Travel, Teach, Live in Thailand
Thailand is the only country in the S.E. Asian area which has never been colonised, so it lacks the colonial architecture and influence of nearby countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam. However, due to its location, it often acted as a buffer between competing European powers and its political and economic influence on the region remains huge.
The capital, Bangkok, known in Thai as Krung Thep (an abbreviation of the full ceremonial name which is 21 words and 168 letters long) is a huge bustling city with some of the worst traffic jams in the world. For many people it is a city to get out of as soon as possible and head for the beaches, but Bangkok does reward those who give it more time.
Bangkok, as capital, is home to the revered Thai royal family and many of the royal palaces are open to the public. Wat Phra Kaew, home of the Emerald Buddha and part of the Grand Palace, the king's official residence is the most important temple in Thailand. Next door is Wat Pho, which houses the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha is 46 metres (151 ft) long and is covered in gold leaf. A favourite way to reach the temples is to avoid Bangkok's traffic and take one of the 'river' buses which run regularly along the Chao Phraya River.
A popular destination is Jim Thompson Museum the former home of the American who helped revive the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 60s. The 'house' is actually six buildings which he bought in various parts of Thailand and had rebuilt in Bangkok to house his collection of Asian art. Thompson disappeared in mysterious circumstances in Malaysia in 1967.
The capital of the northern part of Thailand is Chiang Mai, the country's second most visited city. The city has hundreds of temples, chief of which is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, built on a hill overlooking the city. According to legend, the site was chosen by a white elephant which was carrying a holy relic placed on its back by the king. The elephant climbed the hill, trumpeted three times and lay down to die. This was taken as a sign and the temple built.
Kanchanaburi Province is a mecca for history buffs. This is the location of the famous movie, Bridge over the River Kwai and guests may wish to visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial established at the site of a cutting on the Death Railway where PoWs were forced to work.
In the far south of Thailand are the hugely popular beach and nightlife islands of Phuket and Ko Samui. Phuket has over a dozen beaches to choose from and it is becoming more and more difficult to find a quiet spot. The nightlife here is internationally famous. Ko Samui, with its white sands and turquoise sea is no less popular. Here however, there are some quieter beaches on the north side of the island. Quieter islands can be found all over Thailand's long coastline.
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