THE LAND OF SMILES
Located in the centre of South East Asia, Thailand sits right in the heart of the region and has a mountainous border with Myanmar (Burma) to the north and west; the Mekong River separates it from Laos to the north and east; and the Dongrak Mountains separate it from Cambodia to the east and south east. Stretching down the Malaysian peninsula, there is a slender strip that separates the Andaman Sea from the Gulf of Thailand, providing the country with beaches and islands along opposing shores.
No matter what draws you to Thailand first, the food is something to behold. Loved worldwide, Thai cuisine flaunts distinct aspects of this country’s personality: it is generous and warm, outgoing and nuanced, refreshing and relaxed. Each Thai dish stems from fresh and local ingredients, from pungent lemon grass and searing chillies to plump seafood and crispy fried chicken.
Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, is a modern, exciting, dynamic and sophisticated metropolis. Heavily populated with over 10 million residents the city does operate at a frenetic pace, but it has a good metro and skytrain network to make getting about relatively easy. As well as having all of the modern amenities that one would expect from a large capital city, it also has a unique treasure trove of cultural attractions with over 400 glittering Buddhist temples, shimmering palaces, tranquil temples, numerous shopping centres and lively night markets. The Chao Phraya River winds through the city and offers the opportunity to explore ancient Bangkok. Throw in gourmet restaurants and chic bars aplenty, and a lively nightlife scene and you have a fascinating city that is well worth exploring for a few days, either as a stopover to other destinations or as part of a more complex Thailand itinerary.
Thailand’s coastline is a paradise that provides a varied selection of beach destinations to suit all types of visitor, from those seeking total relaxation to the adventurous, from families seeking child-friendly resorts to honeymooners wanting a romantic haven. Frolic in the gentle surf, dive with whale sharks, explore the sea cliffs, learn to kiteboard, chill at a health Spa resort and relax on the superb beaches. The Gulf of Thailand features many beach resorts and islands including Pattaya, probably the most famous beach destination in the country, idyllic Koh Samui, the royal city of Hua Hin, quaint and picturesque Cha Am, and other less known resorts including Rayong, Koh Samet, Pranburi and Koh Tao. On the Andaman Sea side you have the renowned resort of Phuket, Krabi and Phi Phi with their stunning rock formations and the powdery beaches and crystal clear waters of Phang Nga and Koh Lanta.
In the north of the country, you have the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos and Burma all intersect around the Mekong River. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second city and is a bustling and yet spiritual place adorned with many wonderful temples and statues. Chiang Rai is much quieter and you can enjoy boat rides on the river through some wonderful scenery. Both are a good base for adventure activities and you can trek through the hilly terrain and jungles to discover tribal villages, raft on the river or ride an elephant. The less active can browse the local markets or learn to serve up your own Thai curry at a cooking class.
Take a trip back in time; explore Thailand’s ancient history at Sukhothai, Ayuthaya and Prasat Phanom Rung, or visit a piece of more-recent history at the Bridge on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi. Spotless temples and gleaming golden Buddhas mark both the rural and modern landscape with pride in this staunch Buddhist nation.
Wildlife-watchers should head to the dense rainforest of Khao Sok National Park and the monkey-populated mountains of Khao Yai National Park.
It’s really easy to see why Thailand is dubbed the ‘Land of Smiles’.
In general terms it is hot and humid in Thailand throughout the year. Thailand basically has three seasons – the hot season, cool season and rainy season, although the southern, coastal region only has two seasons – rainy season and dry season (see below). The hot (summer) season is from March to May and the temperatures in some areas of the country can rise as high as 35°C. Temperatures in the cool season from November to February are more bearable than in summer and levels of humidity drop at this time too, assisted by cooler winds which come in from the North East. The wet (monsoon) season is between June and October. Rain showers can be extremely heavy and last for hours, although some areas will see little rainfall before September. In winter the temperatures are fairly low if you are in the mountainous areas of the country.
Thailand’s two coasts have slightly different rainy seasons, allowing you to select sunny beaches year round. On the Andaman or west coast (Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Islands etc) the south-west monsoon brings heavy storms from April to October, while on the Gulf of Thailand or east coast (Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Cha Am and Koh Tao etc), the rain mainly falls between September and December.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
The weather in Thailand is generally very hot, particularly in summer between March and May. The monsoon season runs from June to October, when the climate is still hot and humid with very heavy rainfall that can last for hours, although some areas do not experience heavy rains before September. The best time for travelling is November to February (cool season), although the southern islands are best from June to September.
Health & Vaccinations
We recommend that you are up to date with the usual vaccinations – Typhoid, Polio, Hepatitis A & B, Tetanus and Rabies. Please contact your local GP for full advice at least 3-4 weeks before travel.
Passport & Visa
British passport holders must be in possession of a full 10-year passport and must have at least 6 months validity beyond the date of the return journey. British passport holders do not need a visa to enter into Thailand for stays of up to 30 days.
WHERE TO STAY BY REGION