Thailand

Sitting pretty in the very heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand is one of the original vacation destinations that has always catered to any kind of traveller, backpacker or tourist. For the sun worshippers, Thailand is home to very well-known tourist stretches of white sand such as Phuket and Ko Samui, as well as many not so well known beaches for those looking for a more authentic Thai experience in the sun. For those interested in the history of this ancient land, the old Siamese capital of Ayutthaya is not to be missed, nor are the sometimes-hidden-but-well-worth-searching-for Khmer temples that dot the landscape. These include Phimai, which was once connected by roadway to Cambodia's Angkor Wat. Culture should be high on the agenda for anyone visiting this treasure, as traditions from all over Southeast Asia can be found throughout, particularly in the de facto Burmese refugee camps along the Myanmar border in the west, the hill tribe villages in the north, the traditional markets along the Laos border in the northeast and the handicraft markets along the eastern border with Cambodia. And then, of course, there's Bangkok - or Krung Thep as it is known by the locals - which offers up almost more than a traveller can possibly imagine. From potentially nightmarish hustle and bustle to surprisingly pockets of serenity - including a very interesting and educational snake venom research centre - this city truly is a metropolis that, like the rest of the country, must be seen to be believed. ~ Samantha McDonald-Amara


Thailand's Top 15: Not Always the Beach

After living for a year in Thailand, I’ve come to love the culture and country in ways I’d never expected. This place really does have so much to offer and after being asked several times over what kinds of things I’d recommend visitors do here, I thought I’d make up my own ‘Top Things to Do’ list. I came here to teach – which was an incredible experience in so many ways – but when placed in the north of the country I was skeptical. What? No beach? However, what I soon realized was that Thailand is way more than just sun, sea and sand, and some of the best experiences to be had are far away from the surf. Some of these are only possible if you are here at certain times of the year, but you should definitely try as many as you can. Enjoy!

The Road Less Travelled

It’s undeniable that the tourist trails throughout Southeast Asia are well trodden upon. In Thailand and Vietnam, travellers seem to have permeated every nook; they can do their laundry, book bus tickets, take inclusive tours and order food, all with relative ease. Cambodia and Laos, though slightly less visited and more susceptible to pockets of trouble, are still both fairly easy enough to breeze through. Though reviews and travellers’ tales of all four abound online and in guidebooks, there are still more adventurous paths to find. The overland route from Bangkok, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia is one of these unmapped and unpopular routes, although it nevertheless possesses a little charm and is a wallet friendly alternative.

Save Money: Eat where the locals eat

Roadside fare: cheap, delicious and nutritiousThailand is a cheap place to live and travel. We westerners wonder how the average Thai can live off of $350 per month when some of us blow that much in one night on drinks, dinner and a movie with friends. Well I have a big secret to share with you. Come closer. Closer. Okay here it is: the big key to cheap living and travelling in Thailand - or in any other country at all really - is to eat where the locals eat. And where do they eat? At the street side food stalls! That’s it. My big secret is for you to 'go native', as they say. I know that everyone knows that's what you should do when you visit a foreign country, and you know that I know and, I know…well, I could just go on and on. So why in the world don't more people do it?! On a recent trip to Ao Nang in southern Thailand, I was surprised to see how few foreigners ate at the street side food stalls. There were plenty of Thai people eating at the stalls, but not very many visitors. The majority of foreign people, sadly, were in the western-styled eateries such as pizza parlours or the 'usual suspects' of American food chains such as McDonald's and Burger King, Very frustrating, indeed, particularly since Thai street food is tasty, flavorful, diverse, cheap, healthy and safe!

From Ban Phe to Bangkok

Floating markets are part of Thai cultureI was looking for a good way to travel and make a little money while doing it, so like many I decided to head to Southeast Asia in hopes of becoming an English teacher. I first signed up for a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course in June 2007. The course was offered in the small fishing village of Ban Phe, Thailand, which was a lot like one of those small towns that you might find in the middle of nowhere. There were no malls and no movie theaters, but if I walked out of the school, took a right and walked a mile, I could stand in the Gulf of Thailand. It turned out to be an amazing town that more people should consider when visiting the country, particularly if they want to get off the beaten path and get to know a place that is often overlooked.

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 Full name: Kingdom of Thailand

 Population: 67.09 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Bangkok

 Largest city: Bangkok (by population)

 Area: 573,120 million sq.km. (198,117 sq. mi.)

 Major languages: Thai, English, Other

 Major religions: Buddhist, Muslim, Christian,  Other

 Monetary unit: Baht

 GDP per capita: US $9,700

 Internet domain: .th

 International dialling code: +66

 Source: CIA World Factbook