Thailand

Capital city: Bangkok

Language: Thai

Temperature: 24°C – 35°C

Best time of year to visit: Year round

Time zone: GMT + 7 

Currency: Thai Baht (฿, THB)

Exchange rate to RMB: 1 THB = 0.185 RMB (April 2016)

Plug converter: Most electrical outlets will fit a plug with either two horizontally opposed flat pins or two round pins in the same configuration.

Country code: + 66

Flights: Regular direct flights from Chinese major cities

Highlights

Nicknamed the ‘land of smiles’, Thailand is a warm and exotic holiday destination with a free-spirited energy. It offers every kind of atmosphere from bustling cities to isolated island getaways. Known for its authentic street food and great hospitality, this friendly country is the ideal destination for beach lovers, nature explorers and food addicts.

Nature

  • Nature explorers: Thailand’s mountains in the North, islands of all sizes in the South, intriguing lime caves and diverse fauna and flora make it ideal for those searching for nature and adventure.
  • Beach lovers: Miles and miles of intact white sand and crystal clear waters, that, in a nutshell describes Thailand’s beaches which have to be considered as amongst the best in the world.
  • Food addicts: Soups, curries, noodles, fresh fish, sea food, meat, you name it, they have it and most importantly it tastes amazing! Even better is to accompany it with a delicious fresh fruit shake or fresh young coconut.

History

Thailand’s History can be traced back to the Neolithic period, but the country we know today was actually formed in the 13th century with the establishment of an alliance between three kingdoms: Lan Na, Sukhothai, and Phayao. During the 14th and 15th centuries the Ayutthaya Kingdom, with Ayutthaya as its capital city, experienced several wars with neighbouring country Burma until its fall at the end of the 1700s.

Thailand’s current dynasty started in 1782 when King Rama I ascended the throne. This is when the country’s capital city was moved to Bangkok where it remains to this day.

A coup d’état in 1932, forced Thailand to change from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. Afterwards, in 1939, the country’s name was officially changed from Siam to Prathet Thai, or Thailand which means ‘land of the free’. It illustrates the fact that Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country which has never been colonised.

During World War II, the Thai military government sided with the Japanese and allowed US forces to use their territory during the Vietnam War.

In the years that followed, the country move repeatedly between civilian and military administration. The current king, Rama IX, reached the throne in 1946 which makes him both Thailand’s longest reigning monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state.

Culture

Religion:

The majority of Thais adhere to Buddhism. There are also 5% Muslims and some Christian and Hindu minorities. Many Buddhist temples can be found all over the country with some of the most famous being located in Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Thailand’s former capital city Ayutthaya. These are ideal places to better understand the country’s culture as well as take the time to slow down and meditate.

Greetings:

Thai greet others and each other with the ‘Wai’ which consists of closing your hands and a slight bowing your head. You will very quickly pick up the habit too.

Dress code:

Informal dress is widely accepted though beachwear should be limited to the beach and topless sunbathing avoided.

Smoking:

Since 2002, it is illegal to smoke in public establishments, for example bars, restaurants and markets. Anyone who does not complain with these regulations will face fines.

Cultural ‘faux pas’:

  • Remember to remove your shoes before entering someone's home or a temple.
  • Avoid to publicly display anger, Thais regard such behaviour as boorish and a loss of 'face'.
  • Similarly, restrain on publicly displaying affection between men and women.
  • Do not touch anyone on the head or to point one's feet at someone, it is considered rude.
  • Finally, the Thai Royal Family is regarded as almost sacred so respect should be shown.

Food

Overview:

Thailand has one of the world’s greatest cuisines which is actually a fusion of flavours from the spice trade coming from the south, and tribal cooking traditions originating from the far north.

Many travellers will have already tasted the world famous Thai curries or Pad Thai ahead of their visit but might still be surprised by both the astonishing variety and complexity of Thai food.

The star of any Thai meal is rice, generally fragrant jasmine rice or sticky glutinous rice. It then serves as a cool counterpoint to the hot flavours of Thai curries and stir-fries though not all Thai dishes are spicy.

Food specialities:

  • Tom yam: A hot and sour soup prepared with kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, chilli and lime juice and garnished with either prawns or chicken.
  • Kaeng khiao wan: Thailand’s famous green curry. It is based on coconut milk, fish sauce and a curry paste made from green chillies, onions, ginger and lemongrass.
  • Gang pet: A hot curry made with coconut milk, herbs, garlic, chilli, shrimp paste, coriander and seasoning.
  • Som tam: Pounded green papaya salad with green beans, dried shrimp, and peanuts in a lime juice, chilli and palm sugar dressing.
  • Pad Thai: Stir-fried rice noodles, served with shrimp or chicken and garnished with egg and peanuts.
  • Satay: A Malay-inspired dish, made from grilled chicken served with a peanut, shallot and palm sugar dip.
  • Kaeng phanaeng: A mild coconut curry made with a curry paste including roasted spices and beef chicken or pork.
  • Tod man pla: Thai fishcakes, flavoured with kaffir lime leaves and served with sweet chilli sauce and a cucumber relish.
  • Kaeng massaman: A mild Thai curry with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, potatoes and beef or lamb, inspired by Indian and Persian cooking.

Drinks specialties:

  • Chang: Most affordable Thai beer.
  • Singha: Considered by most as Thailand’s best local beer.
  • Mekhong: Thai whisky, usually served with coke and ice.
  • Sam Song: Thailand’s most popular rum.
  • Cha yen: Thai iced tea, made with locally grown tea, sugar and milk.
  • Coconut milk or Coconut water: Most of the time served straight from its shell.

Shopping

Thailand provides a wide range of day and night markets where a variety of souvenirs such as textiles, handicrafts, jewellery, etc. are sold. Bangkok and Chiang Mai have the widest markets though these are available across the country. Souvenirs are of good value and it is common and widely accepted to bargain. The quality however may vary from individual shop to shop. 

For those who prefer shopping in a more quiet and air-conditioned atmosphere, duty-free shops and malls exist in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Had Yai. Some of them are located in the city itself, others at airports. The most famous brand of such complex is called King Power.

A Value Added Tax (VAT) of 7% can be refunded on shop or malls labelled 'VAT Refund for Tourists' or at the airport on departure. In order to obtain VAT, travellers must complete a VAT Refund Application at time of purchase, claim within 60 days, and might have to show the purchased goods.

What to pack?

  • Beach and swimming appropriate clothes
  • Comfortable clothes for the heat
  • Sun screen, hat and sun glasses
  • Rainwear and waterproof clothes
  • Flip-flops or sandals