Thailand has been on travellers’ trails for a long time with 77 diverse provinces from its world famous beaches in the south to scenic and sometimes cool mountain retreats in the north and lots of other fascinating but rarely visited provinces too.
BakTrax visits some of the far less travelled provinces as well as the more well known of areas of Thailand such as Bangkok, Pai, Sukhothai and Chiang Mai.
GEOGRAPHY and POPULATION:
Thailand covers an area of 517,000 sq Km which is all tropical apart from the mountainous north.
There are 61 million people in the kingdom of which approximately 75% are ethnic Thai. Numerous other ethnic groups and minorities make up the remaining 25%.
The kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with elections every four years.
The vast majority of Thais are Buddhist.
The capital is Bangkok (Krungthep in Thai).
If Vientiane in Laos is the most laid back capital of the region then surely Bangkok is its opposite.
Cars and more cars are a blight to everyone whether daily commuters or two-week tourists, but with so much to see and do there’s no time to get bored.
Discounting the traffic and with a few changes here and there and Bangkok surely challenges for one the most fascinating cities on the globe. An extremely safe city, crime wise, as far as big cities go. Using a pedestrian crossing is not so safe, but cheap public transport and taxis take the hassle out of getting around in Bangkok.
Hot and hotter apart from cool season in the north where it can get down to to below zero overnight in some mountain areas.
HOT: All year round apart from Dec/ Jan/ Feb in the
HOTTER: April/ May/ June/ July.
WETTEST: June/July/ Aug/ Sept.
DRIEST: Nov/ Dec/ Jan/ Feb/ March/ April.
Thai food is deservedly world famous! Lots of spicy or sweet flavours and lots in between also.
First time chilli chompers beware! If you don’t like your food too hot remember to ask for it “mai phet” which means not spicy/hot.
For the most part you won’t find everyday Thai food outside the Kingdom. A treat to behold.
You must try green papaya salad and barbequed chicken on a stick with sticky rice at least once, and there are many other regional delights to try that are never seen outside the kingdom.
The currency is called the Baht (THB).
Bills are 20, 50, 100, 500 & 1,000 Baht.
Coins are 1, 5 and 10 Baht.
Probably the best country in the region for overall choice. New suits in the tourist areas, and good clothing everywhere. Famous Thai silk, arts and crafts in the north.
Many visitors to Thailand end up carrying home something they never even knew existed before they arrived. Bargains can be found at Chatuchak weekend market, Siam Square and many other modern malls in Bangkok. There is a touristy but still fascinating night bazaar in Chiang Mai, and many other arts and crafts shops too.
Barter hard in the markets, but always with a smile.
A visit to the dentist may also help save on the cost of your holiday. Dentists are modern, safe and a bargain by western standards. Haircuts also go for a fraction of your usual price in modern salons to mens’ roadside booths.
(our opinion out of 10).
Friendly culture: 10. (Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”). 11 when you get into the less travelled areas.
Bangkok: from 6 to 10 (depending on the individual).
Chiang Mai: 10.
Lesser known provinces: 10.
Seaside & Beaches: 10.
Travel light and build up as you go. Pack one warm set of clothes for the north in the cool season.
Thailand is a very safe travel destination in general. Friendly people everywhere and you may even be treated like a movie star in some of the lesser known provinces that see few foreigners.
Beware of the infamous “gem scams” in Bangkok and paying way over the regular price for tuk-tuks and taxis.