By Mary Jo PloufThailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand for until 1939 known as Siam, is a country in Southeast Asia bordering Myanmar (Burma) to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysis to the south. With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture, vibrant cities and golden beaches it is a great destination for tourists from all over the world.
I recently traveled to Thailand with Gate1 Travel where we spent three days in Bangkok. We stayed in a hotel quite far removed from the city center but that was not a disadvantage. The Chaophya Park hotel was located very near the subway system which got us to wherever we wanted to go. Gate 1 provided most of our transportation into the city which was crowded with traffic which was often out of control. We spent time on the Chao Phraya River which carried about 50,000 passengers a day, the Grand Palace, Wat Po, the largest temple in the city and Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha. We had a chance to visit the Indian and Chinese market and by late afternoon we were more than content to return to our very comfortable hotel away from the noise, traffic and chaos of the city. We traveled at a time when there was supposedly some political unrest in the city, but we saw no signs of it.
Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand and covers over 600 square miles. The tourism industry in the country has grown very quickly and because Thailand is the starting point for most tourists, the infra-structure is struggling to keep up the influx of visitors.
Part of our hotel complex included an excellent Thai Massage Spa. The Thai massage is quite different from our usual relaxing gentle massage. It can be a bit painful and may take a little getting used-to, but our masseurs were well trained and we found the experience to be stress releasing at the end of a busy day. There is also an excellent restaurant in the hotel and a breakfast buffet which spans the range from noodle – soup to eggs. The typical Thai food contains a lot of lime, lemon grass, fresh corriender and dill. The Thai consume very little meat, but their vegetarian dishes are not always completely vegetarian either, since they are often made with “fish sauce” which is their substitute for soy sauce. Almost every meal is combined with either noodles or rice.
Bangkok is a shoppers paradise and usually the first opportunity visitors have to become acquainted with the local wares. There are many markets, usually crowded and noisy, but they are great places to buy local clothing, knock-off purses, Thai silk and a variety of handicrafts.
Gate 1 Travel operates a number of tours in Thailand and many of them go far beyond the borders of busy Bangkok. An extended stay in Thailand can include Chiang Mai, Mayanmar and Phuket. It is also possible to combine visits in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam , which is what the majority, but not all, of our group, did.
We visited in March which is the beginning of the hot dry season. It was indeed very hot, but then we expected tropical temperatures, and there was no rain.
There is no visa required for visitors from the United States to enter Thailand.