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Thailand is the most exotic country in Asia, so rich in culture and history. In 1949 the country was officially renamed from "Siam" to "Thailand" - meaning "the land of the free." Thailand has enjoyed a thousand-year history of independence, and has always been a kingdom. The intensity of respect felt by Thai people for their King and Queen is immense.

The country is much admired for the beauty of its handicrafts, the charm of its people and the continuity of its traditions. It is blessed with large expanses of fertile land and ideal growing conditions. Thailand enjoys agricultural self-sufficiency and is the only food exporter in Asia. Many of the country's arts and crafts, ceremonies and festivals are connected to the agricultural lifestyle of the people.

The capital city of Thailand, Bangkok, is known as "Krung Thep", "City of Angels" by Thais. When Bangkok was established as the capital of Thailand in 1783 it was inaugurated with the formal 163-letter name for the city of:

"Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amorn Rattanakosindra Mahindrayutthaya Mahadilokpop Noparattana Radchhani Burirom Udom Rachnivet Mahastan Amorn Pimarn Avatarn Satit Sakatuttiya Vishnukarm Prasit"

which when translated into English means:

"City of Angels, Great City and Residence of the Emerald Buddha, Impregnable City of God Indra, Grand Capital of the World, Endowed with Nine Precious Gems, Abounding in Enormous Royal Palaces which Resemble the Heavenly Abode where Reigns the Reincarnated God, a City Given by Indra and Built By Vishnukarm"

It is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest city name in any language.


The 60th Anniversary Celebrations of His Majesty's Ascension to the Throne.


In June 2006 His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej celebrated the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty's Ascension to the Throne. His Majesty ascended the throne of the Kingdom of Thailand on June 9, 1946 and is the ninth monarch of the Royal House of Chakri. His Majesty is the world's longest reigning monarch.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit at the celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty's Ascension to the Throne

Throughout the six decades since 1946, His Majesty the King has worked relentlessly for the well-being of his subjects especially in remote areas throughout the country. His Majesty's hard work has won the hearts of the Thai people across the country.

A group photograph of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit with royalty from other countries at the Ananda Samakhon Throne Hall Bangkok

The ceremonies was attended by kings and queens from 12 countries including His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hjh Saleha, His Majesty Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, the Yang DiPertuan Agong of Malaysia and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Fauziah, His Majesty King Abdullah the Second of Jordan, His Majesty Emperor Akihito of Japan and Her Majesty Empress Michiko, His Majesty King Mohammed the Sixth of Morocco and Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma, His Majesty King Letsie the Third of Lesotho and Her Majesty Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso, His Majesty King Carl the Sixteenth Gustaf of Sweden and Her Majesty Queen Silvia, His Majesty King Mswati the Third of Swaziland and Her Majesty Queen Sofia of Spain.

Also present were Royal representatives from 13 other countries including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Belgium and United Arab Emirates.

Royal Barge Procession during the celebrations of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej 60th Anniversary of His Majesty's Ascension to the Throne

Highlights included a ceremony to pay tribute to His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand, at the Ananda Samakhon Throne Hall in Bangkok. There was also the traditional event, the Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phraya River, followed by the opening ceremony of the exhibition of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Royal Initiatives.


National Flag

The red, white and blue bands symbolise the nation, Buddhism and the monarchy respectively.
National Flag of Thailand


The National Anthem

Its music was composed in 1932 by Professor Phra Jenduriyang, while the lyrics, as presently constituted, were written in 1939 by Colonel Luang Saranuprabhandh. It is played on all ceremonial occasions of national importance and while the national flag is being raised and lowered.

There is also a special King's Anthem

National and Royal symbol

The Thai national and royal symbol is Phya Khrut, (where 'Phya' means king or ruler and 'Khrut' means Garuda - a mythical half-bird half-human figure) and it adorns King Bhumibol Adulyadej's scepter and royal standard. Many ministries and departments have incorporated the Garuda into their insignias. Moreover, the Garuda also signifies "by Royal Appointment" and is awarded, at the personal discretion of His Majesty the King, as a sign of royal approval to companies that have rendered outstanding economic and charitable services to Thailand. It is considered a great honour.

Garuda - National Symbol of Thailand

Government

A constitutional monarchy headed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
There are 76 provinces, each sub-divided into amphoe (district), tambon (sub-district), and muban (village).

Geography

Thailand is bordered by Malaysia (South), Myanmar - formally known as Burma - (West & North), Laos (North & East), and Cambodia (Southeast). The country has a land area of 513,115 sq km.

Climate & Seasons

Overall temparature variation from 19C to 38C, averaging about 29C.
Humidity ranges from 66% to 82%
Seasons:-
Hot - March to May
Rainy - June to October
Cooler - November to February

Largest Islands

Ko Phuket   543 sq km
Ko Samui   240 sq km
Ko Chang   212 sq km

Largest Provinces

Nakhon Ratchasima   20,494 sq km
Chiang Mai   20,107 sq km
Kanchanaburi   19,483 sq km

Highest Peaks

Doi Inthanon   2,595 m
Doi Pha Ham Pok   2,297 m
Doi Luang   2,195 m
Doi Suthep   2,185 m
Doi Pha Cho   2,024 m

Principal Rivers

Mekong   4,335 km
(only partially in Thailand)
Nan   675 km
Mun   673 km
Ping   590 km
Yom   555 km
Pasak   513 km
Chi   442 km
Chao Phraya   370 km
Wang   335 km
Tapi   214 km
Petchburi   170 km
Pattani   165 km
Maeklong   140 km


Language

Thai is the national language but English is widely understood in the cities and tourist regions.
Religion

Buddhist 92.55%, Muslim 5.29%, Christian 1.34%, others 0.79%

Population

As of 1998 census, there was a total population of 61,466,178 comprising 30,591,602 males and 30,874,576 females.
Currency

The basic monetary unit is the Thai baht (THB) which is divided into 100 satang. You are unlikely to come across any satang coins ( 25 and 50 denominations).
Baht coins - 1, 5 and 10 baht.
Baht Notes - 10 (brown), 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100 (red), 500 (purple), 1000 (grey) baht
Local Time

Local Time is GMT + 7 hours.

Business Hours

General Banking Hours are Monday to Friday 9.30am - 3.30pm. Most offices are open from 8.30am - 5.30pm Monday to Friday. Some stores are open 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Electricity

220 volts 50 cycles thoughout the country.
Most sockets are two pin.

Water

Drink only bottled, or boiled, water.

Postal Services

Post offices are usually open from 8.00am to 4.30pm. The Thai post service is generally reliable. Use EMS (express mail service) for important items. Couriers such as DHL and UPS have representatives.
The Royal Barge

National Flower

In Thailand, 'Ratchaphruek' - the Golden Shower or Golden Rain Tree, Thai Khun, chaiyaphruek, the Tree of Victory, the Royal Tree (Cassia Fistula L.), is considered to be an auspicious tree.

The dazzling yellow cluster-shaped flowers signify two out of the three most important institutions of the Thai nation - the national religion, Buddhism, and the day of birth of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was a Monday. Yellow is the color associated with Monday.

The shape of the pollen resembles the Thai numeral for nine; another fascinating characteristic that is symbolic of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, the ninth ruler of the illustrious Chakri dynasty.

The flower is widely known to people and it is possible to plant it anywhere in the country. It bears beautiful cluster-shaped flowers in summer.

Cassia fistula is a deciduous, medium-sized tree, grown naturally in all areas, and it illuminates the cities and forests with its beautiful, bright yellow flowers in March, April, and May. The province of Khon Kaen in the Northeast holds its Songkran Festival as the Festival of Dok Khun, Siang Khaen - Golden Shower Flowers and the Sound of Reed Pipes - at the height of the flourishing Golden Shower trees.

In 1987, 99,999 Cassia fistula were planted, to mark His Majesty the King's fifth-cycle the birthday anniversary. By 2007, a target of nine million planted trees, in all parts of the country, is planned.

 

On 2nd October 2004, the Thai Cabinet designated the Ratchaphruek (Cassia fistula) flower as a national symbol, along with the Thai pavilion and Thai elephant.




National flower of Thailand - Ratchaphruek


National animal

Chang Thai (the Thai elephant) has maintained close links with Thai history and customs.

In addition, it has a long lifespan, and it is closely related to the livelyhood of the Thai people, including a mode of transportation in times of both peace and historic battles.


In particular, the 'white elephant' is connected to the Kings of Thailand, and the white elephant was portrayed in the former national flag.

National architecture

The 'Sala Thai' (Thai pavilion) has become the symbol of National architecture.

Thai Sala

It reflects the knowledge of Thai people. It's unique beauty differs from the architectures of other countries, and visitors can readily acknowledge 'Thai-ness' through Sala Thai.

Visas and Immigration

Visitors holding a valid passport or travel document, issued by a country included in Thailand's official list of eligible countries, can enter the country for one month without a visa. If you are planning to stay longer, you should apply for a 60 day Tourist Visa, from a Royal Thai Embassy.
Visa extensions can be applied for at the Immigration Department in Bangkok or in Phuket.

Visa regulations are subject to change, so it's best to check with your local Thai Embassy or Consulate.


In Thai, the colloquial expression for Immigration Office  is dtaw maw.
This is the two character abbreviation from the formal dtruat khon khaw muang,     ie. (dt)ruat  and (m)uang


Bangkok Immigration Office

507 Soi Suan Phlu, South Sathorn Road, Thungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120
Tel: 02 286 2774       02 287 3101 - 10


Phang Nga Immigration Office

37 Moo 3 Tambon Thamnamphud, Amphur Muang, Phang Nga 82000
Tel: 076 412011


Phuket Immigration Office

Information is available on the web site www.phuketimmigration.com

482 Phuket Road, Phuket City, A. Muang 83000
(next to public library and near Saphan Hin tin mining monument)
Tel: 076 221905     Tel/Fax: 076 212108
Hours: 08.30am to 4.30pm Mon-Fri (open lunchtime) and 08.30am to 12.00 Sat

Patong office :- Beach Rd, Patong. Tel: 076 340477
Phuket Airport  Tel: 076 327138

Romanization System of the Thai Language

In 1954 the Royal Institute of Thailand devised a scientific and consistent system of romanization of the Thai language. It was formally adopted by the Thai government in 1967 especially with regards to romanized spellings of provinces, counties, places, streets and many other words and names.

The system is also referred to as RTSG (Royal Thai General System)

In the romanization system the Thai language is regarded as having eight vowels, 14 diphthong phonemes and 19 constant phonemes. For example the eight vowels are 'a' as in ah, 'ae' as in can, 'e' as in men, 'i' as in equal, 'o' as in law, 'oe' as in urge. But the fixed tones of the Thai language are not indicated in the official system. Neither are the long or short variants of all Thai vowels and some diphthongs.

By comparison, the Thai alphabet has 44 consonants (but only 21 seperate sounds), 48 vowels and diphthongs (but 32 seperate signs), and 5 tonal marks. An example of the tonal marks would be those related to the syllable mai, which can mean 'new', 'burn', 'wood', 'not?', or 'not' depending on the tone. The phrase " ma'i ma`i ma^i ma^i ma~i " (new wood doesn't burn, does it?) indicates the importance of tones.

The romanized system is not completely assured to provide both consistency and readability in every single case. Also, the system has not been fully popularised. It is not always widely observed by ordinary people. As a result, there is some irregularity and confusion about spellings of the romanized system in English publications & newspapers. For example the word "Ko" (meaning "island") should really be pronounced closer to something like 'kaw' in Thai; this matches the official romanized vowel 'o' pronounced 'aw' as in 'law'. However the spelling "Koh" is now sometimes used as well.

In essence do not be surprised about slight variations in spelling in literature & brochures.



Thai Musical Instruments
Thai musical instruments


Amazing Thailand

Maeklong - the market on the railway tracks


At the fishing village of Maeklong (Samut Songkram) the railway line runs through a thriving market. Watch as the vendors pull back their poles and awnings and remove their produce from the tracks as the train approaches. After the train has passed, the market will revert back - sprawled all over the railway tracks.

The visit to Maeklong is an amazing day trip, from Bangkok. The trip can also be extended by boat to Ratchaburi.

 


Bangkok has three railway stations. In addition to Hualamphong and Bangkok Noi stations, there is the little known station of Wong Rian Yai on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river in Thonburi, south west of Bangkok.

Wong Rian Yai station is tucked away, but is just south of the large roundabout, bearing the same name, with the statue of King Taksin.

The train journey to MaeKlong is about 65 km. or so.

But about halfway, the line runs out of track due to the river Ta Chin (and there is no bridge). This requires a short boat trip to the other side of the river, where one can catch another train to continue the journey.

The first half of the interrupted journey is from Wong Rian Yai to Mahachai (Samut Sakhon). The train will typically have four carriages. It will pass through very tiny stations, cross canals, pass Wat Raja Oros, and emerge into lush countryside, with buffaloes grazing, and roll past small villages.

At Mahachai, exit the train station and take a short walk to catch the ferry across the river to the railway station of Baan Laem on the other side.

The train and boat timings may not coincide too much.



Maeklong market on the rail tracks


Maeklong market on the rail tracks


Maeklong market on the rail tracks


Maeklong market on the rail tracks


Maeklong market on the rail tracks


The journey from Baan Laem to Maeklong (Samut Songkram) is an even more charming journey through quiet backwaters in a typically two carriage train. The train's modest interior matches it's leisurely pace.

A few hundred meters before the terminus at Maeklong, the train will encounter the market totally covering the tracks. Literally. But the vendors are used to it. It happens eight times a day. At the sound of the train whistle they will pull back their awnings and move back their vegetable and fish produce before it gets run over by the train. Once the train has passed, the market will revert back, leaving the train temporarily trapped at the final terminus. Definitely a fascinating encounter!

Mae Klong is a town of deep sea trawlers, on the Gulf of Thailand, and the Mae Klong river is better known by the name of its two upper branches, the Kwai Yai and Kwai Noi (or River Kwai). (NB. Kwai should be spelt Kwae and pronounced similar to k-where (not k-why). The movie was wrong in spelling and pronunciation).

At this point, one can either return to Bangkok on the route just taken, or proceed by boat to Ratchaburi. In the latter case, you can hire a large long-tailed boat from two simple riverside restaurants housed in concrete pavilions. The journey time up the Mae Klong river is 90 minutes at a cost of approx. 1000 baht. You can thereafter return to Bangkok on a Ratchaburi - Bangkok Hualampong train.

 
Maeklong market on the rail tracks




Maeklong railway map


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