• Population: 64.1 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Bangkok
  • Area: 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq miles)
  • Major language: Thai
  • Major religion: Buddhism
  • Life expectancy: 66 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 baht = 100 satangs
  • Thailand is one kingdom of beautiful places and smiling faces. Up until the onslaught of the Red Shirts that caused uproar of travel alerts prohibiting travel to these parts, Thailand has been one of the ultimate destinations of South East Asia, the “backpackers’ gateway to the southeast”. Indeed the Land of Smiles, the people have whizzed through one of its toughest years flashing their pearlies, teeth and all. And with what harshness and violence the political situation is putting the country under, one has to speculate if the smiles are still genuine. As the home of phad thai, muay thai, satay, and lady boys, they have every reason to smile. Still, despite the sensationalism on Thailand that covertly masks its beauty and spectacle, the basis for its “ultimate travel destination” accolade and famosity remains, be it in Pattaya, in Kho Lipe, in Chao Phraya, in Kanchanaburi, or in Chiang Mai. The Kingdom of Thailand, the heart of the Asia Pacific, remains to be a country of interest for any culture or price range with its magical balance of Old and Modern World.


    Thailand (15 00 N, 100 00 E) points its geographic coordinates at the heart of the Asia-Pacific region, making it the aviation hub of SEA. The Kingdom has total area 513,120 km 2, slightly smaller than France, but big enough for thick green forests and crystal blue seas and everything in between. The terrain is generally mountainous, particularly to the north of the country with the highest point the Doi Inthanon at an altitude of 2,576 m. To the centre, the land is mostly flat and low, the Chao Phraya River Valley, but overall roughly diverse regional topography features.


    The climate is a peculiar tropical wet and dry savannah climate with seasons that range from warm to hot and hotter, with a quick cool to 19°C from November to December. Expect roasting temperatures in big urban cities, and cooler ones at the highlands. The overall climate in Thailand is a very important consideration for travel specifically because if it’s too hot, travel is stressful, if too wet, a little more dangerous, pertaining to water activities at least. Notably, the best time for travel is during the generally cooler months from November to mid of March, the peak season unfortunately. Whatever the weather, a visit to this sin paradise is of the utmost necessity.


    And here are 65,998,436 more reasons to come visit, the Thai population who probably invented the word “party crashers” – a concept with positive connotation that is if anything, a proof of their hospitality. Theravada Buddhism is the primary religion, the religion of the state that is practised by a really big 94.6% of Thais. Muslims and Christians are a tiny minority standing in comparison to the Buddhist demographic.


    THAI, a Kradai language like Lao, is the official language of the state, accounting for the 75% of Thai population in the kingdom. ENGLISH is the secondary official language and is a compulsory subject and language to learn in school as early as preschool, although CHINESE, Teochew in particular, is more widely spoken by more than 14%, the Chinese population here in Thailand. On the other hand, YAWI is the primary language of the 4.6% of Malay Muslims living in the south near the Malay border, while the remainder of the population in outlying provinces in the north speak Lao and Thai dialects.


    Thailand has been as widely infamous for its beach paradises as its alternative sex travel attractions. And for the former, the latter, or both, Thailand has loads to offer like Phuket and Ko Lipe with its four more than awesome, Pattaya, Sunrise, Chao Ley, and Karma beaches. However, as the 17th in the world by number of populations with HIV/AIDS, the traveller needs some caution and lots of protection. Bangkok has for so long offered the best introduction to the traveller with a boat ride up the Chao Phraya, the bloodline of the city, where one can marvel at the intricate opulence of the temples that lay not asunder but very much intact.

    But the City of Angels may have been evacuated for the time being by these heavenly creatures with what political chaos plagues the great city of Bangkok. Had it not been, as sure and hopeful as most are that peace is not a far goal, BKK also makes an incredible haven for shopping, counterfeits need it be said, either in modern JJ Market (Chatuchak), MBK , or Ampua for tradition’s sake. Why not Patpong for a little bizarre ping pong show for the different kind of visitor? Muay Thai is also a huge tourist magnet for travellers, who can be either play spectators or students.

    While nothing beats Chiang Mai in terms of culture and temples with around 300 wats sprawled all over town, Kanchanaburi is the nature-lovers haven and nowhere can superior water fun be had than here. Erawan, Pha Thad, Huai Khamin, and Saiyok waterfalls are surely worth an entire day’s visit each, no doubt a different experience each time. The ultimate way to travel is explore what has not been uncovered for a once in a lifetime Thai adventure, not forgetting of course to spend time with the locals who in more ways than one are the main attraction…and then there’s also the food.


    One cannot enjoy to the maximum a visit to the Kingdom by not experiencing the food culture. Thai food is food fit for a King. Thai food alone is more than enough reason for a holiday to these parts. Let it be said that Thai cuisine is a festive fusion of Indian, Chinese, Cambodian and all that is Asian and good, and everything starts in the streets. Rice is a staple and is engorged in many forms from rice noodles to sticky rice desserts with mango. Khao suai is the generic term for white steamed rice typically eaten with meals, while khao phat is basic fried rice with pork or chicken stirred in. Street food culture is an integral part of the Thai identity as a group of people with a natural inclination to gastronomy, cooking and eating both. The streets are a cultural and culinary crossroads where people can offer their home-cooked specialty to the rest of the world for a very small cost. In doing so, the Thais don’t mind making a modest profit for, at the end of the day, cooking is what they love to do. A modern Thai would eat 9 times a day from a THB 25 phad thai off the street or a $100 10-course meal-anything that involves putting something edible or nearly edible to the oral cavity.

    Thai cuisine is highly regarded all over the world for its special flavor that anyone from anywhere enjoys, and this can never be better represented than by the national dish, phad thai. This healthy noodle dish with a great combination of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy is the epitome of Thai cuisine because it is light, healthy, balanced, spicy, flavorful, and aromatic. Tom yam and Tom Kha Gai are favorite soup dishes while som tam (papaya salad), sticky rice, and kai yang (grilled chicken) are a favorite meal combo. Indian culinary influence is quite strong especially with its curry dishes like green curry, although Thai cuisine has its distinctive quality now more than ever, take pandan chicken for example. Pandan is a flavorful leaf, which works like spice to Thai desserts, similar to vanilla, but more versatile as it also gives a wonderful flavor to meat, in this case, as the chicken is cooked wrapped in these leaves. Chiang Mai, the ancient capital, is the foodie wonderland of Thai and world cuisines from British fish and chips to Italian pizza and pasta delights.

    Thais love things that are all nice and sweet, especially for dessert, but the Thai concept of dessert is not like the western after-meal dessert model. As it is in general Asia, dessert may pertain to a sweet snack eaten as a small meal per se. Inasmuch as it can be eaten after a meal western-style, this is more for preference than a custom. Desserts like khanom (cookies or snacks), khao nio mamuang (sticky rice with mango and coconut milk drizzle), or waan yen, a heap of shaved ice on a bed of “toppings” like corn and kidney beans drizzled with syrup and coconut cream, are desserts that are mostly consumed as a snack or fill-upper. Yes, they snack on bugs and roaches too, which without a doubt is an acquired taste.

    Josh Boorman


    Backpacking Addictz



    Twitter: @backpackaddictz

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    Joshua Boorman

    Joshua Boorman

    Founder & Editor in Chief at Backpacking Addictz
    Come with me on a journey with me to various destinations throughout the world. We discuss all things Backpacking, Lifestyle Design & Online Business to help you achieve new found freedom and create a life of meaningful fulfillment.
    Joshua Boorman

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