Thailand – The Ultimate Guide

Since my first visit to Bangkok, I have deeply appreciated the warm and friendly smiles of the people. Relished the superb tasting food. Soaked in the fascinating culture and sights. She is truly one of the Best Places to Visit in Asia. And I share detailed information about her in this article titled Thailand – The Ultimate Guide.

I have been to many cities of Thailand, and I have visited each many times. So, I will be sharing much of my personal travel experience to this amazing country.

In this ultimate guide, I do my best to provide you as much information as you need to get here. You will learn more about Thailand. Where is this country? The people, the culture, the festivals they celebrate.

What are the interesting attractions? What food to enjoy? And which are the best hotels or resorts to stay at?


About Thailand

Thailand has been dubbed the Land of Smiles. And I found this to be so apt. The people are friendly. The ones I met, for business or leisure, were always warm, and with a ready smile.

Another name for Thailand is Siam. This is her former name. Actually, I like that name, and I notice many people still call her by that name with fondness.

My first travel to Thailand was to her capital, Bangkok. I was there for a business visit. I have returned many times, both for business, and as a tourist. And I must say I enjoyed the city every time.

I have als visited the other popuar cities in Thailand. They are Chiangmai, Pattaya and Phuket. I have heard of Chiangrai and Hua Hin, and I plan to visit these cities, and many others in Thailand soon.

The country is also an ideal getaway for those who love nature. There are magnificent mountains, plains, hills and lush forests to explore. And also pristine beaches at islands such as Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, Krabi and many more.


Where is Thailand?

Since the advent of the Internet, and the availability of online maps, I have enjoyed finding out where each country or city I visit is located. I find it fascinating to know which part of the world I am at when I arrive at a place.

It captivates me that Thailand is actually at the center of the Southeast Asian Indochinese Peninsula. And around her, there are Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Along a part of the west coast of Thailand, there are beaches that face the Andaman Sea. No wonder this place has such beautiful islands and seasides!

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Who Are The People In Thailand?

During my first business travel to Bangkok, I learned that the people of Thailand are called Thais. There are over 69 million people all over Thailand. The largest city is Bangkok, and there are at least 8 million people there.

Thais are diverse in ethnicity and race. There are Chinese, Malays, Mon, Khmer, Lao, Saoi or Kui, Karen, and Indian. There are also the hill tribes in the north.

Most of the population live in the rice growing areas of central, northeastern and northern regions. About 34% of them stay in urban cities.


What Is The Culture In Thailand?

The different races and religions of the people of Thailand created a diverse culture that is rich. I have observed that the Thais are generally easy going, laid back, tolerant of other cultures, and non-aggressive. I believe this is partly due to the heavy influence of Buddhist teachings.

Here are some videos that explain more about the Thai culture.

Here is a video advising you on what to do and what not to do in Thailand.

Travel Tip: Please respect their culture

The Thai culture can be a shock to some people. Here is a video by an American in Thailand about 10 things he found strange.

Travel Tip: Please respect the Thai culture.


What Are The Religions In Thailand?

When I was in Thailand, I could see many Buddhist temples. And I understand from my Thai colleagues and friends that 95% of the people in Thailand are Buddhists. They mostly practice Theravada Buddhism.

There is also the freedom to practice other religions. These are such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikh, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, and Animism.


What Is The Common Language Spoken In Thailand?

Since the first time I heard Thai, I loved listening to it. I find it so gentle and melodic. Thai would be one of the languages I would like to learn.

Besides the Thai language, many locals speak English, too. Especially those in the service industry such as those working in hotels, food and beverage, and retail. As a visitor, you can easily move about, and get things done.


What Are The Festivals and Public Holidays In Thailand?

While Thailand celebrates many international holidays, I do find that most of their public holidays revolve around Buddhism. It is the same for their festivals.

Here are some of the public holidays and festivals in Thailand:


What Are The Public Holidays In Thailand?

January 1, New Year

Usually in January or February, Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is one of the most famous holidays in Thailand. The best place to see is at Yaowarat, the Chinatown of Bangkok. There are lion and dragon dance performances as well as musical and dance performances too. Plus, the cacophony of firecrackers for a loud and exciting celebration.

Usually February or March, Makha Bucha Day

April, Chakri Day

Held across the country, this celebrates the Chakri Memorial Day. The holiday honors King Rama the First’s accession to the throne. This day is to commemorate the establishment of the Chakri dynasty, which is the current dynasty in Thailand today.

May 1, Labour Day

May, Coronation of King Vajiralongkorn

May, Visakha Bucha Day

Is this the same as Vesak Day or Wesak Day? I believe it is! The whole nation celebrates. And it is massive! Really beautiful and splendid. So good that I have to share three videos of how the Thais celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

June 3, Queen Suthida’s Birthday

July, Asahna Bucha Day

This holiday celebrates the first sermon given by the Lord Buddha.

July, Khao Phansa Day

July 28 & 29, King Vajiralongkorn’s Birthday

August 12, Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s Birthday

October 13 & 14, Passing of His Majesty the Late King

October 23, Chulalongkorn Memorial Day

December 5, His Majesty the Late King’s Birthday

December 10, Constitution Day

December 25, Christmas Day


What Are The Festivals In Thailand?

Songkran

Songkran started as a Buddhist tradition practiced during the start of the traditional Thai New Year. Water was sprinkled lightly to cleanse and purify a person for the new year. People would also do spring cleaning for their homes, and gently pour water over Buddha statues.

Today, Songkran has evolved into the most fun and enjoyable festival in Thailand. Everywhere you go, people are splashing water at each other set to music with drinking and dancing. Any method to send water to people is game; water guns, hose pipes, buckets, etc. There are even water fights. All done in good fun.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival

When I visited Chiang Mai, my friend brought me to a market where flowers of many types are sold. It was really beautiful. So it comes tome as no surprise that you can watch breath taking floral displays everywhere in Chiang Mai during this festival.

There is a parade with impressively designed floats adorned with flowers of every size, color and species. Some floats come with drum and dance performances. If you really appreciate flowers, this festival is best for you.

Phi Ta Khon, also known as the Ghost Festival

This festival looks very similar to Halloween. It has locals dressed in costumes with decorated masks. The masks are ghastly faces decorated in bright and gaudy colors. And they go around scaring people. Doesn’t that sound like Halloween?

Oh, the children have lots of fun teasing people, too. Phi Ta Khon has become one of the biggest attractions. The tourists visit farming villages in the mountains of northeast Thailand just to experience this.

Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival

This event can rival the works of Madame Tussauds. There are intricate wax carvings created by talented artists. These works of art are displayed in a parade. The parade also has traditional music and dance performances.

The candlelit parade is a sight to behold. It is held at Ubon Ratchathani in southeast Thailand. The candles are believed to dispel gloom. Also, during this festival, the people donate food and clothing to monks.

Bang Fai Phaya Nak (Nong Khai Naga Fireballs)

A strange phenomenon is happening at Mekong River in Nong Khai. Every year in October during full moon, small vapourless pink fireballs appear.

They float to about 50 meters, and then disappear. They are now known as Mekong Naga Fireballs. Locals and tourists flock to this festival to watch this spectacular sight.

Lai Ruea Fai

Lai Ruea Fai commemorates the Buddha’s return the Earth with the end of Buddhist Lent. This is done with a procession of boats filled with thousands of lit candles, flowers, incense, and paper lanterns.

The boats are set alight, and launched down Mekong River. And of course, like any Thai festival, it also features delicious food sold at stalls, fireworks, religious offerings, dance and cultural performances.

Yi Peng Festival

I have been to the one at Chiang Mai, and I can tell you that the Yi Peng Festival was an awesome experience. Before the paper lanterns were lit, everyone was busy writing on a piece of paper that would be attached to the lantern.

Then at the same time, to the tempo of live performances and firecrackers, everyone released their lantern. The thousands of lanterns floating together to infinity is spectacular!

Loi Krathong Festival

A festival that is such a pretty sight that it inspired many well known photos. During Loi Krathong, also known as the Festival of Lights, a krathong which is a small, lotus-shaped floating vessel are sent off to the waters.

The vessel is usually made from banana leaves. They are decorated with flowers, incense, candles, and even a fingernail clipping or lock of hair.

This is to give thanks to the Goddess of Water for plentiful water supply. Also, to send away any bad things that happened in the past year.

Lopburi Monkey Banquet

It is the monkey’s special day! By feeding the monkeys, Thais believe they will be blessed with good luck. The feast includes long dining tables filled with food and fruits. Also celebrated in memory of Hanuman (Monkey God) who saved another god’s daughter from a demon.

Boon Bang Fai (The Rocket Festival)

Rockets are shot to the heavens in a plea to the gods, to bless the farming communities with rain and good harvest. And these are no mere vessels.

The rockets are huge, and give quite a big bang. They are displayed in a parade around the city, then launched almost at the same time.


What Is The Dress Code In Thailand?

When I was in Thailand, the outfits I wore depended on the occasion. For business, I would wear formal outfits like long sleeved shirt, tie, pants with leather shoes.

For sightseeing, and even dining at cafes or some restaurants, I would be in light and loose cotton clothing. This could be a polo t shirt with bermudas and casual shoes.

When visiting a temple. holy or official site, please be aware of the dress code and dress accordingly. See the video below to learn how to dress appropriately.


What Is The National Dress In Thailand?

The national dress in Thailand is called chut thai. The literal meaning is ‘Thai outfit’. For women, the costume consists of a pha nung, or chong kraben, a blouse and a sebai. For men, it is simpler. Just a sado, a white Manchu-styled jacket and a khian hua.

Do all the Thai terms for the clothing confuse you? I understand. I have no idea what is a pha nung or a sado, or any of the terms. So, I thought it better to show you in the video below.


What Is The National Sport Of Thailand?

Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing), is the national sport of Thailand. It has gained popularity in recent years, and is now a famous sport. What is Muay Thai? Here is a video to explain the fine details.

The popular sports in Thailand include soccer (or known as football in Thailand), takraw, tennis, and long-tail boat racing.


What Currency Can I Use In Thailand?

The currency used in Thailand is the Thai Baht. Other currencies are not accepted. So, please change your local currency to Thai Baht for your holiday.


How Is The Weather In Thailand?

The weather in Thailand is hot all year round. And yet, there is a relativity to the warmness. This created three types of seasons there.

The hot season is usually from March to June. The temperatures can get as high as 40 degrees Celsius. I have been to Bangkok during one of these months, and I can assure you that it gets really warm. You would look forward to spaces with cool air conditioning.

Then there is the rainy season, which is from July to October. There is heavy rain, and you would have thought the temperature would be cooler. But no. it is still high, but more tolerable. Though, it can be difficult for those who are used to dry weather as it can have high humidity.

Finally, the cool season is from November to February. These are my favorite months to visit Thailand. The climate is pleasant, and relatively drier. The temperature does not get higher than 35 degrees Celsius.


When Is The Best Time To Go Thailand?

The cool season, between November to February. As mentioned above, the climate is relatively cool and drier. Temperatures range from 25 to 35 degrees Celsius. But do take note that Bangkok can still be very warm.

I have been to Thailand during different times of the year. While it is best to go during the cool season, it is still ok to visit any other time of the year. After all, if you intend to experience Songkran, you still must visit in April, right?


How Is The Haze Situation In Thailand?

The haze has affected many cities in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, most of Thailand has escaped this terrible situation. But, in recent years, because the haze has become worse, the southern areas of Thailand has been hit by the haze.

Travel Tip: If you have chronic heart of lung conditions, or simply do not want to suffer unhealthy pollution situation, then avoid this period.


Where Are The Best Places To Visit in Thailand?

It is interesting to me that there are many beautiful and exotic cities in Thailand. They range from the cosmopolitan Bangkok to charming Chiang Mai to lush shores of Phuket. Each has something unique to offer.

Bangkok

The capital of Bangkok is the most popular destination of this country. And I can understand why. Every time I visit, I find something new to discover. And a renewed joy with things I already know of this city.

The rich history and culture created the Grand Palace, Wat Prakeaw, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Chinatown (Yaowarat), and even along the Chao Phraya River. At night, you can visit the night markets, or watch a cabaret show.

For your shopping pleasure, there are MBK (Ma Boon Krong), Pratunam, Platinum Fashion Mall, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Siam Paragon, and Central World, and many more.

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I will be writing more about Bangkok. To receive email notification when I publish the article, please join my I Love Travel community.


Chiang Mai

The slower pace in Thailand’s cultural capital appealed to me a lot. The ornate temples, the tasty and healthy food, the friendly locals, the many types of markets, and plenty more enthralled me.

My advice is to take your time to soak in the sights; Doi Suthep, Old City Temples, Wiang Kum Kum, Bo Sang Handicraft Village, Lanna Folklife Museum.

And if you prefer mountains, tribal villages and national parks, then venture a little further away to places such as the Doi Inthanon National Park, Karen Long Neck Tribe, Doi Pui Tribal Village and National Park.

I really enjoyed shopping in Chiang Mai. I found the art, antiques and handicrafts really well made and unique. You can get them at shopping malls. But I much prefer to shop at the markets and boutiques there.

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I will be writing more about Chiang Mai. To receive email notification when I publish the article, please join my I Love Travel community.


Pattaya

More than a decade ago, I had been to Pattaya for just a couple of days. And to be honest, the impression it left me was that it was filled with nightlife and sleaze. Thankfully, this city has evolved since.

Today, tourists flock to enjoy her stunning beaches, stay at gorgeous resorts, and have fun with exciting water sports. Oh, do not get me wrong. The scintillating nightlife is still there. After a day of playing and shopping, you have the bars and clubs to enjoy drinks and party.

For a break from all the sun soaked activities, you can visit the Sanctuary of Truth, Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, , Wat Phra Khao Yai (“Big Buddha Hill”), water parks, Khao Pattaya View Point on Pratumnak Hill, etc.

For some retail therapy, go to the Central Festival Pattaya, Royal Garden Plaza Pattaya, Pattaya Floating Market, Outlet Mall Pattaya, Central Center Pattaya, Thepprasit Road Night Market, Pattaya Night Bazaar, etc.

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I will be writing more about Pattaya. To receive email notification when I publish the article, please join my I Love Travel community.


Hua Hin

Once, I was asked if I have been to Hua Hin? I was in the wellness industry back then. And after a bit of research, I found out why my friend asked me that question. It turned out that Hua Hin is the spa and wellness center destination today.

Located at the northern part of the Malay Peninsula, Hua Hin is popular with the older tourists. As a seaside resort city, it has become a favourite place for people from all over the world to retire.

The lifestyle here is even slower than Pattaya. There are pristine beaches for sun tanning and water sports. Golf courses to while the hours away. Plus shopping malls and day and night markets to delight anyone.

Sights to see are plenty. Some of which are the Hua Hin Arts and Crafts Centre, the Klai Kongwan Palace, Khao Hin Lek Fai, Kaho Tao, Black Mountain Water Park as well as many more attractions.

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I will be writing more about Hua Hin. To receive email notification when I publish the article, please join my I Love Travel community.


Phuket

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. I have been there a few times, and found it to be lovely and enchanting.

Most of the activities at Phuket are at the sea and beach. Tourists laze along the white sandy shores with drinks next to them. Others would swim, snorkel, dive, jet ski, do parasailing, yachting and any other fun things to do at sea.

One of the really enjoyable things to do at Phuket is to take a boat and visit the islands nearby. The waters are crystal clear, and there is so much to see.

There is not much to shop at Phuket. Most of the time tourists look for souvenirs. Cultured pearls, nielloware, pewterware, and ornaments are some of the choices. If you really like to shop, there are a few malls; Central Festival, Phuket Town and Jungceylon in Patong.

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I will be writing more about Phuket. To receive email notification when I publish the article, please join my I Love Travel community.


Koh Samui

Here is another island that many tourists talk about, and visit. It is located in the Chumphon Archipelego. And is the second largest island in Thailand, after Phuket.

The beautiful beaches that all visitors love are many. There are Chaweng, Lamai, the northern beaches, and the west coast beaches. The waters are so clear that scuba diving is one of the popular activities.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of stores offering wares at bargain prices. For your retail therapy, go to places like Central Festival Samui, Lamai Walking Street, Fisherman’s Village Walking Street, Chaweng Beach Road Shopping, Lamai Night Plaza, Chaweng Walking Street, Maenam Walking Street, The Wharf Samui.

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Krabi

The Krabi Province offers many places for the perfect seaside vacation. That is why it is the third most popular holiday destination in Thailand today.

Some of the places to visit are Ao Nang, Railay, Klong Muang, and the famous Phi Phi Islands. Each has their unique offerings. And each caters to a particular crowd.

I will be writing more about Krabi. To receive email notification when I publish the article, please join my I Love Travel community.


What Are The Food And Drinks in Thailand?

The first time I tried Thai food was during my first business trip to Bangkok. And after that first bite, I found that I loved their cuisine.

And there is so much food and drinks to enjoy. If you are a foodie like me, you would be thrilled too. I simply adore the taste of Thai cuisine. It has a blend of spicy, sour, bitter, sweet and salty.

One of my favorite dish is the famous and popular pad thai, the thai-style fried noodle. I also like the grilled chicken wrapped in pandan leaves. And you must try all the other dishes like tom yum goong (spicy shrimp soup), mango salad, gaeng daeng (red curry), and many more.

You can get these delicious food at street stalls. These are convenient and cheap. Other choices would be the food courts, riverside eateries, dinner cruises, food markets, cafes and restaurants.

Besides Thai food, many of these restaurants serve food from all over the world.

After dinner, you may like to get a drink at the numerous bars and clubs. There is a wide variety, and a type for everyone. Rooftop bars are very popular.


How To Get To Thailand?

By Airplane

I have always found it easy to get to Thailand by air. There are six international airports. There is the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok which is the main international hub of Thailand.

There are also international airports in Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, Koh Samui and Hat Yai.

Airlines that fly to Thailand include their national carrier that is Thai airways, Bangkok airways, Air Asia, Tiger Airways, Air China, Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, China Airlines, Emirates, Garuda, Jetstar, Malaysian Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

There are many more airlines that travel to Thailand. Do check with the ones in your country, and if they fly to this country.

By Train

Thailand share land borders with Burma, Laois, Cambodia and Malaysia. As such, there are ways to travel to Thailand by land. One of the way is to take the train.

You can travel to Thailand via the four main train lines; the northern, northeastern, southern and eastern lines. There are also three smaller lines that are the Mae Klong, Namtok Branch and the Airport Rail Link.

By Bus

If you like to be chaffeured and take your time to see a country, then the bus is your best option. There are buses that cross the borders from Burma, Laois, Cambodia and Malaysia. You can search for the bus services in the respective country you are traveling from.

By Car

It is best not to rent a car and travel by land to Thailand. The roads and routes can be confusing. Plus, car rental can be expensive.

By Boat / Ferry

There are boats and ferries that can transport you from Malaysia or Cambodia. They are few passenger services available, though.

By Foot

While it is possible, this mode of travel is not advisable. It can be difficult, and confusing.

Do You Need A Visa To Enter Thailand?

It depends on the country you are from. Citizens of ASEAN countries, like me, do not need a visa. If your country is not part of ASEAN, please do check with the Thai Immigration Bureau or the Thai Embassy or Consulate at your home country if you need a visa to Thailand.

If you do need one, you will need to apply before you travel there. Most visitors get a 30 day stay.


How To Get Around Thailand?

By Airplane

Domestic flights are expensive. But they are the quickest way to get from on Thai city to another. Choices of flights include Thai Airways, Air Asia, Bangkok Airways, Scoot, Thai Lionair and Nok Air.

By Train

As mentioned above, there are railways that can take you from other countries to Thailand. These railways also can bring you from city to city within Thailand.

There are three classes of travel. The first class, of course is the best. Then there is the second class that offersgood enough comfort. Third class is the bare minimum with hard seats and no air conditioning.

By Ferry

There are so many beautiful islands to explore in Thailand. And the only way to travel to them is by ferry or boat. You can book a ride online or check the hotel where you are staying at.

Travel Tip: Avoid speedboats! The larger the vessel, the safer the journey

By MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)

Not all cities in Thailand have the mass rapid transit (MRT) trains. Only Bangkok has the MRT. I have used it whenever I was in Bangkok. And it is a very quick, efficient and convenient way to get around the city. The best part is, the MRT goes to many places of interest.

By Bus

Buses in Thailand go everywhere. It is the widest form of transportation. And cheap too! But you need to be family with the routes and schedules. Check with the hotel or hostel where you are staying at.

By Car

I mentioned it earlier. And I will say it here again. Do not rent a car in Thailand. It is expensive, the roads are confusing, and it may ruin your holiday.

By Taxi

Taxis can be really convenient to get around any Thai city. They can take you anywhere; the tourist attractions, shopping malls, to and fro your hotel.

The fares are not steep. It is best to go by the meter. If the driver refuses to put the meter on, simply get out of the cab. And get another. There are so many in every city.

By Grab

Grab is popular in Asia, and works like Uber. Many people prefer this transport service because it is convenient. Simply use the Grab app, get a ride that will pick you up wherever you are.

By Tuk Tuk

This mode of travel has been featured in the movies. It is especially interesting to people from countries where this does not exist.

They are like rickshaws but motorized. And it quite fun to travel around a city. Also, it is extremely convenient. The fares are really low, much lower than a cab or Grab.

Private Driver and Tour Guide

After my experience of having a private driver and tour guide in Bali, I am now all for this choice of getting around a city that I visit. What is there not to like?

It is so convenient to have a driver bring you and your group around, everywhere you like. Also, provide you with information of each place of interest.

You do not need to worry about parking or finding your next ride to and from any location.

Only concern in Bangkok is the traffic jams. If you are going to mostly move about in Bangkok, I suggest using the MTR where possible. Save the private driver and tour guide for rides to places further out the city.

By Foot

It is easy to get around on foot in any Thai city once you arrive at an area. But, do not do that when you need to get from one zone to another. The walk will be too far. And you will be too exhausted to enjoy the holiday.


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If you have ANY questions about Thailand – The Ultimate Guide, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.

Thank you for reading this.

Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,

Timotheus