Prathet Thai or Land of the Free, Thailand enjoys the distinction of
being the only Southeast Asian country to never have been occupied by a
foreign or European power. That is a feat in itself considering all the
other neighboring countries had been conquered, at one time or another,
by the British, the Spanish, the Dutch, the Portuguese, and/or the
This does not mean to say that no Imperialist country tried. Oh yes,
there had been threats, especially during the reign of King Mongkut (Rama
IV) when the British were ready to claim the country (Siam, as it had
then been called) as there own. But Mongkut proved to be a very wise
leader, deftly averting colonialism by granting certain favors and
privileges (as stated in the Bowring Treaty) to the British without
actually surrendering the country’s independence. He, in effect, made
Over 13 million visit Thailand each year
and most of these visitors make a beeline for Bangkok or one of the
country’s numerous beach resorts. Speaking of beach resorts, Thailand,
specifically the tourist resorts of Ko Phuket and Ko Phi Phi Le, figured
in the 2004 tsunami wherein 5,000 people, half of them tourists, died.
It was the result of the world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years
which struck deep under the Indian Ocean. There was no tsunami early
warning system in the region of the Indian Ocean and so there were no
warnings of the impending disaster. But this was an isolated case (the
fact that they weren’t watching for it shows that it is a rare
occurrence) and Thailand has since risen from this unfortunate tragedy.
The climate in Thailand is tropical so be sure to pack your summer wear.
Sandals, shorts, and shirts are the usual get-up at beach resorts but
casual chic in malls and restaurants will earn you more respect points.
This is not to say that the Thai are a snobbish bunch; on the contrary,
they are very friendly, warm, and hospitable and will willingly help you
find your way around an area as well as a menu. Thai cuisine is a
mixture of Malay and Chinese cooking with a dash of authentic Thai
sweetness. Yes, they like their dishes a tad sweet with lots of plain or
java rice. The best thing about their food is its mild enough for
beginners; not spicy like Indian or Indonesian food.
Did you ever wonder where in the world the
River Kwai Bridge is? In Thailand of course! Specifically in the area of
Kanchanaburi. Allied prisoners were forced by the Japanese to build the
bridge so they can use it to transport troops. Watch the 1957 movie,
“The Bridge of the River Kwai” starring Sir Alec Guinness and William
Holden to find out what happened next.
And what about the shopping? Only one of
the best in the world! Even its neighboring countries come over for the
weekend just to shop here. From authentic designer labels to
“oh-my-it-looks-so-real” knock-offs, Thailand has it all. And they’re
all so affordable it borders on criminal. And the best part of it is you
can actually haggle and get bargains like “buy 2 get 1 free!” Thailand
truly is a shopper’s paradise.
Japan has “karate”, China has “kung fu”, Thailand has “muay thai” or
Thai kick boxing. Major stadiums in Bangkok and other provinces in the
country all year round hold muay thai matches and you would do well to
watch one. Prior to these matches are colourful and elaborate ceremonies
which are accompanied by lively music. A must-see certainly!
If watching the games has pooped you out, go to ancient Wat Pho and try
a traditional Thai massage; learn its secrets and the benefits of herbal
medicine. Meditate at one of the country’s numerous Buddhist temples and
meditation centres and clear your mind of all your worries and woes
through the ancient art of Vipassana. You can opt to join a one-day
class or one that lasts for weeks.
Thrill-seekers may want to go diving
with sharks in Siam’s Ocean World (if they dare). In a more sedate
tone, you may want to have afternoon tea at the celebrated Oriental
Hotel, one of the most famous hotels in the world. If this is not
your cup of tea (so to speak), you may want to take a walk on the
wild side and be entertained by the infamous katoeys (lady boys) at
Asia Hotel’s outrageous Calypso Cabaret.
Thailand has everything for everyone. Sandy
beaches, spectacular views, athletic as well as cultural shows, spas,
world class hotels, great shopping…literally everything! So come
visit Thailand now and experience how it is to be free!