Thais word 'sanuk' means 'fun'. In Thailand anything worth doing - even work
- should have an element of 'sanuk', otherwise it automatically becomes
drudgery. This doesn't mean Thais don't want to work or strive, just that
they tend to approach tasks with a sense of playfulness. Nothing condemns as
activity more than the description 'mai sanuk', 'not fun'. Sit down beside a
rice field and watch workers planting, transplanting or harvesting rice some
time while you're in Thailand.
That it's back-breaking labour is obvious, but participants
generally inject the activity with lots of 'sanuk' - flirtation between the
sexes, singing, trading insults and cracking jokes. The same goes in an
office or a bank, or other white-collar work situation - at least when the
office in question is predominantly Thai (businesses run by non-Thais don't
necessarily exhibit 'sanuk'). The famous Thai smile comes partially out of
this desire to make 'sanuk'.
Thais beleive strongly in the concept of 'saving face', that is
avoiding confrontation and endeavouring not to embarrass themselves or other
people (except when it's 'sanuk' to do so). The ideal face-saver doesn't
bring up negative topics in conversation, and when they notice stress in
another's life, they usually won't say anything unless that person complains
or asks for help. Laughing at minor accidents - like when someone trips and
falls down - may seem callous to outsiders but it's really just an attempt
to save face on behalf of the person undergoing the mishap. This is another
source of the Thai smile - it's the best possible face for almost any
| Socially, every
Thai male is excepted to become a monk for a short period in his life,
optimally between the time he finishes school and the time he starts a
career or marries. Men or boys under 20 years of age may enter the
Sangha as novices - this is not unusual since a family earns great merit
when one if its sons 'takes robe and bowl'.
the length of time spent in the 'wat' is three months, during the
Buddhist lent (phansa), which begins in July and coincides with the
rainy season. However, nowadays men may spend as little as a week or 15
days to accrue merits monks.
There are about 32,000 monasteries in Thailand and 460,000
monks ; many of these monks are ordained for a lifetime. Of these a
large percentage become scholars and teachers, while some specialize in
healing and/or folk magic.
| The Sangha is
divided into two sects : the Mahanikai (Great Society) and the Thammayut
(from the Pali dhammayutika or 'dharma-adhering). The latter is a
minority sect (the ratio being one Thammayut to 35 Mahanikai) begun by
King Mongkut and patterned after an early Mon form of monastic
discipline which he had practiced as a monk ('bhikkhu'). Members of both
sects must adhere to 227 monastic vows or precepts as laid out in the
Vinya Pitaka - Buddhist scriptures dealing with monastic discipline.
Overall discipline for Thammayut monks, however, is generally stricter.
For example, they eat only once a day - before noon - and
must eat only what is in their alms bowl, whereas Mahanikais eat twice
before noon and may accept side dishes. Thammayut monks are expected to
attain proficiency in meditation as well as Buddhist scholarship or
scripture study ; the Manahanikai monks typically 'specialize' in one or
the other. Other factors may supersede sectarian divisions when it comes
to disciplinary disparities. Monks who live in the city, for example,
usually emphasize study of the Buddhist scriptures while those living in
the forest tend to emphasize meditation.
• International Dhama Hermitage :
Wat Suan Mok,Chaiya, Surat Thani
Tel. (077) 431552
• Northern Insight Meditation Centre :
Wat Ram Poeng, Canal Rd, Chaing Mai
Tel. (053) 278620
• Old Medicine Hospital :
78/1 Soi Moh Shivagah Komarapaj, Wualai Road,Chiang Mai
Tel. (053) 275085
• Wat Pa Nanachat :
Beung Rai Baan Bung Wai Amphoe Warinchamrab, Ubon Ratchathani
• Wat Phra Dhammakaya :
23/2 Mu 7 Khong Sam, Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani
Tel.(02) 524 0257
• World Fellowship of Buddhists :
33 Sukhumvit Rd, Bangkok
Tel.(02) 251 1188
|POPULATION & PEOPLE
population of Thailand is about 61.4 million and currently growing
at a rate of 1 % to 1.5% per annum (as opposed to 2.5% in 1979),
thanks to a vigorous nationwide family-planning campaign.
Over a third of all Thais live in urban areas. Bangkok is
by far the largest city in the kingdom, with a population of over
six million (more than 10% of the total population) - too many for
the scope of its public services and what little 'city planning'
exists. Ranking the nation's other cities by population depends on
whether you look at thetsabaan (municipal district) limits or at
meuang (metropolitan district) Emits.
By the former measure, the four most populated cities in
descending order (not counting the densely populated 'suburb'
provinces of Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi, which rank second and
third if considered separately from Bangkok) are Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat),
Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Khon Kaen. Using the rather misleading
meuang measure, the ranking runs Udon Thani, Lopburi, Nakhon
Ratchasima (Khorat) and Khon Kaen. Most of the other towns in
Thailand have populations below 100,000.
The average life expectancy in Thailand is 69 years, the
highest in mainland South-East Asia. Yet only an estimated 59% of
all Thais have access to local health services; in this the nation
ranks 75th worldwide, behind even countries with lower national
incomes such as Sudan and Guateinala. There is only one doctor per
4316 people, and infant mortality figures are 26 per 1000 births
(figures for neighbouring countries vary from 110 per 1000 in
Cambodia to 12 in Malaysia). Thailand has a relatively youthful
population; only about 12% are older than 50 years and 6% over 65.
The Thai Majority
About 75% of citizens are ethnic Thais, who can be
divided into the Central Thais, or Siamese, of the Chao Phraya Delta
(the most densely populated region of the country); the Thai Lao of
North-Eastern Thailand; the Thai Pak Tai of Southern Thailand; and
the Northern Thais. Each group speaks their own Thai dialect and to
a certain extent practises customs unique to their region.
Politically and econon-iimly the Central Thais are the dominant
group, although they barely outnumber the Thai Lao of the
People of Chinese ancestry make up 11 % of the
population, most of whom are second or third generation Hakka, Chao
Zhou, Hain- anese or Cantonese. In the North there are also a
substantial number of Hui - Chinese Muslims who emigrated from
Yunnan to Thailand in the late 19th century to avoid religious and
ethnic persecution during the Qing dynasty.
The second largest ethnic minority group living in
Thailand are the Malays (3.5%), most of whom reside in the provinces
of Songkhla, Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. The remaining 10.5% of
the population is divided among smaller non Thai-speaking groups
like the Vietnamese, Khmer, Mon, Semang (Sakai), Moken (chao leh or
sea gypsies), Htin, Mabri, Khamu and a variety of hill tribes.
Approximately 95% of the Thai citizens are Theravada
Buddhists. The Thais themselves frequently call their religion
Lankavamsa (Sinhalese lineage) Buddhism because Thailand
originally received Buddhism from Sri Lanka during the Sukhothai
period. Strictly speaking, Theravada refers only to the earliest
forms of Buddhism practised during the Ashokan and immediate
port-Ashokan periods in South Asia. The early Dvaravati and pre-Dvaravati
forms of Buddhism - those which existed up until the 10th or
11th century - are not the same as that which developed in Thai
territories after the 13th century.
Since the Sukhothai period (13th to 15th centuries),
Thailand has maintained an unbroken canonical tradition and
'pure' ordination lineage, the only country among the Theravadin
countries to have done so. Ironically, when the ordianation
lineage in Sri Lanka broke down during the 18th century under
Dutch persecution, it was Thailand that restored the Sangha
(Buddhist brotherhood) there. To this day the major sect in Sri
Lanka is called Siamopalivamsa (Siam-Upali lineage, Upali being
the name of the Siamese monk who led the expedition to Ceylon),
or simply Siam Nikaya (the Siamese sect).
Basically, the Theravada school of Buddhism is an
earlier and, according to its followers, less corrupted form of
Buddhism than the Mahayana schools found in East Asia or in the
Himalayan lands. The Theravada (literally, 'teaching of the
elders') school is also called the 'southern' school since it
took a southern route from India, its place of origin, through
South-East Asia (Mynmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia in this
case), while the 'northern' school proceeded north into Nepal,
Tibet, China, Korea, Mongolia, Vietnam and Japan.
Because the Theravada school tried to preserve or
limit the Buddhist doctrines to only those canons codified in
the early Buddhist era, the Mahayana school gave Theravada
Buddhism the name Hinayana, or the 'lesser vehicle'. The
Mahayana school was the 'great vehicle', because it built upon
the earlier teachings, 'expanding' the doctrine in such a way as
to respond more to the needs of lay people, or so it is claimed.
| Buddha's words
The Buddha taught his disciples :
When you see, just see.
When you hear, just hear.
When you smell, just smell.
When you touch, just touch.
When you know, just know.
Many Thais express the feeling that they are somehow
unworthly of nibbana. By feeding monks, giving donations to
temples and performing regular worship at the local 'wat'
(temple) they hope to improve their lot, acquiring enough merit
(Pali term 'punna' ; Thai term 'bun') to prevent or at least
lessen the number of rebirths. The making of merit ('tham bun')
is an important social and religious activity in Thailand. The
concept of reincarnation is almost universally accepted in
Thailand, even by non-Buddhists, and the Buddhist theory of
karma is well expressed in the Thai proverb 'tham dii, dai dii :
tham chua, dai chua' (do good and receive good ; do evil and
The Triratna, or Triple Gems, highly respected by
Thai Buddhists, include the Buddha, the Dhamma (the teachings)
and the Sangha (the Buddhist brotherhood). All are quite visible
in Thailand. The Buddha, in his myriad and omnipresent
sculptural forms, is found on a high shelf in the lowliest
roadside restaurants as well as in the lounges of expensive
The Dhamma is chanted morning and evening in every 'wat'
and taught to every Thai citizen in primary school. The Sangha
is seen everywhere in the presence of orange-robed monks,
especially in the early morning hours when they perform their
alms-rounds, in what has almost become a travel-guide cliche in
Thai Buddhism has no particular 'Sabbath' or day of
the week when Thais are supposed to make temple visits. Nor is
there anythings corresponding to a liturgy or mass over which a
priest presides. Instead Thai Buddhists visit the 'wat' whenever
they feel like it, most often on 'wan phra' (literally,
'excellent days'), which occur with every full and new moon, ie
every 15 days.
Suan Mok, a 120-acre forest temple in Chaiya
district, Surat Thani province, some 580 kilometres south of
Bangkok, attracts and accepts meditators from all over the
world. Meditation opportunities are also found in Bangkok,
particularly at Wat Mahathat (facing Sanam Luang), \A/at Pak
Nam, Wat Chonprathan Rangsit, Wat Phrathammakai and Banglamphu's
Wat Bowon Nivet where English-language instruction is available.
DO'S & DON'T IN THAILAND
Getting Along In Thailand
Thailand is known for its tolerance and
hospitality, and the average tourist will have no difficulty in
adjusting to the local customs All the same, as when coming into
any unfamiliar society, a visitor may find it helpful to be
aware of certain do's and don't's, and thus avoid making
accidental misunderstanding. Basically, most of these are simply
a matter of common sense and good manners not really all that
different from the way one would behave in one's own country but
a few are special enough to be pointed out.
Dress & Nudity
Shorts (except knee- length walking shorts),
sleeveless shirts, tank tops (singles) and other beach-style
attire are not considered appropriate dress for anything other
than sport g events. Such dress is especially counterproductive
if worn to government offices (eg when applying for a visa
extension). The attitude of 'This is how 1 dress at home and
no-one is going to stop me' gains nothing but contempt or
disrespect from the Thais.
Sandals or slip-on shoes are OK for almost any but
the most formal occasions. Short-sleeved shirts and blouses with
capped sleeves likewise are quite acceptable.
Thais would never dream of going abroad and wearing
dirty clothes, so they are often shocked to see westerners
travelling around Thailand in clothes that apparently haven't
been washed in weeks. If you keep up with your laundry you'll
receive much better treatment everywhere you go.
Regardless of what the Thais may or may not have
been accustomed to centuries ago, they are quite offended by
public nudity today. Bathing nude at beaches in Thailand is
illegal. If you are at a truly deserted beach and are sure no
Thais may come along, there's nothing stopping you - however, at
most beaches travellers should wear suitable attire. Likewise,
topless bathing for females is frowned upon in most places
except on heavily-touristed islands like Phuket, Samui and Samet.
According to Thailand's National Parks Act, any woman who goes
topless on a national park beach (eg KO Chang, KO Phi Phi, Ko
Samet) is breaking the law.
Many Thais say that nudity and topless sun- bathing
on the beaches is what bothers them most about foreign
travellers. These Thais take nudity as a sign of disrespect for
the locals, rather than as a libertarian symbol or modem custom.
Thais are extremely modest in this respect (Patpong-style go-go
bars are cultural aberrations, hidden from public view and
designed for foreign consumption) and it should not be the
visitor's intention to 'reform' them.
1. Beware of unauthorized people who offer their
services as guides. Contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand
(TAT)'s counters for all tourist information. The TAT's
counters are located in the Arrival Hall of the Bangkok
International Airport; at Terminal 1 Tel: 523-8972-3, or at
Terminal 2 Tel: 535-2669 from 08.00 to 24.00 hrs.; at
the main office on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue Tel: 281 -0422
during working hours of 08.30 to 16.30 hrs.
2. Visitors are advised to use the hotel taxi
service at their hotel if they do not know their way around or
cannot speak the local language.
3. Observe all normal precautions as regards to
personal safety, as well as the safety of your belongings.
Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not
recommended. Be sure that all your valuables -money,
jewellery, and airline tickets- are properly protected from
4. Use the service of only registered travel agents.
5. Visitors needing assistance relating to safety,
unethical practices, or other matters, please call the Tourist
Assistance Centre immediately (Tel: 281 -5051, 282-8129) or
contact the Tourist Police (Tel: 678-6800- 9 or 1699)
6. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in
Thailand, do not get yourself involved with drugs.
7. Please drop your garbage into a waste container.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is now strictly
enforcing the law in an effort to keep the city clean and
healthy. The fine (maximum 2,000 baht) will be imposed on a
person who spits, discards cigarette stubs, or drops rubbish
in public areas.
DANGERS & ANNOYANCES
Although Thailand is in no way a dangerous
country to visit, it's wise to be a little cautious,
particularly if you're travelling alone. Solo women travellers
should take special care on arrival at Bangkok international
airport, particularly at night. Don't take one of Bangkok's
often very unofficial taxis (black-and-white licence tags) by
yourself - better a licensed taxi (yellow-and-black tags) or
even the public bus. Both men and women should ensure their
rooms are securely locked and bolted at night. Inspect cheap
rooms with thin walls for strategic peepholes.
Take caution when leaving valuables in hotel
safes. Many travellers have reported unpleasant experiences
with leaving valuables in Chiang Mai guesthouses while
trekking. Make sure you obtain an iteniised receipt for
property left with hotels or guesthouses - note the exact
quantity of travellers cheques and all other valuables.
Tourists should exercise caution in remote areas along the
border with Burma. The Thai/Burma border is the site of
on-going conflicts between the Burmese Army and armed
opposition groups as well as clashes between Thai security
forces and armed drug traffickers. The far south of Thailand
has also experienced incidents of criminally and politically
motivated violence, including incidents attributed to armed
local Muslim separatist groups. In addition, six illegal
aliens from Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan were arrested in the
southern city of Hat Yai on October 5, 2001, with a box cutter
and suspicious electrical devices. Although Americans have not
been specifically targeted in either area, travelers should
remain vigilant with regard to their personal security.
Tourists should obtain information from Thai authorities about
whether official border crossing points are open, and should
cross into neighboring countries only at designated crossing
points. Thai/Burma border crossings sometimes close
temporarily as a result of armed clashes in Burma between the
Burmese army and Burmese ethnic groups.
Licensed guides can help ensure that trekkers do not cross
inadvertently into a neighboring country.Pirates, bandits, and
drug traffickers operate in the border areas. In February
2000, two Australians camping near the Burma border in Ang
Kang Park, in the Fang District, were attacked by robbers. One
of the campers was shot and killed. In April 1999, a dozen
Thai villagers and tribesmen were killed in separate incidents
near Thailand's northern border with Burma. In January 2000,
10 gunmen from two fringe groups in Burma crossed into
Thailand and took several hundred people hostage at a
provincial hospital in Ratchaburi Province. All ten gunmen
were killed when Thai authorities stormed the hospital to end
Travelers should be aware that there are occasional incidents
of violence on Thailand's northern and eastern borders with
Laos. In July 2000, five people were killed and several fled
to Thailand during a skirmish between apparent insurgents and
government forces in Laos near the eastern border crossing at
Chong Mek. Additionally, two U.S. citizens in 1999 and one in
early 2000 were reported missing after attempting to cross
illegally into Laos at the Lao-Thai border.Although tourists
have not been targeted specifically by this occasional
violence, due caution remains advisable. It is recommended
that persons wishing to travel to border areas check with the
Thai tourist police and the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang
Mai or the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. Strong seasonal
undercurrents at popular beach resorts sometimes pose a fatal
threat to surfers and swimmers.
During the monsoon season, which is from May through October,
drowning is the leading cause of death for tourists visiting
Phuket. Some, but not all, beaches have warning flags to
indicate the degree of risk (red flag: sea condition dangerous
for swimming; yellow flag: sea condition rough, swim with
caution; green flag: sea condition stable). In July 2001, an
American tourist died in a surfing accident in Phuket at a
beach that was not marked. CRIME INFORMATION: In recent years,
crimes of opportunity such as pick-pocketing, purse-snatching,
and burglaries have become more common, though the crime
threat in Bangkok remains less than in many American cities.
Violent crimes against foreigners are relatively rare.
Travelers should be especially wary when walking in crowded
markets, tourist sites and bus or train stations. Women are
generally not subject to sexual harassment.
Reports of serious transportation-related crimes involving
taxis or three-wheeled vehicles called "tuk tuks" are
relatively rare, though fare scams can occur. More serious are
incidents in which drivers tout disreputable gem stores or
entertainment venues because they receive money for bringing
in customers. Travelers should always use official metered
taxis in Bangkok and never enter a cab that has anyone besides
a driver in it. In March 2000, a U.S. citizen was attacked and
robbed by a taxi driver and an accomplice picked up en route
by the driver. There are occasional reports of scopolamine
druggings perpetrated by prostitutes or unscrupulous bar
workers for the purpose of robbery. Tourists have also been
victimized by drugged food and drink, usually offered by a
friendly stranger (sometimes posing as a fellow traveler).
In addition, casual acquaintances met in a bar or on the
street may pose a threat. Travelers are advised to avoid
leaving drinks or food unattended, and they should avoid going
to unfamiliar venues alone. Some trekking tour companies,
particularly in Northern Thailand, have been known to make
drugs available to trekkers. In July 2001, an American died
after smoking opium in a northern hill tribe village.
Travelers should not accept drugs of any kind because the
drugs may be altered or harmful, and the use or sale of drugs
is illegal.Scams involving gems, city tours, entertainment
venues and credit cards are also common, especially in areas
heavily frequented by tourists. Credit cards should be used
only in reputable, established businesses, and the amount
charged should be checked for accuracy.
Travelers should not accept tours or offers from touts who
solicit on the streets. Shopping at lesser-known gem stores
carries a serious risk; the Tourism Authority of Thailand
(TAT) receives over 1,000 complaints each year from visitors
who have been cheated on gem purchases. The gems often turn
out to be greatly overpriced, and money-back guarantees are
not honored. Lists of gem dealers who have promised to abide
by TAT guidelines are available online at http://www.tat.or.th/do/gems.htm,
and information on gem scams can be found on the Thai Tourist
Police web site at http://www.police.go.th/touristpolice/. A
traveler who has fallen victim to a gem scam should contact
the local branch of the Tourist Police, or call their
country-wide toll-free number: 1155. Finally, bars or
entertainment venues in tourist areas may at times try to
charge exorbitant amounts for drinks or unadvertised cover
charges. If victimized in this fashion, travelers should not
attempt to resolve the problem themselves, but should instead
pay the price demanded and then contact the nearest branch of
the Tourist Police for help in getting restitution. (The
toll-free number for the Tourist Police is indicated above.)
In general Thai police don't hassle foreigners,
especially tourists. If anything they generally go out of
their way not to arrest a foreigner breaking minor traffic
laws, rather taking the approach that a friendly warning will
One major exception is drug laws, which most Thai
police view as either a social scourge with regard to which
it's their duty to enforce the letter of the law, or an
opportunity to make untaxed income via bribes. Which direction
they'll go often depends on dope quantities; small-time
offenders are sometimes offered the chance to pay their way
out of an arrest, while traffickers usually go to jail.
A strong anti-littering law was passed in Bangkok
in 1997 and there were rumours that foreigners were being
singled out for enforcement. 1 have received no first-hand
accounts of such cases, so can only note that these remain
unconfirmed reports. However it won't hurt to be extra
vigilant about where you dispose of cigarette butts and other
refuse when in Bangkok.
If you are arrested for any offence, the police
will allow you the opportunity to make a phone call to your
embassy or consulate in Thailand if you have one, or to a
friend or relative if not. There's a whole set of legal codes
governing the length of time and manner in which you can be
detained before being charged or put on trial, but a lot of
discretion is left up to the police. With foreigners the
police are more likely to bend these codes in your favour.
However, as with police worldwide, if you don't show respect
you will make matters worse.
Thai law does not presume an indicted detainee to
be either 'guilty' or 'innocent' but rather a 'suspect' whose
guilt or innocence will be decided in court. Trials are
Thailand has its share of attorneys, and if you
think you're a high arrest risk for whatever reason, it might
be a good idea to get out the Bangkok yellow pages, copy down
a few phone numbers and carry them with you.
Tourist Police Hotline
The best way to deal with most serious hassles
regarding ripoffs or thefts is to contact the Tourist Police,
who are used to dealing with foreigners, rather than the
regular Thai police. The Tourist Police maintain a hotline -
dial 1155 from any phone in Thailand, and ask for extension 1.
The Tourist Police can also be very helpful in
cases of arrest. Although they typically have no jurisdiction
over the kinds of cases handled by regular cops, they may be
able to help with translation or with contacting your embassy.
Smuggling with intent to sell
less than 10kg
2 to 15 years
up to 5 years imprisonment
2 to 15 years imprisonment
imprisonment or execution
| Note :
'Smuggling' refers to any drug possession at a
border or airport customs check.
The predominant video format in Thailand is PAL a
system compatible with that used in most of Europe (France's
SECAM format is a notable exception) as well as in Australia.
This means if you're bringing video tapes from the USA or
Japan, which use the NTSC format, you'll have to bring your
own VCR to play them! Some video shops (especially those that
carry pirated or unlicensed tapes) sell NTSC as,well as PAL
and SECAM tapes. A 'multisystem' VCR has the capacity to play
both NTSC and PAL, but not SFCAM (except as black & white
Electric current is 22OV, 50 cycles. Electrical
wall outlets are usually of the round, two pole type; some
outlets also accept flat, two bladed terminals, and some will
accept either flat or round terminals. Any electrical supply
shop will carry adapters for any international plug shape as
well as voltage converters.
Film & Equipment
Print film is fairly inexpensive and widely
available throughout Thailand. Japanese print film costs
around 1OOB per 36 exposures, US print film a bit more.
Fujichrome Velvia and Provia slide films cost around 225B per
roll, Kodak Ektachrome Elite is 200B and Ektachrome 200 about
280B. Slide film, especially Kodachrome, can be hard to find
outside Bangkok and Chlang Mai, so be sure to stock up before
heading upcountry. VHS video cassettes of all sizes are
readily available in the major cities.
Hill tribe people in some of the regularly
visited areas expect money if you photograph them, while
certain Karen and Akha will not allow you to point a camera at
them. Use discretion when photographing villagers anywhere in
Thailand as a camera can be a very intimidating instrument.
You may feel better leaving your camera behind when visiting
WHAT TO BRING
Bring as little as possible - one medium-sized
shoulder bag, duffel bag or backpack should do. Pack
lightweight clothes, unless you're going to be in the North in
the cool season, in which case you should have a pullover.
Natural fibres can be cool and comfortable, except when they
get soaked with sweat or rain, in which case they quickly
become heavy and block air flow. Some of the lightweight
synthetics breathe better than natural fibres, draw sweat away
rather than holding it in, and may be more suitable for the
beach or mid-rainy season.
Sunglasses are a must for most people and can be
bought cheaply in Bangkok and most provincial capitals.
Slip-on shoes or sandles are highly recommended - besides
being cooler than lace-up shoes, they are easily removed
before entering a Thai home or temple. A small torch
(flashlight) is a good idea, as it makes it easier to find
your way back to your bungalow at night if you are staying at
the beach or at a remote guest-house. A few other handy things
include a compass, a plastic lighter for lighting candles and
mosquito coils (lighters, candles and 'mossie' coils are
available in Thailand) and foam ear plugs for noisy nights.
Toothpaste, soap and most other toiletries can be
purchased anywhere in Thailand. Sun block and mosquito
repellent (except high-percentage DEET) are available,
although they can be expensive and the quality of both is
generally substandard. If you plan to wash your own clothes,
bring along a universal sink plug, a few plastic clothes pegs
and three metres of plastic coed or plastic hangers for
hanging wet clothes out to dry.
If you plan to spend a great deal of time in one
or more of Thailand's beach areas, you might want to bring
your own snorkel and mask. This would save you having to rent
such gear and would also assure a proper fit. Shoes designed
for water sports, eg Aquasocks, are great for wearing in the
water wheater you're diving or not. They protect your feet
from coral cuts, which easily become infected.
WHEN TO GO
The best overall time for visiting most of
Thailand vis-a-vis climate falls between November and March -
during these months it rains least and is not so hot. Remember
that temperatures are more even in the south, so the south
makes a good refuge when the rest of Thailand is miserably hot
(April to June). The north is best from mid-November to early
December or in February when it begins warming up again. If
you're spending time in Bangkok, be prepared to roast n April
and do some flood-water wading in October - probably the two
worst months, weather-wise, for visiting the capital.
The peak months for tourist visitation are
August, November, December, February, and March, with
secondary peak months in January and July. You should consider
travelling during the least crowed months (April, May, June,
September and October) if your main objective is to avoid
vacationers and to take advantage of discounted rooms and
other low-season rates. On the other hand it's not difficult
to leave the crowds behind, even during peak months, if you
simply avoid some of the most popular destinations (eg Chiang
Mai and all islands and beaches).