USA | FIJI | NEW ZEALAND | AUSTRALIA | SINGAPORE | THAILAND | EGYPT | ITALY | TURKEY | USA
Krungthep Mahanakorn Boworn Rattanakosin Mahintharayuttha Mahadilokpop Noparatratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniveymahasathan Amornpiman Avatransathit Sakkathattiay-avisnukarmprasit.
Just in case you are wondering, that’s the official Thai name for Bangkok, in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest place name in the world! Translation: “Great city of angels; the repository of divine gems; the great land unconquerable; the grand and prominent realm; the royal and delightful capital full of nine noble gems; the highest royal dwelling and grand palace; the divine shelter and living place of reincarnated spirits.”
That’s a mouthful.
The Great Land of the Unconquerable, Siam, now the Kingdom of Thailand, is the only Southeast Asian country to have never been colonized. It’s a unique heritage that the Thai people take pride in. Under the direction of their monarch, Thailand escaped colonial rule by creating strong alliances and exploiting the tension between France and Great Britain which were preoccupied with taking over other neighboring countries. Thailand’s current King, well into his 80’s, is one of the most loved in Thai history, so I was told.
The Thai language is one of the most difficult in the world to learn to speak. There are 44 letters in the alphabet, 21 vowels and four characters that represent vowel tones. Aside from all that there are five tones when speaking. Therefore, one word can have totally different meanings depending upon how you pronounce it. Be careful or you may end up calling your mother a dog!
I chose to visit Bangkok first on our two week tour of Thailand. I figured it would be best to do the big city thing at the beginning. I like cities and I expected to like Bangkok. I like the energy, the crazy and the hustle and bustle of big city life. But I didn’t want to end our time here in the concrete jungle. So I chose to do big city (Bangkok), little city (Chiang Mai) then beach (Koh Samui).
Don’t be confused as I was upon arrival at the airport; if you have a US passport you don’t need a visa to visit for fewer than 30 days so proceed directly to immigration. Hopefully you will have filled out your arrival card on the plane, which is all you need to do (and fill out and keep the departure portion). Most likely you’ll sail through customs if you have nothing to declare – as in there was no one there checking. If you are taking a taxi, just be sure the meter is on and your driver knows where you want to go. If you have the address or directions written in Thai to show the driver, this may be helpful as well, especially if you are staying at a residence, not hotel.
For travel within Thailand I pre-booked on Bangkok Airways, which I found to be a complete delight. I considered taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but after reading diverging reviews I chose to fly. It was virtually the same price, maybe even cheaper and I knew we’d be there in an hour. For ALL ticketed passengers Bangkok Airways also has a free airport lounge with Wi-Fi and food and drink, so check it out before you buy in the airport.
One last thing, speaking of food and drink. There was a lunch service on our one hour flight, which I never would have expected. We flew another airline for eight hours and got nothing for free not even water! Impressive to say the least! They call themselves Asia’s “boutique airline” and I’d say it’s apropos. I highly recommend them.
Finally, don’t hesitate to use public transport, especially in Bangkok. It is the way to get around. Trust me and read on…