Background Information for Travelers to Thailand

A little bit of background information can help you get more out of your trip to Thailand. Here are some links to articles that provide some useful details.

Archaeological evidence so far dates settlement of Thailand back at least 5,000 years. Successive migrations of Mons from the west, Khmer from the east and Tai from the north settled more of the country. By the height of the Khmer kingdom based in Angkor in the 11th century, Cambodia controlled much of what is now Thailand.
Untainted by colonial influences, Thai culture retains a distinctiveness which the Thais themselves are very proud of. Royal patronage insures that the traditions live on and encourages the continuing participation of all citizens.
Contrary to what many people assume, the Thai written language is not idiomatic like Chinese, Japanese and other north Asian languages. Thai uses an alphabet of vowels and consonants just like western languages. There, however, the similarities end. The Thai alphabet is derived from Pali, the language from which almost all Southeast Asian languages originated and still the common language of Buddhism, sort of an Asian Latin.
Holidays & Events
When planning your trip, you should be aware of the public holidays celebrated throughout the country. In addition to public holidays, numerous festivals occur around the country throughout the year.
Food & Drink
Thai Food seems to have taken the world by storm. Every big city seems to have at least one Thai restaurant. The popularity has reached such global proportions that the Thai government itself now considers Thai restaurants an "export" commodity. Although known for its spiciness, what draws many people to Thai cooking is the emphasis on fresh ingredients and variety.
Money / Currency
The currency of Thailand is the "Baht" - sometimes spelled "Bath" but pronounced to rhyme with "hot." One Baht is divisible into 100 Satang. Major credit cards are accepted by hotels and large shops, but "hard cash" is the preferred tender almost everywhere. Travelers checks are not widely accepted outside of hotels, so change them for cash at a bank exchange, which you'll find in any and every tourist destination.
Before you book your trip, you'll want to check to see if a visa is required. Thailand has traditionally been rather free with visas, and most westerners still receive 30 day entry stamps on arrival at any airport (if crossing by land, you will only get a 15 day visa). However, like just about every other country since 2001, security concerns have lead to a reduction in the number of countries automatically granted visas. For a current list of countries entitled to visa-free entry, visit the Thai Foreign Ministry's web site.
Thailand has three "seasons." The Thais refer to them as the "cool," "hot" and "rainy" seasons. A more accurate description would be "hot," "really HOT" and "really hot AND wet." The "cool" season from October/November through to March is the prime tourist season. Current weather conditions and historical values for the major cities covered (Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui and Bangkok) are displayed for your information.