Travel, Teach, Live in Thailand
With a coastline spanning 3,219 km, the Kingdom of Thailand (formerly known as Siam) geographically lies in South East Asia and shares borders with Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. It encompasses a land area of approximately 515,000 sq km roughly equating to the size of France and consists of 76 provinces, which are divided up into four main zones: The North, The North East, Central and South.
Thailand is a country with rich traditions and a long history from various influences from the east as well as from the west. From the Kings of the early Sukhothai Period up to today, Thailand has built a distinct characteristic appearance to the outer world.
Thailand has been an independent nation since 1238 AD and is proudly the only country in South East Asia that was never been colonised by a foreign power. Thailand's government has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 and authoritarian ruling bodies have maintained power throughout most of the Thai political history.
From 1958 to 1971 the executive powers of the King were exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, his legislative powers by the National Assembly, and his judicial system composed of the Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
Since 1971, Thailand's government has experienced numerous changes. However, the Monarchy and the bureaucracy has remained, maintaining stability.
The King of Thailand (His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej) is the world's longest reigning monarch and is held with utmost respect by all Thais.
The year 2006 marked the King's 60th year on the throne throughout which he has tirelessly devoted six decades to initiating and implementing thousands of projects for improving and sustaining land development, irrigation, agriculture, healthcare and to the education and the well-being of the Thai people.
While it may be common for many people to openly criticise the Thai Government, it is considered an insult to criticise or disparage any members of the Thai Royal Family.
Thailand has a population of approximately 65 million and has an unemployment rate of approximately 2.6%. While this may seem low, it represents a sharp increase from 0.9% in 1997 before the start of the Asian financial crisis.
Language and Religion
Thailand's official language, Thai, is tonal and understood and used nationwide. English is also used and understood for business and international purposes. Additional regional dialects also exist, differing from north to south and east to west, all of which are members of the Thai half of the Thai-Kadai family of languages. The Thai script derives from the Indic ancient writing systems of Pali and Sanskrit and consists of 44 consonants and 32 vowels.
Buddhism plays a key role in society and shapes every aspect of daily life in Thailand. With approximately 27,000 temples throughout the country, Buddhism has long since been recognised as the country's most widely practised religion by roughly 95% of the nation, significantly influencing both Thai society and culture. Islam also accounts for approximately 4% and Christianity and other minority religions accounting for 1%.
The average years of schooling in Thailand is 6.5, with its literacy rate standing at 95.5%, one of the highest in South East Asia, thanks to the high priority given by the Government towards an increased national budget being allocated to education.
There are several universities and colleges, the majority of which are based in Bangkok, offering degree courses, and scores of training colleges and vocational schools. Two of Bangkok's universities, Thammasat and Chulalongkorn are considered to be among the Top 50 in Asia.
There has also been significant growth recently in the internationally accredited and affiliated large international schools due to the number of expatriates based in Thailand but also due to wealthier Thai families preferring their children to receive a more global style of education.
The majority of Thailand is very humid, with humidity levels of between 66% and 82%, depending on the time of day and season. Winter (November to February) is relatively cool and dry with an average temperature around 21º-24ºC. Summer (March to May) is hot and humid with an average temperature around 35º-40ºC. The monsoon season (June to October) is hot and rainy, with average temperatures ranging around 24º-30ºC.
Thailand's time zone is 7 hours ahead of GMT/UTC (London). Daylight saving is not followed.
The national unit of currency is the Thai baht (THB), which is divided into 100 satang. Notes are issued in 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht denominations, while coins consist of 25 and 50 satang and the more common 1, 2, 5 and 10 baht coins. US Dollars may also be accepted in tourist areas or towards the borders of neighbouring countries. Credit cards are also widely accepted nationwide in many shops and all major department stores. Exchange rate USD1.00 = THB34.00 (October 2007).
Most companies operate an 8 hours day, 5 days a week, beginning between 8.00am and 9.00am with a one-hour lunch break from noon. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 3.30pm. Private shops do not have set business hours and in many cases stay open late.
Thailand has an efficient postal service and a modern telecommunications network, including an international direct telephone service in operation 24 hours. International postage is also cheap, reliable and efficient.
Mobile phone networks are also on the increase such as AIS, DTAC, True Move and Hutch. Prepaid sim cards for mobile phones can be purchased and used in any imported phone and respective recharge cards are also reasonably priced and easy to find.
The Government has approved further expansion of the telecommunication networks to meet the expected further growth in the economy. Internet cafes are numerous, especially in areas with a high number of tourists, e.g. Phuket, Samui and Bangkok.
Thailand is more advanced in the cyber world than the majority of South East Asia and with the popularity the high-speed Internet rates continue to competitively drop each year.
Medical facilities in Bangkok are comparable to those available in Western countries. Bangkok has 3 University research hospitals, 12 public and private hospitals and hundreds of medical clinics.
Entry by land, air, river or sea into Thailand is permitted at various border crossing points from Malaysia: (Betong, Padang Besar, Sadao and Sungai Kolok), Myanmar: (Mae Sai, Mae Sot, Ranong and Three Pagodas Pass), Laos: (Chiang Kong, Chong Mek, Mukhdahan, Nakhon Phanom and Nongkhai) and Cambodia: (Hat Lek and Aranya Prathet).
The new Suvarnabhumi Airport is Thailand's major international airport and is the main hub for all in and outbound air traffic in Thailand since September 2006. It serves over 80 major international airline carriers with direct flights to destinations throughout both the Asia-Pacific region and worldwide.
The national carrier, Thai Airways International and the smaller domestic airline, Bangkok Airways, provide an extensive domestic schedule to all major centres in Thailand. In addition, the low-cost airlines such as PB Air, Orient Thai Air, Phuket Airline, Nok Air and Thai AirAsia provide an extensive schedule to centres in Thailand and the ASEAN countries.
There are also extensive and regular rail links and bus routes between Bangkok and all major towns and cities throughout Thailand and neighbouring countries.
In Bangkok, the well serviced and regular 2 lines of the elevated-rail system known as the Skytrain (BTS) and the single underground 18-station subway network (MRT) relieve people of the traffic congestion, providing daily commuters air-conditioned comfort and speed.
Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city, where expatriates generally enjoy a high standard of living. Supermarkets stock a variety of imported food items in addition to local produce, and a wide range of leisure activities are available including soccer, rugby, tennis, cricket and in particular, golf.
Bangkok does have its frustrations however, particularly the traffic and pollution, however a number of resorts and scenic attractions including Pattaya, Hua Hin, Rayong, Kanchanaburi and Khao Yai National Park are within easy reach for weekend breaks outside the city.
Housing & Accommodation
A wide range of accommodation is available, particularly in Bangkok, from basic, relatively low priced apartments to expensive luxury condominiums and serviced apartments.
Most expatriate accommodation is located in the Sukhumvit and Sathorn/Silom areas, which are close to retail and business centres. In many cases, employers of expatriates may also provide financial assistance for accommodation.
Chambers of Commerce
There are a number of active international Chambers of Commerce operating in Thailand, including the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce (AUSCHAM), Belgian/Luxembourg, British Chamber of Commerce (BCCT), Canadian, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, German-Thai Chamber of Commerce, Franco-Thai Chamber of Commerce, India-Thai, Italian, Japanese, Korean-Thai, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norwegian, Singapore-Thai, South African, Swedish.
These arrange a number of seminars and networking functions and the joint committee of the foreign chambers regularly lobbies the authorities on behalf of their members.
Clubs & Networking Events
A number of clubs provide good social and networking opportunities for expatriates. These include the British Club (now open to all nationalities), the Heritage Club, the Bangkok Club, the Pacific Club and the Lighthouse Club. Rotary International is also active in Thailand with a number of clubs located throughout the country.