With its sunny, sandy beaches, tropical islands, rich wildlife, archaeological sites, temples and monasteries, Thailand is a global tourist hot spot.
The “Land of Smiles,” Thailand’s nickname says it all. This country is all about its smiles and it is one of the pillars of the Thailand tourism industry. Thailand is among the friendliest nations around the world.
The vibrant and lively festivals of country, the thriving nightlife, world-class shopping facilities, and Thai cuisine are all major tourist attractions in the country. Thailand is in both the eastern and northern hemispheres, and is positioned in Southeast Asia, a recognized geographical region of the Asian continent. The country is bordered by the Andaman Sea, Gulf of Thailand, Indian Ocean and the countries of Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Capital of Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life.
The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Nearby is Wat Pho Temple with an enormous reclining Buddha and, on the opposite shore, Wat Arun Temple with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire.
Phuket (pronounced ‘Poo-ket or Poo-get’, a rainforested, mountainous island in the Andaman Sea, has some of Thailand’s most popular beaches, mainly situated along the clear waters of the western shore. The island is home to many high-end seaside resorts, spas and restaurants. Phuket City, the capital, has old shophouses and busy markets. Patong, the main resort town, has many nightclubs, bars and discos.
Chiang Mai is a city in mountainous northern Thailand. Founded in 1296, it was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. It’s also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents.
Ko Samui, Thailand’s second largest island, lies in the Gulf of Thailand off the east coast of the Kra Isthmus. It’s known for its palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves and dense, mountainous rainforest, plus luxury resorts and posh spas. The landmark golden Big Buddha statue at Wat Phra Yai Temple is on a tiny island connected to Ko Samui by a causeway.
The combination of the Thai lifestyle, the food, the Buddhism, the people, the magical islands and the inspiring temples is why they call this “the country of smiles.” The capital is a melting pot of cultures, which provides amazing places to see in Bangkok.
Some things to know, however, are:
• Don’t badmouth royalty
• Do cover up your body in temples
• Do take your shoes off inside
• Don’t climb on the Buddha symbols
• Don’t touch people’s heads
• Don’t chew gum. By law, chewing gum — with the exception of dental or nicotine gum — may not be bought or sold. If you get caught spitting out your gum on the streets, you can be fined up to $700.
Airfare from Detroit to Bangkok ranges from $890 to $2,587.
Hotel accommodations in Thailand are relatively inexpensive compared to the United States. Rooms can be rented from as low as $14 a night at the Nasa Vegas Hotel in Bangkok, to $132 for 5-star accommodations at the Amari Watergate Bangkok.
In Thailand they use the Thai Baht and 1 U.S. dollar is about 30 Thai Baht. The currency exchange changes over time, but in general, the Thai Baht is considered stable.
The main language spoken in Thailand is Thai. English is the most common second language, and many Thais have studied some level of English either at school or through practice with foreign friends.
The best time to visit Thailand is between November and early April. Not only is it the driest part of the year, but it’s also the warmest — temperatures hover from 89.6 (32 C.) to 96.8 (36 C) degrees with up to nine hours of sunshine a day.
Bangkok’s renowned food scene spans traditional street-cart snacks — spicy, sour, sweet and salty — to upscale international restaurants. Those who love Thai food will be able to dine on the following while in Thailand. Some favorites include:
• Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup)
• Som Tum (spicy green papaya salad)
• Tom Kha Kai (chicken in coconut soup)
• Gaeng Daeng (red curry)
• Pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles)
• Khao Pad (fried rice)
• Pad Krapow Moo Saap (fried basil and pork)
• Gaeng Keow Wan Kai (green chicken curry.)