Category : Science and Education
Archive   : THAILAND.ZIP
Filename : TH1.TXT

 
Output of file : TH1.TXT contained in archive : THAILAND.ZIP

SPECIAL GUIDE
to
THAILAND
for
Professionals and
Long-Term Residents

By Alan Dawson
**********
* PART 1 *
**********

*******************************************************************
* *
* (C) *
* Copyright 1989 *
* *
* Material in this publication is copyright in Thailand and *
* throughout the world. Private use of this material is hereby *
* granted to the user of any computer Bulletin Board service in *
* in Thailand. Material may not be changed, printed or included *
* in any commercial publication except with the written consent *
* of the author. *
* *
*******************************************************************

*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=**
| NOTE |
* *
| This publication is a collection of notes and ideas that I |
* gathered over a period of years. It is designed primarily *
| for foreign visitors, for those who intend to stay for a |
* while, or for people here for a while who are interested *
| in learning something beyond what the guide books offer. |
* *
| Thais and foreigners who have been in Thailand for a while |
* will know most of the background already. But I hope they *
| too will pick up the odd fact -- and enjoy the various |
* sections on recommendations. *
| |
* Alan Dawson *
| April 1989 |
* *
*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=**



Thailand is on mainland Southeast Asia, several hundred miles above the
equator. On a map, it looks a bit like an elephant's head and trunk --
fitting for the country that houses so many, including wild ones. It
occupies an area of more than 500,000 sq km, (about the size of France) and
is about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from north to south. It has a full
range of tropical vegetation from triple-canopy jungle to vast flatlands.
The country is a constitutional monarchy. The current king is His
Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, the American-born ninth monarch of the Chakri
Dynasty founded in 1782 when the capital of Thailand moved to Bangkok.
He and the entire Royal Family are highly revered. He is simply called
"the King" by most Thais, who are quick to take offense at any disparaging
remark about him, the members of the Royal Family or the institution of the
Monarchy. The fourth king of the dynasty, King Mongkut or Rama IV, was
portrayed in The King and I.
The people of Thailand are naturally gracious and friendly. Thailand
was never colonized, and foreigners -- particularly from Western countries
-- are generally treated like guests. It is obvious soon after arrival in
Thailand how its citizens have earned for the country its nickname, The Land
of Smiles.
Thailand's government -- Prime Minister and cabinet -- is appointed by
an elected Parliament. Most ministers are also members of parliament, but
they may come from outside. The Army and the permanent civil service play
major but officially undefined roles in shaping the policies of the country.
Thailand and the Thais are generally anti-communist, pro-western and
pro-capitalist in their outlook.
The population of Thailand is around 55 million, and about 70 per cent
live in the countryside and work at agriculture. Thailand is a major food
exporter of the so-called Third World. Bangkok, the capital and industrial
center, has a population of around 8 million and is becoming world-famous for
its traffic jams. Thai factories manufacture more than 20 makes of cars from
Europe and Japan.
Thailand has full freedom of religion, and the King is the official
protector of eight. Most Thais (close to 90% of the population) are
Mahayana Buddhists, the "original" branch of the religion, which differs in
physical appearance and in many practices with the school of China-Vietnam.
Virtually every Thai man will be a monk for a short time during his life. The
professional clergy is small in number, and shuns worldly possessions and
life,
including politics.
The second largest religion is Islam, with Muslims making up about 10
per cent of the population. The Christians in Thailand are mostly Roman
Catholic. Michael Cardinal Mechai, a Thai, is head of the Church in
Thailand.
Most of the people of Thailand are ethnic Thais. There are important
numbers of ethnic Chinese (especially in the cities), hill tribes (mostly
in the far north), Malays (mostly in the far south) and Indians.
Thailand borders on Burma to the west, Malaysia to the south, Laos and
Cambodia (Kampuchea) to the east, and the South China Sea on the southeast.

The People

At the risk of offending precise sociologists, it is possible to refer
to "the Thai race." Add to the "standard" Thai of central Thailand the
Lao, the Shan (Big Thai) of the northern Burma area, and several tribes
such as the Black Thai and the Red Thai. These latter are found primarily
in northeastern Laos and northwestern Vietnam and include other, minor
tribes such as the Tay.
Until about the mid-1960s, experts held that the origin of the Thai was
probably in the center of inner Mongolia, and that a centuries-long
migration brought them to Southeast Asia. But archaeological discoveries
have brought this theory into question.
Most scholars today believe the Thai probably originated in the present-
day province of Yunnan in China. Indeed, there are several hundred
thousand Thais who still inhabit that region.
Since the mid-1970s, even that theory is under attack. The discovery of
a 7,000-year-old bronze age village in northeastern Thailand was the first
evidence that, perhaps, the Thai originated in today's Thailand. Since
then, evidence has been added with more archaeological discoveries placing
Thais even in the Bangkok area far earlier than ever thought.
In recorded history, Thai civilization has moved from the far north of
present-day Thailand -- the Chiang Mai area -- southward. Most tour
guides, echoing what they learned in school, tend towards the Mongolian-
origin theory. They point out, quite correctly, that central and southern
Thailand contain vast evidence of occupation chiefly by Cambodians and Mons
-- a present-day Burmese minority group -- in pre-historic days.
What is true is that the Thai race belongs to the Sino-Tibetan grouping.
This serves, however, only to separate it from the Indo-Polynesians, who
migrated from the southern Pacific area, and include Cambodians and Malays,
among others.
Many Thai scholars also argue that there is no longer any such thing as
a "typical" or a "pure" Thai, because of many centuries of inter-marriage
and inter-mingling. Be that as it may, the "average" Thai has skin ranging
in color from light to dark copper; high cheek bones, and a single-hooded
eyelid. This distinguishes Thais from, say, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Another major characteristic of the Thais differing from other races
from the north is the style of their houses. Thais by tradition live in
stilted houses, while Vietnamese and Chinese place their homes upon the
ground. On several recorded occasions, national borders have been drawn in
accordance precisely with this difference.
Thais consider themselves a distinct race. The conferring of Thai
citizenship does not make one a Thai. It's like art: the Thais know a
Thai when they see one.

Weather

Thailand is a tropical country, and humidity is high compared with, say,
North America. There are three seasons: the dry, or hot, season from
February to May; the rainy season from June to October, and the cool season
from November through January.
The hot season features clear skies, hot sun and, particularly in the
late afternoon, a breeze.
The rains come with the southwest monsoons (monsoon means "wind," not
rain, and monsoons have nothing to do with typhoons, or hurricanes). They
begin slowly, with perhaps half an hour of showers every couple of
afternoons, and build up later in the season to what is usually an hour or
so of heavy rainfall virtually every late afternoon.
You should except floods in Bangkok in October-November. If you don't
get them, it's a bonus. Heavy rains, tropical storms, high tides from the
sea and floodwaters from the north all converge on Bangkok in a short
period. Many streets are 2 to 3 feet under water.
The cool season, or winter, sees comfortable daytime temperatures, under
a blue sky, and nights that can become downright chilly (12o C or 55o F),
especially for Thais and resident foreigners. It is Thailand's most
pleasant weather, and relative humidity normally is, well, relatively low.
Because of its geographical position, Thailand does not have hurricanes
(called typhoons here) and is remarkably free of weather extremes apart
from humidity.
Actual thermometer temperature in Thailand is not extreme. Daytime
temperatures, even in the hot season, seldom reach 41o Celsius or 100o
Fahrenheit. But lengthy sessions in the sun can, particularly combined
with the humidity, be very sapping.
Most Thais and local residents spend a lot of time trying to keep in the
shade.



Clothing

Open-necked shirt and slacks and their female equivalents are the
general rule. Shorts are acceptable in most places, although they are
generally frowned upon by residents even in semi-formal places like
government offices. Footwear is simple -- most Thais on the streets wear
sandals of some sort with no socks. The main reason for this is that the
footwear can easily be slipped on and off for entrance to Buddhist wats
(temples) and private homes.
The obvious material to wear is cotton for its "breathing" properties.
The looser the clothing the better. The so-called "crotch rot" can strike
in the groin, underarms and other skin-to-skin contact areas, and it can be
very painful. Many people working outdoors do not wear underwear to cut
down the heat in the groin area. Sufferers should treat crotch rot, a
fungus, immediately upon discovery, and seriously. People can become
disabled, or even hospitalized, for days if they leave the f
ungal growth untreated.
Cheap cotton clothing can be purchased in Bangkok with ease in all
sizes, as can footwear. Thailand is an exporter of such products.




Health

Thailand has a long history of serious attention to health and medicine,
and has a medical system extending to most of the villages. Anyone injured
or sick in Thailand will receive excellent care, usually in good hospitals,
at a fraction of the North American or European cost.
A health card (shot record) is not necessary to enter Thailand. There
are no epidemic or endemic diseases. Few foreign residents of Thailand
bother with preventive shots. The following information is for the wary
traveler who might want to play safe.

Malaria has been virtually eradicated in Thailand. In the jungles of the
Cambodian border area, there is some malaria, both fallciparum and viral,
among the Cambodian refugees and resistance forces. The same is true in
some northern Thai areas along the Burmese border. Dapsone, taken on a
course which begins well before arrival and continues well after departure,
will normally protect the visitor. Other suppressants (there is no
effective preventative whatever the drug companies maintain) are
virtually useless.

Typhoid and Cholera are rarely encountered during the dry season (February-
May) in poor villages of the northeastern area.

Hepatitis B is the closest thing to an endemic disease in Thailand. Many -
- perhaps most -- Thais are carriers, but are resistant, and therefore do
not develop symptoms. Care should be taken during blood transfusions.
Apart from this, normal cleanliness should suffice. Gamma-globulin shots
are about 50% effective in prevention, and must be renewed every six weeks.

Plague and Yellow Fever do not exist in Thailand.

Amoebic Dysentery is contracted by a tiny minority of foreign visitors.
There is no prevention possible, aside from attention to cleanliness.

Dysentery and "The Runs" are frequently encountered during the first week
in Thailand. Again, there is no medical prevention, but any pharmacy sells
over-the-counter treatments and doctors are available country-wide for
persistent cases.

Water for visitors should always be one of the bottled brands. Tap water
is generally non-potable, but may be drunk after boiling. Any bottled
drink is sanitary anywhere in the country. Ice served for drinks may be
assumed to be clean.

Food is usually safe because it is generally cooked fresh at a high
temperature. When in doubt, stick to this type of food. A bowl of just-
cooked noodles from a boiling cauldron could be safer than a sandwich.
Restaurants are usually hygienic.

Milk and milk products are always safe.

Medication of all types, from all countries, is available over any pharmacy
counter ("How many Valium would you like, sir?"). There is no reason to
bring any medication to Thailand aside from drugs for a continuing
prescription.


STDs

In a country like Thailand, the subject of Sexually-Transmitted Diseases is
of interest to most visitors, even if the interest is only intellectual.
Following are the facts. The visitor must make his own choice.

Gonorrhea is the closest thing Thailand has to an endemic sexual disease.
But it is encountered frequently only among the high-school crowd. Thais
have no shyness about diagnosing and treating gonorrhea (the clap).
Pharmacies sell the "two-pill treatment" over the counter for about $3.
Total cure is effected in about 8 hours. There is (in the entire world) no
such thing as "incurable clap," although some strains are indeed resistant
to early antibiotics (penicillin, ampicillin). Luckily, medical science is
well ahead of this. Most bar girls have weekly, free check-ups.

Syphilis is virtually non-existent in Thailand. In case of bad luck,
diagnosis and treatment is quick and cheap.

Herpes is virtually non-existent. Full anti-herpes treatments are
available over the counter for sufferers.

AIDS is, of course, The Big One that visitors want to know about. Some
information is secret, and much talks about AIDS is nonsense, including
that from some doctors. The following known information is current as of
Novmber, 1988.

* There have been a total of 15 diagnosed cases of active AIDS in Thailand.
Five were foreigners. Two were students recently returned from the U.S.
One was a female, married to a homosexual prostitute. One was a baby. All
but five of these people have died (or, for the foreigners, are presumed
dead.)
* Government and private health officials claim to have discovered, mostly
through involuntary testing (prisons, gay and straight bars, Middle East-
bound workers and slum-dwelling drug addicts) more than 2,200 cases of pre-
AIDS. These cases are, supposedly, all under observation.
* Fifteen persons contracted pre-AIDS HIV virus from unscreened blood
transfusions. Blood banks continue to supply untested blood to clinics and
hospitals.
* The pre-AIDS cases have aroused much comment, and many authorities
believe the cases are higher in number than announced. The greatest focus
of concern is needle-sharing drug addicts.

* In August and September, 1987, in preparation for the tourist season,
every Patpong employee (male and female; Thai and foreigner) was
involuntarily tested for AIDS. No cases were found. The tests have not
been repeated.
* Random and wholesale testing on employees in other "entertainment" areas,
gay and straight, has failed to determine any AIDS cases, active or
dormant.
* No foreigner outside the prison system has yet claimed that he contracted
AIDS in Thailand. At least one major Bangkok massage parlor has barred
foreigners.

* There is a growing awareness of AIDS. Condoms are widely available,
thanks to a 20-year-old birth control program. However, a country which
averages more than 600 child deaths a year to a preventable form of malaria
has priorities that outrank a
potential AIDS problem.



Foreign Relations

Most Western countries maintain full embassies in Thailand. Part of
their job is to look after the interests of their nationals. They do this
well, partly because there are few times that their nationals need help.
Many first-time travelers are unaware of what their embassy can do for
them. Embassies cannot intervene, in any manner, in the legal system of
Thailand, any more than the Thai Embassy can intervene back home.
Ambassadors cannot have their citizens released from jail, for example.
For legal problems, embassies can --and usually will -- help in selection
of a lawyer and provide limited communications back home.

For travel to nearby countries for short visits, visas are not normally
necessary for citizens of Western nations. Exceptions are Burma, China
and the three Indochina countries. It is best to check with the travel
agent or the Bangkok embassy of the country involved. If in doubt, get a
visa.
The French, Americans, British, West Germans and Japanese all maintain
quasi-governmental cultural services in Thailand. These can be a tiny
slice of home for visitors, where newspapers and (usually free) movies are
available. In addition, most embassies maintain small libraries or reading
rooms, and welcome visitors. The U.S. Embassy's commercial attache
maintains a large library and research room for businessmen at his office
in the tall Kian Gwan building across the street from the Emb
assy proper.

For anyone with a Thai visa problem, the place to visit is the
Immigration Department. The headquarters is on Soi Suan Plu, off Sathorn
Road in Bangkok. There are branches in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai,
Udorn Thani and at several points along the borders with Malaysia, Burma
and Laos. Application for an extension of stay costs 500 baht, and
Immigration officials tend to be friendly, if often harassed.
General problems can often be thrashed out with the help of the Tourist
Police and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. You can usually find an
English-speaker on the telephone, 281-5051.
Except for police, officials work a 5 or a 5*-day week. Most embassies
maintain a duty officer for emergencies, but these men and women may not be
immediately available.

Major embassies, and their telephone numbers, in Bangkok:
United States, Wireless Road, 252-5040
Canada, 10th Floor, Boonmitr Building, Silom Road, 234-1561
Britain, Wireless Road, 253-0191
West Germany, Sathorn Road, 286-4223
Australia, Sathorn Road, 287-2680
France, Captain Bush Lane, 234-0950
(For a full list of embassies and consulates, see the Directory)


Cigarettes

Except in Bangkok, where there is a flourishing black market of U.S.
and English cigarettes at about $12-$14 a carton, it is difficult to obtain
anything but Thai-made cigarettes. The most popular brands available in
the Bangkok markets are Dunhill, 555 and Benson & Hedges (English) and
Winston, Marlboro and Kent (U.S.).
The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly (TTM) has the exclusive rights to buy and
sell tobacco, and to manufacture and sell cigarettes, at about 50* a pack.
Thailand is a major tobacco exporter, especially of Virginia leaf. Blended
(U.S.-type) brands are available, but most foreigners who smoke Thai
cigarettes settle for the Virginia brands under the Samit 14 or Krong Thip
labels. The names are on the packs in Thai and English.
Thai Customs Law permits each visitor to import one carton (200) of
cigarettes. In practice, however, visitors with three or four cartons are
not bothered. (The law on liquor import is the same: one bottle is legal,
but three or four are generally permitted.)
Visitors who do not smoke should haul in a carton or two of cigarettes
for colleagues who do smoke -- or as gifts for outstanding work by Thais.
(And, again, the same applies to liquor, with Scotch the preferred gift.)


Currency

The local currency is the baht. It is technically divided into 100
satang, but the satang is rarely encountered and comes in small coins only
of 25 and 50-satang value. These are gold, or bronze, colored.
There are silver-colored coins of one baht (three sizes, but small and
thin); two baht (thicker) and five baht (two sizes, both with copper
interior).
Bills come in denominations of 10 (brown), 20 (green), 50 (blue), 100
(red) and 500 (purple) baht. They increase in size as in value.
The baht is a stable currency, and there is no black market. Its rate
depends mainly to the U.S. dollar. Although it fluctuates on a daily
basis, the baht has remained in the area of 25-26 baht to $1 for several
years.
All transactions locally will be in baht. Thais consider foreign
currency a nuisance, and will not accept it. The baht is freely
convertible both ways. Licensed money-changers give the best conversion
rates, with banks only slightly behind. Hotel desks, as elsewhere in the
world, give poor rates.
A passport is an absolute must for changing travelers' checks anywhere,
and for most bank transactions. No identification is required to change
paper currency at any money changer or most banks.
Baht may be freely converted to U.S. or other available currency at any
time. A money-changer is the fastest and easiest. Banks by law must
maintain a certain on-hand reserve of foreign currency and may claim they
have none available.

It is against the law to carry more than US $10,000 out of the country
unless it has been declared upon entry. Any amount over $10,000 or
equivalent in other currencies may be seized by Customs agents before the
traveler is allowed to leave.



Security

Thailand has a low rate of personal crime by Western standards, but the
wise visitor will conduct himself as he does at home.
Carry only enough cash to get you through the day, and lock up the rest.
Although there technically is a law requiring foreigners to carry their
passports, few do so, and the law is not enforced. If in doubt, make a
photocopy of the title page and current visa, and carry that. The less
jewelry worn the better; most personal thefts in Thailand are bag-snatching
and necklace-grabbing.
BEWARE, however, of the law which absolves hotels from all blame and
responsibility for theft from their safety deposit boxes. Few, if any,
hotels, will reimburse guests whose valuables are stolen. That said,
first-class hotels throughout Thailand usually have secure safe-deposit
boxes, and theft is rare.

Wise visitors do not get into fights with Thais. In the first place,
males and females alike are raised on Thai boxing, a particularly lethal,
"full-contact" martial art. In the second place, a Thai seen to be losing
a fight is usually aided in short order by others. Most Thai fights end
when one fighter has been extensively beaten, usually badly enough for a
few days' hospital stay, and inevitably that person is the foreigner.

Credit-card and travelers-check fraud is rampant in Thailand. Never
leave your credit card with anyone, and beware the store clerks who run
your card through three or four times -- once for you and a few times for
themselves. Most residents insist on getting and destroying the carbons
used on the credit slips.
Because there is so much fraud by owners, replacement of stolen or lost
cards and checks is slow and tedious, involving trips to several police
stations and your embassy.

The most common robber is the sneak thief. Outright, all-American
mugging is rare. Be especially wary in crowds, where pickpockets work the
assembled like Wayne Gretzky works on NHL goalies. Carry handbags firmly,
preferably under the arm, on the side away from the street -- to prevent
snatching by motorcyclists. Similarly, hold cameras securely.

City, national and tourist police departments are always on call, and
usually conduct major investigations for crimes against foreigners. The
emergency police number is 191. If possible, have a Thai speaker make the
call. Many of the operators do not speak English.

Travel

There are several ways of getting around Bangkok. The most common is
the taxi. Taxis normally cruise until waved down. You must set the fare
by bargaining before entering the car. Otherwise, expect to be over-
charged.
Most taxi drivers neither speak much English nor read maps well, so it's
a good idea to have your destination written in Thai -- and carry a hotel
card in Thai to ensure your return. Typical taxi fares run in the 40-60
baht range.
You will also find taxis parked and waiting outside hotels, popular
restaurants, cinemas and the like. In some cases, these are conveniences.
In most, however, the drivers are waiting specifically for foreign
tourists. You're perfectly safe with such characters, many of whom speak
some English. But you will usually pay a slightly higher fare for these
over the cruising cabs.
Samlors, also known as tuk-tuks from the sound of their engines, are
three-wheeled taxis, useful for short trips. Again, bargain before you get
in. They charge a little less than taxis.
Hotel limousines are useful because the drivers usually speak English
and tend to know the city well. You pay for this convenience. Limos
charge about double the regular taxi fares.
City buses range all over Bangkok at incredibly cheap rates. A bus map
(available at the bookstores and elsewhere) is indispensable, since routes
are written only in Thai on most buses. Regular buses charge 2 baht (3
baht for the newer, red-and-yellow variety). Air-conditioned buses have
escalating prices starting at 5 baht and rising to a maximum of 15 baht,
depending on the length of the trip. Most buses are extremely crowded
during rush hours.

Outside Bangkok, most people travel by long-distance bus. There are
three main terminals, depending on which direction you are headed. Fares
are low, and most buses are air-conditioned, with toilets and stewardess
service.
Thailand's trains are slow, but comfortable. Most long-distance train
trips are overnight, and sleepers and berths are in demand. Book through a
travel agent or buy your ticket at the station -- but book as early as you
can.
The main domestic airline is Thai Airways International, which flies
trunk lines with A-300 and A-310 Airbuses and Boeing 737 jets. Feeder
operations are by Irish-built Skyvans. Thai International, because of its
monopoly position in the market, has a one-price policy. Book through an
agent or at the airline office --the price is the same.
You can rent a car in Thailand at rates starting around $30 a day for a
small Toyota. Mileage is usually unlimited -- you pay for the gasoline.
You'll need your passport and driver's license (from anywhere). Most
agencies charge the full cost of the rental, plus a deposit for damage, in
advance. Most agencies accept credit cards. All agencies have drivers
available, for around 300 baht per day above the cost of the vehicle. On
overnight trips, you pay the driver's expenses.
All land borders are closed to general travelers except Malaysia. You
cannot drive to Cambodia (Kampuchea), Laos or Burma. Taking a car to and
from Malaysia involves a day or two of paperwork before departure. The
places to go are the Malaysian Embassy in Bangkok and the Thai Customs
Department.
Bangkok is no longer the "bucket shop" for low-price airline tickets
that it once was. But discount tickets are widely available. Comparison
shopping is a must for anyone trying to shave his travel costs.
There is regular train service from Bangkok to Malaysia and Singapore.
Many bus companies also run to these two southern countries. Technically,
such bus service is a charter, but in fact the companies run regular trips
and it is not necessary to be a member of a group.

  3 Responses to “Category : Science and Education
Archive   : THAILAND.ZIP
Filename : TH1.TXT

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

  3. But one thing that puzzles me is the “mtswslnkmcjklsdlsbdmMICROSOFT” string. There is an article about it here. It is definitely worth a read: http://www.os2museum.com/wp/mtswslnk/