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					                                                                                               Introduction 1
                                                                                     © Lonely Planet Publications
Introduction
                                                                                                               30ºN
                       BHUTAN
                                                                                                     PACIFIC
                  NEPAL                                          CHINA                                OCEAN


                                                                                                      Tropic of Cancer


                                          MYANMAR                                                TAIWAN
                                          (BURMA)
   INDIA                                                                                                       20ºN
                                                        LAOS
                          BANGLADESH
                              Bay of
                              Bengal                THAILAND                    South                PHILIPPINES
                                                    BANGKOK                     China
                                                                                 Sea
                                                              CAMBODIA

                                                                   VIETNAM
                                          Andaman                                                              10ºN
                                            Sea
                                                      Gulf of
                  SRI LANKA
                                                      Thailand

                                                                            BRUNEI
                                                    MALAYSIA
                    INDIAN                                       SINGAPORE
                    OCEAN                                               MALAYSIA

Equator




                                                                         INDONESIA

           80ºE                    90ºE               100ºE                                  120ºE



Thailand is one of those places that is                        wide-eyed novice to the seasoned pro
on everyone’s travel list. From the highly                     – venturing to the country each year.
cosmopolitan Bangkok to the remote is-                         It is estimated the dive industry gener-
lands of the Andaman Sea, this exotic                          ates 50,000 jobs as a result. The country
country has a little bit of everything for                     has responded by declaring many of its
most everyone. When people think of                            offshore resources as marine national
Asia, Thailand is often the image that                         parks and has put rangers in place to
first comes to mind.                                           run off poachers. It has banned fishing
   Over the years, Thailand has blos-                          for whale sharks, something none of
somed into a true Mecca for scuba                              its neighbors has done, and has placed
divers from all over the world. Indeed,                        boat moorings on many sites to prevent
The Kingdom of Thailand draws more                             anchor damage to the coral reefs.
visitors than any other country in South-                         Having weathered a devastating
east Asia. It has an irresistible combina-                     tsunami in 2004, the industry is on the
tion of breathtaking natural beauty,                           rebound and is especially strong in
inspiring temples and ruins of fabulous                        places like Pattaya, Ko Tao, Ko Samui
ancient kingdoms, and is renowned for                          and Phuket.
its hospitality and robust cuisine. Few                           Diving & Snorkeling Thailand will intro-
countries are so well endowed.                                 duce you to the historic shipwrecks of
   Thailand draws more divers than any                         the Eastern Gulf, which sit beside new,
other Southeast Asia destination, with                         habitat-building wrecks created espe-
an estimated 300,000 divers – from the                         cially for divers to enjoy. The islands of
                                                          1
2 Introduction
© Lonely Planet Publications
Ko Tao and Ko Samui are instructional       past the Thai border to newly pioneered
havens where every aspect of diving         dive sites in the Mergui Archipelago in
is taught and practiced on submerged        rustic Myanmar (formerly Burma).
pinnacles, rocky reefs and hard coral          Virtually every dive destination
fantasylands. On the west coast, Phuket     within Thailand has its own set of dive
serves as a hub for divers wanting to       sites that offer something special and
experience some of the richest marine       fascinating. To list them all would cre-
life in the Andaman Sea. Divers come to     ate a book the size of the Bible. Diving
see flowing sea anemones, brilliant soft    & Snorkeling Thailand features some of
corals, and to chance a view of a leop-     the finest dives in Thailand and provides
ard shark or a swim beside a behemoth       divers and snorkelers with a good feel
whale shark.                                for the country’s finest underwater at-
   Live aboard ships carry groups of        tractions. It is truly a bountiful destina-
divers north of Phuket to the hotspots in   tion ready to thrill and surprise visiting
the Similan Islands and Surin Islands and   scuba buffs.

 Colorful umbrellas line the beaches
 at Kata Noi Beach on Phuket
Lush foliage and outstanding beaches, like
these in Phuket, are big draws for Thai visitors

                                                                                                                            © Lonely Planet Publications
                                                   Facts about Thailand
                                                    A Thai lady arranges her fruit stand in Ko Tao        ues to develop at a rapid pace. Bangkok
                                                                                                          is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan
                                                                                                          cities. Ethnic Thais make up over 70%
                                                                                                          percent of the country’s population fol-
                                                                                                          lowed by Chinese, Malays and various
                                                                                                          tribe people. Even the minorities are
                                                                                                          most often Thai born, making the coun-
                                                                                                          try a unified nation.
                                                                                                             Tourism dominates the economic
                                                                                                          scene, and Thailand is a world leader in
                                                                                                          the industry. Diving tourism ranks high
                                                                                                          on the list. The country also specializes
                                                                                                          in health tourism, cultural tourism (like
                                                                                                          cooking classes) and agricultural tour-
                                                                                                          ism. Divers coming to Thailand are in for
                                                                                                          a treat.

                                                                                                          HISTORY
                                                                                                          The earliest civilization in Thailand is
                                                                                                          believed to have been that of the Mons
                                                                                                          in central Thailand, who brought their
                                                                                                          Buddhist culture from the Indian sub-
                                                                                                          continent. In the 12th century, this met
                                                                                                          a Khmer culture moving from the east,
                                                                                                          the Sumatran-based Srivijaya culture
                                                                                                          moving north, and citizens of the Thai
                                                   OVERVIEW                                               state of Nan Chao, in what is now south-
                                                                                                          ern China, migrating south. Thai princes
                                                   Thailand is a large country, with most of              created the first Siamese capital in Su-
                                                   its northern and central landmass sur-                 khotha, followed by centers in Chiang
                                                   rounded by Cambodia, Laos and Myan-                    Mai and, notably, Ayuthaya.
                                                   mar (formerly Burma). There are many                      The 20th century brought great
                                                   destinations within this destination, but              change to Thailand. In 1932, a peaceful
                                                   of most interest to divers are the areas               coup converted the country into a con-
                                                   in the Gulf of Thailand and to the west                stitutional monarchy, and in 1939 Siam
                                                   along the Andaman Sea. In recogniz-                    became Thailand. During WWII, the Thai
                                                   ing that these areas have great tourist                Government sided with the Japanese.
                                                   potential, combined with rich resources                After the war, Thailand was dominated
                                                   above and below the water, Thailand                    by the military and experienced more
                                                   has moved to make many sites marine                    than 20 coups and countercoups inter-
                                                   national parks and national parks.                     spersed with short-lived experiments
                                                      Rich in culture, Thailand has long                  with democracy. Democratic elections
                                                   been involved in international trade,                  in 1979 were followed by a long period
                                                   cultural exchanges and independent                     of stability and prosperity as power
                                                   governance. Now considered one of                      shifted from the military to the busi-
                                                   Asia’s main economic forces, it contin-                ness elite.
                                                                                                     11
12 Facts about Thailand                                                                                                                                Facts about Thailand 13


 Rustic Ko Nang Yuan is a low-key escape                                              DIVING HISTORY                                opening the way for those wanting to
                                                                                                                                    escape the big city of Bangkok. Wind-
                                                                                      There seems to be a consistent story          ing roads, providing some breathtaking
                                                                                      relating to the birth of Thailand’s tour-     overlooks, were created through the
                                                                                      ism and subsequent diving industry.           mountains and paved the way for dive
                                                                                      On April 29, 1961, the first of about 100     shops to start businesses in small ho-
                                                                                      American servicemen slated to join the        tels at the west coast beaches of Patong,
                                                                                      Vietnam conflict arrived in Pattaya for       Kata and Karon, now the upscale cent-
                                                                                      a rest and relaxation break. They had a       ers for tourism in southern Phuket.
                                                                                      great time playing on the open beaches           Phuket’s small domestic airport be-
                                                                                      and snorkeling, and some tried scuba.         came an international airport in the
                                                                                      The rest is history. Quiet little Pattaya     1990s as infrastructure expanded.
                                                                                      became busy, booming Pattaya. It’s now        Phuket is now the leading island holi-
                                                                                      Thailand’s premier and most successful        day destination in Southeast Asia, with
                                                                                      beach resort, annually attracting tour-       a number of 5-star rated dive shops and
                                                                                      ists in their hundreds of thousands. The      every level of instruction and dive expe-
                                                                                      original number of dive shops could be        rience offered. The first dive shops (that
                                                                                      counted on one hand (some are still in        remain in business today) were started
                                                                                      existence today) and have been joined         in about 1982 and include Ocean Divers,
                                                                                      by dozens of others offering a plethora       Fantasea Divers and Santana Diving.
                                                                                      of specialties.                                  As for recent history, Ko Chang is
                                                                                         Thai diving pioneers also looked west.     Thailand’s new model for tourism, and
                                                                                      The island of Phuket remained uncon-          diving shops are also getting very busy
                                                                                      nected to the mainland for years. Thus,       there.
                                                                                      boat trips for tourists to visit and stay        The situation in the Gulf has been in a
                                                                                      were infrequent at best. In the early ‘70s,   state of change since the terrible events
                                                                                      the Sarasin Bridge was built, connect-        of the December 2004 tsunami on the
                                                                                      ing Phuket to Phang Nga Province and          west coast. While that mess was being




  In 1997 the Thai baht (Thailand’s cur-      In December 2004, the west-facing
rency) pretty much collapsed, drag-        Andaman coast was hit by a tsunami,
ging the economy (and many other           killing more than 5000 people. Worst
Southeast Asian economies) down in         affected were small family-run busi-
a screaming heap. The unfinished sky-      nesses and fishermen, whose buildings
scrapers around Bangkok are a legacy of    and boats were lost to the waters. Aside
this downturn. Politics and coups have     from areas like Ao Lo Dalam on Phi Phi
been on the scene here for the last 20     Island and the Khao Lak/Takua Pa areas
years as well and remain part of the       in Phang-Nga province, the majority of
scene, although they rarely affect div-    tourist-reliant areas reopened within
                                                                                                                                                    Thai elephants are ready for feeding
ing tourist areas.                         weeks or even days of the event.
14 Facts about Thailand                                                                                                                                 Facts about Thailand 15


 Live aboard ships sit at scenic Ko Bon                                                                                              POPULATION,
                                                                                                                                     PEOPLE & CULTURE
                                                                                                                                     Thailand has a population of approxi-
                                                                                                                                     mately 65,000,000 people, roughly 95%
                                                                                                                                     of which is Buddhist, with about 4%
                                                                                                                                     Muslim. Religion and monarchy are the
                                                                                                                                     cornerstones of Thai culture and they
                                                                                                                                     permeate everyday life. It’s the custom
                                                                                                                                     to stand for the royal anthem before
                                                                                                                                     films are shown, and the national an-
                                                                                                                                     them is played across towns, villages
                                                                                                                                     and even Bangkok Skytrain stations
                                                                                                                                     twice daily.
                                                                                                                                        For the beach-holidaymaker and
                                                                                                                                     Bangkok fly-by-nighter, it is often easy
                                                                                                                                     to overlook the cultural subtleties of
                                                                                                                                     Thailand. The local people are a gregari-
                                                                                                                                     ous and accepting lot, but a little bit of
                                                                                                                                     respect goes a long way in finding out
                                                                                                                                     more about the country’s people and
                                                                                                                                     culture.
                                                                                                                                        Be modest in dress and actions. Be re-
                                                                                                                                     spectful in your dealings with Thai peo-
                                                                                                                                     ple and you will get along fine and have
                                                                                                                                     a pleasant experience in the country. If
                                                                                                                                     you don’t blow your top, they won’t
                                                                                                                                     blow theirs.

cleaned up, divers looked to the Gulf.       that new sites are still being found and    CLIMATE
Always high on the list of backpack-         diving is driving conservation and en-
ers learning to dive, the Gulf industry      vironmental movements that promote          Climate-wise, the best time for visiting
really only started taking off in the mid-   healthy seas and protected reefs and        Thailand is between November and Feb-
’90s. Following the tsunami, the caliber     their inhabitants.                          ruary when it is not too wet and not too
of tourist visiting Ko Tao has escalated                                                 hot. The south is best visited when the
and island ferries have started deliver-     GEOGRAPHY                                   rest of Thailand is miserably hot (March
ing people with suitcases and laptops                                                    to May), and the north is best from mid-
– some even with children. This was a        Thailand borders Malaysia, Myanmar          November to early December, or when
rare occurrence prior to the tsunami         (formerly Burma), Laos and Cambodia,        it starts warming up again in February.
and has created a bit of culture shock,      and has the Gulf of Thailand on its east    Thailand’s monsoons arrive around July
with a major catch-up resulting in new       coast and the Andaman Sea on its west       and continue into November (the ‘sticky
resorts, better-equipped dive shops and      coast. There are four main zones: the       season’). This is followed by a dry, cool
even 24-hour electricity. Dive shops here    fertile central plains of the Chao Phraya   period from November to mid-February,
have recently evolved from wooden            River; the poorer region of the 300m        followed by much higher relative tem-
shacks to full-blown dive camps.             (985ft) high northeast plateau; the fer-    peratures from March to June.
  The early Pattaya pioneers knew they       tile valley and mountains of Northern          If you’re spending time in Bangkok, be
were on to something and in a short          Thailand; and the rainforested south-       prepared to roast in April and do some
few decades the world had agreed by          ern peninsula. Doi Inthanon, at 2,596m      wading in October – probably the most
sending upwards of 300,000 divers an-        (8,512ft) in Chiang Mai province, is the    challenging two months, weather-wise,
                                                                                                                                                    Rambutan fruit for sale in the market
nually to the country. The good news is      highest peak.                               in the capital.
16 Facts about Thailand                                                                              Sunset at Kata Noi, Phuket
                                                                                            Facts about Thailand 17
© Lonely Planet Publications




 A girl with sun protection in Burma


LANGUAGES                                      ited island. A whirl of color and cos-
                                               mopolitanism, Thailand’s only island
Thai is the official language of the king-     province revolves around and thrives
dom. English is widely spoken and un-          on tourism, but still retains a spark of
derstood in almost every tourist venue.        the real Thailand.
Thai is a complicated language with its           There are a hundred and one ways to
own unique alphabet, but it’s fun to try       pass the day in Phuket, which certainly
at least a few words. The main compli-         knows how to cater to tourists’ every
cation with Thai is that it is tonal: the      whim. Most flock to the beaches on the
same word could be pronounced with a           southwestern side, which are loaded
rising, falling, high, low or level tone and   with amenities and entertainment
could theoretically have five meanings!        options.
But give it a go anyway. Sawadee (saw-            There are plenty of flights to Phuket
wah-day) means ‘hello’ and kob-kuhn            from Bangkok (about 80 minutes), op-
(cob-coon) means ‘thank you’. There,           erated by a number of domestic and
you’re off to a flying start!                  international carriers. Flights are also
                                               available to other Thai tourist destina-
GATEWAY CITY                                   tions, such as Ko Samui. As it’s an inter-
                                               national airport, direct flights to Phuket
Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the South’ by the         are also available from destinations out-
tourist industry, Phuket is Thailand’s         side Thailand including Malaysia, Hong
largest, most populous and most vis-           Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
                                                                                                                                                                                 © Lonely Planet Publications
                                                                                                             Author
                                                                                                                                                              blowing revelation seeing this new,
                                                                                                                                                              strange and shockingly colorful world. It
                                                                                                                                                              planted a seed that later led to a career. I
                                                                                                                                                              was extremely happy to revisit this land
                                                                                                                                                              and once again embrace its people and
                                                                                                                                                              its rich underwater world.
                                                                                                                                                                 A warm thank you to my wife, Larie,
                                                                                                                                                              for putting up with my absences and,
                                                                                                                                                              as always, helping out when asked.
                                                                                                                                                              Special thanks to Hans and Sandy Ul-
                                                                                                                                                              lrich for doing so much for me in all as-
                                                                                                                                                              pects of the book research. Thanks to
                                                                                                                                                              Rene Balot for immense logistical assist-
                                                                                                             TIM ROCK                                         ance, Porn Songsta, Hans Tibboel, Prakit
                                                                                                                                                              Phetcamto, Hin Pengsuksri, Chalong
                                                                                                             Tim Rock attended the journalism pro-            Phumkliang, Somjet Sriprasit, Sutham
                                                                                                             gram at the University of Nebraska–              Nonsi, Thira Thongmisuk, Wirot Sae-Lee,
© Lonely Planet Publications. To make it easier for you to use, access to this chapter is not digitally      Omaha and has been a professional                Charoen Khaikaew, Somnuek Lansin,
restricted. In return, we think it’s fair to ask you to use it for personal, non-commercial purposes only.   broadcast and print photojournalist              Yaowapha Piyaprai, Porntip Popa, Ruen-
In other words, please don’t upload this chapter to a peer-to-peer site, mass email it to everyone you       for over 30 years. The majority of those         gamnat Chooduang, Kay Arsrairas, Peter
know, or resell it. See the terms and conditions on our site for a longer way of saying the above - ‘Do      years has been spent in the Western and          De Pauw, Jane Wiwek, Matt Bolton,
the right thing with our content.’                                                                           Indo Pacific region reporting on envi-           Supha ‘Oi’ Thamniam, Walter van Paas-
                                                                                                             ronmental and conservation issues.               sen, Toine Kokke, Mark Strickland, John
                                                                                                                His television series, Aquaquest Micro-       Williams, Jamie Macleod, Stuart Oehl,
                                                                                                             nesia, was an Ace Award finalist. He has         Andrew Hewett, Alex Tyrrell, Elaine Tay-
                                                                                                             also produced six documentaries on               lor, Erwin Razenberg, Jamie Cox, Priaw
                                                                                                             the history and undersea fauna of the            Sukanya, Narongsak Tiasakul, Narong
                                                                                                             region. Tim won the prestigious Excel-           Chaimo, Boris De Fauconval and the
                                                                                                             lence in the Use of Photography award            people of Thailand for their hospitality
                                                                                                             from the Society of Publishers in Asia,          and dedication to the preservation of
                                                                                                             amongst many other awards for photog-            the marine world that surrounds their
                                                                                                             raphy and writing. He publishes a maga-          beautiful island.
                                                                                                             zine and works as a correspondent for               John Williams and Mark Strickland,
                                                                                                             numerous Pacific Rim magazines. Tim is           the authors of the first Lonely Planet
                                                                                                             the author of many Diving & Snorkeling           Thailand D&S guide book, were very
                                                                                                             series guides, including Bonaire, Cay-           generous in their help and information
                                                                                                             man Islands, Thailand, Chuuk Lagoon-             with this new volume.
                                                                                                             Pohnpei-Kosrae, Bali & Lombok, Guam
                                                                                                             & Yap, Palau, South Africa-Mozambique            PHOTO NOTES
                                                                                                             and Papua New Guinea, and is a major
                                                                                                             contributor to Philippines.                      Tim uses Nikon digital cameras, Aquat-
                                                                                                                                                              ica underwater housings and Ikelite
                                                                                                             FROM THE AUTHOR                                  strobes. Tim’s photographic work is
                                                                                                                                                              represented by Lonely Planet Images
                                                                                                             The very first time I went scuba diving          (www.lonelyplanetimages.com), Dou-
                                                                                                             was in early 1972 in the warm, clear wa-         ble Blue Images (www.doubleblue.com)
                                                                                                             ters off Pattaya Beach. It was a mind-           and other agents worldwide.
                                                                                                                                                          7

				
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