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Thailand | LukeTravels.com
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If any nation could be considered the archetypal Southeast Asian country, it would be the Kingdom of Thailand (Muang Thai). From the mid-1980s until 1997, Thailand experienced a booming economy and double-digit growth. But in June of 1997, due to a combination of factors, the Thai economy experienced an abrupt reversal, and growth slowed to less than two percent. Similar economic problems have recently been experienced by other Asian-Pacific countries.

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is one of the world's most dynamic cities. Travelers satiated with Bangkok's hustle-and-bustle may head north to Chiang Mai, which is very tourist-oriented. Lovers of water sports frequent Pattaya, a sophisticated beach resort; those who prefer a less hectic environment go to Hua Hin.

The shopping in Thailand is unmatched anywhere in Asia. Bargains on silk, electronics, gold, and crafts abound among thousands of stalls packing city sidewalks. Chiang Mai is home to perhaps the most prolific handicrafts trade in the kingdom, and the island province of Phuket is worth a stop for its shops as well as its quiet white beaches. Restaurants offer a break from shopping and touring. Students of art and history might prefer to spend time investigating the architecture of the many wats, or temples, inside which can be found the best examples of Thai sculpture.   HotelsCombined.com

Thailand is also known for the honesty and generosity of its people. Thais seem to have an extraordinary capacity for giving. Thailand is a wonderful place to visit on any East Asian itinerary.


The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
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The Kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Its shape and geography divide into four natural regions : the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South.

The country has seventy-six provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand's revered Royal Family, with His Majesty the King recognized as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist religion and Upholder of all religions.


Bangkok, Thailand
Photo Copyright J. Donnellan

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, the present king. The King has reigned for more than half a century, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch. Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. With its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality, the Kingdom is a never-ending source of fascination and pleasure for international visitors.

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Thailand Geography: The Four Regions

1) The mountainous North, with its profusion of multi-colored orchids, fascinating native handicrafts and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches;

2) The high Northeast Plateau, which still jealously guards its many archaeological and anthropological mysteries;

3) The Central Plain, one of the world's most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas with colorful traditional culture and way of life as well as the sandy beaches of the East Coast and vibrant cosmopolitan Bangkok;

4) The peninsular South where the unspoiled beaches and idyllic islands complement economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.

Thailand Travel Facts

Diversity in Thailand: Thai (80%), Chinese (10%), Malay (3%), and the rest are minorities (Mons, Khmers, hill tribes) Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and has thus produced a degree of ethnic diversity. Integration is such, however, that culturally and socially there is enormous unity.

Languages in Thailand: Spoken and written Thai is largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and some European Languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.

Population of Thailand: Thais are well-known for their friendliness and hospitality. A large majority of over 62 million citizens of Thailand are ethic Thai, along with strong communities whose ethnic origins lie in China, India and elsewhere.

About seven million people reside in the capital city of Bangkok.

Religion in Thailand: Buddhism (95%), Muslim (4%), others (1%)
 

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Government in Thailand: Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932. Parliament is composed of 2 houses, The House of Representatives and the Senate. Both representatives and senators are elected by the people. A prime minister elected from among the representatives leads the government. The country is divided into 76 provinces. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration comes under an elected governor. Appointed provincial governors administer the other 75 provinces (Changwat), which are divided into districts (Amphoe), sub-districts (Tambon) and villages (Mu Ban).

The Flag of Thailand: The red, white, and blue stripes symbolize the nation, Buddhism, and the monarchy, respectively.

Time Zone in Thailand: The time in Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+7 hours GMT).


The Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand
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Climate in Thailand: Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons-hot and dry from February to May (average temperature 34 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 29 degrees Celsius and 87% humidity); and cool from November to January (temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius with a drop in humidity).

Much lower temperatures are experienced in the North and Northeast during nighttime. The South has a tropical rainforest climate with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round.

Electricity in Thailand: The electric current is 220 volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use. Travelers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will make available 110-volt transformers. Also, the metric system is used throughout Thailand. Numerals on vehicle speed ohmmeters, highway markers and speed limits all indicate kilometers.

Communication in Thailand: Thailand has been expanding its information service for residents and tourists alike through the Internet system. Services are now available at Thailand's leading hotels and at the many " Cyber-Cafes " that are cropping up in all major tourist destinations.

All of Thailand's leading hotels offer facsimile (fax) and e-mail services. Numerous private businesses offer such facilities, most often in conjunction with translation services.

Thailand's mail service is reliable and efficient. Major hotels provide basic postal services on their premises. Provincial post offices are usually open from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

International Roaming Mobile Phone : A Subscriber Identity Module Card (SIM Card) is now available for Thai and foreign customers who are traveling around for work. The SIM Card must be used in conjunction with a Digital GSM mobile phone within the 900-MHz range or a Digital PCN mobile phone within the 1800-MHz range.

Tap Water in Thailand: Tap water is clean but drinking from it directly should be avoided. Bottled water is recommended.

Currency of Thailand: The Thai unit of currency is the BAHT. One baht is divided into 100 satang. Notes are in denominations of 1,000 (brown), 500 (purple), 100 (red), 50 (blue), 20 (green) and 10 (brown) baht. Coins consist of 25 satang, 50 satang, 1 baht, 5 baht and 10 baht. 

Major currency bills and travelers cheques are cashed easily at hotels, tourist shops, all provincial banks, shopping centers and money changers. Travelers cheques are best changed in banks (you will need your passport).

Rates of exchange at banks or authorized money changers are better than those at hotels and department stores. Any amount of foreign currency may be brought into the country.

Visitors may take foreign currency out of Thailand, but no more than the amount stated in the customs declaration made on arrival. Travelers leaving Thailand may take out no more than 50,000 baht per person in Thai currency. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Tipping: Tipping is not a usual practice in Thailand although it is becoming more common. Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge to the bill. Taxi drivers do not require a tip, but the gesture is appreciated and 10-20 baht is acceptable for porters.

Bargaining: Fixed prices are the norm in department stores, but at most other places bargaining is to be expected. Generally, you can obtain a final figure of between 10-40% lower than the original asking price. Much depends on your skills and the shopkeeper's mood. But remember, Thais appreciate good manners and a sense of humor. With patience and a broad smile, you will not only get a better price, you will also enjoy shopping as an art.

V.A.T. (Tax) Refunds: Visitors entering the Kingdom on a tourist visa are entitled to refund of the 7% V.A.T. on goods purchased at registered retail outlets.

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