whiskey, or you can go for Sangsom which is sweeter like rum. Split a bucket with your friends and hear perfect renditions of “House of the Rising Sun” and other jams in a chill bar.

• Do visit Khao San Road. Pass through the infamous Khao San Road and see what the fuss and disgust is all about. It’s one of the most well-known “destinations” of the city and besides the sweaty and overly wasted throngs of backpackers waddling through, you can find good drink specials in the side bars. The best thing to do is to go to the two streets parallel to Khao San because it will be much more tame and you’ll have a better time finding a place to hang out and have a relaxing drink.

• Do buy local goods and clothes. Most of the clothing and goods are hand-made and beautiful. You’ll get tired of the chaffing quick if you brought jeans. Hit the Saturday/Sunday JJ Market (Chatchuchak) to spend an entire day wandering a labyrinth of stalls and pick some trinkets out to send home too. Also, you’ll find enough of the Thai parachute/elephant pants to please your hippie heart (but don’t say you’re dressing Thai, because they don’t wear that stuff.)

DON’T

• Don’t disrespect a Thai person, raise your voice at them, or pick a fight. This isn’t your country, so if you are belligerent to someone you’ll probably ended up for the worse. Most Thai people smile a ton and are soft spoken.

• Don’t hold the big beers by the neck. Even before I finished my first big beer in Thailand, it slipped out of my hand and shattered on the ground. I wasn’t even close to being drunk, but the heat of Bangkok mad the cold beer sweat and the label slips off. My friend laughed when it happened, and a block later, had it happen to her.

• Don’t get a Sak Yant tattoo in a shop on Khao San Road, or in a regular tattoo parlor. They advertise bamboo tattoos and Sak Yant blessings…but it isn’t the real Sak Yant. Variations of each Sak Yant have magical purposes and can only be bestowed to you by a true Buddhist monk that knows how to do them. There is a temple I traveled to outside of Bangkok that performs these blessings and does the tattoo, and there is one shop in Bangkok with an artist that has been trained and certified to perform the proper Sak Yant tattoo and blessing.

• Don’t let the tuk tuk driver talk you into making stops for free petrol. Or Gems. Or an “authorized” tourist shop. Tuk tuk drivers are scam artists through and through, and though they may make promises or seem really nice, majority can’t be trusted. If you hop in a tuk tuk, prepare to be ripped off in price, and when you tell them a specific location, they will always stop at a gem store or tourist office and try to get you to buy things for “free petrol” and may leave you when you refuse. (Full post coming soon about my experience with this.)

• Don’t take a taxi if they refuse to put on the meter. For a 6km drive you’ll pay around 80 baht including the 35 baht initial charge, but if you take a non-metered taxi it’ll be upwards of 200-300 baht. Even if it takes you 30 minutes to find a metered taxi, it’ll save you double the money at least. Sometime your driver will agree to take you and then begin driving and tell you that the meter is broken, so make sure the meter is on when you get in. Always follow along with Google Maps as well.

• Don’t stop for anyone who is standing around and approaches you randomly with a, “My friend! Hello! You have a kind face.” They’ll will shake your hand and try to trick you into sitting down with them to tell you your future and demand a “donation” after. Or it’ll be a Thai person waiting to snag a traveler to convince them to book a “discounted” trip somewhere or to take you on a free temple tour. Especially near Khao San Road. From my experience, you’ll see large Indian men on the road that will approach you and talk about your energy or try and convince you to let them chat with you about your future for no money. Then they take you into a back alley and demand payment and get quite aggressive.

• Don’t get a suit tailor made for you in the tiny shops in areas like Khao San Road. If they promise a deal for $200-$300usd and 24hr turn around it’s rubbish. You can find a shop that will charge the same or less in a non-touristy neighborhood run by an old Thai guy that’s been doing it for 70 years. He’ll take 4-7 days to complete it because he’ll get it right, and request multiple re-fittings so everything is perfect. It’ll be the best suit you’ve ever owned or will ever own.

• Don’t pay more than 200 baht per hour. Many of the tourist neighborhoods will charge that for 30minutes. Look for prices to be 100 baht cheaper in Chinatown and places away from Khao San Road. I’ve found a shop for even 150 baht per hour before.

• Don’t drink the water unless it is bottled. Tap water here as in many Southeast Asian countries isn’t regulated like the USA or other countries with safe drinking tap water. What you’ll notice in some places is that the serve a pitcher of water from a giant water barrel, and if the ice in the cup is rounded with a hole in the middle, it’s provided by the government. Smoothie shops along the road should use this kind of ice as well so make sure to keep an eye out. But if I were you, I’d stick to bottles of water bought in 7/11. Some stores you’ll notice have the seal broken, and that’s because they refill and recap them. If the bottle of water looks dirty, beat up, or damaged, change it out.

• Don’t get limes in the buckets, and avoid mojitos! We bought a bucket and they add limes to it, A LOT OF LIMES, and it was so many that it made the drink disgusting. They’re already sweet as is with the energy drink or soda they add in. Also, avoid mojito buckets, because they add what seemed to be a whole cup of sugar in it and the whole drink was so sweet that I spent one night feeling sick.

• Don’t spend too much time on Khao San Road. You probably won’t want to stay long on Khao San Road unless you like to bro it up and fist pump. It is like a parallel drunk and dirty backpacker universe where souls go to die, wallets go to burn, and class or culture is non-existent. If you are in neon-shirt-sunglasses-at-night party mode you’ll find enough entertainment here and seedy clubs to get your drunken “dance” on. It’s just not my kind of place…

• Don’t buy goods in backpacker or tourist heavy markets. If you hit Khao San or backpacker heavy markets you’ll cough up 3x the normal amount. Prices will already be high for “foreigner price” so don’t forget to barter as well. Mainly, shop at stalls that have prices already marked. And don’t forget to hit up a weekend market like JJ Market (Chatchuchak) for really good bargains.

• DO NOT GO TO PING PONG SHOWS! You’ll hear the guys along Khao San Road making popping noises at you and yelling, “Ping pong show come come cheap cheap!” and to me it’s vile. What is a ping pong show? It’s a “tourist attraction” of the worst kind, where you go into a sketchy bar or a club inside the Bangkok red light district and watch as a girl on stage shoots ping pong balls out of her vagina. As well as pulls animals like live birds and fish out. If you think this is hilarious and entertaining, I pity your soul. Most of these girls are taken as children and forced into this kind of sick entertainment, and some shows they are even raped on stage as a sex show. Not cool. Don’t do it. How do I know? I’ve never been, but I know people who have. And groups who have also gone only to return to the hostel and tell me that got ripped off and scammed/robbed too.

Demographics

Thailand had a population of 66,720,153 as of 2013. Thailand's population is largely rural, concentrated in the rice-growing areas of the central, northeastern, and northern regions. Thailand had an urban population of 45.7% as of 2010, concentrated mostly in and around the Bangkok Metropolitan Area.

Thailand's government-sponsored family planning program resulted in a dramatic decline in population growth from 3.1% in 1960 to around 0.4% today. In 1970, an average of 5.7 people lived in a Thai household. At the time of the 2010 census, the average Thai household size was 3.2 people.

Largest cities or towns

1. Nonthaburi 2. Pak Kret
3. Hat Yai 4. Nakhon Ratchasima
5. Chiang Mai 6. Udon Thani
7. Khon Kaen 8. Surat Thani
9. Nakhon Si Thammarat 10. Nakhon Sawan

Languages

The official language of Thailand is Thai, a Tai–Kadai language closely related to Lao, Shan in Myanmar, and numerous smaller languages spoken in an arc from Hainan and Yunnan south to the Chinese border. It is the principal language of education and government and spoken throughout the country. The standard is based on the dialect of the central Thai people, and it is written in the Thai alphabet, an abugida script that evolved from the Khmer alphabet. Sixty-two languages were recognized by the Royal Thai Government in the 2011 Country Report to the UN Committee responsible for the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which employed an ethnolinguistic approach and is available from the Department of Rights and Liberties Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Justice. Southern Thai is spoken in the southern provinces, and Northern Thai is spoken in the provinces that were formerly part of the independent kingdom of Lan Na. For the purposes of the national census, which does not recognize all 62 languages recognized by the Royal Thai Government in the 2011 Country Report, four dialects of Thai exist; these partly coincide with regional designations.

The largest of Thailand's minority languages is the Lao dialect of Isan spoken in the northeastern provinces. Although sometimes considered a Thai dialect, it is a Lao dialect, and the region where it is traditionally spoken was historically part of the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. In the far south, Kelantan-Pattani Malay is the primary language of Malay Muslims. Varieties of Chinese are also spoken by the large Thai Chinese population, with the Teochew dialect best-represented.

Numerous tribal languages are also spoken, including many Austroasiatic languages such as Mon, Khmer, Viet, Mlabri and Orang Asli; Austronesian languages such as Cham and Moken; Sino-Tibetan languages like Lawa, Akha, and Karen; and other Tai languages such as Tai Yo, Phu Thai, and Saek. Hmong is a member of the Hmong–Mien languages, which is now regarded as a language family of its own.

English is a mandatory school subject, but the number of fluent speakers remains low, especially outside cities.

Religion

Buddhism 93.2%

Islam 4.9%

Christianity 0.9%

Hinduism 0.1%

Unaffiliated 0.3%

Culture

Thai culture has been shaped by many influences, including Indian, Lao, Burmese, Cambodian, and Chinese. Its traditions incorporate a great deal of influence from India, China, Cambodia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Thailand's national religion, Theravada Buddhism, is central to modern Thai identity. Thai Buddhism has evolved over time to include many regional beliefs originating from Hinduism, animism, as well as ancestor worship. The official calendar in Thailand is based on the Eastern version of the Buddhist Era (BE), which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Thus the year 2015 is 2558 BE in Thailand.

Several different ethnic groups, many of which are marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups spill over into Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia and have mediated change between their traditional local culture, national Thai, and global cultural influences. Overseas Chinese also form a significant part of Thai society, particularly in and around Bangkok. Their successful integration into Thai society has allowed for this group to hold positions of economic and political power. Thai Chinese businesses prosper as part of the larger bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties.

The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is generally offered first by the younger of the two people meeting, with their hands pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed to touch face to fingertips, usually coinciding with the spoken words "sawatdi khrap" for male speakers, and "sawatdi kha" for females. The elder may then respond in the same way. Social status and position, such as in government, will also have an influence on who performs the wai first. For example, although one may be considerably older than a provincial governor, when meeting it is usually the visitor who pays respect first. When children leave to go to school, they are taught to wai their parents to indicate their respect. The wai is a sign of respect and reverence for another, similar to the Namaste greeting of India and Nepal.

As with other Asian cultures, respect towards ancestors is an essential part of Thai spiritual practice. Thais have a strong sense of hospitality and generosity, but also a strong sense of social hierarchy. Seniority is paramount in Thai culture. Elders have by tradition ruled in family decisions or ceremonies. Older siblings have duties to younger ones.

Taboos in Thailand include touching someone's head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the lowest part of the body.

Festivals

Thailand is one of the country where a number of Buddhist festivals are celebrated. If you are visiting Thailand during the time of the festival, make sure that you enjoy them to the maximum extent. Below are given details of some extremely important festivals which you can participate in once you visit Thailand.

Visakha Bucha : Like in the rest of the world, this is one of the most important Buddhist festival celebrated throughout Thailand. It is believed to be the day when prince Siddhartha Gautama was born, 35 years later, on the same day, He attained enlightenment and after another 45 years passed into total nibbana. All the three events took place on the full moon day of the sixth lunar month, which usually falls in May. On this day, people hoist religious flags outside their houses, visit temples and offer flowers, candles and incense to pay their respect to the three jewels of Buddhism - the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. In the evening, people participate in the candle lit procession and perform a circumambulation of the main chapel of the temples thrice. A number of people also indulge in meditation to gain merit. Songkran : Celebrated in the month of April when Thailand is facing heat at its extreme, Songkran is one of the three new year celebrations, the other two being the Western New year on January 1st and Chinese New Year in February. Songkran is the traditional Thai New Year and sees people visiting temples in large number and offering food to Buddhist monks. They also pour scented water over the hand into the hands of elders of the family as a mark of respect. Small fishes are also released into canals and rivers to gain merit. On the funside, water splashing on anyone and everyone on this day is extremely popular. This provides the much needed relief from the scorching heat. Loy Krathong : Perhaps, amongst the most beautiful festivals of Thailand, Loy Krathong is celebrated on the night of the full moon 12th lunar month. This usually falls in the month of November as per Gregorian calendar. In this festival, people light candles and joss sticks and place them on a Krathong (a lotus shaped vessel that can float in water) along with other items like food, betel nuts, flowers and coins. This Krathong is then floated in the water of a river or a canal. The person floating it makes a silent wish and hopes that the candle in the Krathong continues to burn till the time it is visible to his or her eyes. The burning of the candle is symbolic of longevity, fulfillment of wishes and release from sin. Raek Na : Raek Na, or the Ploughing festival has its origin back to the times of the Buddha and commemorates His first enlightenment at the age of seven. The festival is celebrated in the sixth lunar month which coincides with the month of May as per the Gregorian calendar. The festival is celebrated in Bangkok in Sanam Luang and marks the beginning of the official rice planting season. The festival is presided over by His Majesty, the king, who appoints a Lord of the Festival, Phya Raek Nah, to carry out the rites. The rites that follow indicate the amount of rain that will fall and the crop that will give best yield. Elephant Festival : Celebrated on the third Saturday in the month of November, the Elephant Round Up festival is what makes the province of Surin extremely famous. The province, since long, has been famous for its elephants and the skilful mahouts who hold expertise in capturing, taming and training wild elephants. The event sees more than 100 elephants coming in to participate in the various games that test their strength, grace and intelligence. Makha Bucha Festival : Amongst the most important festivals of the Buddhist community, the Makha Bucha festival marks the day on the third lunar month (Feb-Mar) when 1250 arahants spontaneously gathered before the Buddha and He gave them discourse on Ovadha Patimokkha. The day is a public holiday in Thailand and has the people visiting the temples in large number. His Majesty the King presides over the religious rites at the Emerald Buddha Temple and later heads a number of people in a candlelit procession held within the premises of the temple. The procession is usually held in evening, however, as per the convenience of the people, it can also be carried out in the morning (not in Bangkok). Asalaha Bucha - Wan Khao Pansa Festival : Celebrated in the eighth lunar month (July), the Asalaha Bucha-Wan Khao Pansa Festival marks the beginning of the Buddhist "rain retreat" and the Buddhist Lent, or "Phansa". It is the time when the Buddhist monks retreat to their temples and concentrate more on their studies and meditation. The Buddhist lent continues for a period of three months and is also considered a great time for ordination. The common people, too, participate in this festival with all enthusiasm and offer food, clothing and other items of daily use. Items that provide light, like lantern, lamp oil is of special mention. These are supposed to illuminate them both spiritually and physically.

Climate

Thailand's climate is influenced by monsoon winds that have a seasonal character (the southwest and northeast monsoon). The southwest monsoon, which starts from May until October is characterized by movement of warm, moist air from the Indian Ocean to Thailand, causing abundant rain over most of the country. The northeast monsoon, starting from October until February brings cold and dry air from China over most of Thailand. In southern Thailand, the northeast monsoon brings mild weather and abundant rainfall on the eastern coast of that region. Most of Thailand has a "tropical wet and dry or savanna climate" type (Köppen's Tropical savanna climate). The south and the eastern tip of the east have a tropical monsoon climate.

Thailand is divided into three seasons. The first is the rainy or southwest monsoon season (mid–May to mid–October) which prevails over most of the country. This season is characterized by abundant rain with August and September being the wettest period of the year. This can occasionally lead to floods. In addition to rainfall caused by the southwest monsoon, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and tropical cyclones also contribute to producing heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Nonetheless, dry spells commonly occur for 1 to 2 weeks from June to early July. This is due to the northward movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone to southern China. Winter or the northeast monsoon starts from mid–October until mid–February. Most of Thailand experiences dry weather during this season with mild temperatures. The exception is the southern parts of Thailand where it receives abundant rainfall, particularly during October to November. Summer or the pre–monsoon season runs from mid–February until mid–May and is characterized by warmer weather.

Due to its inland nature and latitude, the north, northeast, central and eastern parts of Thailand experience a long period of warm weather. During the hottest time of the year (March to May), temperatures usually reach up to 40 °C (104 °F) or more with the exception of coastal areas where sea breezes moderate afternoon temperatures. In contrast, outbreaks of cold air from China can bring colder temperatures; in some cases (particularly the north and northeast) close to or below 0 °C (32 °F). Southern Thailand is characterized by mild weather year-round with less diurnal and seasonal variations in temperatures due to maritime influences.

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