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Where else but Thailand can visitors cruise on a converted rice barge, roar upriver in a long-tail boat and take a white-knuckle ride on a bamboo raft, then stay in jungle tree houses as guests in the homes of hilltribe villagers, or on rafthouses floating on a river? Equally memorable are the trails leading deep into the rainforest past cooling waterfalls, and the simple beauty of the translucent sea lapping onto endless white, soft sand. Not to be missed is dynamic Bangkok, a city that is larger than life, with its futuristic high-rise buildings juxtaposed against the glittering Grand Palace.

Practical Information

Area: 513 115 km² (198 115 miles²)

Capital: Bangkok. Population: 9.4 million

Population: 64 million

Currency: Baht (THB symbol ฿) = 100 satang

Government: Constitutional monarchy.

Tipping: Most hotels and restaurants will add 10% service charge and 7% government tax to the bill.

Legal drinking age: The post-coup government has proposed raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 20

Time zone: GMT + 7

Languages: Thai

Additional descriptions

Thailand: Social customs

Present-day Thai society is the result of centuries of cultural interchange, particularly with China and India, but more recently with the West. Western visitors will generally receive a handshake on meetingRead more someone. A Thai will be greeted with the traditional closed hands and a slight bow of the head - the wai. Buddhist monks are always greeted in this way.The Thai Royal Family is regarded with an almost religious reverence. Visitors should respect this. It is very bad manners to make public displays of anger, as Thais regard such behaviour as boorish and a loss of ’face’. Public displays of affection between men and women are also frowned upon, and it is considered rude to touch anyone on the head or to point one’s feet at someone. Shoes should be removed before entering someone’s home or a temple.Informal dress is widely acceptable and men are seldom, if ever, expected to wear suits. Beachwear should be confined to the beach and topless sunbathing is frowned upon. Smoking is widely acceptable.

Thailand: Food and local specialties

There are many Asian and European restaurants. Thai food is hot and spicy, but most tourist restaurants tone down the food for Western palates. Most Thai food is prepared with fresh ingredients and lemonRead more grass and coriander are often added to enhance flavours. Rice is commonly eaten with most meals and generally the various dishes ordered are shared by all the diners. Excellent food can be found at the stalls of the many street vendors around the country. Popular fruits are papaya, jackfruit, mangosteens, rambutans, pomelos (similar to grapefruits) and, above all, durians, which farangs (foreigners) either love or hate. Owing to the strong smell of durians, the majority of hotels do not allow them onto the premises. Things to know: Bars have counter or table service. There are no licensing laws. The national specialties are: Tom yam (a coconut-milk soup prepared with makroot leaves, ginger, lemon grass, prawns or chicken). Gang pet (hot ’red’ curry with coconut milk, herbs, garlic, chillies, shrimp paste, coriander and seasoning) served with rice. Pad Thai (stir-fried rice-noodles) served with shrimp or chicken garnished with peanuts. Desserts include salim (sweet noodles in coconut milk). Well worth trying is sticky rice and mangoes (rice cooked in coconut milk served with slices of mango). This is a favourite breakfast dish in the mango harvest season (March to May). Local whisky, Mekhong and rum SamSong are very popular. Singha and Singha Gold are locally made beers which dominate the domestic market. Coconut milk straight from the shell during the harvest season is particularly refreshing in the heat and humidity.

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