Thailand – Chang Mai And The Night Market

Chang Mai is the largest city in the north of Thailand and well worth a trip. In many ways, Chang Mai is similar to Bangkok, but without the mass of people.

Chang Mai

Chang Mai is perhaps the most serene big city I have ever had the privilege of visiting. Located at the foot of a large mountain, the city nicely meshes older areas with modern conveniences. Serene Buddhist temples stand only a few blocks from bustling universities. Much of the city can be walked, but moped rentals are cheap and plentiful. Street markets are common, but the hustle and bustle of Bangkok is not.

The night market is perhaps the most noted thing about Chang Mai. Located in the eastern side of the city, the night market runs about a mile down the length of street dwarfed by malls, restaurants, stores selling art and spas. The stalls on the side of the road tend to sell cheap touristy products, but you should check them out anyway to sample some of the food items. Thais seem to take great humor from cooking anything they can get their hands on so long as they can gross out the tourist. Yep, you can munch on fried roaches, spiders, crickets and so on. For a good laugh, one can hang out around the stalls and watch tourist try the delicacies. It’s like the show Fear Factor without the washboard stomachs and breast implants.

To find the “good stuff” at the night market, you should head off the street and up into the open air malls. As you move towards the back of the malls, the quality of the products goes up dramatically. You’ll find artist not only hocking their wares, but also creating them before your eyes. There is some serious talent in the back of those malls.

If silk is your material of choice, Chang Mai is a good place to purchase it in bulk. Do not buy it at the night market. Instead, ask your hotel for a recommendation to a shop. Prices are low, but quality is high.

Traveler’s Tip

Guidebooks will tell you the best way to get to Chang Mai is to take an overnight train from Bangkok. Liars! Flying domestically in Thailand is very cheap. A one-way flight from Bangkok to Chang Mai will run you about $40US. There is no need to book ahead. Just walk into the airport in Bangkok and buy a ticket on the spot. If you prefer to spend the night in a bunk on a train, knock yourself out. Just keep in mind Thais tend to have smaller body masses than Westerners. Much smaller.

Of all the cities in Thailand, Chang Mai is my favorite. Yes, even more so than Bangkok.

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Meditation And Yoga In Thailand

For many years I have had an aching back and neck, I tried various therapies but no avail the problem continued. I started to try Yoga and after a few years slowly my pain dissolved, I tried for 1 hour a week which seemed sufficient for a while until I went to live in Thailand I noticed that the island I had moved on had so much Yoga going on and the people that I were meeting were quite dedicated to yoga, some of them practicing every day, Truthfully I thought it to be a little extreme.. Anyway I was influenced to step up my once a week practice to 2 or 3 times per week and after 1 month of practicing 3 times per week I felt considerably more energy flowing through my body and I found that I could actually sit up straight for longer than 5 minutes without having pain in my lower back.

Additional to Yoga a big help was stepping up to a more healthy diet, again I was surrounded by health freaks in the town which made it easy for me to adjust which made a change from being around pot smokers all the time.

I went for an iridology exam and also a blood reading and both came out with similar results, they were saying that I have been eating the wrong foods for my blood type, which is A+, so0 I started adjusting my diet to the foods and drinks that resonate with my blood type and now I can say that I generally have more energy and awareness. It is amazing how a few adjustments can make a difference, but you will actually find yourself craving the very things that are not good for you, so when people advise you to eat what you like and transmute it I don’t believe that’s beneficial, when you do this you are succumbing to your cravings.

The most amazing practice I have come across is Sun Yoga, which was taught to us in a workshop in Thailand by an amazing Yogi named Uma Sankar, you can check his site at www.sunyoga.info.
He practices meditation by staring into the sun each day and claims that this fully nourishes oneself, he has not eaten or drank anything since 10 years, neither does he need sleep! When I have the chance I spend 30 minutes before sunset or after sunrise which is actually more beneficial as it is the fresh rising prana that you ingest.

Moving on from there another amazing practice is living on prana only, not even needing the sun, this practice was taught to us in Thailand to many of the Yoga students here by a lovely woman named Jasmuheen.
This involves slowly adjusting your diet to a raw food diet, then liquids only eventually moving onto prana. There are various meditations that are needed to re program the mind/body so that it does not have the need for food or drink anymore, such as visualizi8ng the kidneys being hydrated etc..

Yoga can be used for physical fitness or it can be used as a spiritual practice which aim is to unify all levels of being and connect with the divine.

Give it a try! And who knows you may move on to Sun Yoga or you may be inclined to live on prana and save the washing up!

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Gemstones in Thailand

The Myth of Gemstones in Thailand

Thailand's reputation as a center of civilization in the Orient has been reflected by the rich forms of art that has formed an integral part of most Thais. The artistry of Thai artisans have intrigued men and women around the world for its exquisite, delicate splendor and beauty. The long tradition of fine craftsmanship has passed through several generations and is still very much intact today.

Gems and jewelry is one of the key industries which has flourished ever since ancient times. Traditional belief suggested that by wearing certain jewels and clothes which agree with the colour of the day and or birthday would bring good fortune and success.

A Birthplace of Jewels. Fine Craftsmanship and Discovery

Thailand has been recognized as one of the world's major gems and jewelry centers. The Kingdom is not only endowed with dedicated and gifted artisans, but also gemstone resources.
Sapphires have been discovered in Kanchanaburi. Chanthaburi, Si Saket, Ubon Ratchathani, Phrae, Phetchabun and Sukhothai. Chanthaburi's districts of Pong Nam Ron, Bo Rai and Khao Saming have been known as producers of rubies: in addition to. Nam Yuen district of Ubon Ratchathani.

The red rubies discovered in Chanthaburi have been known as "Tab Tim Siam" or "Siamese Rubies" which are sought after by jewel lovers around the world for their dazzling red and magical looks. The Siamese Rubies have thus credited Thailand as the "Land of Jewels of die East."

Thailand's gems and jewelry industry has systematically developed from a cottage level to a large-scale export-oriented scale. The sector has become one of the country's top-ten foreign exchange earners, generating tens of billions of Baht to the economy and creating jobs for millions of people.
Quality, attention to detail and reasonable pricing are elements of continued success of the Thai jewelry industry. To enhance the sector's competitiveness, the Royal Thai Government has exempted tariffs on imported raw materials.
Furthermore, to make the purchase of gems and jewelry in Thailand even more attractive, the Royal Thai Government has agreed to provide full refund on Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed on jewels bought by foreign visitors.

The conditions currently applied to VAT refunds are as follows:-

Purchase at shops with the sign "VAT Refund for Tourists".
Bring along the goods with oneself within 60 days from the date of purchase.
Minimum value of purchase from one shop in one day is 2,000 Baht.
Total value of goods purchased for a VAT refund must be at least 5.000 Baht.
Sales clerks will prepare a VAT refund form and hand two copies of the form to buyers with a Tax Invoice.
Goods eligible for VAT refund must not be restricted items such as firearms, explosives and the like as well as unset gemstones.
Must bring along the goods to the port of disembarkation for display to Customs officials.

Over the years, Thailand has developed to become one of the world's top-five jewelry polishing centers which has included Israel, Belgium, the United States and India.

The Kingdom's gemstone polishing capability has developed by leaps and bounds, leading to the creation of "Bangkok Cut", which is widely admired.

With the advantages mentioned above, it always makes a good reason to buy a piece of jewelry in Thailand when you are here right in the one of the world's forefront gems and jewelry centers.

The quality of Thai jewels is assured

Retailing of gems and jewelry in Thailand is governed by proper trading rules which are closely supervised by government and industry organizations. The quality of gems and jewelry is examined and guaranteed by internationally accepted local bodies such as the Asian Institute of Gemological Science (AIGS), the International Gemological Institute (IGI), the Gems and Jewelry Institute of Thailand, etc.

The adoption of stringent examination processes and issuance of quality certificates assure you of the quality standards of the goods you purchase exactly match your expectation both for personal pleasure and investment.

So if you are looking for something that reminds you of fond memories of your visit to the Land of Civilization of the Orient that is rich in arts. heritage and friendship, consider buying a Thai jewel.

How to choose a gemstone and a piece of jewelry

Nature of Gemstones
First, it is essential to have the basic knowledge about the characteristics, colors, clarity, cutting style and the weight of the gemstones you are selecting. Generally speaking, there are two categories of gemstone - precious and semi-precious.
Precious stones are Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, Yellow Sapphire, Emerald and Cat's Eyes.
Semi-precious stones are Tourmaline, Peridot, Tazanit, Garnet. Opal, Spinel, Zircon, Aquamarine, Moonstone, Agate, Pearl, Sunstone, etc.
The commercial value, hardness, and durability of semi-precious stones are normally less than precious stones.
Thailand is one of the world's most important sources of Corundum. the collective gemological name for precious stones like Ruby and Sapphire.

Ruby Its color ranges from dark red to pink hardness measured in Mohs is 9: reflective index is from 1.762 to 1.770 (+/-0.009 - 0.005}: and specific gravity of 4.00 (+/- 0.10 - 0.05). This precious stone has its origin in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and Tanzania.
Blue Sapphire It is another species of Corundum with properties quite similar to Ruby in terms of color, hardness and specific gravity. Its origins are Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma).
Yellow Sapphire As part of the Corundum family. Yellow Sapphire has specifications like 'Blue Sapphire and Ruby, but it is only found mostly in Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Diamond Discovered mostly in Africa, Australia, Russia and South America, the Diamond is normally colorless, though some come in the shades of light yellow and brown. Its hardness is 10 in Moh measurement; reflective index of 2.417: specific gravity of 3.52 (+/-0.01).

Quality and value of gemstones

The value of a gemstone lies in its beauty, measured by its color, luster, transparency, clarity, perfection of cutting (polishing), size, durability as well as rarity.

Ruby The most valued Ruby is in pigeon's blood red. The stone with dark to purple red color has a lesser value. The Ruby which yields good transparency is considered more beautiful and has more value than the lesser one. The value of Ruby can also be judged by its clarity which is normally a key characteristic of the stone, and physical site.
Another beauty yardstick of Ruby is the "Asterism" or star in the stone that renders it the name of "Star Ruby." The star can be best appreciated from Ruby with a cabo chon shape placed in the light.
Blue & Yellow Sapphire The highly priced color of Blue Sapphire is "pure" blue not being tainted with green or gray, yet not too dark or black. The most beautiful color for Yellow Sapphire is dark yellow and golden yellow. The popularity of the two shades varies from one market to another, depending on tastes and fashion trends. Blue and Yellow Sapphires with good transparency and clarity command more value with size as another determining factor, though it is easier to find a bigger size of Blue and Yellow Sapphires than Ruby. Like Ruby, Blue Sapphire has the "star" while it is rare to find a star in Yellow Sapphire.
Diamond More common colors of diamond range from light yellow and light brown while while is rarer (*see color grading table). There are also established clarity levels of diamond (*see clarity table).
The bigger the size the higher the value of the diamond. Well-proportioned cut diamond is capable of reflecting light, yield more brilliance and sparkle, thus is more valued.

Color grading

Color Scale

Trade Terms

Colorless to

D Colorless Finest White Jager Colorless
E River
F Fine White
G Near Colorless Top Wesselton Stones in this grade look colorless face-up: slight traces of color will not be apparent in mounted stones to other than the trained eye.
H White Wesselton
I Commercial White Top Crystal
J Top Silver Cape Crystal Small stones in these range will look colorless face-up when mounted but large one will be tinted.
K Faint yellow Silver Cape Top Cape
M Light Cape Cape Mounted stones in this grades will display a Yellowish tint even to the untrained eye.
N Very Light Yellow Low Cape
O Cape Very Light Yellow
S Light Yellow Dark Cape
Fancy Yellow Z Fancy


Scandinavia Exchange USSR Alternate W. Europe
SI 2 SI 2

IF Internal Flawless
VVS Very Very Slightly
VS Very Slightly
SI Slightly included
I Imperfect

Content of Fine Gold and Precious Metal in Alloys

Fine gold Platinum
24 karat(Kt) gold is referred to 100% pure gold
22 Kt = 92%
18 Kt = 75%
14 Kt=58.5%
12 Kt=50%
PT900 = 90%

Weight measurement for gold, gemstones and diamond

The weight of gemstones and diamond is measured in carat and grams. One carat is equal to 200 milligrams, while one gram is 5 carats or 1.000 milligrams.
Gold is measured in karat, referring to the percentage of gold in alloys. Karat, in gold measurement, is usually written with a capital "K" or "Kt" to provide a distinction from "carat" for precious stones measurement:,

Certification of Gemstones and Jewelry

In normal practice, the issue of an authenticity certificate for jewels purchased rests on a laboratory. However, such certificates can be issued by specialists who have graduated from gemological institute and been employed by jewel stores.
With the growing use of synthetic stones in jewelry, it is very crucial that buyers demand the certificate of authenticity with a gem identification report being issued by authorized gemologists from the stores they make the purchase

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Thai-Style Natural Healing

Experience Thai-Style Natural Healing
A massage to restore balance among the elements. A herbal sauna to cleanse and rejuvenate the body. A herbal pack to calm nerves and redirect the energy. All this may sound very New Age in the West, but it has been part of daily life here for centuries.

Before the arrival of modern medicine, herbalists filled the dual role of doctor-pharmacist. Originally, village doctors were monks or former monks, since Buddhist temples were the center of learning, not only of religion but of more worldly matters like astrology and medicine as well.

Thai traditional medicine holds that the body has four elements: wind, water, earth and fire, and ill health results from an imbalance between them. To remedy an ailment, the village “doctor” would make a herbal pack for the patient to ingest, rub onto the skin, or add to a steam compress. Another major component of traditional medicine is energy. When the energy lines are blocked, the individual will become ill, physically or emotionally.
A massage or sauna would be prescribed.

Experience Thai Massage
Traditional Thai massage is a proven physical therapy that dates back to ancient India sometime before the lifetime of Buddha. It has been practiced here for centuries, and many swear by it as effective cure for common ailments such as aches and pains, fevers and nervous strains.

Traditional massage reached the peak of popularity in the early 18th century. King Rama III, great-grandfather of the present monarch, had all available knowledge on the subject gathered and inscribed on stone slabs. These now stand on a corner of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), along with stone figures of rishis demonstrating various massage postures. You can try this ancient therapy in its original form at the temple; masseuses trained at Wat Pho massage school offer their service seven days a week at very reasonable prices.

Most hotels rated three stars and above offer traditional massage as part of their health and fitness services. All the spa resorts include it in their therapy programs. Despite common misconceptions, clothes stay on the whole time. If you are interested in learning the techniques, Wat Pho’s massage school offers a 10-day course that costs 6,000 baht. Contact the school, in the temple’s compounds, Chetupon Road, or call (662) 225-4771.

Thai-Style Herbal Therapies
Herbal sauna is no newcomer to Thailand. For many centuries people with just about any kind of affliction would visit a sauna, where herbal packs formulated just for the ailment would be added to a water heater. The resulting steam would be absorbed both through the nose and the skin. The heat also sweated out toxins and cleansed the pores. As recently as the beginning of this century, hundreds of these saunas existed in Thailand, but with the arrival of modern medicine most of these went out of business. But even today, home-made herbal sauna—along with a diet regimen packed with herbs is the post-natal therapy Thai women, especially those living in the countryside still swear by. Herbs also dominated Thai women’s beauty and skincare regimens. Sour tamarind worked wonders as a body scrub, for example, while crushed turmeric would be rubbed onto the skin to keep it soft and smooth. With the recent revival in holistic therapies, indigenous herbs are being discovered anew for their health and beauty benefits.

Natural Healing Facilities
Herbs also dominated Thai women’s beauty and skincare regimens. Sour tamarind worked wonders as a body scrub, for example, while crushed turmeric would be rubbed onto the skin to keep it soft and smooth. With the recent revival in holistic therapies, indigenous herbs are being discovered anew for their health and beauty benefits.

Modern SPA Experience
Spa treatments are now such a rage that it’s easy to forget that as recently as six years ago there was no spa facility here. Soon after the opening of Banyan Tree Spa Phuket in 1987, Thailand started to gain a reputation as a new spa destination. The country now has five spas that are attracting new groups of visitors, some of whom planning their trips as pure spa vacation.

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Planning A Trip To Thailand?

If you want an exotic trip, why not choose Thailand? Though it might be costlier than heading to southern California or Miami, you’ll have memories (and photographs!) that will wow your friends and family for years to come.

As you plan your priceless journey, just remember to keep a few factors in mind:

Thailand Visit Tip #1: Learn about Thai food

When you get to Thailand, you’ll no doubt be trying a great deal of Asian cuisine. Thus, it would behoove you to try some of the more common Thai dishes before you set off on your journey. If you live near a large city, you no doubt have access to any number of Thai restaurants. When you go, ask the servers or proprietor(s) about authentic Thai fare. That way, you’ll be able to prepare your palate for your visit.

If you’re not able to make it to a Thai eatery, you can always check out a book on Thai cooking from the local library (or purchase one in your Barnes and Noble or Borders bookseller.) This way, you can try your hand at creating some of the culinary delights you’ll be feasting on during your time in Thailand.

Thailand Visit Tip #2: Dress for the temperature and weather conditions

Because the Internet affords you the opportunity to find out about weather anywhere in the world, make sure you jump online during the days before you leave for your visit to Thailand. That way, you’ll know exactly what to pack (and what not to wear). Nothing is worse than being in a country where you don’t know the language and are feeling physically uncomfortable because you’re dressed inappropriately.

Thailand Visit Tip #3: Go to your doctor

Before traveling overseas, it’s best for you to get a full physical at your doctor. Why? First of all, you really should have an annual appointment, anyway. But secondly, you don’t want to have a health emergency when you’re overseas.

Your physician may also prescribe a variety of shots or suggestions for healthy eating regimens while you’re in Thailand. Make sure you bring a notepad and jot down all his or her comments.

Thailand Visit Tip #4: Get your passport in advance

Many people traveling to countries such as Thailand forget to order their passports until too late. In all the excitement, this important “to do” is entirely forgotten.

Rather than waiting until the last minute, make sure that you get your passport immediately, because it can take some time to receive in the mail. In fact, you might even want to get your passport before you book your flights to and from Thailand, just to be on the safe side. (And your passport will last many years, so even if you have to put off your Thailand trip for a year or two, your passport will still be good.)

By taking a few precautions, you can ensure that your time in Thailand will be well-spent and will result in a meaningful vacation that you’ll recall with fondness for the rest of your life.

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Facts About Thailand For Those Who Dream Of Going There

Thailand is one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse areas in Southeast Asia. Because it was never colonized, it retains much of its original culture.

The people of Thailand are very friendly and hospitable. There is no language barrier because the staff speaks English and other European languages in most of the hotels, restaurants and tourist places. There are many different modes of transportation in Thailand. Tourists can hire a taxi, take a bus, ride on a train, rent a car or motorcycle or hike on foot through the beautiful countryside. The most interesting ride is the Tuk-Tuk, a three wheel bike, which provides a fantastic open air ride around any city.

Thailand means “the land of the free”, and is blessed with three seasons. Summers runs from February to May. The rainy season extends from June to October. The cold season lasts from November to January. Many people vacation in Thailand during December and January to get away from the cold in their countries over Christmas and New Year’s. Thailand has vacationers from all over the world.

Thailand has a very diverse geography. Tropical islands are found in the southern peninsula. There are many beautiful beaches surrounded by clear, blue waters on one side and tropical jungle on the other. The people here are involved in rubber cultivation, tin mining, and fishing. In the central part of Thailand are paddy fields, farms and many varieties of edible fruits. Here, too, are the ancient ruins of Ayuthaya, the royal capital of the kingdom of Siam, and Sukhothai. The mountains and forests of Thailand are in the north. Many different tribes are located in the mountains. Tourists can visit them from boats or by crossing the rail road lines over the famous river Kwai. They can also see unusual native handicrafts and multicolored orchids. The northeast plateau is famous for its rich archaeological and anthropological findings.

Thailand is the perfect vacation spot for those seeking a romantic getaway or who want to shop. Gourmets will love the many varieties of sea food. Many travelers also come here for an adventurous vacation. Thailand offers aquatic sports for all ages, including scuba diving, snorkeling, wind-surfing and water-skiing. Afterwards, tourists can relax on the beautiful beaches, sipping their favorite cool drink in good company.

Thailand offers something to every traveler:

Phuket is known for its exotic islands and beautiful beaches. Tourists can sunbathe on the beach, relax around a hotel pool or go on a number of popular excursions. Phuket’s nightlife is very lively. The multi-cuisine restaurants and bars are always filled with tourists.

Chiang Mai is a combination of modern city life and old village charm. Tourists can visit a working elephant camp, the Mae Sa Waterfall and an Orchid Farm. There are temples which are close to 700 years old. The Doi Suthep monastery sits on the top of a mountain 3500 feet above sea level, overlooking the fertile valley embracing Chiang Mai. The monastery is famous for its many holy relics of the Lord Buddha. Chiang Mai’s night bazaar is a favorite shopping place of tourists. Almost anything can be bought there at bargain prices.

In Chiang Rai, tourists can see the local hill tribe villages of the Akha and Yao. They can also see the ruins of Chiang Saen, Mae Sai and the Golden Triangle. The triangle is where the borders of Burma, Thailand and Laos meet. Together with Chiang Mai, the city sits in one of the artistic and religious centers in Thailand.

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. The name means “city of angels.” Bangkok is a centre of commercial, industrial and cultural activities. The Grand Palace; Wat Phra Keo, which houses the Emerald Buddha; and Dusit Maha Prasat Hall are three of Bangkok’s largest attractions. Here tourists can see large, gleaming golden spires, soaring roofs, intricate paintings and ornate statues.

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Quick Guide To Thailand

Thailand is possibly the most-visited country in south-east Asia. The irresistible combination of fine beaches, ancient monuments and civilisations and renowned cuisine makes a holiday here an absolute must.

Where is it?

Thailand is in south-east Asia, bordering Malaysia to the south, Myanmar (Burma) to the north, and Cambodia and Laos to the east. It benefits from coastal stretches both in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Thailand.

Where can I stay?

Thailand is a popular country to visit – Bangkok is a 24-hour city with hotels to match whilst smaller cities and coastal resorts have also made the most of the constant tourist trade. Travellers are becoming more sophisticated, however, which has resulted in a number of boutique hotels opening to cater for the discerning guest. For those who love the beach, try the luxury of Aleenta; a small, private beach hotel which houses just 17 suites and 2 private villas. With unspoilt beach on your doorstep, an infinity pool and romantic breakfast and dinner settings, beach-life rarely gets better. Alternatively, go for the lights and sounds of Bangkok, where you could stay at the Ibrik City; a very chic hotel right in the middle of the business district and next to the famous “Blue Elephant” cooking school. With just three rooms, this is a modern yet homely hotel and great transport connections mean that this boutique hotel is the ideal base for days and nights in Bangkok.

What can I see?

Thailand is renowned for its ancient monuments, stupas and temples. From the sheer architectural delight of the Phimai Temple, a Hindu/Buddhist temple, to the ancient stupas in the Sukothai Historical Park, there’s much to learn about civilisations hundreds and thousands of years old and the way they affect the people of Thailand today. Don’t miss the busy and colourful markets either, and make sure that you spend time sampling the fabulous food for which Thailand is so well known. Venture away from the beaches to the rivers and mountains of Thailand’s interior to sample a simpler way of life, or take in the energy of Bangkok with a city visit.

How do I get around?

You can hire a car to get around Thailand, but it may be easier to take the train. Bangkok city is serviced by a Sky train and boat service, so there’s no need for any other transport to get you around. Outside Bangkok and closer to the coast, use the buses and trains to get about. The trains may be slower than you’re used to, but they’re comfortable. On the other hand, the buses are fast and furious, but they are cheap and air-conditioned.

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The Sights Of Bangkok In Thailand

One of the most popular destinations in Asia to visit over recent years has been Thailand. This of course has also coincided with the booming popularity of Thai cuisine around the world. Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, is the main entry point where the vast majority of tourists to Thailand will use.

Bangkok is a very interesting city because in addition to the usual modern buildings of offices, hotels and shopping centers, there are also about 400 exotic Thai temples that seem to stick out among the urban landscape. There are Thai citizens on the streets dressed in modern business clothing as well as Buddhist monks in saffron robes. Yet this is what part of Thailand is. The traditional mixed in with the modern. In fact, it’s the traditional attractions that make Thailand so magical. The temples are sights that one just cannot see in the western world. They are like objects that popped out of an Asian fairy tale.

Like many other large Asian cities, Bangkok is congested with traffic, people and pollution. In fact, the air can be bad enough that there are locals wearing surgical masks in the streets. With an average annual temperature of 28 degrees Celsius or 83 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be somewhat uncomfortable outside for some tourists, especially those from northern climates. Also beware that there will be people on the streets who will try to hustle tourists and direct them to their own businesses and tours. But unlike places in the Caribbean, Thais are polite and not aggressive people. For example, once upon arrival at the international airport, there will be people within the terminal including the ones at the booths who will be offering taxi transportation to your hotel. Although these are legit, they will charge a premium compared to the taxis waiting outside the terminal. There is a similar situation at the hotels. The taxis waiting right outside the main hotel entrances do seem to quote more than those waiting on the side streets just further down. The three-wheeled ‘tuk tuk’ vehicles also vary a lot so it may be wise to ask for quotes from a few drivers rather than taking the first one you see. The tuk tuks are a fun ride by the way so they should be experienced at least once while in Bangkok. The city also has various public buses and river taxis which are long boats used on the river canal system. A nice way to spend some time is to take a ride on one of these river taxis to cruise the canals which some refer to as the ‘Venice of the East’.

The Grand Palace is probably the most visited attraction in Bangkok. This complex is surrounded by walls built in 1783 and contains government offices, royal residences monuments and the Emerald Buddha Chapel. The Royal Chapel which contains the Emerald Buddha is the monarch’s private chapel. The Buddha itself is actually a one piece jade sitting on top of a golden altar. It’s not a large Buddha but it is very special. Apparently, they change the Buddha’s clothing which is also made of gold on a seasonal basis. There are numerous monuments on the grounds that are dedicated to past monarchs. Walls with large mythological scenes are displayed throughout. The buildings and monuments within the Grand Palace have some very striking colors including golds and greens. Gold color is used quite a lot and the distinctively curved Thai roofs on the buildings are very detailed. Equally stunning are some of the interiors of these buildings with their magnificent rooms and halls used for different ceremonies and events. Some of these halls have special royal altars.

One temple not to miss is Wat Pho which is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It features a giant Buddha lying on its side. Even the soles of this Buddha’s feet have very intricately detailed designs. Other nice temples to see are Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple). The Wat Pho temple has traditional Thai massage services which are very popular among tourists. Other temples such as Wat Mahathat and Wat Parinayok also have Thai massages available. The Royal Barges or long boats which are used during ceremonies on the river are also nice to see. The details put into decorating these boats are just remarkable.

For wildlife enthusiasts, there’s the Pasteur Institute’s Snake Farm where poisonous snakes are fed daily and visitors can watch handlers milk cobras for their venom. There is also the world’s largest Crocodile Farm. The national sport of Thai kickboxing can be seen at two different stadiums in Bangkok. Both the Ratchadamnoen and Lumphini stadiums feature events throughout the week on different days. Thai theatre and traditional dance are very interesting to watch as cultural entertainment. These can be seen at theatres as well as some of the top hotels in the city.

Bangkok has some good shopping opportunities especially for jewelry, handicrafts and textiles including silks as well as cottons. As in other locations in Asia, vendors in the streets will expect some bargaining of prices where the retail stores have fixed prices. Just like in Hong Kong, Bangkok has many custom tailors who can make suits, shirts and dresses for clients within 24 hours. Some will even delivery the finished clothing to your hotel free of charge.

There are some general guidelines of etiquette in Thailand that should be followed by all visitors. The Thai royal family is revered in this country so no outsider should ever make any even slightly negative remarks about the country’s monarchy. Temples should not be entered unless one is covered with long pants or skirts. Shorts and shoulderless tops are not permitted in temples. Footwear is always removed prior to entering any temple. Images and statues of Buddha, even postcards, are considered sacred in Thailand so one should never climb on one or do anything that will show disrespect. Public displays of affection between men and women are also frowned upon. Of course this seems to be a complete contradiction to Bangkok’s famous red light and adult entertainment districts such as Patpong. But this is yet another example of the contrast that’s found in Thailand.

The attractions in Bangkok warrant a few days stay in the city before heading out to other parts of Thailand where there’s much less pollution and more beautiful natural scenery. Bangkok has good air connections with other Asian destinations as well so it can easily be fit into a larger tour of Asia.

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