Culture The earliest identifiably Thai kingdom was founded in Sukhothai in 1238, reaching its zenith under King Ramkhamhaeng in the 14th century before falling under the control of the kingdom of Ayutthaya, which ruled most of present-day Thailand and much of today’s Laos and Cambodia as well, eventually also absorbing the northern kingdom of Lanna. Ayutthaya was sacked in 1767 by the Burmese, but King Taksin regrouped and founded a new capital at Thonburi. His successor, General Chakri, moved across the river to Bangkok and became King Rama I, the founding father of the Chakri dynasty that rules (constitutionally) to this day.
Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been colonised by a foreign power, and is fiercely proud of that fact. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. During World War II, while Japan conquered the rest of Southeast Asia, only Thailand was not conquered by the Japanese due to smart political moves. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. After a string of military dictatorships and quickly toppled civilian Prime Ministers, Thailand finally stabilized into a fair approximation of a democracy and the economy boomed through tourism and industry. Above it all presided King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), the world’s longest-reigning monarch and a deeply loved and respected figure of near-mythic proportions.
In September 2006, a swift and bloodless military coup overthrew populist tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra’s democratically elected but widely criticized government, exposing a fault line between the urban elite that has ruled Thailand and the rural masses that supported Thaksin. Thaksin went into exile and a series of unstable governments followed, with the successors of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party and the royalist-conservative People’s Alliance for Democracy duelling both behind the scenes and, occasionally, out in the streets, culminating in Bangkok’s airports being seized and shut down for a week in November 2008. The political scene remains in flux and the direction of the country once the ailing King passes away is a major question mark because of the perceived inadequacy of the current heir.
Thailand is largely tropical, so it’s hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F), a degree of relief provided only in the mountains in the far north of Thailand. The careful observer will, however, note three seasons:
Cool: From November to the end of February, it doesn’t rain much and temperatures are at their lowest, although you will barely notice the difference in the south and will only need to pack a sweater if hiking in the northern mountains, where temperatures can fall as low as 5°C. This is the most popular time to visit and, especially around Christmas and New Year’s or at Chinese New Year a few weeks later, finding flights and accommodation can be expensive and difficult.
Hot: From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F). Pleasant enough when sitting on the beach with a drink in hand, but not the best time of year to go temple-tramping in Bangkok.
Rainy: From July to October, although it only really gets under way in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country. This doesn’t mean it rains non-stop, but when it does it pours and flooding is not uncommon.
There are local deviations to these general patterns. In particular, the south-east coast of Thailand (including Ko Samui) has the rains reversed, with the peak season being May-October and the rainy off season in November-February.
Time & Date: GMT +7
The baht (/bɑːt/; Thai: บาท, pronounced [bàːt]; sign: ฿; code: THB) is the currency of Thailand. It is subdivided into 100 satang (สตางค์, pronounced [sətāːŋ]). The issuance of currency is the responsibility of the Bank of Thailand. According to SWIFT, as of October 2014, the Thai baht ranked as the tenth most frequently used world payment currency
Thailand, and its neighbor Laos, are dominated by languages of the Southwestern Tai family. Karen languages are spoken along the border with Burma, Khmer is spoken near Cambodia and Malay in the south near Malaysia. The following table comprises all 62 ethnic groups recognised by the Royal Thai Government in the 2011 Country Report to the UN Committee responsible for the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, available from the Department of Rights and Liberties Promotion of the Thai Ministry of Justice
When buying your travel insurance, always check the small print – some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which could be anything from scuba diving to horse riding. You should check whether the medical coverage is on a pay first, claim later basis and, more importantly, ensure that your medical coverage includes the cost of medical evacuation.
A tourist visa is a stamp or document needed so you can stay in Thailand for a specific period of time, on the purpose of tourism. It is stamped on your passport upon arrival at the airport in Thailand, or it can be obtained in your home country through the Thai embassy or consulate located there. The tourist visa can also be extended if necessary. There are certain countries who made agreements with the government of Thailand so their citizens can benefit from the visa exemption when entering Thailand as tourists. Requirements for a Tourist VisaWhen applying for a tourist visa, certain documents and fees are needed to obtain one. The documents and the fee are subject to change anytime and without prior notice, so it would be a good idea for an aspiring thai tourist to inquire for the right information before flying off to Thailand.
• Passport or travel document with a validity not less than 6 months
• Visa application form (filled out)
• One(1) recent 4x6cm. photograph of the applicant
Round-trip air ticket or e-ticket (paid in full)
Proof of financial means (20,000 baht per person/40,000 baht per family)
Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Udon Thani International Airport
Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport
Chiang Mai International Airport
Hat Yai International Airport
Don Mueang International Airport
Phuket International Airport
Surat Thani International Airport
Currency: Thai baht
Population: 68.9 million
Official languages: Thai