Sunday, 29 May 2011

Thailand - A Traveler's Paradise

Thailand undoubtedly is one of the most exotic locations for travelers seeking tranquility and peace of mind. Every year thousands of people visit Thailand and the number keeps increasing. Muang Thai (as Thailand is locally known) presents it's visitors with experience they cannot forget. People love this place and look for a chance to revisit Thailand. What is it that people are so fond of in Thailand? May be the diversity this country has. Every aspect of Thailand, may it be geographical or cultural, is beautiful.

No matter which direction you chose to travel in Thailand, you will fell in love with the place. Northern part of Thailand is full of mountains and high terrains that are covered with fog and mist making it all the more adventurous. Contrastingly different is the central and the northeastern Thailand where the mountains disappear and you come across plain landscape. Eastern plains of Thailand are covered with forest and land that is good for agriculture. Southern Thailand on the other hand flaunts some of the most exotic beaches and islands you may ever come across. Apart from all these Thailand has metropolitan areas; Bangkok the country's capital being the most advanced and formidable one.

Thailand boasts its culture diversity to the same as extent as its geographical diversity. Unlike all the neighborhood countries, Thailand has never been colonized and has a history and culture that is not doped. The people of Thailand are mostly followers of Buddha and practice rituals that are unknown to many who visit the country and that adds to the country's appeal. Chinese influence in the north and Islamic dominance in the south adds to the diversity the country is already so rich of.

Another major aspect of Thailand travel is its night life. Night life with cabarets and luxurious pubs and bars also attract people. The restaurants and the cuisines they provide complete the list of things you will enjoy in a spectacular package this country offers.

Apart being from so simple and natural, Thailand is one of the most advanced countries in the world. Infrastructure, Transport, banking, and telecommunications are as modern and advanced as in the countries of Europe and America. This helps in visiting and spending your vacations in the remotest of villages in Thailand with ease and convenience. This aspect of Thailand draws lot of travelers. People for business visits, for leisure visits or training courses, all are entertained and satisfied by the diversity that Thailand provides.

As beautiful and tranquil as Thailand, are the people of Thailand. Rarely are occasions where you will find a Thai not smiling. People with lot of character and temperament inhibit Thailand and that adds to the country's beauty. Despite the mess and disarray the modern life has created, Thailand remains one of those places where people are placid and calm. Perhaps it is in the air of Thailand that all people who come here are pacified and go in a state of tranquility.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Colourful Festivals in Thailand

Thai festivals you really can't miss....

In a country with a wealth of history and a diverse cultural spectrum Thailand has an array of religious, political and royal ceremonies to keep you celebrating year round. travelling to Thailand to experience one of these festivals will give you a real appreciation of Thai cultural, beliefs and you will see how the locals really celebrate life. The festivals climax late in the year with the majority of the most spectacular celebrations being held in October through to January so if you are thinking of planning a trip to Thailand why not check out our favourite places to be..

Tak Loy Krathong Sai festival: 17-21 Nov 2010

In the north of Thailand the Loy Krathong Sai festival of Lights is a beautiful night time event where Thai's float decorated Krathongs, (banana leaves folded into a circle, illuminated with candles, incense, and other decoration) - a real highlight of any Thailand holiday. The celebrations of Loy Krathong in Tak province is a celebration where the local custom is to thread coconut shell Krathongs together and float them in a candlelit chain down the Ping Riverin Amphoe Mueang Tak from the 200 year-old Rattanakosin Bridge. Stand by the riverside to watch this amazing sight and get a real feel for Thailand travel. The banana cup is intended to float away ill fortune as well as to express apologies to Khongkha or Ganga. Experience this amazing atmosphere which traditionally is performed on the full moon of the 12th lunar month.

Monkey Buffet festival: Last Sunday of November

This could be one of the strangest festivals you find in the world, where a feast of fresh fruit, nuts and desserts are laid on for one huge monkey buffet! It's a truly Thailand Travel experience and something that you won't forget in a hurry. Legend has it that the ancient hero Ramayana rewarded the Monkey King with the control of what is now Lopburi, and to this day the monkeys still rule the area around the two most sacred sites in the town.

Food will be offered to approximately 300 monkeys living in the area of the God of Death Shrine and Phra Prang Sam Yot. When the food is uncovered and the monkeys start to realise what is on offer and quickly take advantage of the amazing feast, gorging themselves with the all that they can get their hands on. Locals will also put out blocks of ice containing fruit which you can watch the monkeys licking furiously to get inside. It's definitely quirky and will certainly lend an eccentric tough to your Thailand trip.

As the monkeys are seen as a spiritual animal in the Buddhist religion, this offering is a great way to boost your karma and from the good health of these monkeys the local's karma must be at an all-time high. As the afternoon draws in you can see the monkey sitting around playing in a docile and content way often interacting with the passers-by. With the festival taking place just 2 hours north of Bangkok it is a great day out and a spectacle like none other you have ever seen. If you're travelling to Thailand in November, it's definitely something that you shouldn't miss.

Hat Yai Lantern festival: 1 Nov 2010 - 28 Feb 2011

In the deep south of the Thailand in Songkhla province the spectacular Hat Yai Lantern festival has become one of the most beautiful and diverse night time spectacles around, and is understandably popular with travellers to Thailand. This international festival lasts 4 months from 4pm till 9pm every night and the theme this year is the Seven Wonders of the World. The categories vary from animal planet, lanterns of the east, birds of paradise and many more. The lanterns are made from paper or cloth with bamboo frames and can be seen floating on the lake, hanging from structures, or flying in the sky. This year they also have an ice dome to display the frozen sculptures, but be sure to remember to wrap up as the dome reaches a chilly -9. This festival is held in the municipal park Hatyai Songkhla and so prebooking tickets in advance is advised. If you can't make it to the Lantern festival during your Thailand trip, you certainly won't regret it.

Trooping Of The Colour: 2nd December 2010

During your Thailand trip, you will find that the royal family are highly respected and honoured and so just before his Majesty King Rama IX birthday on the 5th of December the country celebrates his birth. This is celebrated with annual oath taking ceremony by the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy, and the Royal Thai Air Force. This impressive ceremony was first organised in 1961 and has become one of the most colourful event is Thailand festival calendar. It is celebrated in the Royal Plaza in Bangkok on the 2nd of December. As the king appears, flares are lit and you will feel the fantastic atmosphere as the Thais cheer for their king.

Sunflower festival: Nov 2010 - Jan 2011

Throughout the months of November to January flower lover's and Thailand travellers alike flock to the northern providences of Phatthana Nikhom and Khok Samrong to celebrate this beautiful flower. During the months of November to February the locals cover the town in sunflowers making everything yellow! With 12,000 acres of this flower in this province taking the train ride that runs along this area is a must. The state also runs special day trains to Pasak dam, on public holidays and during the weekend, where the view over the fields is regarded as one of the best.

Previously this flower was grown as a decorative addition to brighten up a Thai house, but now the region of Lop Buri harvest the flower for its oil and the seed snack are regarded as a valuable cash crop.

In the past the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya, was regarded too close to the sea in the event of invasion and so Lop Buri was developed as the second capital and so boasts king Nari's palace and 3 pagodas which the king would reside in during the wetter months. We definitely recommend including Ayutthaya as part of your Thailand trip.

Chiang Thai National Elephant Day March, 13

In a country where the elephant has been such a huge historical contribution in agriculture, transport as well as used in war, it is not unexpected that this majestic beast is regarded with so much respect. Many Thais see the outline of Thailand as the shape of an elephants head, with the main head to the north, the ears flapping back towards the east and the trunk running down the peninsular to the far south.

This festival is held in the Maesa elephant camp just outside Chiang Mai in the north of the country, and would be a true Thailand travel experience. This camp was set up for elephants that have had a hard working life and can now retire in peace and comfort. The festival starts around 12 noon and the entrance to the park is free for locals and people on holiday in Thailand.

Previously to become a working elephant, they would start their training at the age of 3 years old where they would be sent to elephant school. As the logging industry is now in decline, and with the large number of tourists visiting the country, elephants are used largely in the tourist industry to take visitors for rides through the jungle. This Thai festival pays respect and honour to these beasts in the form of a Kantoke feast laid on for the elephants as well as blessings and an exhibition by the veterinary medicine faculty of the Chiang Mai university on baby elephants.

Songkran Thailand's Water festival April 13th
If you happen to be on holiday in Thailand on the 13th April then be prepared for a shower. No it's not the monsoon season but rather the famous Songkran water festival!

As soon as you step out side be prepared for a water balloons, water pistols, water bombs and the odd bucket of water as the Thais celebrate their new year. This festival can last from 3 to 10 days and so when you think it is all over, along comes another barrage of Thais wielding make shift water cannons.

April in Thailand is one of the hottest months of the year and so this could not be a more apt festival. Songkran signifies the sun's shift from one zodiac to another and the start of the solar year which is the most important time for Thai people.

The first day of the year represents a new start and so temples are cleaned, houses washed down, and Thais pray to their god Buddha as well as sprinkling scented water on their elders to show respect. Water is a symbol of cleansing the spirit, the mind and the body. Bad luck is washed away and so if you are saturated at the end of the day, then consider yourself lucky as you have been blessed and ready for a new year, hopefully full of magic Thailand travel experiences!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Planning Your Thailand Holidays

Thailand Holidays can be customized to fit virtually any traveler's budget and personal tastes. Because tourism is such a vital part of the Thai economy (representing a larger percentage of Thailand's GDP than that of any other Asian nation), almost every part of the country is equipped with food and lodging catered toward foreign visitors. Furthermore, the nation's amazingly diverse geography offers a wide range of activities to choose from. No matter what it is that you'd like to do on your holiday, there are surely several, easily-accessible places in Thailand that offer it at a price that fits your budget.

Planning Your Thailand holiday .

For most of us, the first steps in planning any holiday include setting a budget, determining how long our holiday will last, and deciding when we can go. As you walk through these steps in planning your Thailand holiday, here are a few important points to consider:

The price of lodging in Thailand runs the gamut from as low as around £8 GBP per day (about $5 AUD/USD) for a bed in a hostel, all the way up to hundreds of pounds per night for five-star accommodations at world-class, international hotels

In my personal opinion (and this is shared by a great number of foreign travelers I've met over the years), you should plan on spending a minimum of 10-14 days in Thailand during your holiday if you want to visit the country's major attractions without being rushed. Because Thailand's tropical climate is hot, humid, and rainy for much of the year, the country's "high season" for tourism is during the comparatively drier, cooler months of November through February

Some additional thoughts on these points...

With regards to prices for food and lodging, while it is accurate to say that daily rates cover quite a wide spectrum, it is also true that you can find many incredible deals throughout the country if you know when and where to look. For example, in September 2010 I was able to book four nights at a legitimate, five-star luxury hotel in one of the most-popular sections of Bangkok (Thailand's most-expensive city) for just under £90 GBP per night (that's approximately $60 AUD/USD). In an upcoming article, I'll discuss some of the most-effective strategies for finding bargains that maximize your holiday budget.

When determining how much time to spend in Thailand, it's important to remember that, for those of us traveling from an English-speaking country, our holiday will include at least two very long airplane flights (on the way there, and the return trip), and adjusting our body clocks to a significant time difference. For me, this leads to a feeling that jetlag and travel always shortens my actual time in-country by two days. I'll pad the amount of time I expect to spend seeing the sights, or relaxing by two extra days for this reason.

As for choosing a time of year to visit, avoiding the hot, humid Thai summer and autumn monsoon is a valid consideration for many travelers. Temperatures often approach 40° C during those months which, coupled with the tropical humidity and almost-daily thunderstorms, can be a bit overwhelming for some visitors. The flipside of this equation is that airfares and lodging are dramatically cheaper during this so-called "Low Season". If you're on a tight budget, and don't mind a little heat and rain, you'll find that your hard-earned money stretches a lot further at this time of year.

The Five Regions of Thailand - Where Should I Go?

To see the remarkable amount of geographic and cultural diversity that exists within Thailand, all you have to do is compare the country's five unique regions: the Central, East, North, Northeast, and South. Depending on how much time you're able to spend in-country, you may be able to visit all five during one stay (personally, I wouldn't try this unless I had a whole month to spend on holiday). If your time is more limited, you should probably focus on no more than two or three areas, and leave the others for future Thai holidays.

Central

Because the vast majority of foreign tourists arrive, and depart, from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, it's highly likely that your visit to Thailand will include a stay in the nation's capital. A bustling city of 11 million (most Bangkok residents will tell you that this official estimate is probably low by as much as 50%) and the heart of Central Thailand, Bangkok offers its visitors a fascinating cross-section of the nation's past, present and future. Here you'll find everything from the historic Royal Palace (dating back to the Kingdom of Siam), to ultra-modern shopping malls, vibrant entertainment districts, and a thriving business center that is quickly becoming the largest in Southeast Asia.

Central Thailand's other primary attractions include the historic city of Ayutthaya (Siam's ancient capital), and the western coast of the Gulf of Thailand. This part of the gulf coast is especially popular with Thai families and honeymooners thanks to its quiet, clean beaches, abundance of affordable hotels and resorts, gorgeous golf courses, and relative proximity to Bangkok (about two-and-a-half hours by car). If you're looking for a quiet beach getaway, that's close enough to Bangkok that you won't need an airplane or boat to get there, the gulf towns of Hua Hin and Phetchaburi are perfect for you.

East

The region generally considered as Eastern Thailand lies to the southeast of Bangkok, and is bordered by the Gulf of Thailand to the west, and Cambodia to the east. Home to the growing coastal city of Chonburi and the popular tourist destination of Pattaya, the main attraction of this area is the proximity of its beaches to Bangkok (less than a two-hour drive).

Whereas western gulf resorts like Hua Hin tend to primarily attract Thai nationals, the eastern gulf is a magnet for western tourists thanks to Pattaya's notoriety as one of the world's wildest party towns. This bawdy image has been slowly changing in recent years, however, as developers have opened a string of new family-oriented resorts and attractions along Pattaya Beach and its surrounding areas.

North

Northern Thailand is distinctly different from the rest of the country in terrain, climate, and culture. Bordering Myanmar (Burma) and Laos to its north, the region is mountainous, heavily-forested, and noticeably cooler than anywhere else in the country (particularly in the High Season). The Lana culture (a hybrid between Thai, Burmese and Laotian influences) prevails throughout the region, and can be seen in the d├ęcor, dress, and food offerings in cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

The principal city in the north, Chiang Mai, is Thailand's second-largest and an absolute must for any visitor to the country. The heart of Chiang Mai is still surrounded by a moat and 1,000-year-old fortifications that protect some of Southeast Asia's oldest, and most-important, temples, while the rest of the city is dotted with universities, art galleries, and enough lodging and entertainment options to satisfy any type of traveler.

Chiang Mai is also the jumping off point for backpackers to explore the area's famous mountain trails, as well as anyone who is looking for outdoor adventure activities like white water rafting, elephant safaris (i.e., riding an elephant off into the jungle for day or two), and otherwise getting up close to the region's wildlife (including monkeys and tigers). There are so many exhilarating things to do in this part of the country that you're guaranteed to enjoy yourself.

Northeast

Thailand's northeast (dominated by the province of Isaan) is a heavily agricultural region that borders both Laos and Cambodia along the Mekong River. Khmer culture (i.e., ethnic Cambodian) is the prevailing influence on Isaan's people and the majority speak the Khmer language, in addition to Thai and several other regional dialects. This influence is also seen in Isaan cuisine, which is distinct from traditional Thai food for its heavy use of sticky rice, and extremely spicy chilies.

While this relatively undeveloped part of the country has not been a traditional tourist destination, recent government projects (notably the restoration of numerous ancient, Khmer archaeological sites) and the rapid economic growth of Isaan's major cities Buriram and Khon Kaen have begun to draw more visitors over the past decade. The city of Khon Kaen is of particular interest to anyone interested in making a land crossing into Cambodia.

South

When talking about the south of Thailand, the first names that come to mind are Phuket, Koh Samui, and Koh Phi Phi (better known to foreigners as the Phi Phi Islands). White, sandy beaches, sky-blue water, and idyllic settings that look like they're straight out of a Hollywood movie set (mostly because they are, but that's for a later article) are what define this region of the country. In short, it's your run-of-the-mill tropical paradise.

The south of Thailand is generally considered to be the thin peninsula that separates the Gulf of Thailand from the Andaman Sea, and extends all the way south to the border with Malaysia. This stretch of land, and the islands that skirt both of its coasts, are home to some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, as well as world-class facilities for every other water sport imaginable. That's all in addition to the incredible beaches, lagoons, and panoramas that the area is so famous for. With that said, I'm sure that it comes as no surprise that I highly recommend you include at least one of this region's fantastic resorts in your Thailand holiday.

The Hardest Part of Your Thailand Holiday - Getting There

Well, it may not be entirely accurate to say that the hardest part of your Thai holiday will be finding a way to get there. It's more likely to be forcing yourself to board the plane home at the end of your stay. I once heard it said that the only place in the Land of Smiles where you don't see happy people is the international departure lounge at the airport. More often than not, that seems to be true.

In all seriousness though, finding an affordable airfare has usually been the most difficult piece to put in place when I've planned my holidays to Thailand. With the price of jet fuel continuing to soar, this has become even more difficult over the last couple of years. In many cases, I find that I wind up spending as much on my airline ticket as I do on the entire rest of the holiday combined.

Nonetheless, there are a few helpful techniques I've acquired over the years that generally lead me to the lowest available prices at the time of my departure. They require a great deal of flexibility with regards to departure days and times (and you won't be getting any non-stop flights to Bangkok), but I do feel confident that they save me money in the end. I'll delve into this subject in detail in the near future.

As for now though, please peruse the rest of the site and be sure to leave any comments or suggestions you may have beneath the appropriate article. You can access the article directory by going to our main Holidays in Thailand page.