Facts and Factoids

  • Thailand is the most popular destination in the world for British gap year holidaymakers, according to ABTA, the travel association.
  • Buddhism is the country’s main religion – it is practised by 95 per cent of the population.
  • Thailand is often referred to as “The Land of Smiles.” but here, a smile is much more than just a smile. It's integral to non verbal communication. A Thai person can draw on at least 13 smiles , each one having a very specific meaning.
  • Kitti’s hog-nosed bat – thought to be the world’s smallest mammal – is found in Thailand. It weighs just two grams.
  • One of the country’s most unusual festivals is the annual Monkey Buffet, held in front of the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi province. More than 600 monkeys are invited to feast on over two tonnes of grilled sausage, fresh fruit, ice cream and other treats. The locals see it as a thank you to the monkeys, which inhabit the village and bring thousands of tourists there each year.

A Very Brief History of Thailand

  • Thailand escaped colonisation by Europe because it was utilised as a buffer territory.
  • But in earlier times, the area was subsumed into the Khmer Empire, before the Kingdom of Ayutthaya emerged in the fourteenth century, incorporating the slightly earlier Sukhothai kingdom.
  • The Burmese then became the dominant power in the region. The Siamese kingdom grew stronger again, establishing its first capital in Thonburi, and then over the river in present day Bangkok.
  • Since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, Thailand has periodically alternated between democracy and military rule.

Getting into Thailand

I’m feeling really excited about returning to vibrant Bangkok. I’m rapidly brought back down to earth by the queues at airport immigration. They make Miami airport look like a stroll in the park. It’s a new airport building and the wooden booths have been replaced by metal desks, but the systems don’t seem to have improved at all. Neither does the attitude of the airport officials until I ask the luggage belt supervisor what his name is and then he suddenly becomes highly solicitous.

There are so many placard waving meet and greeters that it takes me another 30 minutes to find the lady waiting for me. My name is thoughtfully obscured by a stack of suitcases on a trolley. Waiting gives me time to observe the great, the good and the decidedly different. One long haired bearded guy has just sashayed past in a tigerskin top, a red velvet skirt and pirate boots.

How to Behave in Thailand

  • In Thailand your head is considered high and holy and your feet are considered low and dirty. It is considered very rude to raise your feet above someone else's head (especially if they are older than you). Pointing at or touching something with the feet is also considered rude
  • It is strictly against the law to criticise the monarchy - lèse-majesté.

Is Thailand Safe to Visit?

  • The FCO warns of incidents of gun violence (rare), robbery, drink spiking, rape and violence (especially at full moon parties). They say that there have been instances where the victims of crime have been identified and threatened with prosecution by the police for damaging Thailand’s reputation. they also say that posting images on social media of people drinking alcohol or wearing inappropriate clothing can result in fines and/or imprisonment , both for the person who uploaded the images and the people in them.
  • There are very heavy penalties for drugs use/importation
  • There are very many visitors and I have never experienced any problems.

Is Thailand a Poor Country?

Thailand is relatively wealthy compared to other countries in South East Asia, but ten percent of the population still live below the poverty line.

What to Do in Thailand?

You're spoilt for choice here:

  • Plenty of islands with stunning beaches - Koh Samui (colonic irrigation!)and Phuket
  • Krabi
  • Capital Bangkok
  • And north overland - rainforests and historic temples and cities to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and the Mekong - gateway to Laos and Cambodia and Vietnam. You can travel by road, train or plane.

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