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Thailand is a popular destination for ESL teachers who      The first deposit for the International Bank Account
are interested in gaining a valuable cultural experience.   must be transferred from oversea only. Thai banks
Thailand embraces a rich diversity of cultures and          provide a wide range of services throughout the country.
traditions, and prides itself on rich history, tropical     Most foreign banks are represented, however, at this stage
climate, and renowned hospitality.                          they offer limited services to the individual consumer.
However, Thailand is much more than just a place with       Banking hours are generally from 08:30-15:30,
beautiful islands and beaches, enchanting temples,          Monday through Friday, except on public and bank
great climate, cheap shopping, and friendly people.         holidays. It is best to confirm the business hours of your
                                                            chosen bank at the time of opening an account

Requirements to Teach English                               Once you have your bank account, be sure to get a bank
                                                            card. This will make life a lot easier especially when
in Thailand                                                 traveling in Thailand. You will need to pay for your travel
                                                            in cash (including deposits on hotel rooms) so having
What you need to Qualify                                    access to your account is paramount. Note that the
                                                            maximum daily ATM withdrawal is 20,000 - 35,000 Thai
    - Minimum of a Bachelors Degree from an                 Baht (depending on the bank).
      accredited university in the U.S, Canada,
      Australia, New Zealand, South Africa,                 Credit cards are somewhat more acceptable but mainly
      Great Britain or Ireland                              restricted to the larger cities, such as Bangkok, Phuket
                                                            Koh Samui and Nakhornratchasima.
    - Must be a citizen of one of the above
      mentioned countries                                   If you need to transfer funds back to the West or have
                                                            funds sent to you and don’t want to deal with a bank you
    - Must be a native English speaker
                                                            might consider Western Union. These are located in most
    - Must be in good physical and mental health            major cities, sometimes in major hotels. The fees are
                                                            quite reasonable and the transfer is almost instant.
    - Must be between 21 and 40
                                                            Suburban branches of the larger local banks are wide-
    - No experience necessary
                                                            spread and can be more convenient. At the main branches,
    - You do not need to know any Thai                      English is spoken and the staff are usually most helpful.
                                                            For easy withdrawal access, lodge your signature at the
    - Any degree welcomed but preference
                                                            local branch as well as the parent branch. If you wish
      given to education and English majors.
                                                            to withdraw at a branch other than the one you opened
    - Positions are for one-year contracts,                 your account with, identification will be required (usually
      available on an ongoing basis.                        your passport). Determine all fees and charges up front
                                                            so there are no surprises at the end of the month.
Banking in Thailand
                                                            Teaching in various cities
Opening a Bank Account
Banking in Thailand is a relatively stress free practice.   Teaching jobs in Bangkok
There are a few documents you will need to submit in        Same same, but different. It’s Thailish T-shirt philosophy
order to establish an account in an international bank.     that neatly sums up Bangkok, a city combining the tastes
All banks require several forms of identification (i.e.      of many places into a unique and often spicy dish that is
passport, work permit, current credit cards, etc.) and      never, ever boring.
most will request a letter of introduction from your        Such contradictions give the City of Angels its rich,
employer along with details of your current visa status.    multi-faceted personality. Delve just a little deeper and
Phone ahead to determine what your bank requires.           you’ll find a city of climate-controlled mega-malls and
Usually, it comes down to the following:                    international brand names just minutes from 200-year-
Relevant Documents for Opening Saving Bank Account          old village homes; of gold-spired Buddhist temples sharing
                                                            space with neon-lit strips of sleaze; of slow-moving rivers
    - Passport                                              of cars bypassed by long-tail boats plying the royal river;
    - Work Permit                                           and of streets lined with food carts selling Thai classics
                                                            for next to nothing, overlooked by restaurants on top of
    - A minimum deposit amount 500 Baht for a               skyscrapers serving international cuisine.
      Thai bank and 5,000 Baht for
      Standard Charter Bank or 100,000 Baht for HSBC        Bangkok is not only colorful in daytime but also after
      (The remaining amount of each month must              sunset when the city takes on a different light and comes
      not less than 500,000 Baht)                           to life to offer amusement 24-hours around the clock.
                                                                                                                         3
For dancing yon can visit Royal City Avenue which is            journey to the summit. The highly sanctified chedi and
known as RCA among the teenagers who frequent the               temple at the top is a popular pilgrim spot for visiting
area. This is where yon find the Thai yuppies listening to       Thais and the views of the entire valley are humbling.
non-stop CD music. If yon are a little old for RCA vou can      Also on top of the mountain you can visit Phuping Palace
try Premier on Rama IX.                                         gardens and Hmong villages, or go walking in the lovely
                                                                forests of Doi Pui peak, which looms behind it. This is one
Teaching jobs in Phuket                                         of the most popular day trips in Chiang Mai.
Phuket, Thailand, is commonly referred to as the
‘Pearl of South’ and is the largest island in Thailand.         Teaching jobs in Korat
Phuket Island runs 48 kilometers (34 miles) north to south      All areas of the world have their military heros, and
and 21 kilometers (16 miles) east to west. Phuket is broken     Korat is no exception. Except that Korat’s hero was a
by a chain of mountains and valleys mainly from a north-        woman called Khunying Mo who was wife of the assistant
south range running down the west coast. This accounts          governor. During the reign of King Rama III Khunying
for about 70% of the land area. The tallest peak, Mai Tao       Mo led the villagers in a battle against Chao Anuwong
Sip Song (12 Cane Peak) is 529 meters. The other 30% of         from Vientiane who was apparently on his way to attack
the island is flat land located mainly in the central and        Bangkok. Khunying Mo’s generalship led the villagers to
eastern portions of the island. Laying in the Andaman Sea       victory.
off southern Thailand’s west coast, the island’s terrain is
                                                                During Ayutthaya’s prominence, two towns united to form
incredibly varied, with rocky headlands, long broad sandy
                                                                Nakorn Ratchasima, commonly known as Korat. Now a
beaches, limestone cliffs, forested hills, small estuaries,
                                                                busy industrial city, it shares many of Bangkok’s features,
lagoons, and tropical vegetation of all kinds. Its large size
                                                                both good (nightlife and bazaars) and bad (pollution).
has allowed microclimates to develop in different areas
                                                                If you are coming from Bangkok and desire peace and
of the island.
                                                                quiet, nearby Phimai is a good base from which to visit
The island offers many different looks and feels for you        Korat during the day.
to discover and enjoy. Kata Beach with its spectacular
tropical scenery compared with the stately cassurina trees      Cost of Living in Thailand
that are found on Nai Yang Beach just a few kilometers
                                                                Thailand offers a great opportunity for teachers to earn
north. The triple canopy rainforest of Khao Phra Thaeo
                                                                and save money. Although things are cheap, you aren’t
National Park to the mud flats and mangrove swamps of
                                                                sacrificing quality or living in squalor. Thailand is a cheap,
Koh Siray. Limestone outcroppings line the east coast
                                                                affordable, comfortable place to live.
and solid granite boulders on the west. Phuket is truly a
tropical wonderland and offers something for just about
everyone.                                                       Renting an appartment is also very cheap. Apartment rental
                                                                in Thailand will cost you between 3,000 - 10,000 per month.
Less hectic than Patong, Karon is a family friendly and
                                                                The lower end would be a single apartment room with
couples place where sundowners, seafood dinners and
                                                                air-con and fridge. More expensive rents may include
classical Thai dinner/dances are the main attractions.
                                                                two room apartments and a shared swimming pool.
Low key and casual, beer bars are limited to a small area
                                                                Cheaper apartments are available but you may find
and there are no discos but if you need something more
                                                                that the quality is not good. If you are in Thailand to
livly, Patong is just north - 10 minutes drive over the
                                                                teach, I would not recommend staying in a very low-end
hill.
                                                                apartment. You will need a place where you can relax at
                                                                the end of a hard days work.
Teaching jobs in Chiang Mai
Thailand’s ‘Rose of the North’ welcomes visitors with an        Utilities
eclectic blend of history, culture, soft adventure, beautiful
                                                                We recommend you budget about 600 Baht per month
mountainous scenery and laid back charm. It also boasts
                                                                for electricity and water, although this can vary greatly
some of the best value hospitality and shopping in Asia.
                                                                depending on how much you use air-con. If you do decide
Although there is plenty to keep your interest within the       to use air-con often you can expect to pay about 1000
old city, such as the moat, beautiful temples, markets          Baht a month.
and historic character, the Chiang Mai environs are worth
touring, and day trips to the surrounding attractions are       Phone calls
worthwhile.                                                     Within Bangkok they are very cheap, 5 Baht per call from
Visiting Chiang Mai would not be complete without a trip        an apartment block. However surcharges on overseas
to the temple on top of Doi Suithep, an imposing mountain       calls from apartments can be very high - anything up to
to the west of the city. Either you can hop aboard a tour,      150 Baht per minute. Discount calling cards are available
catch a songtaew taxi or hire a bike to travel the 15km         for international calls. If you are planning to make a lot
4
of international calls within Thailand I would recommend       Drinks
buying these.                                                  Soft Drinks - from 10 / 15 Baht for a can, up to 50 Baht a
                                                               glass or more in an expensive bar or restaurant.
Post
                                                               Beer - ranges from 35 to 65 Baht for a large bottle in
Stamps to Europe are around 16 Baht per letter.
                                                               supermarkets (depending on brand). Food stalls will
Within Thailand post is very cheap - Apr. 3 Baht. A one
                                                               often offer beer with a small mark up. In a restaurant
page fax to the U. K. is around 40 Baht but you may face
                                                               or bar expect to pay from 85-130 for a large bottle and
a surcharge from places offering this service.
                                                               in more up-market places anything from 120 Baht for a
                                                               small bottle of beer upwards.
Food
Most apartments in Thailand do not have cooking                Spirits - local whisky sells for around 60-80 Baht for a
facilities, although many do have a restaurant attached or     small bottle in shops and in a standard bar or restaurant
are surrounded by numerous food stalls and restaurants.        it will be around 120 - 140 per bottle. Overseas brands
The following prices are a guide only and prices can vary      are much more expensive, ranging from 550 Baht for a
greatly depending on the environment you are eating in.        big bottle upwards. Most Thai bars and restaurants do not
                                                               have a wide range of spirits - where they do, expect to
Food stalls - A meal such as rice with spicy chicken or        pay around 100 Baht for a glass.
pork should cost between 20 and 40 Baht per portion.
Fried rice dishes are approximately the same price as          Wine - is generally quite expensive 350 Baht and up and
are noodle dishes. Food from foodstalls are on the whole       is not usually available in restaurants other than those
tasty and safe, although it can get repetitive if you are      which are up-market. restaurant prices for wine reflect
not too adventurous. Better to eat with a friend and order     this. However, you can sometimes take your own with
more dishes for variety. There has been a lot of discussion    you, if you pay a corkage fee.
about hygiene when buying from these places. We have
never had a problem when eating from these places but          Clothing
you can’t be too careful. Always try to eat at places that     Again, a wide range of makes, both local, imported and
already have a lot of customers.                               pirated are available with prices often relative to quality
                                                               and/or brand name. As in Europe prices vary widely with
Apartment restaurants                                          where you buy!
These tend to be slightly more expensive but they will
deliver to your room. Standard rice dishes usually range       Local goods:
from 35 - 60 Baht per portion. The range of dishes offered       - Work shirt - 150 - 200 Baht.
is usually quite varied although obviously this varies from
                                                                 - Work trousers - 200+ Baht.
place to place. In addition, food from a food stall is often
tastier than the fare offered in these places.                   - Skirts - 150+ Baht.
                                                                 - T-shirts - range from 70 Baht upwards.
Restaurants
                                                                 - Underwear - Men’s around 75+ Baht.
Thailand has a huge variety of restaurants ranging from
                                                                   Women’s - from 150+ Baht.
those that are relatively cheap up to those that are
expensive even by European standards. However, on the            - Jeans - an average pair from a shop would
whole, in Thailand you can expect to pay between 60                start at around 600 Baht.
and 100 Baht per portion in a relatively nice restaurant.          However, can be found cheaper in markets
Frequently a huge range of dishes are on offer ranging             and street stalls.
from meat and seafood options, to those for vegetarians.
                                                                 - Shoes - from 300 Baht for cheap imitation
When eating in a Thai restaurant people rarely just order
                                                                   trainers to around 1000+ for more
one dish for themselves, instead ordering several to share
                                                                   formal leather(ish) shoes.
between friends - an average bill for four (without drinks)
would be between 300 and 500 Baht.                               - Beach wear - very cheap if you stay away
                                                                   from brand names.
European food                                                    - Suits - can be made to reasonable
If you have a craving for European food there are numerous         standard cheaply, from around 3000 Baht
options and all the fast food outlets are represented .            depending on material.
The average prices are 50 Baht for a Big Mac., 250 Baht
for a large at Pizza Hut. European or ‘English’ restaurants    Toiletries & Pharmaceutical products
tend to be more expensive than their Thai counterparts         A wide range of local and imported brands available.
with prices around 180 - 200 Baht for fish and chips, or
bangers and mash style meals.                                    - Soap - 25 Baht for pack of 6.
                                                                                                                      5
  - Shampoo - 20 Baht regular bottle (local),                  so too. The national anthem is played twice a day
    60 Baht (imported)                                         (typically at 8am and 6pm) and also before every film
                                                               at the cinema. Everyone is expected to stand whilst it is
  - Toothpaste - around 40 Baht (regular Colgate)
                                                               playing. You should never insult or joke about the king or
  - Toothbrushes - around 50 Baht.                             royal family.
  - Toilet paper - 20 Baht up for six rolls.                   Do show respect for their main religion (Buddhaism), for
  - Deodorant - 150 Baht (imported)                            the Buddha, and for monks. Shorts or tank tops should
                                                               not be worn in any temples, and shoes should be removed
  - Shaving foam - 150 Baht (imported)                         before entering. It is considered very improper for women
  - Cosmetics - local brands are cheap                         to touch a monk.
    (e.g. lipstick around 150-200 Baht,                        Do not touch anyone on the head. The head is considered
    imported brands can be very expensive)                     to be very sacred.

Medicine                                                       Do not point your feet at anyone or anything. This is quite
                                                               hard for a westerner to follow as, without realising it, we
Almost all supplies you will ever need are locally available   do in some circumstances seem to use our feet quite a lot
from chemists at much cheaper prices than in the West.         e.g closing or opening doors.
Not all familiar brand names are available but you can
easily find similar products. For those with asthma,            Do not step over anyone, instead walk around them.
inhalers are around 200 baht each and easily available.        Thai people wash the top of the body clothes separately
Boots now have several branches which stock a wide             from the bottom half i.e. shirts and jumpers go in one
range of familiar products.                                    wash and shirts, underwear and trousers go in another.
                                                               This is because, as Buddhists, they believe the lower
Electrical goods                                               part of the body is unclean whilst the top part is sacred.
  - TV (12 or 14 inch) - from 3,000 - 6,000 Baht               This is part of their religion.
    (often available for rent from apartment
                                                               A Buddhist Thai would also never take off or put on a skirt
    blocks at 500 baht per month)
                                                               over their heads for the same reason.
  - Video players - around 3,000 Baht
                                                               The same rule applies when hanging out the washing on
  - CD players - from around 3,500 Baht for a                  the line. Clothes from the lower part of the body are not
    very basic model (around 6,000 Baht for something          placed next to or higher than clothes worn on the top
    a bit better)                                              part of the body.
  - Fan - from around 500 baht.                                Thai culture is changing with time because of the contact
                                                               with Western civilisation. Although most Thais stick to
  - Videotape rentals are very cheap - 30 baht
                                                               their own culture, some are influenced by what they
    a night for new releases.
                                                               see on television and from tourists. It is therefore not
  - CD’s are around 400 baht,                                  uncommon to be greeted with a handshake rather than a
    cassettes 100 baht from Tower Records.                     ‘wai’ in the main cities and towns.
  - Cable TV is around 1000 baht a month for the
    full package, with channels such as HBO,                   Thailand Education System
    Cinemax, BBC World, Discovery and
    several sports channels.                                   TThailand has had a formal comprehensive education
                                                               plan since 1932. It began with a four-year elementary
                                                               education plus an eight-year secondary plan for those
Thai Culture                                                   who qualified and wanted to continue. The system of
Thai culture is vastly different from Western culture and      education was revised in 1936 to include five levels:
so before coming over to this land of smiles you should        kindergarten, primary, secondary, pre-university and
find out about the essential ‘do and don’ts’ . Here are         higher education. The year 1951 saw the addition of
just a few, but the most important rules.                      special and adult education.

Do Smile - Thailand is known as the land of smiles.            Because of the stepped-up development of technology,
Thais do not necessarily smile about something like we do      laced with economic and political plans, the government
in the west. They smile for a variety of other reasons too.    accepted the challenge of training its young people for
To say hello or thank you, to make a request, to apologize,    the change in as short a time as possible. School programs
to smooth over bad feelings or to show embarrassment.          had to be modified to include specialized skills needed
                                                               by industry, such as computer science, environmental
Do show respect for the king - Thai people show great          engineering and medicine. The plan has been revised
respect for their king and they expect visitors to do          periodically to keep up with the rapid change in
                                                               technology.
6
Organizational Structure                                      the rest fall under the care of the Private Education
Free public education is compulsory for all children from     Commission and the Department of General Education.
ages 6-15, providing 9 years of compulsory education.         The illiteracy rate is lower in Thailand than in most
Pre-school for the children ages 3-5, primary for ages        countries of southeast Asia.
6-11, lower secondary for ages 12-14 and upper secondary
for the ages of 15-17, is available. Higher education is      Higher Education
generally provided in a 4-year program for a bachelor         There are 16 state universities, 26 privately operated
degree.                                                       universities, 36 teachers’ colleges and other technical
                                                              colleges in Thailand, coordinated by the Ministry of
The School Year                                               University Affairs. Competition is keen among secondary
The first semester of the school year begins May 17 and        school leavers who hope to score well enough on the
ends the first week of October. After a three week recess,     competitive national university entrance examination to
the second semester begins November 1, and continues          be eligible for further study. The entrance examination
until the second week of March. The long summer               is given each year in April. The government requires
vacation is from the third week of March until May 16,        that the universities be spaced throughout Thailand for
and the cycle begins again. Classes are held Monday           equal access opportunity. Scholarships are provided by
through Friday, during which time the students receive        the government and the private sector for outstanding
approximately six hours of instruction each day.              students and for needy students.

Schools vary in different parts of Thailand. Small rural      University courses are taught in Thai with the exception
schools are not as regimented as the large city schools       of major courses in engineering, economics and business
nor do they have as much in the way of technological          administration at Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, and some
equipment. Most schools require uniforms, depending on        private universities in Bangkok. There, those courses are
the affluence of the families. Students and their families     taught in English. Universities sometimes arrange for
show great respect for their teachers and appreciate the      courses to be taught in English to accommodate foreign
opportunity to learn.                                         students. The universities offer a wide variety of courses
                                                              in the areas of agriculture, archaeology, architecture, art,
School Lunch                                                  business, economics, education, engineering, humanities,
                                                              law, medicine, nursing, political science, science, social
The school lunch program varies at each school. Students      science and statistics to name a few. Thailand actively
whose families are able to provide for their children         encourages international programs in education. Joint
bring their own lunch boxes much the same as children         programs at international level are conducted between
in the United States. Nutrition programs are available        universities in Thailand and in the United States.
where needed and, in larger schools, lunch snacks
can be purchased if students do not bring their own.          Food in Thailand!
What students bring from home is supplemented with
snacks to eat and drink, especially in small schools that     Thai food is internationally famous. Whether chilli-
cannot afford a full lunch program. In others, the schools    hot or comparatively blands, harmony is the guiding
supplement what is brought from home or offer one full        principle behind each dish. Thai cuisine is essentially a
course of food with rice, curry, fried food and dessert.      marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences
Some schools have items available, ranging from a main        harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai.
dish, soybean milk, dessert and juice.                        The characteristics of Thai food depend on who cooks
                                                              it, for whom it is cooked, for what occasion, and where
In model schools, the lunch program is fully instituted       it is cooked to suit all palates. Originally, Thai cooking
by the local school. Students participate by raising fruits   reflected the characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle.
and vegetables in school gardens. They help the teachers      Aquatic animals, plants and herbs were major ingredients.
in preparing the meal, serving and cleaning up afterward.     Large chunks of meat were eschewed. Subsequent
Bookkeeping and record-keeping become part of their           influences introduced the use of sizeable chunks to Thai
responsibility.                                               cooking.

Additional Programs                                           With their Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use
                                                              of large animals in big chunks. Big cuts of meat were
Thailand offers adult education, special training services    shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Traditional Thai
for low-income groups, special education for the              cooking methods were stewing and baking, or grilling.
handicapped, and vocational schools. The Ministry of          Chinese influences saw the introduction of frying, stir
Education, the National Education Commission and the          frying and deep-frying. Culinary influences from the 17th
Ministry of University Affairs are entrusted with planning,   century onwards included Portuguese, Dutch, French
administering and coordinating education in Thailand.         and Japanese. Chillies were introduced to Thai cooking
The Office of the National Primary Education Commission        during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who
is responsible for two-thirds of all the students and         had acquired a taste for them while serving in South
                                                              America.
                                                                                                                      7
Thais were very adapt at ‘Siamese-ising’ foreign cooking      Year, in April (Songkran). However, employees will enjoy
methods, and substituting ingredients. The ghee used in       a paid day-off. And there will be parties everywhere,
Indian cooking was replaced by coconut oil, and coconut       in parks, dancing halls and universities.
milk substituted for other daily products. Overpowering
pure spices were toned down and enhanced by fresh             National Children’s Day (January 11)
herbs such as lemon grass and galanga. Eventually, fewer      Children are considered as the most valuable resources of
and less spices were used in Thai curries, while the use      Thailand. They are a powerful force in the development
of fresh herbs increased. It is generally acknowledged        and stability of Thailand. Normally, the age of children
that Thai curries burn intensely, but briefly, whereas         taking part in these celebrations should be younger than
other curries, with strong spices, burn for longer periods.   14 years old.
Instead of serving dishes in courses, a Thai meal is served
all at once, permitting dinners to enjoy complementary        On this day, many interesting places such as the Duzit Zoo,
combinations of different tastes.                             the Army, Navy and Airforce bases, Government House and
                                                              Parliament House are opened for children to visit. Thus,
A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry          all children look forward to National Children’s Day.
dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and
vegetables. A spiced salad may replace the curry dish.        Teacher’s Day(January 16)
The soup can also be spicy, but the curry should be
replaced by non spiced items. There must be a harmony         The highlights of the day include religious activities,
of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the       ceremonies to pay respect to teachers and activitites to
entire meal.                                                  strengthen unity among teachers.

Eating & Ordering Thai Food                                   Chinese New Year (February 1)
Thai food is eaten with a fork and spoon. Even single         Gung Hay Fat Choy! Wishing you good fortune and
dish meals such as fried rice with pork, or steamed rice      happiness! The Chinese are obsessed with making a good
topped with roasted duck, are served in bite-sized slices     start and the New Year Brings a new hope and prosperity.
or chunks obviating the need for a knife. The spoon is        New Year is the longest and happiest holiday of the year
used to convey food to the mouth.                             for Chinese not only for those who are in Thailand but
                                                              also for most Asian people. It sometimes lasts from a
Ideally, eating Thai food is a communal affair involving      week or two.
two or more people, principally because the greater
the number of diners the greater the number of dishes         The date for the Chinese New Year falls on the first day
ordered. Generally speaking, two diners order three           of the first month of the lunar calendar which is based
dishes in addition to their own individual plates of          on the moon cycles. Every year it happens on a different
steamed rice, three diners four dishes, and so on. Diners     day, but it usually arrives somewhere between January
choose whatever they require from shared dishes and           19th and February 21st. New Year’s Eve and the first three
generally add it to their own rice. Soups are enjoyed         days of the new year are observed as a pubic holiday.
concurrently with rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently
with other dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes, not       Magha Puja Day (February 16)
independently. Spicy dishes are “balanced” by bland           Magha puja day is considered one of the most important
dishes to avoid discomfort.                                   Buddhist celebrations. For Thai Buddhists it refers to the
The ideal Thai meal is a harmonious blend of the spicy,       worship that takes place on the full moon of the third lunar
the subtle, the sweet and sour, and is meant to be equally    month (about the last week of February or early March) to
satisfying to eye, nose and palate. A typical meal might      commemorate the day on which the Lord Buddha recited
include a clear soup (perhaps bitter melons stuffed with      the “Ovadha Patimokkha” (the Fundamental Teaching) to
minced pork), a steamed dish (mussels in curry sauce),        his disciples.
a fried dish (fish with ginger), a hot salad (beef slices on
a bed of lettuce, onions, chillies, mint and lemon juice)     Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Day (April 2)
and a variety of sauces into which food is dipped. This       The first of the Royal Children to attend a local institution
would be followed by sweet desserts and/or fresh fruits       of higher learning, received a B.A. from Chulalongkorn
such as mangoes, durian, jackfruit, papaya, grapes or         University, where she majored in the Thai language.
melon.                                                        The Princess also holds a M.A. in Oriental Epigraphy from
                                                              Silpakorn University and a doctorate in Developmental
                                                              Education from Srinakharinwirot University. A gifted
Official Thai Holidays                                         performer on traditional Thai musical instruments, the
                                                              Princess regularly accompanies the king on his visits
New Years Day (January 1)
                                                              to his provincial projects and assists him in collecting
Not as much celebrated as it is in other parts of the world   information relevant to their operation.
because it is overshadowed by the upcoming Thai New
8
National Labor Day (May 1)                                   As the Crown Prince, he also is bestowed, at HM the
The Thai government has established May 1st, of every        King’s command, with the highest ranks of all three royal
year, as Labor Day.                                          Thai armed forces: a General of the Royal Thai Army,
                                                             an Admiral of the Royal Thai Navy, and an Air Chief Marshal
Coronation Day (May 5)                                       of the Royal Thai Air Force.

The coronation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej        H.M. the Queen’s Birthday (August 12)
took place on 5th of May 1950. His Majesty is the ninth
King of the Chakri Dynasty. On 5 May of every year, Thai     August 12th is a very special day for the people of
people rejoice and express their affection and loyalty to    Thailand, it’s the birthday of their Queen. In recognition
him by organizing a celebration on his coronation day.       of Her Majesty, this day is also recognized as National
                                                             Mother’s Day.
The Royal Ploughing Ceremony (May 8)
                                                             End of Buddhist Lent (October 10)
The Annual Ploughing Ceremony usually takes place in
May every year (the date is not fixed fixed like other         To mark the end of Buddhist Lent or ‘Ok Pansa’,
royal ceremonies, but is normally around the 8th of          communities in Northeastern Thailand or ‘I-San’ stage
May) at Sanam Luang near the Grand Palace in Bangkok.        an annual celebration consisting of a grand procession
The ceremony has been performed since ancient times          of meticulously-carved wax castles, long-boat races and
and designed to give an auspicious beginning to the new      festive celebrations. On the final day of the festival,
planting season.                                             which falls on the end of the Buddhist Lent, local residents
                                                             make a trip to the temples to make merit.
Visakha Puja Day (May 15)
                                                             Chulalongkorn Day Day (October 23)
Visakha Puja Day is one of the greatest Buddhist cele-
brations which falls on the 15th day of the waxing           King Chulalongkorn or King Rama V was the son of
moon in the 6th lunar month. The celebration is held to      King Mongkut or Phra Chom Klao and Queen Ramphai
commemorate the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and            Pamarapirom. He was born on 20 September, 1853 the
death (Parinibbana).                                         first son of (Thepsirindra). The king ascended the Throne
                                                             in 1868 when he was 15 under a regency for the first few
Asalha Bhucha Day (July 13)                                  years of his reign.

Asaha Puja Day is one of the most sacred days in Buddhism.   Loy Krathong Day (November 8)
It is observed on the fifteenth day of the waxing moon
of the eight lunar month (July). It is an anniversary of     Loy Krathong Day is one of the most popular festivals of
the day on which Buddha delivered his first Sermon to         Thailand celebrated annually on the Full-Moon Day of the
his five disciples at the Deer Park in Benares over two       Twelfth Lunar Month. It takes place at a time when the
thousand five hundred years ago. The day also marks the       weather is good as the rainy season is over and there is a
beginning of the worship of the Triple Gems, namely: the     high water level all over the country.
Lord Buddha, His Teachings and His Disciples.                “Loy” means “to float” and a “Krathong” is a lotus-
                                                             shaped vessel made of banana leaves. The Krathong
Khao Phansa Day (July 14)                                    usually contains a candle, three joss-sticks, some flowers
The Buddhist Lent, which starts on the first day of the       and coins.
waning moon of the eighth lunar month. The tradition of      The festival is of Brahmin origin in which people offer
Buddhist Lent or the annual three-month Rains Retreat        thanks to the Goddess of the water. Thus, by moonlight,
known in Thai as “Phansa” dates back to the time of early    people light the candles and joss-sticks, Loy Krathong Day
Buddhism in ancient India, all holy men, mendicants and      make a wish and launch their Krathongs on canals, rivers
sages spent three months of the annual rainy season in       or even small ponds. It is believed that the Krathongs
permanent dwellings. They avoided unnecessary travel         carry away sins and bad luck, and the wishes that have
during the period when crops were still new for fear they    been made for the new year due to start. Indeed, it is the
might accidentally step on young plants.                     time to be joyful and happy as the sufferings are floated
                                                             away.
HRH The Crown Prince’s Birthday (July 28)
HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the only son, the    Thai Constitutions Day (December 10)
second of four children, of their Majesties King Bhumibol    December 10 marks the Constitution Day which is held
Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit of Thailand.           annually to commemorate the advent of the regime of
He graduated with a B.A. (Military Studies) from the         Constitutional Monarchy in Thailand.
University of New South Wales, Australia, and attended
the Royal College of Defence Studies in the United           Christmas Day (December 25)
Kingdom in 1970.
                                                                                                                        9
Housing in Thailand                                            or else use your portable computer with their wireless
                                                               WiFi connection or their ethernet cable. They charge
There is a diverse range of accomodation in Thailand.          by the minute or the hour, anywhere between 20 baht/
The CBD consists mainly of Condo’s and Servied Apart-          hour (50 cents US) in Thai suburban areas to 100+ baht
ments, but there are also some houses and townhouses           ($3) per hour in central business district shopping malls
sandwiched within the concrete maze. There are also            and tourist areas. Usually it’s somewhere in-between.
Suburban Villages or housing estates outside the CBD.          Many hotels, pubs, restaurants, cafes and other places
They are planned neighborhoods that are usually quiet,         offer free WiFi hotspots, though high end hotels often
more spacious and have cleaner air.                            charge for it, at steep prices.

Serviced and Short-term leased Apartments                      As a last resort, if you are staying in a property without
                                                               internet set up yet and don’t want to go out, then you can
The terms of lease are usually monthly, but weekly and
                                                               use a phone line to connect to your portable computer’s
fornightly rates are sometimes offered. Do not hesitate
                                                               modem. Buy a 56K dial-up credit with one of the many
to negotiate especially if you are signing a long-term
                                                               local ISPs. These little cards are on sale at bookstores,
lease. A deposit is required usually between 1 - 3 months
                                                               some convenience stores, and IT shopping malls.
rent. You may forfeit the deposit if you leave prior to the
                                                               You pay a few hundred baht for the card (maybe $10)
lease expiry date.
                                                               and you get a phone number, username and password.
                                                               The charges are usually less than 10 baut (25 cents) per
Apartments and Condominiums
                                                               hour. Alternatively, if you are renting a place, or otherwise
It is recommended to buy a map or location guide which         have permission, you can use your phone company’s dial-
list apartments and condominiums in Thailand when              up link, and the internet bill will go onto your phone bill.
apartment/condominium hunting. Apartments include              Unfortunately, I have found these to be surprisingly poor
readily available maintenance and repir-services, 24           in quality - slow, with stalls, and some things don’t work.
hours security and facilities such as a gym, pool, garden      The cost is higher than a prepay 56K dialup to the local
or childrens play area.                                        ISP.
Condominiums offer the same level of service as
apartments however, condominium implies individual
                                                               Thai - the language
ownership so the interior facility and decoration can vary     Though it’s not really necessary to get by, you will
considerably within the same building.                         undoubtedly have an easier and more enjoyable
                                                               experience in Thailand from any time you spend learning
Townhouses                                                     Thai. Most Thais don’t expect a foreigner to be able
There are a number of interesting townhouses tucked            to speak any of their language, and are often visibly
away down many sub-sois. They are usually less expensive       surprised if you can string a few sentences together.
than apartments. They are often multi-level with small         It’s also encouraging how many people will tell you that
garden areas. Some apartment complexes have a mix of           you poot tai geng (speak Thai well), no matter how limited
apartments and townhouses in the same compound which           your command of the language really is. Even with only a
therefore give the same level of security and facilities as    fairly small vocabulary, you will find it a lot easier to get
the apartment.                                                 discounted prices at shops and markets (rah kah poot tai
                                                               dai, “Thai speaker prices) and to make friends amongst
Houses and Housing Estates                                     the locals.

Expatriate Moo Bans (villages) are generally on the fringes    Thai, like Chinese and Vietnamese, is a tonal language
of the central areas. They offer a different style of living   meaning that the same word can have a completely
than apartments in the city. They usually have shared          different meaning depending on it is pronounced. In total,
facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools and        there are 5 tones: Mid tone, high tone, low tone, rising
have the feel of a small community. Check the property         tone and falling tone. A common example of the difficulty
section in newspapers for private rentals or drive around      of tones in Thai is the word mai, whose meanings include
an area that you like, looking out for advertisements on       “wood”, “not”, “silk”, “burn”, and “new” depending on
gates or posts.                                                what tone is used to pronounce it.
                                                               It’s not always this bad though, and the context means
Internet in Thailand                                           you will often be understood even if the tone is wrong.
High speed (broadband) internet is available almost            In some cases though, the context is unlikely to help very
everywhere, including fairly populous places in the outer      much and you will have to get the pronunciation correct
provinces.                                                     in order to be understood - glai (mid tone, meaning “far
                                                               away”) and glâi (falling tone, meaning “near”) is a good
Go to any of the Internet cafes all over Thailand and all      example. It takes a long time to learn how to pronounce
around the provinces, and either use their computers           the tones correctly, and it’s all too easy to make an
10
embarrassing faux pas or inadvertently offend simply           Soak up Thailand. Enrich your life by exposing yourself to
by getting the tone wrong on one word. Luckily most            Chinese culture and life in Thailand.
Thais realize how difficult it is for foreigners to speak
their language, and are generally quite tolerant of any
mistakes - which is just as well really.                       Thai Arts and Crafts
                                                               Arts and crafts in Thailand go on to make Thailand’s
Though there’s no real way to know how to pronounce the
                                                               cultural heritage more enriched and truly adds to the
tones except by listening to a native speaker, the rising
                                                               traditional history of Thailand. Thailand has always
and falling tones tend to be the easiest ones to pick up.
                                                               enjoyed a very peaceful regime and thus has enjoyed the
The rising tone is approximately similar to the inflection
                                                               court’s patronization. Thailand’s thus rich heritage of art
used in English to indicate a question, the falling tone
                                                               and culture get their true expressions only through the
roughly like calling someone’s name from far away.
                                                               beautiful baskets, earthenware and silverware. The Thai
The low and high tones are respectively pronounced near
                                                               art and culture also represents basic traditions of village
the relative bottom and top of your vocal range.
                                                               life.
Try to avoid speaking slowly and hesitantly, as this will
                                                               Thailand has an impressive line up of Thai art and crafts/
distort the tone on the word and make you much more
                                                               handicrafts. Thai textile is one of world’s best textiles in
difficult to understand than if you spoke confidently.
                                                               existence. The products made out of these textiles also
When speaking fairly quickly even the Thais routinely
                                                               go on to be described as the best collection of artifacts.
don’t pronounce each and every tone, as there’s simply
                                                               Crafts in Thailand comprise of many spectacular and
not enough time to do so. If your tones aren’t perfect,
                                                               stunning collection of earthenware and pottery.
you stand a much chance of being understood by talking
                                                               Thai customs and rituals also play a key role in the Thai
at the same normal speed, rather than hesitantly.
                                                               art and Crafts as they often form the theme of the art.
You’ll know you’re well on the way to getting it right if
you start being told that you poot tai chat (speak Thai        Thai handicrafts and home décor products are made
clearly) rather than simply geng (well). A great site to       out of reed, mangoweed, celadon sculpted items.
learn Thai is: http://www.learningthai.com                     Thai handicrafts products include articles made out of
                                                               Woven reed which is a traditional Thai craft. The best
                                                               products made out of reed are reed mats and other
Living in Thailand                                             decorative products. Other products made out of
Thailand is an amazing country to experience. There are        materials like bamboo are Bamboo Bags. Other categories
a great many changes that have taken place as Thailand         of handicrafts include Egg Shell Handicraft, Ceramic
embraces the 21st century which are bringing semblances        Handicraft, Monarch handicraft, Casket handicraft, Black
of Western culture to the major cities.                        ant handicrafts while a special type called handicrafts
                                                               from Thailand include Handicraft, Art, Antique Art Pieces,
First things first though, have we mentioned you need to
                                                               Paper Handicraft Gecko, Wooden Motorbike Racer, Photo
be patient?
                                                               Sa Paper Handicrafts.
Urban Environments in Thailand                                 The Thais have always been fierce patrons of art and
If you’re looking for semblances of the west you are           culture. Thailand has produced many types of modern
best advised to stick to the major cities, like Bangkok,       and contemporary art. Thailand has patronized many
Phuket and Chiang Mai. Life in most of these areas will be     types of art.
interesting to say the least but you will at least have some   However the art scene in Thailand is found to be
western identifiers and there will be an expat teaching or      flourishing in and around Bangkok. The artists are
working community somewhere near you.                          constantly producing different types of artistic work all
                                                               over Thailand. However the artists stick to a typical type
Living in Rural Thailand                                       of art form like traditional Buddhist depictions which
Here’s where you get a chance to see what life was like at     are found to be very popular among the people. Thai art
the turn of the century back home. There are rural areas       describes controversial issues and issues related to the
of Thailand where there is no indoor plumbing, little or       rural life and degradation of normal values. Thailand has
no electricity, no internet BUT most of Thailand is NOT        many universities teaching art as a discipline and many
like that.                                                     galleries as well organizing many exhibitions. Silapakom
                                                               University stands out among the rest.
Life in Thailand - Making the Most of your Adventure
There are loads of things you can do in Thailand that          Medical
will bring a smile to your face. Most importantly, relax.
                                                               If foreigners have a medical problems while in Thailand,
Know that things are going to be slightly more challenging
                                                               they invariably seem to end up in one of a few hospitals
to accomplish. Know that you make 4 times as much as
                                                               that have a good reputation, and are well known to
many of the people you will meet on the street and in the
markets. Know that you aren’t going to live there forever.
                                                                                                                          11
cater to foreign patients. Bumrungrad Hospital seems to          as soon as you enter them. The tourism infrastructure is
be most popular among residents in the Bangkok area.             well developed (provided you are not so sick that you can
However Bangkok General Hospital and its affiliates               not really enjoy sightseeing).
Samitivej Hospital and Bangkok Nursing Home Hospital,
are also very popular.
                                                                 Money in Thailand
The last 4 or 5 years the above mentioned hospitals
                                                                 TThe currency of Thailand is the “Baht” - sometimes
have been actively (together with a general promotional
                                                                 spelled “Bath” but pronounced to rhyme with “hot.”
attitude by the authorities) seeking medical tourists to
                                                                 One Baht is divisible into 100 Satang. Major credit
visit Thailand. Amazingly up to 60% of patients at
                                                                 cards are accepted by hotels and large shops, but
Bumrungrad Hospital and up to 40 % of patients at
                                                                 “hard cash” is the preferred tender almost everywhere.
Samitivej Hospital are foreigners. We do not think that
                                                                 Travelers checks are not widely accepted outside of
Thai patients are not accepted in these hospitals. It
                                                                 hotels, so change them for cash at a bank exchange.
just so happens that while foreigners may consider the
hospitals cheaper than in their home countries, for most         Coins come in six denominations: 25 and 50-Satang coins
Thais they are simply to expensive to consider.                  are very small and made of brass. They’re practically
                                                                 useless, and as a tourist you’re unlikely to encounter
Samitivej Hospital (part of the Bangkok General Hospital
                                                                 them unless you shop at a supermarket or department
Group) is upmarket and is one of the health care providers
                                                                 store. The other coins come in one, two, five and ten-
for medical tourists in Thailand.
                                                                 Baht pieces. The one, two and five-Baht coins are silver,
The Kasikorn Research Centre reported that 1.28 million          while the ten-Baht coin consists of a silver ring around a
expatriates visited Thai Hospitals in 2005, generating           brass center.
revenue for these hospitals of around 33 billion baht.
                                                                 Bills vary in size and color according to denomination:
On average, this means each foreign patient paid 25,800
                                                                 20-Baht is green, 50-Baht is blue, 100-Baht is red, 500-
baht for services provided. The average reflects most
                                                                 Baht is purple and 1,000-Baht is white. There is also still
likely more expensive procedures such as major surgery,
                                                                 a 10-Baht bill in circulation, which is brown in color, but
and a whole lot of out patient clinic visits. We assume
                                                                 these are quite rare. Actually, there are several versions
that this includes also a lot of ‘annual check-ups’.
                                                                 of coins in circulation, and not a few variations in bills as
Bumrungrad Hospital is much in the news media.                   well. They’re all legal tender, so don’t worry if you start
It has been covered on U.S. television stations, and also        comparing the change in your pocket and notice some
in international magazines. Also the local English press         differences.
seems to have an article about the hospital every few
                                                                 All bills and all coins have a picture of His Majesty the
weeks. Surely, the public relations office at the hospital
                                                                 King, and are therefore supposed to be shown some
is doing a superb job.
                                                                 respect.
An article in Newsweek (end 2006) reveals that Bumrun-
grad hospital treated 400,000 foreign patients in 2005.          Credit Cards
This number is astounding and must be (not clearly stated
                                                                 If you travel with a Visa, MasterCard, American Express,
in the article) referring to total hospital visits rather than
                                                                 or other credit card, watch out when charging purchases
total number of patients treated.
                                                                 overseas. The reason, most U.S. and Canadian credit-
Furthermore, the hospital has just opened (mid 2008)             card companies are now tacking an extra 2% to 5% fee on
a new 18-story outpatient center, which will eventually          international transactions.
increase the hospital’s outpatient capacity to 6,000
                                                                 You should be aware that many shops in Thailand, while
patients per day.
                                                                 they may accept credits, will often charge you more
Bangkok Hospital, with its many affiliated hospitals (like        for using one. The typical surcharges are 3% for Visa or
BNH Hospital, Samitivej Hospital and branches in Pattaya         MasterCard and 5% for American Express. The reason, the
and Phuket) is also a popular destination for medical            credit card companies charge the merchant about these
tourists.                                                        figures for handling the transaction for them. Of course,
                                                                 the credit card companies hate it when the merchant
Medical tourism will certainly generate further income
                                                                 does this - it’s specifically prohibited in the agreement
for the hospitals involved and for Thailand in general.
                                                                 the merchant signs with the credit card company.
Thailand’s assets as a center for medical care for foreigners
                                                                 But from the merchant’s standpoint, he’s just being fair -
are multiple. The standard of treatment and technology is
                                                                 if you want to use a credit card, you should pay the cost of
high. The prices are mostly lower than in other countries
                                                                 it, and not the merchant’s other customers. This practice
who provide similar quality and technology. The hospital
                                                                 is never encountered in hotels, restaurants or major
environment in Thailand is clearly more hospitable. It is
                                                                 department stores, but is quite common everywhere
fair to say that all the hospitals mentioned above, also
                                                                 else.
look good, are mostly new, and give a favorable impression
12
Most experienced travelers will tell you that ATMs are the   Keep in mind that there are bank charges associated with
cheapest way to get cash overseas. For that matter, so       each transaction, so it is best to send large amounts at
does Visa, which handles currency conversion for banks       a time.
around the world.
                                                             Banks don’t always give you the best exchange rate
Some banks are now tacking an additional “conversion         either, be sure to shop around and remember that rates
fee” onto the Visa or MasterCard currency-exchange           are usually negotiable. The money usually takes three
commission. Not only that, but this hidden surcharge is      days to clear.
on top of the flat transaction fees that banks often charge
for ATM withdrawals away from home.                          Western Union Wire Transfer from Thailand
                                                             This is also a fast and efficient was to send money BUT
Packing List for Thailand                                    someone has to be available to pick it up and process it
First things first, look through your closet, look through    on the other end. Bank transfers are far more appealing
your toiletry back, look around your home, look to see       in most cases because you can access bank account
how much of what you own is MADE IN China. You can get       information online. There is a standard fee of about $70
most things there. Do not PACK THE KITCHEN sink.             for this service and they make a bit on the exchange rate
                                                             (which is never as good as the posted bank rates).
That said, there are a couple things that are nice to
have’s when you’re abroad and there are some things you      Things you will need:
need to bring.                                               Note that you can transfer money ONLINE - check the
Consider where you are going when determining what to        Western Union website - note that there are restrictions
pack in terms of clothing. To say that you should pack a     on how much you can send. www.westernunion.com
winter jacket for those going to Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai    In-person you will need the exact person’s name you
would be like saying to someone living in Miami or Darwin    want it sent to. Once you send the money you will be
that they should have an electric blanket.                   given a Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN) call the
                                                             pickup person or email them with this number so they can
Packing List                                                 collect the funds easier. Spelling of the person’s name is
  - For those with big or wide feet,                         CRITICAL as ID will be checked on the receiving end.
    shoes in big or wide sizes
                                                             Use traveler’s checks
  - Pictures or post cards from home and a map
    of your home country                                     Another way to get money home is to buy traveler’s
                                                             checks endorsing them to yourself, sending them to your
  - A general History book of your country
                                                             parents back home and having them deposit them in your
    if you do not have a general knowledge already.
                                                             account. This is dangerous.
  - Stamps of your home country
  - Tampons - only those with no applicator
                                                             Taxes in Thailand
    are available and even those are only available          A foreigner who lives in Thailand for more than 180 days
    at a certain stores.                                     in a tax year (the calendar year) is considered a Thai
                                                             resident for tax purposes. A resident is required to file
  - Plug adapters - if you are bringing in any
                                                             taxes on all income received within Thailand as well
    electrical equipment
                                                             as income received from foreign sources brought into
                                                             Thailand.
Sending Money Home From Thailand                             A non-resident living in Thailand less than 180 days within
There are several options to consider when sending your      a tax year is only required to file a tax return and pay
hard earned money home from Thailand.                        taxes on income received from sources within Thailand.
                                                             All foreigners who work in Thailand are generally required
Bank Transfers from Thailand
                                                             to hold a valid work permit for the position they hold.
The simplest option is to keep a bank account open in        But a tax resident foreigner is liable to pay tax on income
your home country when you travel to Thailand.               received, as set out above, regardless of whether they
When you go to Thailand, make sure you bring your bank’s     have a work permit.
name, address, phone number, branch number Swift Code
and your account number with you.                            Transportation in Thailand
Once you have bank accounts open in both countries           Thailand has a well-developed transportation system.
you should be able to remit money from your account in       Its main components are described briefly below, but
Thailand to your account back home.                          anyone going to Thailand would be well advised to take
                                                                                                                       13
a good guidebook along. Without one, getting from place       the bus lanes. Traveling by taxi can require miles-long
to place can be very expensive and frustrating.               detours, which result in a longer and more expensive
                                                              trip. Try to get an idea of a typical fare from a third party
To get around in urban areas, most people ride boats,
                                                              so that you may negotiate an appropriate fare with the
buses, taxis, three -wheeled vehicles (samlors or tuk
                                                              taxi driver.
tuks), or motor scooters.
                                                              Although there’s a train to the Bangkok Airport, taxis are
Boats                                                         the quickest way, and are reasonably priced—especially if
Some Thai cities have canals (klongs), and many people        you can find someone to split the fare.
use long-tailed motorized boats for transportation.
The Chao Praya Express company, for example, plies the        Intercity Transportation
Chao Praya River, and takes commuters and tourists to         Long-distance transportation within Thailand is primarily
destinations all along the river. Now that traffic is so       by rail, airplane, and bus. Some people have cars,
terrible in Bangkok, it is often faster to take the express   but most ride some form of public transportation.
boat through town. Ferries take passengers across the
water at various points.                                      Air Travel
                                                              By far the easiest and fastest way to get from city to
Buses                                                         city is by air. Thai Airways has almost a total monopoly
In Bangkok, traveling by bus is one of the fastest methods    on domestic flights in Thailand, and they have offices in
of getting around because of an intricate system of           North America and in many Thai cities. Bangkok Airways
one-way streets and bus lanes. Bus maps are a good            also flies between some cities, and their fares are
investment, and are available at any of the major hotels      comparable to those of Thai Airways.
and book stores.
                                                              Buses
There are air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses.
All are crowded, cheap, and a pickpocket’s dream, so          Almost every main city in Thailand is connected by direct
be sure to protect your money and valuables. The air-         public bus with Bangkok and other cities. There are
conditioned bus has closed windows and curtains to            several types of buses. Rot tamadaa are ordinary buses
protect passengers from the sun. The microbus is smaller,     that stop in every town, have no air conditioning, and
has TV and magazines, and costs 29B (US$1.14), which          are typically orange. Rot ae are air conditioned, colored
is expensive by Thai standards. If you can figure out the      blue, and don’t usually stop so often. For long distance
routes they take, microbuses are the best option for          travel, people take overnight, air conditioned buses, the
comfort, but English-language guides to the buses are not     most comfortable of which are called VIP or Super VIP
readily available.                                            (rot VIP), and have more leg and reclining room than
                                                              normal air conditioned buses.
Samlors (tuk tuks)                                            Tickets may be purchased at one of the three public
These vehicles are open-air three-wheelers that can be        bus stations in Bangkok: for northern destinations, go
hired like taxis. Motorized (tuk tuk) and pedal-driven        to moh chit station; for destinations east, go to sataanii
(samlor) versions are both common. Negotiate your fare        ek-amai; to go south, buy your ticket at the station at
ahead of time, as they can be expensive. In Bangkok,          the intersection of Nakhon Chaisi Road and Phra Pinklao
long, motorized tuk tuk rides can be quite unpleasant due     Road in Thonburi. In cities outside of Bangkok, tickets
to the extreme air pollution and noise, but tuk tuks can      are often sold at store-front locations as well as in the
get around some traffic snarls in which taxis get stuck.       bus station. Private bus companies offer service to some
In general, these are good for short trips and distances      tourist destinations.
less than what the 38B taxi fare will get you.
                                                              Songtaews
Taxis                                                         Songtaew means “two rows,” and is literally a covered
Metered and unmetered taxis are available in Bangkok          bed truck with two rows of benches that run down the
and in most other Thai cities. Fares for unmetered            sides. If you are going to a remote place, or between two
taxis are negotiable, and should be agreed upon in            smaller cities, you may need to take a songtaew. These
advance. Metered taxis are generally less expensive than      are the final link in the public transportation system,
unmetered taxis, and by bargaining, fares start at around     and are quite fun to take if you don’t mind having young
44B (US$1.73); however, during rush hour taxi drivers         uniformed students sitting on the roof and baskets of
often simply turn off their meters (a generally accepted      farmer produce at your feet.
practice) and increase the fare to compensate for traffic
slowdowns. Taxis are more comfortable than buses, but
buses are often quicker because taxis aren’t allowed in
14
Trains
Traveling by train in Thailand is an experience you should
not miss. There are limits on where the train can take
you, but if you can get close to your destination, you
will appreciate the comfort, safety, and scenery viewing
opportunities that trains offer. When traveling long
distances, most budget travelers take the second class
sleeper, which has wide padded seats that face each
other and that can be made up into roomy bunks by the
steward. The lower bunk is larger than the upper, but
there is plenty of luggage storage space in racks on the
aisles. Air-conditioned and fan sleepers are available on
express trains only. There are also first class sleepers,
which have private, air-conditioned cabins. For shorter
trips, or if you want to travel during the day, you can
reserve second- or third-class seats, which are similar to
bus seats.
To travel to another city by train, you must reserve a
ticket ahead of time at the train station or from a travel
agent in Thailand. Tickets for trains are not sold from
abroad. Tickets from the same day will usually be third
class seats, so it is best to reserve sleepers at least a week
in advance. Be sure to buy your ticket early if you plan
to travel during a Thai holiday. Train passes similar to the
Eurail pass are available for Thailand, but it’s doubtful
that they’ll save you much money. For more information,
contact a travel agent at the State Railroad of Thailand
(SRT) in Bangkok.




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