Spotlight on Thailand
20 January 2017
Thailand is a truly mesmerising country. It’s an intoxicating blend of ancient culture, dazzling colours, and bold flavours. Chaotic cities nestle next to emerald green jungles and brilliant white beaches creating a diverse tropical paradise often referred to as Asia in miniature.
Did you know?
- Thailand is made up of 1,430 islands
- Approximately 10% of the world’s bird species live in Thailand, a greater proportion than in all of Europe or North America
- The official ceremonial name of Bangkok is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit
- Popular energy drink Red Bull originated in Thailand and was originally called Red Guar
- Chatuchak Market is the largest outdoor market in the world, and you’ll join more than 200,000 visitors wandering over 8,000 stalls across 35 acres
- Thailand is home to a species of bat, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, thought to be the world’s smallest mammal. This little critter weighs a mere two grams!
- The main religion in Thailand is Buddhism
- The island of Ko Tapu, in Phang Nga Bay, was the location for the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun
Travel Counsellor David visited Thailand in April 2016: "Perhaps the highlight of the whole stay for us was the full day trip we took on our wedding anniversary to 'James Bond Island' (Ko Tapu). Our first stop was Khai Nai Island for relaxing, snorkelling and sunbaking, then it was off again for a lunch stop at Panyi Island, a Muslim Village built over water. After lunch we were off again, this time to Hong Island where we transferred to sea canoes and explored the wonders of the limestone islands and cave canoeing - a memorable experience that should not be missed on any trip to Phuket. After taking numerous photographs we were sped off to the highlight of the day 'James Bond Island' featured in the James Bond Film " The Man with the Golden Gun", again a wonderful time to explore and, of course, take the obligatory photograph!"
When to visit Thailand
- Thailand’s climate is mainly tropical and humid, though the area to the north of Bangkok has three seasons which determine the climate while the southern region only has two
- The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February when temperatures range from 18 to 32 degrees Celsius
- March and June are very hot and dry, with average temperatures around 34 degrees Celsius and very high humidity levels
Sights to see in Thailand
- Thailand’s islands offer an utterly breathtaking slice of paradise. Visit Koh Yao Yai for a dazzling landscape of rice paddies, rubber plantations and untouched rainforests. Head to Koh Phi Phi and lay on the white sand of the gently curving bay, with soaring cliffs behind you. Hop on a boat to luxurious Koh Lanta for miles of beautiful, unspoiled beaches
- Wat Chiang Mai, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, built in the 13th Century
- The ancient city of Ayutthaya, once the capital of Siam, and a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. The intricate, enormous Buddhist monasteries and magnificent architectural ruins that sweep across the landscape here date back to the 14th Century
- In Bangkok, don’t miss the dazzling Grand Palace. The former royal residence was built in 1782 and within the grounds lies Wat Phra Kaew
- Thailand has lots of festivals all year round but one of the most spectacular is the annual Lio Krathong Festival. Held in the 12th lunar month on the full moon night, everyone heads to the water to launch candlelit floats decorated with offerings, flowers and incense, creating a really beautiful sight
Travel Counsellor Richard has visited Thailand 14 times and recently returned from a trip to Hua Hin, Koh Tao, Koh Phanghan, Koh Samui: "I started [this trip] in Hua Hin. Hua Hin is around 3 hours from Bangkok by road and this is a destination I would definitely recommend. There are many excursions you can take, which include shopping trips and boat trips. I then travelled from Hua Hin to Koh Tao (a top diving destination in Asia) We spent hours snorkelling every day. The water is crystal clear and you will see hundreds of different species of fish and corals."
Try something a little different…
- Scuba divers should head to Koh Lanta island to dive the Hin Muang outcrop. The depth of 20m means it’s a perfect spot to seek out barracudas, moray eels and the occasional whale shark
- Hike through Doi Inthanon National Park. Home to Thailand’s highest mountain, this large national park is almost 400 square miles (1000sq.km.) of bright green jungle. Expect to see waterfalls and an abundance of tropical flora and fauna
- Experience the annual Monkey Buffet Festival at the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi. Lopburi is one of Thailand’s oldest cities and there are spectacular ruins and architecture to gaze at, as well as hundreds of monkeys who draw in crowds. In November, a huge banquet of fruit, sweets and drinks is held as a thank you gift for the mischievous long-tailed macaques
- Greet elephants at the award-winning luxury jungle camp, Elephant Hills. This exquisite tented jungle camp is set in the lush tropical rainforest of Khao Sok National Park, 3.5 hours away from Phuket. Elephant Hills is renowned for their responsible and sustainable approach to tourism, and guests can feed, wash and interact with the adorable Asian elephants who live there
Travel Counsellor Katrina stayed at Elephant Hills in November 2016: "I must admit I was concerned about creepy crawlies getting in to my tent, but I had nothing to fear – the only things getting in our tent were my sister and myself! The tents are spacious with good comfortable beds, fans, tea and coffee making facilities and a fabulous en-suite bathroom with toilet and hot/cold shower. You can even get the internet in them.
Words are not enough to convey how beautiful it is in this part of Thailand. With mountains and forests surrounding the camp and the sounds of monkeys and other creatures it is truly magical.
Of course, it was the elephants we wanted to meet and in the afternoon of our first day we were taken by kayak to meet them. They played in the pond and rolled in the mud ready for us to hose them down, give them a good scrub and get up close and personal to these amazing, beautiful creatures. Then it was time for tea for the elephants. We chopped up fruit for them and then fed them by hand – fabulous! What a privilege this was."
A taste of Thailand
Aromatic herbs, brilliant red chillies, and coconut milk are just a few of the fresh ingredients that create the mouthwatering cuisine Thailand is known for. And a half-day or full-day cookery course while you’re away is a perfect way to learn how to make a few moreish dishes when you get home!
- Love spicy food? Try a Som Tam salad. With papaya, chilli, fish sauce and raw vegetables, this colourful dish is incredibly spicy and not for the faint-hearted!
- Don’t miss tasting the delicious noodle dish pad Thai. A scrumptious stir-fried noodle dish that is sweet and sour with a hint of spice
- Thai curries tend to have a milder flavour in the south of the country, as Malaysian cooking fuses with Thai. Expect more coconut and aromatic herbs and spices rather than hot chillies
- If you have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of incredibly moreish sweet treats to indulge in! Combinations of coconut milk, condensed milk, rice and sugar make a number of mouthwatering desserts. We suggest trying mango and sticky rice, coconut ice cream, and agar puddings, often referred to Thai jelly
For more ideas about what to do in Thailand, when to go or where to stay, get in touch with your Travel Counsellor.