“A Visit to the Land of Smiles”
The Kingdom of Thailand
A Travel Article by Brian
for Travel Magazine
Ms. Plowman’s Class 2002
• The Kingdom of Thailand is one of
the friendliest countries in the world.
Everywhere you go throughout this
exotic land you see friendly, smiling
faces. This is a great country for
young people to visit, as I will report
for Travel Magazine.
• Thailand is the size of Texas and is Many were sitting outside in front of
located between Burma Laos, small shops and eating at small
Cambodia and Malaysia. Thailand is restaurants. I couldn¹t wait to explore
on the other side of the world, so it Bangkok.
takes a long time to get there. I
boarded the country¹s national
airline in Seattle and flew 15 hours
in a 747 jumbo jet before arriving in
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand,
and largest city. I ate three meals,
watched two movies and had two
naps on the airplane. When we
landed I was anxious to get off. As
soon as the door opened I felt a
warm blast of humid 80-degree air,
even at 11:00 at night! We went
through immigration and were
whisked away by taxi to our hotel. I
noticed a lot of families were on the
streets at this late hour.
• I woke up at first light and looked
out my glamorous hotel window.
The mighty Chao Phya River, the
“River of Kings”, flowed below me.
What a magnificent sight! Huge
barges filled with rice or coal
crawled slowly up the river. There
were long tailed boats skimming
across the water and I saw water
taxis carrying people from one side
of the river to the other. Bangkok
was huge; it stretched out in all
directions as far as the eye could
see! Dotted all around the city were
gilded temples or wats, and I could
even see the walls of the famed
Grand Palace in the distance.
• We ate breakfast outside on the
verandah by the river. My mom
thought it would be a good idea to
try a typical Thai breakfast. It wasn¹t
a good choice for me. It was a kind
of rice gruel with an egg floating in
it. My mother ordered fruit and I
shared her plate. There was
pineapple, watermelon, mango,
papaya and many fruits I have
never seen before like mangosteen
and rambutan, all beautifully sliced
and carved in different patterns.
• It was 8:00 a.m. and it was already
getting hot. February is supposed to
be a cool month, I can¹t imagine
what the hot season is like. We
started our sightseeing adventure
by river on our first day because it is
cooler on the water, and we can
avoid the famous Bangkok traffic
jams. We rented a long tail boat with
a guide for a half-day. Our driver
was named Prasert and he spoke a
little English. He liked to hydroplane,
skimming across the water at a
thrilling speed. The long boat
passed the slow rice barges using
the long motor for shallow
maneuvering. Our first stop was
Wat Aroon, the Temple of the
• Prasert let us out on a platform near • early in the morning they sit on the
the temple and said he would wait ground before their living quarters
for us. The temple rose high into the heads bowed while people line up to
sky and glittered in the sun. As we put food offerings in their empty
came closer we could see the bowels. To feed a monk is an honor
temple was made of small, shiny, believed to bring good luck.
colorful ceramic tiles. We climbed
the steep stairs to the very top of
Wat Aroon. It was a beautiful view.
A Buddhist monastery was behind
the temple and I could see many
boys my age with shaved heads
wearing saffron colored robes.
Buddhism is the primary religion in
Thailand. Most boys spend six
months to two years as monks.
They live in monasteries and are
taught about Bhuddism and how to
live a simple life. All over Thailand
• Prasert was waiting for us as he We stopped at a large open building
promised, and he sped us away at and we stepped out to see the royal
high speed to see the Royal Barges. barges. Two times a year at special
It was interesting to see life along the ceremonies the royal barges are
river. I saw beautiful flower markets brought out from their river warehouse.
filled with orchids and roses of all They are like giant, elaborately
colors and we could smell the decorated canoes. Forty men wearing
fragrant lotus blossoms. There were traditional Thai costumes oar the
huge warehouses filled with teak individual boats in races on the Chyao
logs. There were ornate Thai styled Phya River. They pass the grandstand
houses belonging to the wealthy next saluting the King and Queen of
to simple houses where children Thailand with their oars.
bathed and brushed their teeth in the
shallow banks of the river.
• Prasert maneuvered our boat
through Bangkok¹s canals to the
home of the royal barges. Bangkok is
known as the “Venice of the East”
because it was built on canals or
• Our next stop was the magnificent There are many statues of Buddha,
Grand Palace built in the eighteen which are covered in gold leaf. I liked
century. It looked just like the seeing the interesting murals painted
elaborate palace in the movie the along the walls of the complex. The
“King and I”, which is actually murals tell the story of the life of
banned in Thailand for making fun Buddha.
of the King. It is here that Thailand¹s
King, His Majesty Bhumibol
Adulyadez, meets heads of states.
Thailand is a constitutional
monarchy. It is run by an elected
parliament headed by the Prime
Minister who is elected by the King.
The King is a figurehead, but still
has a lot of influence in Thailand
and is loved by the people The
Grand Palace complex is spread out
on many acres. There are temples
with ornate gilded spires guarded by
exotic statues of mythical beasts.
• I visited the Royal Chapel, which is We also visited nearby Wat Po
the home of the Emerald Buddha. which is the oldest and largest of
Everyone has to take off their shoes Bangkok¹s more than 300 temples. It is
and sit on the marble floors with home to the huge Reclining Buddha, the
their feet crossed so as not point largest Buddha in Thailand.
their feet at the Emerald Buddha,
which is a sin. The Emerald Buddha
is smaller than I thought. It is only
about three feet tall and sits on a
golden altar in the front of the
temple. It is not really made of
Emerald but jasper. The Emerald
Buddha was wearing its winter coat.
Three times a year His Majesty the
King changes the robes of the
Emerald Buddha to reflect the
season. There is a scent of burning
incense, and many Thais pray and
meditate in this peaceful place.
• As we were leaving the Grand Thai food is very popular in the United
Palace, I begged my mom to let us States so I was not surprised at many of
take a thuk- thuks back to the hotel. the flavors of the cuisine including
Thuk-thuks are fast, noisy open -air coconut, peanuts and coriander. I was
three wheeled vehicles, She surprised at how much hotter and
relented and we had a crazy ride spicier the food was here.
through the famous Bangkok traffic.
• We decided to eat dinner that
evening at the popular Sala Rim
Naam one of the six restaurants at
the Oriental Hotel where we were
staying. We wanted to see the Thai
Classical Dance show. We sat
crossed legged at the low tables
while waiters served us many
different kinds of delicious food.
Including sweet noodles curry and
• Soon after dinner the lights dimmed
and musicians started to play music
using instruments I had never seen
before. They were woodwind and
percussion instruments. The
musicians sat on the floor and
played Thai classical music by ear.
Then the Thai classical dancers
appeared wearing elaborate
costumes and headdresses. They
danced and acted out stories from
the Ramayana the ancient Thai
story of good versus evil. There
were characters representing
monkey gods and princesses and
• The next day we went shopping hoping – Next we visited many of the gem
to find some famous Thai bargains. Our and jewelry stores near our hotel.
first stop was the Jim Thompson Silk • Thailand is famous for its rubies and
Shop. Jim Thompson was the sapphires as well as many other
American who helped establish the • precious gemstones. You can choose
Thai Silk Industry in the 1950¹s. There from individual stones or beautiful
were rows and rows of brightly colored
silks, all of them hand-loomed and • jewelry designs at great prices. My
mom bought some sapphire earrings
hand-dyed in a mind-boggling range of
colors, patterns and weights. My mom • We visited many small shops selling
purchased some bright royal blue silk in Thai handicrafts from bronzeware to
an elaborate pattern. A tailor took her baskets, quilts to porcelains. There are
measurements for a custom made also many shops selling antiques such
dress which would be ready for a fitting as tapestries and puppets from Burma.
the next day and ready for pick up the
• At dawn the next morning we were • There were boats selling noodles,
on our way to the floating market of fried bananas, fresh coconut milk,
Damnern Saduak. The market is dried fish, and rice. It was very
about one hour from Bangkok. colorful and I took lots of photos.
People here live on klongs or canals
• There was even one boat brimming
and travel by small boats from one
with durian fruit, the most infamous
destination to another. The local
fruit in all of Asia. I saw many signs
market is on the water where
in Thailand saying no durian
vendors in boats sell everything you
allowed. People say that a ripe
could want. We arrived early so we
durian tastes something like a
could enjoy the market before it gets
banana but it smells terrible, like
too hot. We arrived at the market
Limburger cheese. I don¹t think I
and hired a boat and driver so we
want to try one.
could wander among the klongs.
The waterways were crowded with
boats paddled by women with their
unique wide brimmed Thai style
straw hats for sun protection. The
boats were laden with all sorts of
things to sell from beautiful orchids
to fruits and vegetables.
Floating Market Bangkok
• It was interesting to see life along the Once, the only way to get there from
klongs. Many children waved to us as Bangkok was a trip of several weeks on
they paddled to school on the narrow elephant back or an exhausting river
waterways. We looked inside one journey. In the late 1920¹s a railroad was
school, which had its doors wide open, built, but today it is only a one-hour flight
and we could see young children by air.
reciting the Thai alphabet. We passed•a Chiang Mai is known for its slower way of
wat and we could see monks in their life. We rode on a bicycle pulled cart
orange robes sitting on the floor through the city to visit the handicraft
humming in unison. A small boat came areas. One area makes lacquerware;
alongside in which the driver cooked us another produces big, brightly colored
some delicious Thai noodles, or Phad paper umbrellas. We visited silk weavers
Thai. and I saw silk moth larvae being fed
special leaves. When they got big
• The next morning we left exciting
enough, they would begin spinning their
Bangkok for a visit to northern Thailand
silk cocoons. In another part of town we
and the slower paced city of Chiang Mai.
watched silversmiths hammer out bowls
Chiang Mai was once the capital of a
that look as thin as tissue paper. We
kingdom called Lanna or “Land of the
visited a Thai celadon pottery factory.
Million Rice Fields”.
Celadon bowls are light green or blue in
color and they have a cracked glittering
Day Three/Day Four
• In the evening Chiang Mai has a At the camp, the mahouts or keepers
night bazaar that is very interesting. train the young elephants. The elephants
Hill tribe people from all around the lumber down to the river every morning
area come to the market to sell their for a bath. They are like mischievous
wares. Each tribe has their unique children. Sucking up trunkfuls of water to
costumes. I bought some jewelry at drench their mahouts. We watched the
one stand of the Karen tribe. I think older elephants demonstrate how to roll,
the jewelry is made from the horn of pull and lift logs. I even got to feed a
a water buffalo. My mom bought a baby elephant some bananas.
quilt and a wall hanging.
• The next morning we took an
excursion out of town to a traditional
Thai logging camp and elephant
training center at Chang Dao about
40 miles away. Elephants are still
used today to move teak logs from
the dense jungle areas of northern
Thailand to the rivers.
• Our next adventure was a short trek on • A few children are playing soft music on
elephant back. We took a 1 ½-hour trek bamboo flutes. On our return to the hotel
through the jungle, passing through we stopped at the famous temple of Doi
bamboo, mango and litchi trees as we Suthep on Suthep Mountain overlooking
stomped up a jungle creek bed. I sat in a Chiang Mai. It was built in 1383 to house
creaking, swaying box behind the a relic of Lord Buddha. It is said that to
mahout who sat on top of the elephant find the perfect site the local King
behind the ears. Along the way the released a white elephant, which walked
mahout taught us how to say hello, a all the way up the mountain, circled one
little, and thank you in Thai hello is spot three times, trumpeted his
Sawasdee, a little is nit noi, and thank satisfaction then knelt down. A tower of
you is kap khun krap. The elephant gold in the courtyard of the temple stands
walked slowly through the jungle on our to this day to mark the spot. It is a festival
way to visit a hilltribe village of the Lisu day and there are vendors making special
people. The Lisus live in a small village foods such as banana fritters. Other
with a single row of open houses. There vendors offer wicker baskets of caged
is no running water or electricity. There little birds. I buy a basket with a bird and
are pudgy pigs running around like pets. set the bird free for good luck.
Chickens and roosters wander through
• From Chiang Mai we flew to the south in the water and on the shoulders of the water
of Thailand to the tropical island of buffaloes were little orange birds. Rubber
Phuket. Phuket is a beautiful coral- plantations and fields of sugarcane cover large
rimmed island of rolling hills and tracts of the island.
jungles resting on the waters of the
Andaman Sea. It is now a popular
tourist attraction. The first thing I
noticed as we were landing was how
bright blue and clear the water was. I
couldn¹t wait to go swimming!
• On the way to the hotel we saw
plantations of coconut trees. We
watched as men urged monkeys to
climb the tall trees and throw down
their harvest of ripe coconut fruit. We
saw rice paddies with water buffaloes
• We arrived at our hotel which was
right on the beach and I wasted no
time in putting on my swim trunks
and heading for the water. I swam
out a short way and was amazed at
the coral that was so close to the
beach. Swimming around the coral
were brightly colored tropical fish
including angelfish and parrotfish. I
ran out of the water to get my fins
and snorkel and I spent the rest of
the afternoon exploring the coral
reefs to watch the interesting sea
life including groupers, sea rays and
schools of small fish of every
imaginable color and shape. We
feasted on seafood that evening,
including huge Phuket lobster and
• We took a boat the next morning to • On our return to Phuket we visited
see the unique limestone rock the Sea Gypsies who are Muslim
formations near Phuket which were fishermen who have built their
once featured in a James Bond houses on stilts on top of the water
movie. The amazing green cliffs rise beyond Phuket Island. There are
straight out of the sea for hundreds about 50 houses and buildings on
of feet. We visited nearby sea caves stilts.
and saws hundreds of swallow-like
birds build their nests on rock walls
on the caves. Their nests are made
with the bird¹s saliva. The Thais
harvest the nests of these birds to
make bird nest soup, a delicacy in
• The next few days were spent
relaxing on the beach with a few
visits to Phuket town and a
sightseeing trip to the nearby jungle
of Ton Sai National Park. It was
eerie hiking in the dense jungle with
waterfalls cascading into jungle
pools and strange sounds of
animals I couldn¹t recognize.
• We returned to Bangkok after a few
days in Phuket and the following
day we were on another 747 back to
• I will never forget the exotic sights,
sounds and smells of Thailand.
Most of all I will never forget the
friendly people who always greeted
me with a “wai” and the word
Sawasdee or welcome to the “Land
• Getting There: The best way to get
to Thailand is by using the country¹s
national carrier, Thai Airways
International. The airline has great
package deals from locations
throughout the United States. When
you board Thai Airways 747 jumbo
jet, it is like you are entering the
country of Thailand. Airhostesses
wearing traditional Thai silk dresses,
which were chosen by the Queen
greet you with an orchid and a “wai”;
their hands folded in a prayer like
gesture that bids you welcome.
Where To Stay
• The best hotel to stay at in Bangkok
is the exotic Oriental Hotel on the
banks of the Chao Phya River.
There is a lot of history at this
beautiful hotel originally built in
1800. It was the only hotel in
Bangkok at the turn of the century
and many rooms have been named
after the famous authors who have
visited the Oriental. Including
Somerset Maughm, Joseph Conrad,
Mark Twain, and Tennessee
Williams. It has two swimming
pools, a workout room and six
restaurants. One of the restaurants
has a Thai Classical Dance show.
Ask for a room with a view of the
When To Go
• When to go: Thailand¹s climate is
ruled by monsoons resulting in three
seasons: rainy (June to October),
cool and dry (November to
February), and hot (March to May).
There are also extremes in weather
from 95degrees and humid in April
to 70 degrees in December. The dry
season is the best time to go from
November until late April. From May
to October there is a shower most
mornings and sun in the afternoon,
occasionally there are days of
pouring rain. The cool season is
from November to February.
What To Wear/Local Customs
• What to wear: Thais are • Local customs: Never touch a Thai¹s
exceptionally friendly, polite and head or point your feet at them, this is
modest. While they make considered extremely impolite. If
allowances for tourists, women someone “wai¹s” to you ( greets you with
should not wear shorts in public. hands together while bending their head
Generally dress is informal and only down) it is proper to return the gesture.
the fanciest hotels and restaurants Instead of saying Sawasdee for hello or
require men to wear a jacket. goodbye, men should say Sawasdee
Because of the heat and humidity of krab and women should say Sawasdee
Thailand, loose clothes made of Ka. It is a small gesture but infinitely
cotton and natural fabrics are best. more polite in a country that values such
Bring comfortable shoes. gestures. Proper behavior is especially
important at temples. You must remove
your shoes before entering a wat or
building that contains a Buddha image.
You can sit on the floor of the wat but
with legs folded under you so as not to
point your toes at anyone. Women must
never enter the monks¹ quarters, nor
hand anything to a monk.
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Macintosh Edition. 1996
Warren, William, Thailand Seven Days in the Kingdom.
Singapore: Didier Millet, 1987.