The Loy Krathong Festival - lighting up the Chao Phraya

by Eric Lim
The Loy Krathong Festival is one of the most colorful Thai festivals celebrated nationwide. Processions of beautiful girls dressed in traditional costumes carry floral floats that are floated on rivers and lakes. Each province has its special features in celebrating this annual Festival of Lights.

In Bangkok the highlight of the Loy Krathong Festival was a procession of boats from the Royal Thai Navy decorated with various designs and lights presented by various organizations held nightly from 13 - 16 November 2005.

It was a spectacular floating kaleidoscope flickering in the night along the Chao Phraya River from the Taksin Bridge to King Rama VIII Bridge against a backdrop of historical monuments lighted up for the occasion.

The Loy Krathong tradition

What's the significance of this festival beyond the color and pageantry?

The Loy Krathong Festival is a 13th century Sukhothai tradition of Brahmin origin, adapted to Buddhism, to give thanks to the Goddess of water and to seek forgiveness for past misdeeds.

This tradition is particularly strong in agricultural societies where the river gives life and sustenance in a close bond between Man and Nature. To the millions of farmers dependant on its source of water, the Chao Phraya is the river of life.

Held on the 15th night of the new moon in the twelve-month of the Thai calendar, the Loy Krathong Festival usually falls in the third or fourth week of November.

The Loy Krathong ritual

In the ritual, the person kneels by the water, says a prayer, makes a wish, asks for forgiveness and floats (loy) off the lighted krathong. Courting couples float off a krathong together under the full moon and watch as the krathong drifts towards the fulfillment of their dreams.

Making the krathong

Made entirely from natural material, traditional krathongs consist of a small slice of banana trunk to serve as the float, which is decorated with banana leaves, multi-colored orchids, lotus and bright yellow marigolds, a candle and three joss sticks.

In the old days, sharpened wooden slivers are used to pin the leaves. Nails and staples have replaced these today. It's customary to leave some coins and a strain of your hair in the krathong to bring in good fortune and carry away the bad.

Merrymaking on Loy Krathong night

Locally the Loy Krathong Festival is celebrated at various locations near the Chao Phraya River, which are buzzing with activity, heightening as one reaches the riverbanks.

Roads to the piers are filled with vendors and buskers as crowds patiently inch their way to the banks packed with people of all ages. Many queue for boats to float their krathongs mid-stream. The celebration goes on for the whole night with more people arriving in the early hours.

Protecting the environment

Cleaning up the rivers and canals after the festival is a formidable task. On 17 November 2005, the morning after, it took 4,000 cleaners to retrieve 1.2 million krathongs in Bangkok alone!

The City administration discourages the use of Styrofoam, as these are non-biodegradable. The more enterprising have baked bread in the shape of krathongs that are consumed by fishe

Towards a better tomorrow

As fireworks burst overhead lighting the dark Bangkok skies, another Loy Krathong Festival comes to an end. Meanwhile the krathongs drift along the Chao Phraya carrying with them the hopes of thousands wishing for a better tomorrow.

If you're in Bangkok during the next Loy Krathong Festival, view the festivities at any of the Chao Phraya river piers. For a panoramic view, stay at one of the riverside hotels or take a river cruise by night.


Thai Sport - Muay Thai

by Pauline Go
The most well known sport in Thailand is the Thai boxing or Muay Thai. It is a sport which needs a lot of strength, stamina and adaptability. It has a spiritual element too which is normally not linked with sports.

It is a form of combat between two fighters. Records show that this sport existed as early 1411, but it is possible that Muay Thai was in existence even before that. In 1920, Muay Thai was banned as it had become extremely violent and dangerous for the fighters. However, in 1937, the sport was revived and the fighters had to wear protective gear as the new rules and regulations that were laid down.

The spiritual aspect in Muay Thai can be seen before the sport starts. The fighters kneel down to pray to their wai kru or teacher before the event begins and they also perform a dance which is a bit of warm up besides being a ritual. This dance form is called Ram Muay. Ram Muay differs according to individual training camps. The dance is accompanied by music played by the band. The music is also known as phipat music.

The participant wears a tennis racket-like hoop on the head during the dance ceremony and then the coach removes it to indicate the start of the fight. Fighters wear bands containing a Buddha amulet and / or some kind of herb to bring good luck to them.

The actual boxing has five rounds and each round is for 3 minutes. There are three judges, who are seated in three different boxes on three different sides of the boxing ring. Points are given for each punch that lands on the opponent. In between the rounds, fighters can rest. Trainers use the rest as an opportunity to soak the fighters with water and advice them.

Muay Thai is considered to be a difficult sport and requires the fighters to be in peak physical condition.


On Arrival At Bangkok You Must...

by Tim Ryan
Even before you arrive in Bangkok you would be wise to check upon the visa requirements for your particular nationality. Most persons of western nationality however will be provided automatically with a 30 day tourist visa.

On expiration of this Visa you will usually be able to extend it at the Immigration centre on 'Suan Plu' Road in downtown Bangkok for a maximum of 14 days. After this period expires visitors would than have to leave the country or risk being fined. If you know you are going to stay for longer than this period consider applying for a visa in advance from your home country where double entry and triple entry visas maybe available for you. A double entry visa if extended in Suan Plu twice can get you up to 6 months on a tourst visa whilst only leaving the country once.

In the past tourists could simply leave the country every thirty days and return on the same day to reveive another new thity day visa. however the Thai government are seemingly tightening up on this practise and enforcing several other laws and procedures to make this practise less feasible on a continuous basis.

If you arriving via the International airport be aware that you will immediately be accosted by the usual army of touts offering you taxi services and so on. A metred taxi should cost around 300 baht to downtown area but you will most likely have to negotiate a fixed price for the journey as the Taxi drivers realise they have a captive market and will be unlikely to settle for the metred price.

One alternative is to use the bus shuttle service which runs to all the main tourist centres including Khao Sahn Road (Banglampoo area)for 150 baht. These buses tend to leave every half an hour with the trip downtown taking about the same time span again.

Many travellers arrive weary and are in no fit state to do the currency conversions in their head so it pays to have a bit of fore knowledge. $10 at the moment gets you roughly 300 baht and 10UK pound will get you in the region of 600 baht (double check at Money Transfer One final tip when handing over 1000 baht notes say the amount out loud so they are aware that you know it is a thousand baht note and they don't give you change for the wrong amount. It can be suprisingly easily to be short changed when using unfamiliar notes, especially with jet lag!


Learning Thai -- The Language of Crows

by Douglas Anderson
This morning, at dawn, I listened to the morning news delivered by a large, black crow in the tree next to my bedroom window. This crow has a very large vocabulary, and its language is tonal, like Thai. Although crows can make only one sound, which in English we transcribe as "caw", in fact it uses the same five tones as Thai.

The morning news lasted about ten minutes, with frequent pauses, which I took to be the pause between sentences or paragraphs. This crow used repetition and tones to create different words. Unlike Thai, which only duplicates a word to indicate a generic plural, the crow would issue as many as five identical caws quickly, then pause slightly. I took the five caws to be one word or phrase.

Thai uses five tones: low, middle, high, rising, and falling. The crow used the same tones. There was clearly a "caw?" and a "caw!", which were quite distinct from the other three caws: low caw, middle caw, and high caw.

As far as I could tell, the crow did not repeat itself during the ten minute news announcement. I could not hear any answering crow, so I took this as general broadcast news, as opposed to "hey, I'm looking for a mate!".

In Thailand, 20 years ago, I lived at JB Mansion on Phaholyothin Road, Soi 3. I often went into the pool, but I had to wait until sunset, as I have fair skin and burn easily. There was a large bird, perhaps a parrot or toucan, in a cage that was obviously too small, on the balcony of the apartment building next door.

All day, this bird sent out a single whistle, which I took to mean, "Is anyone there?"

One day, I repeated the whistle back to him. It was easy to reproduce and I did it accurately.

The bird immediately perked up, shifted around on its perch, sat up straight, turned its head around in both directions, and issued a different whistle which I had never heard before.

I duplicated that whistle, and the bird looked confused. It tilted its head, shifted around, then issued the second whistle again.

I repeated it.

The bird settled down, and went back to issuing the first whistle.

So what happened here?

Clearly, if the first whistle meant "Is anyone there?", the second whistle meant "I am here, who are you?" and it should have been followed by a third whistle, which I did not know.

This is similar to the "discovery protocol" used in computer communications, for example with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices. An initial signal, called "Attention" in computer-speak, is followed by an "Acknowledgement", and then a "Begin Transmission". This is also termed a "handshake".

When communicating with the parrot, the handshake failed as I did not provide the correct third whistle, and the bird realized that I was not another parrot.

Getting back to the crow, it did not do what the parrot did, that is, issue a single sound repeatedly. It was clearly speaking different sentences for a long period of time, ten minutes, without repeating itself, as far as I could tell.

In Australia, some crows in the Northern Territory have figured out how to eat cane toads, which have two poisonous sacs behind the head. Normally, anything that eats a cane toad dies. Because of this, cane toads have spread southwards and have now reached Sydney. But the crows near Darwin have figured out that if they flip the toad onto its back, they can eat the cane toad by going through the stomach.

Amazing birds, crows. I never realized before today that they spoke a version of Thai. I wrote Speak Easy Thai to help people learn Thai; maybe I should write a Speak Easy Crow.


Take The Discover Thailand Tour

This tour is a great choice for anyone who is experiencing Thailand for the first time. You’ll begin your adventure in Belgin in Bangkok.


Arrive in Bangkok where a local representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel for a three-night stay.


Your guide and driver will escort you on a private longtail boat ride along the Chao Phraya River and its residential canals. You’ll visit Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn Next the Grand Palace, the ceremonial home of the Thai Royal Family. Then visit the magnificent Wat Phra Kaew, the temple that houses the Emerald Buddha the country's most sacred religious image. Then it’s off to Wat Po which is home to the School of Thai Massage. You’ll loop back to Bangkok's central market, a labyrinthine maze of stalls alongside the Chao Praya River.

You’ll visit Bangkok’s flower market where beautifully traditionally dressed women will greet you and offer you flowers. Then it’s off to the silky tycoons Jim Thompson’s home which is filled with an incredible collection of Asian art and antiques. During the evening you can check out Thailand's excellent cuisine.


Early in the morning you’ll witness the monks practicing their chants at the Marble Temple. Proceed to the Monks Bowl Alley, one of the few places where traditional alms bowls are still handcrafted. Next you’ll get to tour the private Prasart Museum on a Bangkok estate which is surrounded by lush gardens and home to a private collection of Thai and other Southeast Asian art and artifacts dating back to the 13th century. The afternoon will be yours to spend as you like exploring the sights and sounds of Bangkok.


Today you’ll fly to Chiang Rai, the first capital of the ancient Lanna Thai kingdom, for a two-night stay. Once you’re settled in your hotel you’ll embark on a full day Golden Triangle excursion. You’ll first stop at the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park where you can stroll along the beautiful botanical gardens, visit the golden pavilion, and admire the collection of northern Thai religious and secular art. From there it’s off to Mae Sai, the northernmost point in Thailand and an excellent stop for shoppers. Then you’ll cross into Myanmar and visit the market at Tachilek. After lunch it’s off to the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar converge. Then you’ll take a drive along the Mekong River to the ancient ruins of Chiang Saen. You’ll be back at your hotel by sundown in time to enjoy the night culture.


The early morning starts with a boat ride up the Mae Kok River to the Karen village of Ruam Mitr followed by a two-hour elephant ride through rice paddies and precarious ridges. Then you’ll visit Yao hilltribe village where our representative will pick you up for a picnic lunch at Ya Pou. Spend some time walking to the Lahu village of Jaleh, and if you’re energetic continuing for another hour along the trail to the local waterfall. You’ll return to Chiang Rai by late afternoon and it’s time to explore on your own or take a peaceful nap.


You’ll depart by car for the northern city of Chiang Mai, where you will spend three nights. After you’ve settled into your room the rest of the day and evening are at your leisure. But be sure to visit the festive Night Bazaar.


Day 7 is a full day of private touring where you get to explore the city and numerous Lanna Thai temples of Chiang Mai. You’ll start with the mountain temple of Doi Suthep. Here you’ll find 300 intricately carved steps that lead to the temple gate. And what a view of Chiang Mai! After exploring Doi Suthep you’ll stop in at Wat Chedi Luang, the original home of the Emerald Buddha. Finally you’ll take a city tour through Chiang Mai which is considered the second most important city in Thailand, and it has an entirely different feel than bustling Bangkok.


You’ll have the day to explore and enjoy the facilities at your resort.


This morning you’lll be transferred to the airport for the flight to the resort island of Phuket, located in southern Thailand. You’ll spend a three relaxing nights at the resort

DAYS 10 - 11: PHUKET

For the next few days you’ll get to enjoy the splendor the white sand beaches and towering limestone stacks rising vertically from gentle, lapping aquamarine waters in Phuket. . Take a cruise, go sailing, snorkeling, or just relax.


Today you will fly to Bangkok where you’ll be driven to your hotel for an overnight stay.


It’s off to the airport for your flight home’

You’ll have wonderful memories to share with friends and family when you return! This is will be one of the best vacations you ever take!


Soapy Massage Is A Special Service In Thailand.

By: AnnMarierM
Soapy massage is not like most other massage, but this is a special service that is almost completely restricted to Bangkok, Thailand. This soapy massage often takes more than an hour and men are more likely than women to book this type of massage. Usually the client is a man, and the person providing this unusual massage is a naked woman. There are many different types of regular massage, but a soapy massage does not really fall into any of these categories. This type of massage is in a category all alone. Using the word soapy massage is very misleading about what kind of service this provides.

The naked woman who provides a soapy massage does not need any formal education to provide this service. Most people who provide any type of service that is given the name of massage are educated people who have had some formal training to perform their duties. The naked women who perform this type of massage do not have this type of education to perform a soapy massage. The people who do traditional massage usually have specialized training above the postsecondary level. Some of these people have specialized training in a particular type of massage including sports massage and medical massage.

Soapy Massage Does Not Usually Have Government Regulation Or Certification

Those who perform soapy massage usually get all of their training through on the job experience. Those who practice traditional massage are usually regulated and certified by local, state and federal agencies, but those who provide this type of massage do not usually have the same types of regulations and certification. The traditional massage can be somewhat like a massage found in Thailand in that some are intended solely for a pleasurable feeling or relaxation. There are many massage therapists at luxury spas and resorts that provide soothing, relaxing massage.

The traditional massage also provides alternative medicinal therapy. The soapy massage is never used by physicians for any type of alternative medicine. The traditional massage is often used for sports stars and professional dancers to keep their bodies in perfect condition. Soapy massage would never be used in this way. Many traditional massage therapists work with medical professionals to provide alternative medical for those suffering from a painful condition. Soapy massage would rarely be used by medical professionals for alternative medical treatment. Most of the naked women who provide the unusual massage very common in Thailand live and work in Thailand, but traditional massage by trained professionals is available all over the world.


Travelling Thailand: 5 Top Destinations

by: Robert Thatcher
With several sights to see and surprises to offer, Thailand could be one of the best locations you should not miss to visit. Culture, beaches, people, and heritage sites are some of the things you can expect when you travel to Thailand.

Bangkok – Traveling Thailand wound not be complete without visiting Bangkok. As the nation’s capital with an estimated population of over 10 million (including the neighboring provinces), this city is by far the largest in the country. The city is divided into 50 districts or khet but for tourists and those who are new in the place, 6 divisions would be more useful. These are Ratchadaphisek in the northeast section of the city, Sukhamvit in the southeast, Silom in the south, Thonburi in the west, Rattanakosin in the central north, and Phahanyothin in the north. The whole Bangkok district would give you a diverse taste of culture, history, religion, modernity, and fast-phase life. You can actually witness how all these blend together to comprise the whole Bangkok package. Buddhist temples, historical museums, towering buildings, contemporary restaurants and hotels, shopping centers, canals and rivers, and food make Bangkok a one of a kind city in Southeast Asia.

Phuket – Down south, Phuket features magnificent beaches, tropical sunsets, white sands, blue seas, and breathtaking sceneries. No wonder it is the most popular vacation destination in Asia beating every beaches of the neighboring countries. It has several beaches like Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Patong Beach, Kamala Beach, and Surin Beach. The island showcases several water sports and activities including parasailing, jet-skiing, and scuba diving. By day, Phuket is alive with beachgoers and shoppers and by night, lights, sounds, and party people dominate the whole island.

Chiang Mai – The second largest city in Thailand with an estimated population of more than 200,000. This city located in the northern part of the country offers greener and quieter city. Chiang Mai’s tourism is becoming more and more popular and permanently settling at this city is very common. When you travel Thailand and visit Chiang Mai, you surely would want to see museums such as Hilltribe Research Institute Museum and the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center. With religion and history enriching the city, you can see several Buddhist temples such as Wat Chiang Mun, Wat Chiang Mun, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Oo-Mong, Wat Phra Jao Mengrai, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, and Wat Chedi Luang. The oldest temple dates back in the 11th century. Chiang Mai features attractions such as Chiang Mai Flower Festival in February, Bo Sang Umbrella & Sankampang Handicrafts Festival in January, The 2nd Orchid Fair also in January, and the Loi Krathong Festival usually falls in November.

Pattaya – Located 150 km. north of Bangkok, Pattaya is one of the most popular tourist destinations, which offers great beaches, beer and go-go bars, and a wide array of sport activities. Visit Pattaya when you travel Thailand is a must. Although it is the most overdeveloped part of the country in terms of tourism, prices in Pattaya still remains with reach. In fact, prices of foods, accommodation, and transportations are very affordable.

Krabi – In a small province of Krabi lies a small town with the same name. Paying a visit Krabi town when you travel Thailand is worth the time. Located south of Bangkok near Phuket and Phi Phi island, the town features great beaches along with high end hotels and not so expensive hotel that cater tourists of different classes.

Traveling in fast forward – Bangkok, Thailand in 24 hours

by: Rene Smith
After arriving in Bangkok at around 3am, I found that my room was unavailable due to it being flooded, not the best way to start my 24 hour adventure but not enough to slow me down. After a power cut and a couple of hours waiting I finally got my room, I didn’t really have enough time to sleep much after the delay, so I had to settle for just a couple of hours.

I got up at 8.30am and felt surprisingly refreshed, it’s not often you have to survive on only 2 hours sleep but at the same time it’s not often you get the opportunity to explore an environment and culture that’s completely new to you. I took a look out the window and just gazed at the concrete jungle that is Bangkok.

For the troubles of the night before, the hotel graciously gave me a free breakfast and a few other nice treats. I enjoyed a few fruits that I’d never had before; I’m quite the food lover so even simple things like that were interesting to me. It’s amazingly humid and very hot, 30 degrees at just 9am in the morning. Luckily for me and the other Hotel guests having breakfast, there are half a dozen huge fans cooling the area.

After finishing up my breakfast I head out into the unknown. I have no idea where I’m going or what I want to do which is part of the fun, it’s sometimes nice to have no plans or schedule, just the freedom to do whatever crosses your path.

It doesn’t take much time for me to meet some of the locals, there are street vendors everywhere and they can be very persistent, with an emphasis on very. It’s a little intimidating at first but after a good 5 hours of shopping I was a pro.

The Pantip Plaza was the first real building I stumbled into, it was full of cheap gadgets and huge amounts of DVD’s (all no doubt perfectly legal). I moved onto Siam Square next and watched a game of street football which was cool. The temperature was edging 35 degrees at this stage and this seemed even more surprising when I looked up and spotted a huge dark cloud forming right above me.

It didn’t take long for the rain to come and what a display it was. I’ve never encountered such a massive display of thunder and lightening in my life. Everyone scurried through the shop awnings and backstreets to take cover, it was impressive watching the speed at which the street vendors set up protection from the rain, this was obviously something they had learned to put up with. It felt like I was wading through millions of people as I made my way back to the hotel, it was cramped before the rain arrived but now it was just crazy.

After a nice dinner, I did some more looking around. I found some cool t-shirts and plenty of great presents for when I eventually got back home to New Zealand. While haggling over prices was new definitely new to me, I ended up enjoying it. It’s not something I could really be bothered with all the time but for that one day it was really fun.

My 24 hours in Bangkok was nearly over. I had to get some sleep before my early flight to London, especially after missing out the night before. It was a shame I had to leave so soon but I’m looking forward to coming back another time and exploring more of Bangkok, especially their many beautiful temples and other tourist attractions. 24 hours certainly wasn’t long but it was enough to give me a taste for Thailand and all the fun and excitement it offers.


The Healing Benefits of Traditional Thai Massage

By: Annalisa Zisman
Thai massage, also known as Nuad Phaen Boran, is an ancient massage that involves not only deep muscle massage, but stretching, elements of shiatsu, yoga, and acupressure as well. Nuad Phaen Boran actually translates into “ancient massage” or “traditional massage.”

Traditional Thai massage has been practised for over 2,500 years. It not only relaxes the body, but the mind as well. It actually began in India. The Buddhist monks practised both massage and other healing arts. This spread to families and as Buddhism spread to Asia, the traditional Thai massage became a part of both the religious and healing part of the religion. It is believed that traditional Thai massage made it to Thailand around the 3rd or 2nd century BC. Many times, monastery temples were built near medical schools so the art of massage was taught among both monks and medical students.

Traditional Thai massage focuses on the experience of the whole body. It works on the major energy lines, known as ‘Sen’. These Sen run throughout the body. By loosening blockages, the massage will help harmonize the body and recoup any deficiencies of the energy lines. Just as Chinese medicine uses acupuncture to help revive health, traditional Thai massage uses a similar system of pressure points to help heal and relieve stress. The Prana, or life energy, is allows to freely circulate through the body.

Traditional Thai massage has many benefits. Whether you are the receiver of the massage or the giver of the massage, you can feel joy, ease, and comfort. The massage will open up your chakras, allowing you to have a more peaceful mind as well as benefiting your health.

The giver of the traditional Thai massage also will receive generosity, compassion, equanimity, the feeling of oneness, the feeling of loving kindness, and the pride that can only be felt by a healer. The receiver will feel the joy of receiving as well as a calmness of rest and a refreshed spirit. Physically, the receiver feels a general increase in energy due to the opening of Sen and other blocked areas in the body. They will also feel relief from pain and muscle tension, blood and lymph circulation is improved, and the nervous system is balanced. An increase in flexibility is also possible.

Traditional Thai massage is a floor massage. The receiver usually is asked to lay on a pad or light mattress. By lying on the floor, the practitioner can easily manipulate the limbs of the receiver. Massages are given in silence, so the practitioner can better understand what the receiver needs are while the receiver can concentrate on learning about himself and his body. Practitioners start at the feet and moves toward the receiver’s head, making the body feel loosened and stretched. A massage can last between two and three hours. Sometimes it combines techniques used in western physical therapies such as Neuromuscular therapy, Myofascial Release Techniques, and Remedial massage. Traditional Thai massage is great for athletes as it keeps them flexible and helps prevent and treat injuries. It also helps improve the flexibility and mobility of the handicapped.


Life in Bangkok

by Mike Stripe
Bangkok is one the most popular places for international tourists. Why is to so popular? The questions can only be answered once you have visited the place yourself and have seen it first hand.

My personal analysis is that Thailand is one country, which provides all the five star services at affordable prices. Besides, it's night life has so much to offer4 for all age groups, depending if you are visiting with family or alone.

Thailand is an amazing country. If you are looking for a unique experience, Thailand won't disappoint you. It's true that as time has passed by, many old and ancient things have disappeared. But new and exciting things have always come along to replace them.

The city life with its hustle and bustle is more than evident in Bangkok and if you are looking for some peace and tranquility, you can head towards beach resorts like Pattays, Phuket or the exotic island of Koh Sumai which offers all the sea sports like para sailing, sky diving and scuba diving.

Thailand has a 800-year long history. Over a period of times, Thailand has fashioned its own unique identity and presented it to the world in its own distinctive ways: through culture and traditions, arts and architecture. Throughout its history, the country has shown its ability to absorb foreign influence without losing its identity. Proof of this can be seen in the countless historical sites spread throughout the kingdom. With two Unesco-listed historical World Heritage Sites and many more potential candidates, the country has made great contribution to international culture heritage.

Thailand has a rich royal heritage spanning several centuries. Many royal palaces in Bangkok and elsewhere in the country offer a fascinating glimpse of the majesty and splendour of the Thai monarchy. Some would say it is a country in transition. That's definitely true, as Thailand has admirably demonstrated its ability to adapt to the new world order. Traditionally, Thailand is an agricultural country but from the mid1980s the country rapidly transformed into an agro industrial economy. In the 1990s it continued to develop as per the demands of globalization.

Although Thailand is a modern international society, its people have succeeded in retaining their national identity in many ways. The two most important elements that bring uniqueness to Thailand are the people's undisputed adherence to the monarchy and their strong faith in Buddhism, Outsiders may find it difficult to comprehend such unbending faith, but it seems that almost all Thai people have inherited this in their blood, from generation to generation.

The bustling city of Bangkok is an eclectic mix of the old and the new. Yet it's cultural identity is as strong as ever.

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, lies close to the mouth of the Chao Phraya River at the century of a fertile alluvial plain. Bangkok ranks 68th in size out of the country's 76 provinces, but has the greatest population density of any province. Formerly known as the "Venice of the East", Bangkok is criss-crossed by a network of natural and manmade canals were the only means of transport in the past.

The Thais know Bangkok, from the original settlement of Ban Makok or "Village of Wild Olives", as Krung Thep, which means "City of Angels". The city is subject to a tropical monsoon climate with three distinct seasons. The cool season, generally considered the best time to visit, lasts from November to February.

The present ruler of the country, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history with more than 50 years on the throne, is one of the most revered kings in modern times. The unprecedented outpouring of public pride and personal affection witnessed at celebrations for His Majesty's 72nd birth anniversary in 1999 were ample demonstration of the respect and adoration that the Thai people have for their king.

December 5, the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is regarded as Thailand's National Day and is a public holiday. In Bangkok, the area around Sanam Luang is closed to traffic and turns into a huge festival, with food and drinks stalls, and thousands of celebrants jamming the streets. Firework displays are organized in many parts of Bangkok and nationwide.

Buddhism also played an important role when the country was plunged into economic recession in mid 1997. Many were able to draw strength and calmness from Buddhism in coping with hardships. The religion practiced by most people in Bangkok is Buddhism, a way of living based on the Tripitaka, an ancient Pali script of Lord Buddha's teachings. Religion, along with monarchy and nationhood, is regarded as one of the three strengths of the nation, and is represented on the Thai flag by the color white.

For any visitor wishing to get a quick feel of the Thai people and culture, there's no better place to go than a temple. The temple or monastery, colloquially known as "wat", is where much of Thailand's traditional culture originated.

The belief in the supernatural power of the unseen and unproven phenomena is in Thai blood. Even though most Thais are followers of Buddhism, Thai people also pay respect to icons and symbolic figures of holy spirits.

As a tourist, there are many sites, which you should not miss if you are visiting for the first time. The newest and most romantic ways of traveling include the joining of hands between BTS sky train through which you can miss the chaotic traffic with Bangkok's biggest public water transportation provider, called The Chao Pyhraya Tourist Boat. The boat takes you a quite a few of the main tourist sites by traveling on the Chao Phraya River.

The Chao Phraya River is regarded as the principal artery of the nation. Much of Thai history can be traced along the banks of this river. The most poplular tourist site is the Grand Palace, which is also known as the jewel in the crown of Bangkok. A trip to view the palace's gilded spires, majestic palaces and exotic pagodas is an unforgettable experience. It was built in 1782 at the same time as Wat Phra Kaeo to act as the official residence of the king.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, located in a separate complex within the compund of the Grand palace, is Thailand's holiest shrine. Officialy named Wat Phra Si Rattanasatsadaram, the temple complex was modelled along the same lines as grand chapels form the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya eras. No monks reside within the temple.

The Emerald Buddha was first discovered at Wat Phra Kaeo in Chiang Rai province in the year 1434, when a bolt of lightning struck a pagods, revealing a small and seemingly insignificant stucco Buddha image. After many years, the plaster began to crumble away, revealing the beautiful green jade image beneath. When the king of Chiang Mai heard of the discovery, he sent an army of elephants to take the image. The elephant carrying the treasure refused to take the route back to Chiang Mai, instead headed south towards Lampang.

When you visit these palaces and temples the most noticeable aspect, which strikes you, is it's Thai architecture. Thai architectural style is unique and very memorable. But what is often simply referred to today as "traditional Thai architecture", has in actual fact taken over seven centuries to fully evolve and develop. Most noticeable in Thai architecture are the swooping multi-tiered rooflines, the distinctly ornamental decorations, the stunning interior murals; the vivid colors and the lovingly crafted and gold adorned Buddha images.

Traditional Thai architecture is the result of a combination of many different styles, methods and influences. At various stages down the years, the cultures of Burma, China, Khmer, India and Sri Lanka, can all be seen to have had an important and distinctive influence on architecture in Thailand. Most recently even western neoclassical styles and features have been adopted, following visits to Europe by early Thai kings and from the European expatriate's presence in Thailand. Nevertheless, overall the architectural style remains instantly identifiable and unquestionably Thai. As a first time tourist, one of the most captivating features which truly fascinated me were the floating markets in and around Bangkok which offer you a glimpse of the traditional Thai way of life. Small wooden boats laden with fruits, flowers, vegetables and other produce from nearby orchards and communities make a colorful and bustling scene at market time. The boats are inevitably paddled by Thai women in blue farmer's garb (mor hom) and flat-topped conical hats called "Muakngob" which are characteristic to all parts of Thailand.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, 80kms southwest of Bangkok in Ratchaburi province, is one of the largest and most popular floating markets among tourists. Also known as Klong Lat Phli Floating Market by the locals, the market is active in the mornings only, from 6am to 11am. You will see loads of women of all ages with their merchandise making their way in their boats.

If you are a first time traveler then you must visit the Rose Garden where you can enjoy Thai cultural shows including various types of Thai dances, Thai boxing, Thai wedding, and Buddhist processions. The dances include the Finger Nail Dance and Nothern Hill tribe dance etc.

Also mesmerizing and breathtakingly dangerous was the visit to a snake farm where we witnessed a fight between a cobra and a mongoose and were made to hold and feel huge cobras for good luck. The Snake Farm or Queen Sawoapha Memorial Institute, is set up to produce anti-venom serum for snake-bite victims nationwide. Venomous snakes including the king cobra, Siamese cobra, Russell's viper, banded krait, Malayan pit viper, green pit viper and Pope's pit viper are milked daily for their venom to make snake-bite antidote. Venommilking and snake handling shows are held daily.

To get a feel of the art and history of Thailand and Southeast Asia, the National Museum on Na Phra That Road is the best place to visit. The museum houses one of the largest collections in Southeast Asia with all periods and styles of Buddhist and Thai art represented. The museum buildings themselves are of historic interest; build as a palace for Prince Wang Na in 1782, the year of the founding of Bangkok. The palace was converted into Thailand's first museum around a century later, during the region of King Rama V.

Perhaps the most important artifact in the museum is the Phra Buddha Sihing, one the country's revered Buddha images. Though to be a Sukhothai or Chiang Saen period image, the gold-plated bronze statue was probably brought to Bangkok by King Rama I in 1795. The image, in the attitude of meditation, is housed in the 18th century Buddhaisawan Chapel, which displays classic Rattanakosin style architecture and some of the best surviving mural paintings from the period.

Last but not least, especially for the ladies, Bangkok is an affordable place for us to shop. Beautiful malls, colorful night markets and the elaborate weekend market, Beautiful bags, shoes, slippers, candles, jewelry, and clothes with and without designer labels are easily available.

And if you are a flower lover, it is worth visiting the enthrallingly beautiful flower market where you can buy a wide variety of orchids and bamboos, used by most Thais as a good luck symbol.



by Chayada Nutter
Thailand is a country in South-East Asia with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It borders Myanmar (Burma) to the north-west, Laos to the north-east, Cambodia to the south-east and Malaysia to the south.

With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and, hey, great beaches, Thailand is a magnet for travellers the world over.

Thailand's 76 provinces can be conveniently divided into five geographic and cultural regions.

North - Chiang Mai, hill tribes, and the Golden Triangle

Isaan - the great undeveloped north-east - get off the beaten track and discover backcountry Thailand and some magnificent Khmer ruins

Central - Bangkok, lowlands and historic Thailand

East - beaches and islands within easy reach of Bangkok, and, oh yes, Pattaya

South - hundreds of kilometers of coastline and countless islands on both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, plus Phuket, Krabi, and many more of Thailand's famous beach spots

Thailand's people are largely Thais, although there are significant minorities of Chinese and assimilated Thai-Chinese throughout the country, Muslims in the south near the Malaysian border and hill tribes such as the Karen and the Hmong in the north of the country. The overwhelmingly dominant religion (95%) is Theraveda Buddhism, although Confucianism, Islam, Christianity and animist faiths also jostle for position.

Thai culture is heavily influenced by Buddhism. However, unlike the Buddhist countries of East Asia, Thailand's Buddhists follow the Therevada school, which is arguably closer to its Indian roots and places a heavier emphasis on monasticism. Thai temples known as wats, resplendent with gold and easily identifiable thanks to their ornate, multicolored, pointy roofs are ubiquitous and becoming an orange-robed monk for a short period, typically the three-month rainy season, is a common rite of passage for young Thai boys and men.

One pre-Buddhist tradition that still survives is the spirit house (ศาลพระภูมิ saan praphuum), usually found at the corner of any house or business, which houses spirits so they don't enter the house and cause trouble. The grander the building, the larger the spirit house, and buildings placed in particularly unlucky spots may have very large ones. Perhaps the most famous spirit house in Thailand is the Erawan Shrine in central Bangkok, which protects the Erawan Hotel (now the Grand Hyatt Erawan) -- built in 1956 on a former execution ground -- and is now one of the busiest and most popular shrines in the city.

Some traditional arts popular in Thailand include traditional Thai dancing and music, based on religious rituals and court entertainment. Famously brutal Thai boxing (muay Thai), derived from the military training of Thai warriors, is undoubtedly the country's best known indigenous sport.


Thailand Festivals

by Pauline Go
Are you game for a little bit of sport and a spark of adventure? Are you ready to backpack and set off some place where you can relax in your own way; be it visiting temples, sightseeing, or indulging in festivals?

Well, then get ready to set off and experience the beautiful and the magical Land of Smiles, as Thailand is fondly called.

If your are in the mood for fun and frolic, then you can choose the month of April or May to visit Thailand. The Thai joyously celebrate the New Year or the Songkran festival by splaying and splashing water at each other. It is considered to be an auspicious festival and water is poured on images of Buddha. It is believed by doing so water will continue to flow even during the summers and the dry season.

In the month of May, the harvesting and the sowing festival is celebrated and marks the beginning of the rice-planting season. Such is the fervor of the festival, that to commemorate the rice-planting season, the Rocket Festival is held. Here bamboo and gunpowder are blended to make a volatile mixture. This is done to send a message to the sky to send rain during the rice seasons.

If you are a vegetarian or love vegetarian food, then September and October is the ideal month to visit Thailand. During this time, the Buddhists eat an array of vegetarian food for nine days. Another interesting festival that is held in November is the Elephant Roundup where people watch elephants playing football or participating in tug-of-war. In the month of November candle-lit floats are cast into the water to herald good fortune in the coming year. It is a beautiful sight to see thousands of candle-lit floats bobbing up and down in the water.


Learning Thai Massage in Koh Samui

by alisterbredee
Marloas is nineteen years old and she comes from Rotterdam in Holland. She is in gap year from school and has taken the time to travel in Asia. She has been on the road for four months and as the trip winds to a close she has come to the Health Oasis Resort in Koh Samui to learn Thai massage.

"This is one of the best things I did on my trip,' she enthuses. "While I was travelling I had massages. It felt so nice that I decided I would like to learn how to do it!" "It's just for fun. I have learned it for myself and to help my friends and family." No, she does not want to become a massage therapist. Her goal is to train as a medical doctor, and this preparation in massage could well help her in her aspiration to study western medicine.

Her twenty-hour course stretched over a leisurely five and a half days. So she has plenty of time for rest and relaxation in the swimming pool and on the beach beside. She laughs when she says, "I enjoyed the rest!" "I also really liked the Course with Thai instructor Nan." Nan, by the way started her studies at the prestigious Wat Pho in Bangkok which serves as the premier massage teaching facility in Thailand. "She really gets the students to practice a lot. She's very kind and supportive, too and that helped a whole lot!" Says the young Dutch student. "She taught me to apply my whole body in making the massage strokes." Marloas explains she was always afraid that her hands would become tired whilst massaging, but she was surprised to find that instead she felt energised. "I now know the pressure points and understand how to make people relax."

The course that Marloas attended is not designed to turn out professional therapists. It is certificated but is designed for self-development and general interest. For those eager to learn Thai massage for professional use, Health Oasis Resort offers a more intensive fifty hour period of instruction, and this too comes with a certificate.

Massage is one of several subjects that visitors can learn at the Bang Po beachside resort. Other topics include Thai Cookery, Reiki, Meditation and EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. The Thai cooking is interesting because it is geared very much to the visitor to the Kingdom. Many people have enjoyed eating Thai food in restaurants worldwide and on coming to Thailand have taken the experience to another dimension. What Health Oasis encourages is to teach visitors how to cook their favourite dishes. Naturally this requires a little notice because the instructors have to go to the market and buy the freshest ingredients possible so the 'trainee chef' can prepare that favourite meal. Once you have cooked it, all you then have is the pleasure of sitting down and eating your creation and hopefully you have invited some friends or loved ones to share this unique experience with you.

Like the Massage training that Marloas underwent you can also take the recipe and knowledge of your newly acquired Thai culinary art back home with you as a very practical souvenir of your visit to Thailand. Surely that will add to the overall enjoyment of your holiday in "the land of smiles"

Bangkok top 10 for visitors

by Andy Burrows
Wondering what to do in Bangkok for the weekend? Or what to leave out? Here are ten of the best sights and activities to get the most out of this great Asian city.

Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew Together, these two attractions are top of most visitors' itinerary. They form the most splendid and ornate of Thailand's temples and palaces, making them a primary attraction. Wat Phra Kaew, also commonly referred to as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the name of the most famous Buddhist temple (wat) in Bangkok, which is situated within a complex of temples and houses the famous Emerald Buddha statue. Sitting adjacent to the temple complex is the Grand Palace, an ornate royal residence built in the neo-Baroque style. Appropriate clothing must be worn for both attractions.

Jim Thompson's House A trained architect, Thompson was posted in many locations around the world during WWII. When the war came to an end, Thompson was en-route to Bangkok. Having developed a love for the country, he returned to establish a silk business which quickly gained international acclaim. Before his mysterious disappearance in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, in 1967, Thompson built this beautiful Thai-style teak house, which is a work of art in itself. Visitors can enjoy the house that was once the 'talk of the town', which has now been made into a museum.

Khao San Road The backpacker hub of the city, this road is notorious for its late night drinking, vendors selling counterfeit CDs and hippy trinkets, and cheap guesthouses and restaurants. Recent times have seen some more upmarket accommodation establishments popping up here, but it is still often hard to find a room in peak seasons. This is the place to party and meet people.

Chatuchak Market Located in the north of the city and accessible by MRT, this weekend market is enormous. As you wander along the narrow alleys you will pass through sections selling everything from wickerwork, jewellery and pets, to clothing, plants and artwork. Often very crowded, there are plenty of places to rest your feet and have a snack, but be careful you don't loose you friends in the crowds!

Shopping An essential activity for all visitors to Bangkok, the capital provides some of the best malls in Asia, with the glitzy new Siam Paragon complex being the newest addition to Bangkok's shopping hotspots. Within walking distance is the Siam Discover Centre, MBK complex, World Trade Centre and Pratunam Market. Whether you want designer goods, or copies at basement prices, the city is a first-class hunting ground for shopping aficionados.

Patpong Better known for its sleazy nightlife than its quality night market, this area is heaving with foreigners day and night. Home to many quality hotels and one of the city's red light districts, Patpong is loved for its street vendors, cafés, nightclubs and overpriced go-go bars. But if watching a sex show isn't your thing, don't dismay; Patpong offers many other kinds of entertainment including live music. The bar touts can be a bit of an annoyance, but overall this is a friendly place where you will encounter little trouble (unless you go looking for some).

Dreamworld This adventure theme park can make a great alternative to the usual sightseeing agenda, especially if you have children. Boasting replicas of seven wonders of the world, extensive gardens, a cable car, various adrenalin-infusing rides and even a field of snow. There is also a selection of live shows to appeal to different interests as well as a wide choice of eateries. Accessible by car, bus or train, this is a white-knuckle experience you will not want to miss.

Muay Thai Boxing If you think you've experienced boxing, you haven't seen anything yet. Traditional Thai boxing is a proud Thai tradition that sees opponents swap furious punches, lethal kicks and elbow strikes that will makes you squirm in you seat as the locals cheer on with insatiable enthusiasm. Followed as passionately as football, catch a match at Lumphini Stadium or Ratchadamnoen Stadium, with fights taking lace most evenings.

Wat Arun The one-time home of the Emerald Buddha, this Buddhist temple sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and boasts a Khmer-style tower which is ornately decorated with small pieces of seashell and porcelain. Interesting features include figures of Chinese soldiers and animals, and a statue of the Hindu god Indra. Surrounded by six Chinese-style pavilions, if you don't have time to see the real thing, make sure you at least catch a glimpse of it on a 10 baht coin. Lumpini Park A peaceful retreat in the heart of the Bangkok, this is the ideal escape from the city's crowded streets. Relax amid palm trees and water or explore the Chinese Pavilion and Clock Tower. Also of interest are the Thai Lanna Pavilion and various sculptures. Although shadowed by some of Bangkok's tallest skyscrapers, the tranquil park is perfect for outdoor activities, including paddle-boating, and simply chilling out.

Holidays in Thailand - Phuket in 10 exciting days

In spite of the tsunami of 2004, Phuket has steadily rebuilt much of its infrastructure so that it now holds as much of its previous glamour as before. Its beautiful beaches foster excellent diving conditions, and the ever-clear Andaman waters never let divers down. The nightlife is thriving and there's always something to get on board with, so you'll never find yourself without something to do.

Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre At this time, at least three families of rescued gibbons have been introduced back into the wild and currently live on the Royal Reserve. Their distinctive calls can be heard in the forest, and visitors who catch a glimpse of these animals are always glad they came. A stopover or maybe even a quick swim at the nearby Bang Pae Waterfall makes this trip twice as appealing.

Adventure sports Phuket is loaded with activities to get your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping. The island is home to Thailand's only licensed bungee jump operator who, on top of those credentials, is the only operator in all of Asia to insure this activity. Those wishing to dive into the forests and hills on the island can do so on the back of an ATV or strapped to a lumbering elephant. A shooting range in Chatong has safe and reputable facilities, and go-kart tracks are easy to find. No matter what your preference is, there's an outlet for the adventure seeker on vacation.

Island hopping The archipelago of islands that extends past Phuket is known around the world for its beauty. Chartered daytrips can be arranged to almost any of these Andaman Islands, where passengers can enjoy sightseeing, snorkelling and depending on availability, overnight accommodation. You may have seen a few of these islands in feature films like The Beach or a James Bond movie. A few of the more outstanding islands are Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Coral Island, ,, Similian Islands and Sirey Island.

Water sports Water sports at Phuket are multi-faceted. Parasailing over the Andaman offers a great perspective with the coast on one side and the horizon on the other. Scuba diving and snorkelling in the famously calm, clear waters is a fun activity that the whole family can participate in. For those with a penchant for sailing, there are dinner cruises to enjoy, sailing lessons in which to enrol and fishing trips on which to embark.

Waterfalls Phuket's waterfalls are great places to take a swim or enjoy a picnic. Kathu Waterfall is the farthest inland and offers inviting, cooling pools for a quick dip. Ton Sai is often photographed due to its pools and tall palm trees. The island's Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre is home of the island's third waterfall, Bang Pae, and those who venture here are also afforded the opportunity to glimpse one of these rare animals.

Shopping Shopping is a popular pastime anywhere in Thailand. Shoppers in Phuket will find the whole gamut of traditional souvenirs. Silk, cotton and custom-made clothing can all be found at attractive prices, as can leather, jewellery and antiques. Patong is home to many of the markets and due to the everyday tourist scene, shoppers do well to come prepared ready to bargain for a price that both parties can agree on.

Eating out Restaurants in Phuket cater for every palette with international and world-class Thai cuisine available all over the hottest tourist districts. Fresh seafood is in seemingly endless supply, and most dishes are tailor-made to satisfy tourists--not too spicy without a specific request. Authentic Thai food is easier to find the farther inland you go, where the crowds of tourists give way to legitimate Thai villages and communities.

Thai kick boxing Visitors who come to Thailand specifically to study martial arts will not be disappointed in Phuket. Phuket Town, Chalong and Rawai are all home to open training gyms where students learn the ancient martial art form of Thai kick boxing, or Muay Thai, which has increasingly gained world recognition for its highly effective combat style. Its popularity is evident in the droves of spectators that gather every Friday to watch the fights hosted in Phuket Town.

Promthep Cape Promthep Cape is one of Phuket's most photogenic spots, a fact to which the crowds of tourists testify. On-site is a popular merit-making shrine covered in miniature elephants. There's also a statue erected in honour of a 19th century prince well-known for founding a Thai school of navigation. The cape is a great place to take spectacular photos, especially at sunset when the evening light bathes this southernmost point of the island.

Temples Wat Chalong is the most visited Buddhist temple on Phuket, due largely in part to its unique design and décor, spacious grounds and modern chedi (pagoda). Other well-known temples include Pra Tong, Put Jaw, Jui Tui, Pra Nahng Sahng and Sanjao Sam San. When visiting any temple, locals will appreciate it if you practice proper etiquette--namely covering your legs and shoulders, taking off your shoes and maintaining an air of reverence when inside the sacred buildings.

Samui - top 10 attractions and activities

by Andy Burrows
A 2-hour ferry ride from the coast of Sarat Thani will land you on the banks of Samui, one of Thailand's most popular resort islands which has grown increasingly popular in the past few years. Well-known for its wild parties as well as for its luxurious resorts, stunning coral reef environments and natural landscape, Samui has rightfully earned its place as one of Thailand's most-loved destinations.

Beaches Chaweng Beach is probably the most popular beach to visit on Samui. Its clear waters and white sand make it very inviting, and the exciting night life and Muay Thai boxing matches are an added bonus. Choeng Mon is more secluded and offers five-star accommodation, while the bay of Ao Tong Takian is named after the silver hue of its sand. Lamai Beach is packed with water sports ranging from jet-skis and banana boats to activities like parasailing.

Temple of the Big Buddha The Temple of the Big Buddha, or Wat Phra Yai, was built in 1972 and is one of Samui's top attractions. In the past few decades, it has become a beacon of prosperity for the island, a sentiment embodied in the 12 metre Buddha statue that sits in the grounds. There is also a meditation centre on-site that's open to visitors.

Full Moon Party Full Moon parties have become synonymous with the hedonistic side of this region. These high-octane celebrations take place once a month on the nearby Koh Pha Ngan. Thousands of foreign tourists flock to the island for what compares to an outdoor, coastal rave. Music blares, prices soar and controlled substances abound. As the popularity of these parties has risen, savvy locals have added an interim Half Moon Party to add an extra weekend of debauchery and partying.

Eating out Eating out is one of the simplest pleasures in Samui, with fresh seafood served up in every fashion according to international and local recipes. Visitors will find authentic street vendors selling delicious treats at phenomenal prices, along with more upscale establishments that sell gourmet Thai dishes as well as international cuisine. One way to treat yourself is to take your dinner on the beach in the comfortable surroundings of a beachside restaurant.

Partying and nightlife Big Buddha Beach is a good place to spend an evening for families or perhaps for the faint of heart. Many establishments here are laid-back and lack the pulsing music of the more heated parties found elsewhere on the island. Lamai Beach has a thriving red light district and plenty of go-go bars, while Chaweng Beach hosts a variety of live bands that play a mix of Thai and western covers.

Daytrip down south For those seeking the less touristy side of Samui, you may consider heading to the south side of the island. There has been less development here, and a daytrip provides insight into what Samui once looked like, as well as offering a glimpse of day to day life for the locals who don't work directly with tourists. You'll find several enticing, secluded beaches connected by coconut groves and predominately Muslim fishing villages.

Waterfalls It's worthwhile to journey out to one of a few waterfalls on the island. Hin Lat Fall is most conductive to swimming, as there aren't many boulders or sharp edges underwater. Trekkers and groups of elephant riders regularly journey to the Na Muang Falls system--specifically to the second waterfall, because it's easily accessed by elephants. The first of the two falls cascades magnificently down a steep cliff.

Diving Samui has a firm reputation among snorkellers and divers. Beginners can receive instruction from local gurus that work at one of multiple diving shops. More experienced divers have many options, ranging from the nearby Ang Thong National Marine Park or Sail Rock, out to the farther but highly esteemed Koh Tao, where divers from all over Thailand gather. In any event, the clear waters and stunning coral reefs make diving a wonderful experience.

Adventure sports Samui is an ideal place for those who are full of energy as there are many adrenaline pumping activities and exciting water sports. You can also get up close and personal with Samui's local elephants. The less energetic will be content with the lovely beaches that offer perfect tropical swimming, or a day spent shopping or at a spa.

Viewing wildlife Samui has every manner of wildlife. Marine life teems at the Samui Aquarium, while snakes and scorpions are employed in death-defying shows at the Snake Farm. The Crocodile Farm has more than just reptiles, with a few monkeys and other animals in addition to crocs and lizards. Violent Buffalo fights are held at one of several buffalo stadiums, while delicate butterfly species can be observed at the Butterfly Farm in the island's southeast corner.

Koh Samui travel guide


Kanjanaburi - West of Thailand

The Bridge on the River Khwae (the Death Railway Bridge)
Thanks to several films and books, the Bridge on the River Khwae has become notoriously famous and attracted both Thais and foreigners to the site. If an ordinary black iron bridge can tell a story, you can be sure it's a dramatic one.
The bridge spans across Maenam Khwae Yai which is a branch of Maenam Mae Klong. During the Japanese occupation of Thailand in World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army brought the iron bridge from Java. It was then resembled by Allied Prisoners of War (POW) under Japanese supervision. The bridge was part of a strategic railway route to Myanmar in which the Japanese aimed to secure supplies with which to conquer other western Asian countries. It was 415 kilometers long (about 303 kilometers in Thailand and about 112 kilometers in Burma) and passed through the Three Pagoda Pass in Sangkhlaburi District, the northern most part of Kanchanaburi province.

Construction started on September 16, 1942 at Nong Pladuk, and was completed on 25 December 1943. It is estimated that over 16,000 POWs from England, Australia, Holland and America died while building the bridge which was a target of bombing raids in 1945. In addition to this, approximate 90,000 laborers from Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia died during its construction.
Rebuilt after WWII, the bridge is still in use today with the curved portions of the bridge being that of the original. An attraction of note is the annual light and sound event at the bridge to commemorate the Allied attack in 1945.The railway currently ends at Ban Tha Sao or Namtok Station, a distance of some 77 km. from Kanchanaburi Station. A special train running from Bangkok to Namtok Station is available on weekends and national holidays. For further details,


Thai Fruits

Thai fruits - - including mangoes, mangosteens, clurians, pineapples, watermelons, papayas, rambutans, longans, lyches, tamarinds, pomegranates, palm fruits, oranges, pomeloes, jackfruits and more than 20 kinds of bananas- - are available all year round.

From January to April, grapes, jackfruits, java apples, tangerines, watermelons and pomegranates are in season. Next come mangoes, lyches, pineapples, clurians and mangosteens.From July on, longans will ripen, and also langsats, jujubes, passionfruits, pomeloes, rambutans, sugar apples and again tangerines, grapes, watermelons, bananas, coconuts, guavas and papayas are available thoughout the year.
Some harvests are celebrated in style, with colourful festivals, sometimes featuring a pageant of local beauties.In early April, the Paet Riu Mango Festival is organized in Chachoengsao. Probably the most popular and typical of Thai fruits, the mango deserves this honour.In May, Songkhla promotes its fruits with a bazaar, fruit carving demonstrations and a Miss Southern Thailand Pageant.In June, Chanthaburi exhibits delicious provincial fruits, including the king of them all, the exquisitely delicious durian.In September, to honour pomeloes, a fruit and floral float procession is held in Nakhon Pathom, near Bangkok.



When I came to work, I was still thinking of the topic I wanted to write about, and then I looked at the cars passing by, hoping I could get something from it. It sounded hopeless though, but while I was sitting the idea came in to my head. My boss is correct; I should start thinking about how a teen thinks about the “girls in the pub”. Especially since I’m not Thai, I’m a foreign student and an employee in Pattaya Daily News
I’m one of those people who migrated and who is living in another country. My insights about them are pretty much the same as others, well I assume. But honestly, what I think about these girls is not as close-minded as the others are. I look at them in a positive way, well as much as I can think of. The questions stacked up into my brain and they were pushing my mind to pour out some answers. When I look at these girls, I stop, and wonder what they’re thinking. Are they some of the girls who dance at night just to attract what they call “Farangs”? They entertain them. Yes they do have a lot of ways to make them happy. Dance, drink, a little bit of hugging, these foreigners can’t get enough of them. But what bugs me is the question: “Do they do this just to simply eat and live?” It may be an endless speculation or a pointless direction, but what I think is that life’s never easy. It may look dirty and embarrassing for us, but what they do is what we call “survival of the fittest”. This is what they call a “job” so we should respect them.

Other Thais marry these farangs, so what do you think? Again, we’re back to the unlimited source of conclusions on why they marry them. Others may say, he’s just rich, or she’s not pretty at all. But what we don’t know may surprise us. Marriage is a sacred act that a couple does when they’re in love. Everything we see is not flat. There are curves in the road, there’s a broken one, and not everything that lies within our eye’s view is real. Truth lies beneath everything that is unreal; we don’t see them as much as we see a clear view of an object.
I asked my friend about his insights or opinions on this topic, and he gave me an amazing and remarkable answer. He said, “ Pattaya is a place where the code is 'Live and let live'. I don't condemn anyone who engages in a mutual commerce between consenting adults, whether the interaction is called "short time" or "marriage". As John Lennon said "Whatever gets you through the night." Money for beauty is nothing new, nor is it restricted to Thailand.
Story : Maria Hyasmine Photo : DCman

Life of a Thai farmer

We often hear the sayings that farmers are backbone of the country and in the water there are plenty of fish while in the paddy fields there is and abundance of rice. These sayings are right as farmers grow rice to feed the entire nation. Rice is not only the staple food of the country, but now is one of our main export products. Therefore, farmers are the most important work force of the country.
Farmers work from dawn to dusk the whole year-round as after the annual rice harvest, they will again cultivate the second-rice crop or other cash crops, raising cattle and other animals such as fish, ducks etc. Usually fish lives by nature in the paddy fields. So, rice and fish will naturally grow up in the same place. At the end of the annual rice harvest, farmers will have both rice and fish to eat during the coming dry season. If we travel to the countryside, we will see farmers drying fish on the roof of their houses along the roadside. Thus, it has become a common greeting among Thai people when they meet, they will firstly ask each other "Where do you go?" then the following sentence is "Did you eat rice and fish?". In fact, rice and fish have been the main food of Thai people for a very long time.Rice is mostly grown in the central region which is sometimes called the "rice bowl" of Asia because of its vast fertile land and plenty of water for agriculture. Rice farming is an old occupation which has been passed down from generations to generations. By and large farmers live a peaceful life in the countryside.Unfortunately, this occupation is being threatened by various factors, for example, low paddy price, scarcity of water for the second-rice cultivation and the construction of housing estates or commercial complexes which frequently bring pollution to nearby areas. Moreover, the new generation tends to abandon this century-old occupation to work in factories in the city or other occupation that offers them better income.Now it is time to help the backbone of our country to carry on their task, otherwise they cannot survive due to these various challenges. If ever our farmers are forced to give up their occupation we will definitely have to import rice to eat and if the situation turns to be like this, the occupation of our forefathers will cease to exist and Thailand will lose its name as the "rice bowl" of the world.
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Spa in Thailand

Thailand is rapidly becoming the Spa capital of the world. In Conde Nast Travellers recent reader's survey Chiva Som in Hua Hin was in first place nudging last years winner Banyan Tree Spa in Phuket into second. Purely co-incidentally they were checking out the Lanna Spa the same weekend that we visited, and did photograph the suite I was staying as soon as I checked out. Could it be that next year we will have the top three spa rankings?
Spa culture gives an individual their quality time to make them feel good, a justifiable indulgence for the overworked. At the birth of Thailand's tourist industry American GI's came to Thailand during the Vietnam War looking for just two R's - rest & relaxation. The Spa tourist coming to Thailand today is looking for 4 R's Rest, Relaxation, Rejuvenation and Rejoicing life.

Five years ago few international travelers would of thought of Thailand as a Spa destination, so what are the factors causing the growth. Firstly the Kingdom grows the natural ingredients that not only make one f the world greatest cuisine's but that are also the natural ingredients for spa treatments. Secondly Thai's natural attitude to hospitality provides the pampering and feel good factor, a key spa ingredient. And thirdly they have refined the art of massage knowing exactly which buttons to press to relieve stress and strain while encouraging relaxation. Many of the Spa treatments offered in Thailand are a refined extension of what was originally provided by the monks in the temples.

Checking into The Regent Chiang Mai is a massage of the mind in itself. The indulgent tranquility of the resort makes it a sanctuary from stress. A Thai companion described it as a natural Disneyland, something beyond his dreams. The Lanna Spa was inspired by a northern Thai temple. The interiors are richly decorated in maroon, gold leaf, black and white; also feature specially commissioned artworks and sculptures. T here are seven treatment suites, including a Penthouse Treatment Suite, for individuals or couples. The total privacy is fueling a trend for couples to take their treatments together, sharing the experience. The philosophy of the spa is to promote general well being, a part of Thai lifestyle for generations. The herbs that are used in the treatment are bought in the local market, distilled and diffused. When mixed with steam is absorbed through respiration and the pores of the skin. The whole process is relaxed and unhurried.
I decided to try a Lanna facial, starting with deep herbal cleansing, exfoliation, massage for the face, neck, shoulders and hands. Then a revitalising mask was spread over my face using extracts of f Prai (the Ginger family), and Khanin (Cumin) to nourish, hydrate and balance the skin. It took an hour and the result did make me look and feel younger. Having had my face worked on it was now time for the massage. I opted for Orient Blend a pressure point massage based on the oriental theories of energy meridians. I was told this massage was effective in relieving tension, aches and pains. The combination of soothing aromatic oils and gentle kneading and stretching left my body feeling totally relaxed and refreshed. The lady giving me the massage professionally suggested that if I removed my underwear I would enjoy the massage more. So I slipped out of them and did enjoy the treatment but luckily it wasn't physically noticeable. Don't be shy when having a massage, being naked does make you feel better. When the treatment was completed I relaxed sipping hot ginger tea.

Back in the real world of Bangkok, I wanted to check out where I could spa without having to travel. The Oriental Spa is a short boat ride across the river from the hotel. I had found my sanctuary from the pressure and stress of Bangkok. Their temple of wellbeing is set in a gentile traditional teak house. I could very easily see why guests having found this collection of suites within a hotel would want to sleep over after their treatment. Given a duvet I would have happily done so, but alas its not possible. The Spa has its own Cuisine Minceur menu with dishes prepared in a separate section of the kitchen. The menu shows the calories and fat count for each dish so the guest can carefully monitor how they are fuelling their bodies. The privacy factor of each of the suites makes the experience more relaxed. The guest coming to stay at the Oriental just for Spa treatment accounts for 10% of the hotels total occupancy. The significant growth market is the number of male guests opting for spa treatment. Is it now real men do spa?

The Oriental is the unofficial guardian of Thai tradition and culture. As part of its well being programme some of the Spa staff have studied Traditional Thai medicines and are now offer a healing programme using traditional medicines. In High Season the demand for the Spa is so great that only hotel guess can be accommodated. A three day, two night package ranges from US$ 1,600 for The Oriental Pampering Programe to US$2,500 for the couples Romantic Getaway. The price includes three healthy meals a day, a superior room, an Oriental cooking class and culture programe and roundtrip hotel limousine airport transfer. All the guest has to do is relax and enjoy.

Chiva Som in the Royal beach resort of Hua Hin is rated the best Spa in the world. I popped in to find out why. In a seven-acre beachfront site at the royal beach resort of Hua Hin , Chiva-Som offers just 57 Thai style pavilions provide privacy with a traditional charm.

Wealth without health is meaningless. Chiva-Som International Health Resort provides members and guests with the opportunity to enjoy life more fully, and very likely longer.
The secluded world of Chiva-Som - which means "Haven of Life" - is private, luxurious and exclusive. The Chiva-Som philosophy is based on positive mental and physical health . Their aim to encourage prevention rather than cure by helping the guest to take responsibility and action for the quality of their life.
On arrival , guests will receive a private consultation by a member of the medical staff to advise an appropriate treatment and activity schedule during your stay suited to your individual requirements and personal goals . A fully qualified teams of doctors , nurses , dieticians and other professionals are available for more specialist advice and guidance if required . Although Chiva-Som's positive health philosophy means that they accept well rather than sick patients , their programmes can be effective for treating certain ailments such as muscular and skeletal disorders , skin problems , stress related illness , cardiac rehabilitation and heavy smoking . In addition , we will be offering a special range of treatments aimed at improving the efficiency of the immune system , rejuvenation and anti-ageing.
Water plays an important part at Chiva-Som , with many pleasurable and aqua experiences. In the great outdoors is an aquamarine-tiled pool by the sparkling sea for swimmers and sunbathers. Water sports are also available. Other sports activities can be arranged at nearby facilities, including golf as some of the country 's best golf courses can be found in the Hua Hin area.Chiva-Som aims to educate as well, and lectures by experts in different fields are scheduled on a regular basis. Contrary to popular belief , healthy eating need not mean boring eating. A meal of Chiva-Som's acclaimed spa cuisine of Asian and Western specialties proves that low-calorie , nutritious food can be a gourmet experience. One example is steam roasted garlic is served with the bread rolls rather than butter. Many of the fruits and vegetables used at the resort are grown in their organic garden.
The only alcoholic beverages served at Chiva-Som are wine and champagne. At first I questioned paying all that money to stay at the resort and not being allowed to drink, but then when why was I visiting it in the first place, to improve my health and my normal drinking level was not helping the cause. This policy of controlled moderation was in my best interest to achieve the goal of visiting Chiva Som - adopting a healthy life style.
The team that developed the award winning Banyan Tree spa have just developed a sister brand, the more affordable Angsana Spa proving that you don't have to be rich to spa. Again a tree has inspired the logo and philosophy. The tall Angsana is found in tropical rainforests. Noted for its golden yellow crown, the fragrant flower that blooms unexpectedly for just a day and will burst into bloom again without notice. It teaches us to live life spontaneously, savouring the moment.
The spa's design and landscape immediately transport the visitor to their desired state of tranquility. Guests are offered a variety of over twenty holistic non-medical treatments ranging from massage, facials, body treatment and scrubs that last anything from 25 mins to three hours. Treatments use such natural treasures as herbs, cereals, fruits, honeys and salts with a focus on particular conditions, needs or treatments.
All eight pavilions are spacious enough for two treatment beds and afford total privacy. The soothing background music completes the tranquil cocoon with the masseur's skilful hands awaking the tactile and aromatic senses. Massages range from B900-1,800++; Body Scrubs B900++; Body Treatments and facials B1,800++.
The Lanna Spa, The Regent Resort Chiang Mai, Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai 50180 (66 53 298181, fax 66 53 298 189,
The Oriental Spa, The Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500, (66-2 439 7613-4, fax 66-2 439 7587)
Chiva Som 73/4 Petchkasem Rd, Hua Hin 77110 (66-32-536536, fax 66-32-511154)
The Angsana Spa, Dusit Laguna Resort Hotel, 390 Srisoontorn Rd, Cherngtalay, Phuket 83110 (66-76 324324, fax 66-76 324174,


Koh Surin- Phang Nga

Koh Surin- Phang Nga
Situated in Tambon Koh Phra Thong and covering an area of 84,375 rais (33,750 acres), Mu Koh Surin is an archipelago of 5 islands: Koh Surin Nuea, Koh Surin Tai, Ko Ri, Koh Khai, and Ko Klang. It was declared a national park on July 9, 1981. The archipelago is located in the Andaman Sea, near the Thai-Burmese sea border, to the west coast of Thailand. There are beautiful and unspoilt coral reefs; the area is suitable for snorkelling. The best time tovisit is from November to April.Koh Surin Nuea has several bays. The most well-known bay is Ao Mae Yai, the largest bay that offers calm waters. To the southeast of Koh Surin Nuea lies Ao Luek, which is so deep that the sea appears dark green, offering splendid shallow corals as well as sea weeds, sea flowers, coral lines, and various species of fish. Sea Gypsy Village, a Singha, or Morgan, Sea Gypsy tribe resides on the shore of Hat Sai En, Koh Surin Nuea. There are 130-150 sea gypsies who still hold on to their traditional ways of life and still live in their boats. On shore, there is a wooden sculpture resembling the Indian Totem Pole and is considered a sacred area. Every year, on the 15th day of thewaxing moon in April, the sea gypsies in this village would worship their respected spirits. The event lasts for 3 days. Ao Mai Ngam, situated to the west of Koh Surin Nuea with the National Parks office nearby. There is a 2-kilometre walking path that you can take to enjoy the natural features of Hat Mai Ngam or you can take a longboat ride. The lovely bay provides fresh water and a long beach that is best for snorkelling and swimming. Ao Chak, situated to the north of Koh Surin Nuea. The bay possesses unspoilt coral reefs.Interesting attractions on Ko Surin Tai include Ao Tao, situated to the east of the island. The bay is home to numerous sea turtles and magnificent coral reefs. Ao Phakkat, situated to the south of Koh Surin Tai. It is where unspoilt coral reefs can be seen.Koh Klang or Koh Pachumba has a scenic bay called Ao Mangkon. The bay is teeming with splendid coral reefs and many schools of various kinds of fish.Koh Khai or Koh Torilla, situated to the south of Koh Surin Tai. On the eastern side of the island there is a long stretch of unspoile and picturesque coral reef. Snorkelling is the most recommended activity here.
How to Get There
Travelling to Mu Ko Surin can be initiated from several different points:
- Khura Buri Pier is the nearest point to Mu Ko Surin. Khura Buri is some 125 kilometres north of Phang-nga. A boat trip takes around 4 hours. There is no regular boat service for travellers to Ko Surin. Boats leaving from Khura Buri are suitable for group tours.Amphoe Kapoe Pier is in Ranong Province. The trip takes 7 hours. Visitors may contact Chansom Tara Hotel (tel: 0 7783 5317-9) which has boats leaving Chan Damri Beach for trips to Mu Ko Surin.
Note: The best way for individual travellers is to join a trip out of Phuket that includes Mu Koh Surin on the itinerary.This typically lasts at least 3 days and includes visits to Mu Ko Similan.
There are lodges, bungalows, tents, and restaurants available. Admission fee is 200 baht. Scuba diving equipments are available for rent. For more information, contact Mu Ko Surin National Park, Amphoe Khura Buri, Phang-nga, 82150, tel: 0 7649 1378, 0 7641 9028.