THAILAND

The Kingdom of Thailand originally called Siam is a Buddhist country sharing its borders with Myanmar in the west, Laos and Cambodia in the east and Malaysia in the south. 
Its exotic and tasty food, a tropical climate, unique and warm culture, beautiful sandy beaches, tropical lush green jungle, and friendly Thai people makes Thailand the most popular tourist destination in southeast Asia.  However, despite the flow of international tourists, Thailand retains its quintessential Thai-ness, with a culture and history uniquely Thai and a carefree people famous for their charming Thai smiles.
 
 

 

CULTURE


Thai culture is influenced by Theravada school of Buddhism.  Thai temples known as Wats and its orange-robed monk inhabitants are part of a Thai life.  However, several pre-Buddhist traditions still survive and make an inroad into Thai’s way of life.  Amongst them is the spirit house that can be found in most houses and properties in Thailand.  Thai traditional arts, dancing and music is also influenced by these pre-Buddhist religious rituals.
Besides the mainland Thai culture, many other minority cultures also exist in Thailand.  These includes the “hill tribes” in the mountainous north, the Muslims culture in the south and the indigenous island culture of island tribes of the Andaman Sea.
 

WEATHER


Situated in a tropical zone, Thailand is hot and humid all year round with temperature ranging from 28 - 35C or 82 - 95F.  August is the rainy season where heavy rain can be expected, especially in the late afternoon .  For some tourists, this is quite an experience being in a tropical zone.  So, if you are planning to be outdoors during this time, it is advised that you prepare an umbrella and comfortable shoes and be ready to get wet.
 

CURRENCY


Baht is the currency of Thailand.
There are six coins and six notes:
• 25 and 50 satang coins - nearly worthless and only readily accepted by buses, supermarkets and 7-11 convenience stores
• 1, 5, 2 and 10 baht coins
• 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 baht notes.
The most useful bills tend to be 20s and 100s, as many small shops and stalls don't carry much change, and prefer "small money".
ATMs can be found in all cities and large towns, and international withdrawals are not a problem. ATMs are available at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) after collecting your bag and customs clearance.  However, there is a minimum 150 baht surcharge for use of foreign ATM cards in all banks.
Credit cards are widely accepted in the tourist industry, at larger tourist-oriented restaurants, shopping malls and grocery stores, and shops catering to tourists, but most local stores do not accept them

 

SHOPPING

 
Thailand is a shopper's paradise. Particularly good buys are clothing, both cheap locally produced streetwear and fancy Thai silk, and all sorts of handicrafts.
A Thai specialty is the night markets where a variety of vendors from designers to handicraft sellers have stalls selling goods which cannot normally be found in malls and day markets.
 

FOOD


Thai food is most commonly eaten with fork and spoon. Hold the spoon in your right hand and use it to eat, and reserve the fork for piling food onto your spoon. Chopsticks are only employed for noodle soups and East Asian-style dishes.
Thai food is meant for sharing. Everybody gets their own plate of rice and tiny soup bowl, but all the other dishes are laid out in the middle of the table and you're free to eat what you wish.
Thai cuisine is characterized by balance and strong flavors, especially lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander, the combination of which gives Thai food its distinctive taste.
 

MEDICAL TREATMENT


Many of Thailand’s finest hospitals have received Clinical Care Program Certification (CCPC), a reputable standard that assures excellence and quality in the care and treatment of a certain number of specific serious conditions, including many types of cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, primary stroke, heart failure, joint replacement, and other major diseases and afflictions.
 

RESPECT


Thais are polite people and, while remarkably tolerant of foreigners, you'll find that you will get more respect if you in turn treat them and their customs with respect.
The traditional greeting is known as the wai, where you press your hands together as in prayer and bow slightly.  This is derived from the Hindu cultural influence from India, and still widely practised. Among Thais, there are strict rules of hierarchy that dictate how and when the wai should be given. In brief, inferiors salute superiors first. You should not wai service people or street vendors. The higher your hands go, the more respectful you are. You will also often see Thais doing a wai as they walk past temples and spirit houses.
 

DRESS CODE


Personal appearance is very important in Thailand as a measure of respect to other people, and you will find that dressing appropriately means that you are shown more respect in return. Traditionally, Thais are modest and conservative dressers. At a minimum your clothes should be neat and clean.
Taking off one's shoes at temples and private homes is mandatory etiquette.
It is best to play it safe with wats and other sacred sites in Thailand; your dress should be unambiguously modest and cover your entire torso and most of your limbs. For men, ankle-length pants are mandatory; on top, t-shirts are acceptable, though a button-front or polo shirt would be best. Women should make sure that your clothing covers at least your shoulders and your knees and some places may require that you wear ankle-length pants or skirts and long sleeved tops. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are highly inappropriate, as are short skirts. The rules are even more strict for foreign visitors, so even if you see a local in shorts it's not OK for everyone.
 

MONKS


Buddhist monks are meant to avoid the temptation of women, and in particular they do not touch women or take things from women's hands. Women should make every effort to make way for monks on the street and give them room so they do not have to make contact with you. Women should avoid offering anything to a monk with their hands. Objects or donations should be placed in front of a monk so he can pick it up, or place it on a special cloth he carries with him. Monks will sometimes be aided by a layman who will accept things from women merit-makers on their behalf.