Bangkok is the usual gateway for most travelers. You should try and plan on three or five days in the capital. This should allow sufficient time for seeing the major sights such as the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Arun, Wat Pho and Vimanmek Mansion. Perhaps also a trip along the Chao Phraya River or a shopping jaunt to Chatuchak Weekend Market. You could also take an out-of-town excursion (Ayutthaya or Kanchanaburi are top choices).
If a beach vacation is your priority, Bangkok could be followed by a week at Phuket or Samui Island, which offer the most exotic settings. Should your time be limited, the resorts of Pattaya, Rayong, Cha-am and Hua Hin are closer to the capital.
For a different scene, northern Thailand affords plenty of scope for both cultural sightseeing and refreshing escapes into the countryside. Chiang Mai is the best base for exploring the region, offering its own sights as well as numerous hiking and trekking options, and a stay of three or four days gives a good introduction. If you have more time, overnight visits to Mae Hong Son or Chiang Rai are well worthwhile. Travelers who already know Thailand, will find the Northeast region rewarding. The most traditional part of our country, it is best toured by car or bus allow five to seven days.
Thailand further provides excellent facilities for sporting vacations. Golf, scuba diving, yachting, and mountain biking. A two-week stay gives time for general sightseeing and special interest activities. The variations for a visit to Thailand are endless, and perhaps the best advice to bear in mind when arranging your trip is to plan on coming back.
Thai food is internationally famous. Whether chilli-hot or comparatively bland, harmony is the guiding principle behind each dish. The characteristics of Thai food depend on who cooks it, for whom it is cooked, for what occasion, and where it is cooked. Originally, Thai cooking reflected the characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle. Aquatic animals, plants and herbs were major ingredients. Large chunks of meat were eschewed.
With their Buddhist background, Thais shunned the use of large animals, cut into big chunks in their food. Big cuts of meat were shredded and laced with herbs and spices. Traditional Thai cooking methods were stewing and baking, or grilling. Chinese influences saw the introduction of frying, stir frying and deep-frying. Culinary influences from the 17th century onwards included Portuguese, Dutch, French and Japanese. Chillies were introduced to Thai cooking during the late 1600s by Portuguese missionaries who had acquired a taste for them while serving in South America.
Thais were very adapt at ‘Siamese-ising’ foreign cooking methods, and substituting ingredients. The ghee used in Indian cooking was replaced by coconut oil, and coconut milk substituted for other daily products. Overpowering pure spices were toned down and enhanced by fresh herbs such as lemon grass and galanga. Eventually, fewer and less spices were used in Thai curries, while the use of fresh herbs increased. It is generally acknowledged that Thai curries burn intensely, but briefly, whereas other curries, with strong spices, burn for longer periods. Instead of serving dishes in courses, a Thai meal is served all at once, permitting dinners to enjoy complementary combinations of different tastes.
A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. A spiced salad may replace the curry dish. The soup can also be spicy, but the curry should be replaced by non spiced items. There must be a harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the entire meal.