Exploring Exotic Thailand
Thailand was formerly known as Siam in the years 1945 to 1949. The country has been dubbed as “land of the freedom” because it was the only Southeast Asian country never colonized by any other country. The country’s capital and largest city is Bangkok. It is the center for politics, industries, business and culture.
Tourism of Thailand has increased in the past decade. Thai people are very welcoming and accommodating to their guests. With these traits, people continue to visit and flock the country. The country has been a popular shopping destination, place for spiritual reflection and enlightenment, and a perfect beach destination. They have also been known for their unique delicacies and cuisines.
Where is Thailand located?
Thailand is a member of South East Asia and a part of the Indochina peninsula. It has a total area of approximately 513,000 square kilometers making it the 51st largest country. It is bounded by Burma and Laos on the north, Laos and Cambodia on the east, the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia on the south, and the Andaman Sea and the southern part of Burma on the west.
How to get to Thailand?
Before travelling to Thailand, make sure to get a valid passport. Visas are not mandatory when travelling to Thailand for less than 30 days. However, if there are plans to stay for 60 days, a tourist visa is needed; and if planning to stay for 90 days, a non-immigrant visa is needed.
There are different ways to reach this beautiful country.
The most popular way is by plane. Most countries offer flights going to one of Thailand’s airports. There are four airports: Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport which is 28 km east of Bangkok, Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport which is 24 km north of Bangkok, Phuket International Airport which is 32 km north of Phuket city, and Chiang Mai International Airport which is 4 km south west of the city center.
Another way to reach the country is by train from Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos. Land travel by private cars or buses to Thailand is also possible. There are roads connecting to Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos.
Hua Lamphong or Krungthep Station – the main train station
There are different transportation systems within Thailand. There are different bus lines that operate for long distance travels. There are also motorbikes, bicycles, and taxis. But if you want to be adventurous and really immerse in their culture, try riding a tuk-tuk, songthaew, and elephant rides. One could also try riding on their boats and cruise down the river.
Tuk-tuk – a three wheeler vehicle
Songthaew – a passenger vehicle with two rows of fixed benches at the sides
An elephant ride in Chang Rai province
Long-tail boats – a long, narrow boat with a propeller at the end
With all these various vehicles, travelling within the country is indeed fun and interesting. One could easily reach the different tourist destinations, shopping districts, and eat one of a kind Thai food.
There are so many good reasons why tourists visit the country. It is a perfect blend of beauty, elegance, history, culture, and fun. Thai people are so humble and hospitable, that they make your stay memorable and enjoyable.
Places of Interest
There are many interesting places in Thailand that are worth visiting. There are temples, giant Buddha images, palaces and many more. Listed here are some of the cultural places that are a must see.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
This is considered as one of Thailand’s most valued and sacred temples. It was built in the 14th century. It is located on top of a mountain and overlooks Chiang Mai. Within its walls are collection of Lanna art and architecture.
Chiang Mai – Old City
Chiang Mai is an old city located in the northern part of Thailand. It has a rich cultural history and the home to historical temples. Tourists would enjoy a class in Thai cooking and meditation.
JEATH War Museum
Each letter of the word JEATH represents the nationalities of soldiers who died while fighting. These were soldiers from Japan, England, America, Australian, Thailand and Holland. This museum houses memorabilia, photographs and other artifacts left from World War II. It is located at Kanchanaburi.
Isaan is located at northeastern Thailand. To reach this place one would have to travel pass the Mekong River valley. One would get to see Thailand’s agricultural villages as well as ancient religious sites and temples. Some temple complexes that should be seen are Phimai, Phanom Rung, Khao Phra Viharn. Khao Yai National Park is also located here. It is the habitat of Thailand’s flora and fauna as well as animals.
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya or simply Ayutthaya is the old capital of Siam and a central province. It is approximately 76 kilometers north of Bangkok. There are a number of interesting ruins within the town. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 1991.
Within the area are the famous palaces: Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace or the Front Palace, and Wang Lang or the Rear Palace. The buildings Bang Pa-In Palace and Nakhon Luang Building were built for royal visitors.
Floating pavilion in Bang Pa-In Royal Palace
Chinese style in Bang Pa-In Royal Palace
Wat Phra Kaeo
Wat Phra Kaeo or sometimes known as Wat Phra Si Sanphet is located within the Grand Palace in Ayutthaya. It is an impressive monastery and the home to the Emerald Buddha. Near the temple are Royal Barges used during procession on the Chao Phraya river.
Statue of kinnara
This is one of the monasteries located within Ayutthaya. In the year 1767, the place was burned down by a Burmese army. Currently, only ruins are left.
Ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram
There are beautiful scenic locations that nature lovers would adore. These places truly take your breath away.
Take a time out and go to Chiang Dao and visit Thailand’s highest limestone mountain. There are also caves that are worth exploring.
This is Thailand’s highest point with a picturesque view and a thrilling experience uphill. To get to the top, one needs to trek the jungle and enjoy the luscious greenery, hear the birds hum, and take a dip in the springs and waterfalls.
Two Chedis or temples near the peak
The view from the peak
One of the many waterfalls
Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay covers approximately 400 square kilometers. There are caves and grottoes that tourists could explore. Within the bay are limestone islands that could reach a height of 300 meters. The most famous islands are Ko Ping Kan and Koh Pannyi. The latter literally means ‘Sea Gypsy Island’ and had become popular because the village was built on top of water supported by stilts. The village is protected by a giant rock.
The giant rock protecting Koh Panyi
Relaxation by the Beach
Thailand is bounded by sea on its east and west side. These coasts are adored and sought by tourists because of the fine, powdery white sand. It is an ideal location to lounge on a beach chair with refreshments on the side. It is perfect place to have a tan, play beach volleyball, or just party. There is a wide array of accommodations that could suit any travelers’ budget.
Here is a list of the country’s famous beaches:
• Pattaya – the most popular and ‘go-to’ destination of tourists. It is highly developed
• Islands of Ko Samet and Ko Chang
• Ko Samui
• Ko Pha Ngan
• Ko Tao – a diver’s paradise
• Ko Similan island chain – a perfect diving spot, a great place to see corals
• Phuket – perfect beach, nightlife, and modern developments
• Ko Lanta – an ideal family beach destination
No foreign trip would be complete if you do not buy a souvenir for yourself or your friends. This is a simple token and remembrance of the wonderful experience. And here in Thailand, there are a lot of different shops to buy those souvenir items. One could buy different articles of clothing, Thai silk, and other handicrafts. The shops also offer tailor made suits, coats and blouses. The material they use is one of a kind.
The most popular mall is Bangkok’s Mahboonkrong or MBK Mall. Another weekend bazaar is the Chatuchak Weekend Market or simply JJ Market. There are a lot of products at JJ Market that covers an astounding area of 35 acres or 1.1 square kilometers. If you want to shop in luxury, try Siam Paragon. There are also night markets in every town, the most popular are in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Thailand is a shopper’s delight and paradise because of the great quality of merchandises and reasonable price. One could even haggle to get an item for less.
Local selling umbrellas at Chang Mai
After a long day of being immersed in culture or haggling on the streets for souvenir items, it is time to take a time out and try authentic Thai cuisines.
Thai food has a distinct taste because they use strong flavor such as lime juice, lemon grass, and fresh coriander. They are also known for serving hot and spicy foods.
Noodles are served in all parts of Thailand, from the sidewalks to luxury restaurants. There are different types of noodles such as rice noodles, angel-hair, egg noodles, wanton ravioli, and glass noodles. Any type of noodles would be served with an array of condiments: chili, fish sauce, vinegar and sugar.
The most common noodle dish is Phad Thai which means ‘Thai stir-fry.’ It is made from thin rice noodles basked with tamarind sauce. It is topped with shrimp, pork, chicken, or vegetables.
Other noodle dishes are ba mii muu daeng which uses egg noodles, and guay dtiao ruea which is a rice noodle soup.
Soups and curries
The most popular soup that they serve and is must try is tom yam goong. It is a spicy, sour soup served with prawns, lemon grass and galangal. One could always request to lessen the spice of the soup to suit their tolerance.
Another soup is tom kha gai which uses chicken, galangal-flavored coconut stock, mushrooms and chilies.
Thai’s also serve the best curry dishes. There are three famous curry dishes: gaeng ped or red curry, gaeng kheow-waan which a sweet green curry, and gaeng som or orange curry. Each differs in the amount of spice.
Thai style seafood curry
Unlike western styled salads, Thai salads are basked in fish sauce, lime juice and a lot of chilies. The most popular salad is som tam which is sweet with nuts and dried shrimps. Other variants of their salads are yam ponlamai which is their version of a fruit salad, yam som-o made with pomelo, yam wunsen uses glass noodles and shrimps, and yam tua poo which is a mixture of pork and shrimp.
Aside from food, they also serve the best tea. The unique thing about Thai iced tea is its orange color which owes its color to the tamarind seed. Some people prefer to serve their tea with milk.
No country is complete without their version of a rice wine. Thai rice wine or sato is a type of beer extracted from glutinous rice with an alcohol level of 8%. Here, they serve it in hai, an earthenware jar.