Thailand

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Thailand Money-Saving Tips

The Food in Phuket

Southern Thai food tends toward the rich and the creamy, thanks to Malay and Chinese influences. Classic favorites are Gaeng Massaman, a beef or chicken curry with peanuts, pineapple, and potatoes; Roti, savory and sweet Muslim pancakes; and Mee Pad Hokkien, typical hokkien stir-fried noodles. The best place to go for reasonably priced authentic cuisine in Phuket is Phuket Town.

Massage Parlors

No Bangkok street block is complete without the inviting entrance to a deluxe massage parlor. There’s no need to break the bank to get a good treatment – if the place is clean, the service will be good. Low-cost joints offer thorough Thai massages for about THB150/hour.

The Language

It isn't necessary to learn Thai for a short stay - Thai people speak proficient English. Though the writing looks completely alien, it's pretty easy to learn a handful of basic greetings, questions, and numbers. And the Thais will love you for it, even if you don't get the tone right.

High and Low

In Buddhism, the head is considered the most sacred body part – so do yourself a favor and don’t pat somebody on the head, not even the cutest kid. Accordingly, the feet are a no-go zone: don’t place them on chairs and tables or even point your toes at somebody – it's plain rude.

The Food

A successful marriage of centuries-old Western and pan-Asian influences, Thai cuisine ranks among the world’s best. The North’s mild food is ideal for novices, while the Northeastern region doles out fresh and very spicy dishes. Southern food tends towards the rich, thanks to Malay influences. Must-tries are pad Thai (fried noodles), tom yam kung (a spicy shrimp chicken soup), yam nua (spicy beef salad) and kaeng phet pet yang (roast duck curry).

Dress Up

Wear bikini tops and surfer shorts only on the beach. Lose those flip flops and don long pants before entering temples.

Butt Out

Smoking is not permitted in any air-conditioned restaurant, bar, or nightclub. Likewise, littering (including throwing butts on the streets) can cost up to $60 – and tourists are likelier to get the highest fines!

Money

The Thai Baht (THB) is a fairly stable currency. Major credit cards are accepted by hotels and large shops, but cash is the preferred tender almost everywhere. Traveler’s checks are not widely accepted outside of hotels, so change them for cash at a bank exchange.

Getting Around

The easiest and most comfortable way to travel in Thailand is by plane (a bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket takes 16 hours!). The trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, best experienced on an overnight train, is the one exception; after sleeping in comfy beds onboard, wake up to verdant jungle hills rolling by. www.railway.co.th

Events

The calendar kicks off with the Chinese New Year (Feb/Mar). In April, no one escapes being doused with water during Songkhran (the Thai New Year). Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival (Oct) is not for tender souls – Chinese devotees parade through towns performing acts of self-mortification. Throughout the Thai kingdom, hundreds of thousands of ornately decorated banana leaf floats are set adrift in rivers and waterways in a beautiful festival called Loi Krathong (Nov).

History

The early Thais migrated south from China, populating the fertile valleys south of the Mekong. The Sukhothai period (1238-1438), Thailand's first dynasty, is considered the golden age of Thai culture. The Thais befriended and traded with neighbouring countries, absorbing elements of various civilizations. The Thai kings of the Ayutthaya Period (1351-1767) expanded Siam's territory, especially eastward towards the Khmer capital of Angkor, but were defeated by the Burmese. After an interlude in Thonburi, the capital was moved to Bangkok in 1782. King Rama III (1824-1851) developed relations with western nations, while King Rama IV (1851-1868) of "The King and I" fame concluded treaties with European countries, avoided colonization, and established modern Thailand. The Constitution of 1932 ended 700 years of absolute monarchy.

The Law is the Law

All venues close at 1am or 2am at the latest. Do yourself a favor and don't start arguing with the bartender about “just another round.” He isn't allowed to pour after closing time.

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