Thailand

If lazing on the beach, soaking up some culture and sampling delicious food is your idea of a great time, visit Thailand for your next vacation.

It's not surprising that Thailand attracts more visitors than any other country in Southeast Asia. Laos and Cambodia border the country to the east, to the south lies the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia and to the west you'll find the Andaman Sea and Myanmar.

It's not surprising that Thailand attracts more visitors than any other country in Southeast Asia. Laos and Cambodia border the country to the east, to the south lies the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia and to the west you'll find the Andaman Sea and Myanmar.

The most famous of the floating markets is Damnoen Saduak, about 62 miles southwest of Bangkok. This buzzing market is at its best in the early morning before the crowds arrive and the heat of the day builds up. The colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddle along congested canals in sturdy canoes laden with fresh fruit and vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks. There is lots of chatter and activity – bargaining is common – that’s all part of the fun -- but don’t expect to get the price down more than a few baht

The most famous of the floating markets is Damnoen Saduak, about 62 miles southwest of Bangkok. This buzzing market is at its best in the early morning before the crowds arrive and the heat of the day builds up. The colorfully clad merchants at these lively markets paddle along congested canals in sturdy canoes laden with fresh fruit and vegetables to sell to shoppers on the banks. There is lots of chatter and activity – bargaining is common – that’s all part of the fun -- but don’t expect to get the price down more than a few baht

Just 50 miles north of Bangkok is the old capitol of Ayutthaya. The city became Thailand's capitol in the mid-14th century and remained the capitol until the late 18th century. About the time that Americans were tossing tea into Boston harbor, the Burmese attacked and sacked Ayutthaya. The Ayutthaya period is looked on by many as the time when much of what is now thought of as "Thai style" was developed. In temples, this is when you see a marked transition from the Khmer style prangs to the bell shaped chedi. While Sukothai further north is seen as the birth of the Thai kingdom, Ayutthaya is seen today as its high point. Around Ayutthaya are signs of the Japanese, French, Dutch and Portuguese traders that came to the Thai court.

Just 50 miles north of Bangkok is the old capitol of Ayutthaya. The city became Thailand's capitol in the mid-14th century and remained the capitol until the late 18th century. About the time that Americans were tossing tea into Boston harbor, the Burmese attacked and sacked Ayutthaya.

The Ayutthaya period is looked on by many as the time when much of what is now thought of as "Thai style" was developed. In temples, this is when you see a marked transition from the Khmer style prangs to the bell shaped chedi. While Sukothai further north is seen as the birth of the Thai kingdom, Ayutthaya is seen today as its high point. Around Ayutthaya are signs of the Japanese, French, Dutch and Portuguese traders that came to the Thai court.

Tom Yam Goong This is the national aroma of Thailand, thanks to the generous use of fragrant herbs. Lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots provide the memorable smells, with chilies and fish sauce providing the kick. Substance comes in the form of jumbo shrimp (goong) and mushrooms. The flavor is a unique combination of spicy hot and sour and makes for an ideal start to a meal, or - when paired with rice - a worthy main dish.

Tom Yam Goong

This is the national aroma of Thailand, thanks to the generous use of fragrant herbs. Lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, and shallots provide the memorable smells, with chilies and fish sauce providing the kick. Substance comes in the form of jumbo shrimp (goong) and mushrooms. The flavor is a unique combination of spicy hot and sour and makes for an ideal start to a meal, or - when paired with rice - a worthy main dish.

Tom Kha Gai Possibly the world's most refreshing soup, tom kaa gai (boiled galangal chicken) combines coconut milk with lemongrass, galangal ' ginger's Asian sister ' and chicken. It's a sweet, tame twist on tom yam goong. On a table filled with delectable Thai dishes, tom kaa gai stands out; your spoon will return to this bowl time and again.

Tom Kha Gai

Possibly the world's most refreshing soup, tom kaa gai (boiled galangal chicken) combines coconut milk with lemongrass, galangal ' ginger's Asian sister ' and chicken. It's a sweet, tame twist on tom yam goong. On a table filled with delectable Thai dishes, tom kaa gai stands out; your spoon will return to this bowl time and again.

Today, with the influx of foreigners the high-end housing skyrocketed, and developers are building skyscraping condos in Bangkok and tourist destinations like Phuket and Pattaya. But there's a lot of debate over who will buy all them - rents start at around $300 a month (close to the average Thai salary) and to the roof from there. Foreigners, who aren't allowed to buy land but can own condo units, can only fill 49% of the total area of a building, so developers are offering significant discounts to Thais. Still, there may not be enough money around to fill all these pricey new homes, and many pundits were warning of a crash even before the global economic downturn in the fall of 2008.

Today, with the influx of foreigners the high-end housing skyrocketed, and developers are building skyscraping condos in Bangkok and tourist destinations like Phuket and Pattaya. But there's a lot of debate over who will buy all them - rents start at around $300 a month (close to the average Thai salary) and to the roof from there.

Foreigners, who aren't allowed to buy land but can own condo units, can only fill 49% of the total area of a building, so developers are offering significant discounts to Thais. Still, there may not be enough money around to fill all these pricey new homes, and many pundits were warning of a crash even before the global economic downturn in the fall of 2008.

With turquoise bays peppered with craggy limestone rock towers, brilliant-white beaches and tumbledown fishing villages, Ao Phang-Nga is one of the region’s most spectacular landscapes. Little wonder then that it was here, among the towering cliffs and swifts’ nests, that James Bond’s nemesis, Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun), chose to build his lair. Wanted assassins with goals of world domination would not be recommended to hide out here nowadays, since the area is swarming with tourists in motorboats and sea kayaks nearly year-round. Much of the bay, and some of the coastline, has now been incorporated into the Ao Phang-Nga National Marine Park.

With turquoise bays peppered with craggy limestone rock towers, brilliant-white beaches and tumbledown fishing villages, Ao Phang-Nga is one of the region’s most spectacular landscapes. Little wonder then that it was here, among the towering cliffs and swifts’ nests, that James Bond’s nemesis, Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun), chose to build his lair. Wanted assassins with goals of world domination would not be recommended to hide out here nowadays, since the area is swarming with tourists in motorboats and sea kayaks nearly year-round. Much of the bay, and some of the coastline, has now been incorporated into the Ao Phang-Nga National Marine Park.

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