Thailand Introduction

Thailand is a wondrous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands. Along with a fascinating history and a unique culture that includes delectable Thai food and massage, Thailand features a modern capital city, and friendly people who epitomize Thailand’s “land of smiles” reputation.

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 comprises 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and center 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.
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.

Thailand can best be described as tropical and humid for the majority of the country during most of the year. The area of Thailand north of Bangkok has a climate determined by three seasons whilst the southern peninsular region of Thailand has only two.

In northern Thailand the seasons are clearly defined. Between November and May the weather is mostly dry, however this is broken up into the periods November to February and March to May. The later of these two periods has the higher relative temperatures as although the northeast monsoon does not directly effect the northern area of Thailand, it does cause cooling breezes from November to February. The other northern season is from May to November and is dominated by the southwest monsoon, during which time rainfall in the north is at its heaviest.
The southern region of Thailand really has only two seasons — the wet and the dry. These seasons do not run at the same time on both the east and west side of the peninsular. On the west coast the southwest monsoon brings rain and often heavy storms from April through to October, whilst on the east coast the most rain falls between September and December.

Overall the southern parts of Thailand get by far the most rain with around 2,400 millimeters every year, compared with the central and northern regions of Thailand, both of which get around 1,400 millimeters.

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

Thailand is one of the most strongly Buddhist countries in the world. The national religion is Theravada Buddhism, a branch of Hinayana Buddhism, practiced by more than 90 % of all Thais.

The remainder of the population adheres to lslam, Christianity, Hinduism and other faiths all of which are allowed full freedom of expression. Buddhism continues to cast strong influence on daily life. Senior monks are highly revered. Thus, in towns and villages, the temple (wat) is the heart of social and religious life. Meditation, one of the most popular aspects of Buddhism, is practiced regularly by numerous Thai as a means of promoting inner peace and happiness. Visitors, too, can learn the fundamentals of this practice at several centres in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country.

Throughout her long history, Thailand has gently absorbed immigrants. Many were skilled as writers, painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians and architects, and helped enrich indigenous culture. People inhabiting Thailand today share rich ethnic diversity – mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian and Indian stock – with the result that there is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite Thais, statuesque Thais, round-faced Thais, dark-skinned Thais and light-skinned Thais. Some 80% of all Thais are connected in some way with agriculture which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that help make Thailand such a distinctive country.

Light, loose cotton clothing is best. Generally clothes which ‘breathe’ well are practical in this tropical climate. Sweaters are needed during Cool Season evenings or if visiting mountainous areas and remote national parks. Jackets and ties are dress code in some leading hotels.

Polite behavior is welcome everywhere, and what is considered polite in other countries is probably considered polite in Thailand, too. However, there are a few cultural pitfalls, mainly social and religious taboos, the breaking of which can cause offense:
For example, Thais revere their royal family. Even social malcontents who ignore legal and community standards refuse to tolerate a faintly implied slight on the Thai monarch.
Outward expressions of anger are regarded as crude and boorish. The visitor who remains calm and smiles appreciatively will find all sorts of doors open to him.
Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines. They should never go shirtless, or in shorts, hot pants or other unsuitable attire.
Shoes should be removed when entering private Thai homes; chapels where Buddhist images are kept; and any of the Islamic community’s mosques.
Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as being a sacred object. Never climb onto one to take a photograph or do any thing that might show lack of respect.
Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. Westernized Thai couples may hold hands but that’s as far as it goes in polite society.
It is considered rude to point your foot at a person or object.
Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, both literally and figuratively. Therefore, they do not appreciate anyone patting them there, even as a friendly gesture.

Thai cuisine is distinctive, thanks to the liberal use of spicy ingredients, and combines the best of Chinese and Indian culinary traditions – noodles, curries, sweet and sour dishes, lengthily cooked and fast-cooked ingredients, exotic spices and condiments – while retaining its own very special character.
Health Regulations :
No inoculations or vaccinations are required unless the visitor is coming from or passing through contaminated areas.

Customs Regulations
For personal use, one liter of alcoholic beverage, 200 cigarettes plus reasonable personal effects (such as one still camera, one movie or video camera, personal jewelry, etc.) may be brought in duty free and taken out on departure. Unlimited foreign currency, traveler’s cheques and money orders may be brought into the country but any amount over USD 10,000.- must be declared on entry. Amount taken out of Thailand may not exceed amount taken into the country.