THAILAND:  Kingdom of Promises

Thailand, formerly known as Siam is one of the top tourist destinations in Asia.  Its full name is Kingdom of Thailand and has a population of approximately 65 million which 95% of them are Buddhists, making it a very strong Buddhist nation.  When it comes to land size, it can be compared with France and to some extent bigger than California.  Thailand offers a kingdom of promises to every traveler. Be prepared to be enchanted by its spectacular natural beauty, historic temples, mouthwatering food, breathtaking remains of ancient kingdoms and remarkable warmth and friendliness of its people.

Nestled in the heart of Asia, Thailand serves as the gateway to Indochina and South China.  On the east is Laos and Cambodia, at its south is the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia and in its west, you can find the Andaman Sea and Myanmar.  Thailand’s regions consist of immense rice fields in the Central plains, extensive coastline and tropical islands in the South, mountains and lush forest in the North and semi-arid farm lands and plateaus in the Northeast.

Bangkok is its capital and biggest city.  This is where all major cultural, political, commercial and industrial activities occur.  It is also the base of Thailand’s venerated Royal Family.  It is a constitutional monarchy therefore, is ruled by a King.  The King also functions as the Head of State and the Armed Forces and Upholder of the Buddhist religion and all religions in the country.  Its present King, King Bhumibol Adulyadej or simply King Rama IX is the longest ruling Thai monarch. 

Thailand is very proud of its history.   It is distinct in Southeast Asia because no European conqueror was able to bring it to its heel.  None of them were able to colonize this country.  But given this, Thailand has embraced a wide array of cultures and traditions, making it culturally diverse and unquestionably interesting.

There is really much to learn about this fascinating place.  It offers everything and anything a traveler can wish for.  No matter how different or same Thailand is to your home, it promises new experiences of sight, taste, sound and attitude.  Visiting Thailand is a journey to an exciting discovery.

So, when is the best time to go?  Thailand’s climate can be depicted as tropical but its weather is by and largely ruled by monsoons.  The monsoons or the “rainy season” falls between the months of July and can last until November.  This period can be uncomfortably and erratically sticky.  This is then followed by a cool dry season from November to the middle of February.  You can expect it to be hot and humid by March to June.  As you see, it would be best to make your visit between the months of November and February when the weather is fine and the beaches are in its nicest.  This is also the time where most national and regional festivities are celebrated.  But there’s a catch if you go during these months.  You’ll be sure to find the streets of the main cities of Thailand crowded so if you hate crowds, consider coming during the least jam-packed months, which is between April to June and September to October.  You can definitely avail of discounted accommodations during this off-peak season.

Once in Thailand, you’ll be sure to have a very hectic fun schedule.  There are lots of things to do and places to go.  If you love to shop, Thailand will surely offer anything and everything that is fit to sell.  You can choose goods from its floating markets all the way to its air-conditioned supermalls.  Thailand’s floating markets will surely amaze you.  It is a completely different way of shopping for food.  Thai canoes gently working their way through the canals are filled up with sweets, meat, colorful fruits and fresh vegetables.  But if you are a mall person, the Siam Paragon is the place for you.  It is one of the largest and most stylish shopping mall in Asia. 

Want to go back in time?  Visit Thailand’s olden capital, Ayuthaya.  Here you’ll find numerous ancient temples and ruins, the most popular ones are the large statue of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Phra Sanphet and Wat Mongkhon Bophit, Wat Chai Mongkol’s bronze statues and Wat Panangherng.  This trip will surely give you a glimpse into what Thailand used to be when it was still known as Siam. 

If you are looking for some adventure, go to the Chiang Dao Elephant Camp.  The exciting elephant ride along the neighboring forest to village of Lisu hilltribe will absolutely give you the high!

As you may know, these are just of the few promises of the Kingdom of Thailand.  Leisure activities are never-ending -- have a massage, sunbathe, shop, drink, dine and the list goes on!  It is a living dream, a paradise in its own right.  But before you go booking that ticket and packing those bags, you may want to know a few more things that would, without a doubt keep you out of trouble during your stay in Thailand.

When visiting shrines or worship places like temples, dress decently.  Avoid wearing clothes like skimpy tops, sporty shorts or any clothes that is too revealing.  Wearing shoes is allowed when walking around the temple’s compounds but not inside it where the Buddha’s image is kept.  Each Buddha image is considered holy.  Never disrespect it by climbing onto it just to take pictures.  If you’re a woman, never touch a Buddhist monk.  They are not allowed to be touched or to touch any of Eve’s daughters.  Thais also have very profound and traditional veneration for the Royal Family that everybody should be cautious not to show any form of insolence.

You should also avoid touching Thai people on their heads.  They deem it literally and figuratively as the highest part of the body and remember to keep your feet on the ground.  Avoid using them to point at an object or people, it is considered very impolite.  Thais don’t usually shake hands when greeting someone.  As a form of greeting, they’ll press their palms together like praying.  This gesture is called wai. 

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