The kingdom of Thailand lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, making it a natural gateway to Indochina, Myanmar and Southern China. Its shape and geography divide into four natural regions : the mountains and forests of the North; the vast rice fields of the Central Plains; the semi-arid farm lands of the Northeast plateau; and the tropical islands and long coastline of the peninsula South.
The country comprises 76 provinces that are further divided into districts, sub-districts and villages. Bangkok is the capital city and centre of political, commercial, industrial and cultural activities. It is also the seat of Thailand's revered Royal Family, with His Majesty the King recognized as Head of State, Head of the Armed Forces, Upholder of the Buddhist religion and Upholder of all religions.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or King Rama IX, the ninth king of the Chakri Dynasty, the present king. The King has reigned for more than 60 years, making him the longest reigning Thai monarch. Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and traditions. With its proud history, tropical climate and renowned hospitality, the Kingdom is a never-ending source of fascination and pleasure for international visitors.
Thailand is divided into 4 natural regions:
• The mountainous North, with its profusion of multi-colored orchids, fascinating native handicrafts and winter temperatures are sufficiently cool to permit cultivation of temperate fruits such as strawberries and peaches;
• The high Northeast Plateau, which still jealously guards its many archaeological and anthropological mysteries;
• The Central Plain, one of the world's most fertile rice and fruit-growing areas with colorful traditional culture and way of life as well as the sandy beaches of the East Coast and vibrant cosmopolitan Bangkok;
• The peninsular South where the unspoiled beaches and idyllic islands complement economically vital tin mining, rubber cultivation and fishing.
Thais are well-known for their friendliness and hospitality. A large majority of over 64 million citizens of Thailand are ethic Thai, along with strong communities whose ethnic origins lie in China, India and elsewhere. About 7 million people reside in the capital city of Bangkok.
Thai (80%), Chinese (10%), Malay (3%), and the rest are minorities (Mons, Khmers, hill tribes) Ethnic Thais form the majority, though the area has historically been a migratory crossroads, and has thus produced a degree of ethnic diversity. Integration is such, however, that culturally and socially there is enormous unity.
Spoken and written Thai is largely incomprehensible to the casual visitor. However, English is widely understood, particularly in Bangkok where it is almost the major commercial language. English and some European Languages are spoken in most hotels, shops and restaurants in major tourist destinations, and Thai-English road and street signs are found nationwide.
Thailand has had a constitutional monarchy since 1932. Parliament is composed of 2 houses, The House of Representatives and the Senate. Both representatives and senators are elected by the people. A prime minister elected from among the representatives leads the government. The country is divided into 76 provinces. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration comes under an elected governor. Appointed provincial governors administer the other 75 provinces (Changwat), which are divided into districts (Amphoe), sub-districts (Tambon) and villages (Mu Ban).
Thailand enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons-hot and dry from February to May (average temperature 34 degrees Celsius and 75% humidity); rainy with plenty of sunshine from June to October (average day temperature 29 degrees Celsius and 87% humidity); and cool from November to January (temperatures range from 32 degrees Celsius to below 20 degrees Celsius with a drop in humidity).
Much lower temperatures are experienced in the North and Northeast during nighttime. The South has a tropical rainforest climate with temperatures averaging 28 degrees Celsius almost all year round.
The electric current is 220 volt AC (50 cycles) throughout the country. Many different types of plugs and sockets are in use. Travelers with electric shavers, hair dryers, tape recorders and other appliances should carry a plug adapter kit. The better hotels will make available 110-volt transformers.
Light, cool clothes are sensible and a jacket is needed for formal meetings and dining in top restaurants. Shorts (except knee length walking shorts), sleeveless shirts, tank tops and other beach-style attire are considered inappropriate dress when not actually at the beach or in a resort area.
Most commercial concerns in Bangkok operate on a five-day week, usually from 8 am to 5 pm. Many stores open seven days a week from 10 am to 10 pm. Government offices are generally open between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm with a noon to 1 pm lunch break, Monday to Friday except on public holidays. Banks are open Mondays to Fridays from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm except on public holidays.
Thailand's mail service is reliable and efficient. Major hotels provide basic postal services on their premises. Provincial post offices are usually open from 8.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
International Roaming Mobile Phone: A Subscriber Identity Module Card (SIM Card) is now available for Thai and foreign customers who are traveling around for work. The SIM Card must be used in conjunction with a Digital GSM mobile phone within the 900-MHz range or a Digital PCN mobile phone within the 1800-MHz range.
Fax and E-Mail
All of Thailand's leading hotels offer facsimile (fax) and e-mail services. Numerous private businesses offer such facilities, most often in conjunction with translation services.
Thailand has been expanding its information service for residents and tourists alike through the Internet system. Services are now available at Thailand's leading hotels and at the many "Cyber-Cafes” that are cropping up in all major tourist destinations.
At present, all telephone numbers (for local calls and long distance calls within the country) have nine digits.
• For Bangkok calls, 02 is added to the existing numbers i.e. 0 2694 1222.
• For provincial calls, an area code is added to the existing numbers. For example, area code for Chiang Mai is 053 = 0 5324 8604; area code for Phuket is 076 = 0 7621 1036.
• For mobile phones, After September 1,2006, all Thai mobile phone numbers have been extended to 10 digits. Simply add an 8 in the middle of the existing two-digit prefix, followed by the existing seven-digit number. For example, numbers starting with (66) 01 will become (66) 081 XXX XXXX
• The new system has no effect on international phone calls.
• The international dialing code for Thailand is 66.
• When making international calls to Thailand, add 66 and omit the leading 0.
• When making international calls from Thailand, first dial 001+country code+area code+telephone number
• If calling Laos or Malaysia, there is a special code which is charged at a semi-domestic rate.
• When calling Laos, first dial 007+856+area code+telephone number
• When calling Malaysia, first dial 09+06+area code+telephone number
• Direct assistance: 1133 (local), 100 (international)
Emergency Telephone Numbers
• Central Emergency (Police, Ambulance, Fire) : 191
• Highway Patrol : 1193
• Crime Suppression : 195 or (662) 513 3844
• Tourist Police (English, French and German spoken) : 1155
• Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Call Centre : 1672
• Immigration Bureau : (662) 287 3101-10
Bangkok was founded in 1782 by the first monarch of the present Chakri dynasty. It is now the country's spiritual, cultural, diplomatic, commercial and educational hub. It covers an area of more than 1,500 square kilometers, and it is home to approximately ten million people or more than 10% of the country's population.
Over the last few decades, Thailand's capital city, Bangkok, has changed into a modern, exciting and sophisticated city. It offers to visitors not only the cosmopolitan amenities they would expect from other big cities, but also a unique treasure trove of cultural attractions. Thailand, in the heart of Southeast Asia, was never colonized and thus kept its unique culture and heritage intact. Bangkok offers visitors the opportunity to experience fascinating glimpse of Thailand's gentle culture amidst the bustle of a great and dynamic metropolis. This great city has had astounding success in combining the ancient and modern world.
For tourists, Bangkok has a feast of attractions to offer. The city is dotted with 400 glittering Buddhist temples of great beauty and fascination, magnificent palaces, classical dance extravaganzas, numerous shopping centers and traditional ways of life, especially along the "Venice of the East" timeless canals and the Chao Phraya River of the "River of Kings" winding through the city. It is worth taking a trip along its waters before exploring further into different canals to take a glimpse of old Bangkok.
Useful tourist information on Bangkok can be obtained from the official website of the Bangkok Tourism Division : www.bangkoktourist.com
Information and images for this Document were obtained from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Thai Airways International and various other web sites. We thank them for their contribution to this document and for their support to Assumption University.
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