Photos of Thailand
full country name Kingdom of Thailand
capital Bangkok
population 63.6 million (as of 2001)
surface area 513100 sq km
currency baht
exchange rate US$ 1 = baht 42 (as of June 2003)
language Thai
main religion 95% Buddhist
Internet users 1.9% (as of 2000)
Our South-East Asian Office
Who would have thought that Thailand would turn out to be more than another destination on our route around the world? Bangkok in particular became our base, our South-East Asian office, ... (more)
Thai Pieces
Because Thailand is the only country which we travelled in pieces on and off over a relatively longer period of time, I ironically find it a challenge to well explain. Thailand, uniquely, does not feel ... (more)
Border Crossings
The easiest and fastest way to renew a Thai 30-day tourist visa is to leave the country and return the same day. The first of our three border crossings for such a purpose occurs at Ranong in ... (more)
Our route through Thailand
Our route...
Shadow puppet play
Thai dancer
Thai dancer
Lion dance for Chinese New Year
Walking Buddha overlooks Nan
Lion dance for Chinese New Year
Monks at Wat Saket
Buddha in Sukhothai
Krathong preparation
Loi Krathong fireworks
Dragonfruit, mangosteen, lychee, and rambutan
Wat Phra Mahathat
Mother-of-pearl inlay at Wat Phra Kaew
Nam Tok Siriphum
Phu Kradung National Park
Sukhothai-style Buddhas in Wat Phumin
15m high Buddha in Wat Si Chum
Tree roots gently embrace Buddha's face in Ayuthaya
all photos © gM
November 3rd, 2002, we crossed the border into Thailand for the first time. Little did we know that, over the course of the next eight months, we would cross Thai borders another fourteen times before finally saying goodbye to Thailand on June 29th, 2003.

On our way from the Malaysian border to Bangkok, we first spent a few days in the south visiting Hat Yai, Songkhla, and Nakhon Si Thammarat where we watched a wonderful shadow puppet play. Bangkok is one of those cities that can be anything one wants it to be. One moment is spent standing on a street corner, holding one's breath to avoid the exhaust-polluted air and wretching from the stench which eminates from the nearby canal filled with disgustingly black water. The next moment is filled with the sensational taste of Thai food, with the splendor of the exquisite treasures at the Grand Palace, or with the peacefulness at one of the many wats. Another moment goes by in an overcrowded bus or at a chaotic street market, whereas the next one is experienced on the comfortable skytrain or in air-conditioned shopping mall complexes, easily taking you into a First World country. One evening, we have spicy noodle soup with ground pork and fish balls at the cheap place next door; another evening, we sip cocktails and enjoy a 360° view of Bangkok at night from the open-air bar on top of one 5-star hotel tower.

Bangkok became our base, the place to which we looked forward to return, our South-East Asian office where we got all logistical things done - obtaining visas, buying flight tickets, stocking up on supplies, working on the website. Each of our first three visits to Bangkok incidentally coincided with a major celebration. Mid November, it was Loi Krathong where we watched candle-lit krathongs being floated down rivers and lakes at night and a massive fireworks display along Bangkok's main river Mae Nam Chao Phraya. Then we counted down the seconds with a crowd of tens of thousands at the New Year's party at the World Trade Center, and at the beginning of February, we welcomed in the Chinese New Year with acrobatic lion dancing and music.

In between these festivals, we traveled to Myanmar in December, and again to the south of Thailand in January. In 2½ weeks, we saw rafflesias (the world's largest flower) at Khao Sok National Park, beautiful waterfalls at Tharnbok Koranee National Park, and vertical islands at Ao Phang-Nga National Park. The highlight of our time in the south, however, was watching enormous whale sharks while diving at Richelieu Rock in the Andaman Sea. In total, we spent four days on a dive boat touring the Similan Islands National Park, Ko Tachai, and Richelieu Rock.

In February, we left Bangkok northbound for the first time, visiting Ayuthaya Historical Park as well as charmingly pleasant Chiang Mai with its many wats and cooking schools. It is also a good place for Thai massage and a visit to Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest peak, and its waterfalls. Nan province was next where we went trekking out of Ban Toei, and saw pillars formed by erosion at Sao Din. Afterwards, we visited Sukhothai Historical Park, and explored Nam Nao National Park and the scenic plateau of Phu Kradung National Park. We followed the Mekong from Chiang Khan to Nong Khai before crossing over into Laos on March 10th.

Before the rains on Ko Lipe
Ko Phi Phi
Full moon party at Hat Rin
Sunsets on Ko Lipe
Full moon party at Hat RinFull moon party at Hat Rin
all photos © gM
We returned to Thailand on March 27th, taking in the Angkor-period monuments of Phanom Rung and Phimai before starting on our five island tour of Thailand's south. Our first stop was Ko Bulon Leh close to the Malaysian border on the Andaman Coast. One of our favorite islands for its peacefulness, it is an ideal place to relax in the sun and water, enjoy great seafood and banana/chocolate cake. Since the island's families still have not been bought out by big investors from Bangkok or overseas, development has been kept under control and the first bar has yet to open. The former is good in any case, the latter depends on what you are looking for. Ko Lipe, the second island we visited, is only a short ferry ride away from Ko Bulon Leh. Budget accommodation, food, and beaches on Ko Lipe paled in comparison to those of Ko Bulon Leh, probably only because we had had such a great time on the first island. Although offered, scuba diving is definitely not worth your while. We did not stay for long and continued onto our next destination: Ko Phi Phi. Even heavy development with all its associated waste management problems and water shortages cannot undermine Ko Phi Phi's natural beauty. It is a picture book island that has to be seen. The nightlife is extensive and the days go by with snorkeling, excellent scuba diving (another whale shark!), beach volleyball, and soccer. The fourth stop on our island tour was technically not an island. Hat Rai Leh is a secluded beach on the mainland not far from Krabi, but it feels like an island since it is only accessible by boat. It is a renowned location for rock climbing, and the cliffs are truly impressive just as the sunsets are truly colorful. Finally, we turned towards the Gulf of Thailand to experience the full moon party capital Hat Rin on Ko Pha-Ngan which draws several thousand people in the high season months. Ko Pha-Ngan is much bigger than any of the other islands we had been to. It features actual roads, but not yet an airport as does nearby Ko Samui. The full moon party in May drew less than a thousand people, but the music and the atmosphere were still exciting. We returned to Bangkok for a few days on May 19th.

We visited Cambodia from May 23rd to June 3rd and Japan from June 14th to 22nd. During our two last weeks in Bangkok, we finally got around to visit some of the city's outstanding attractions: the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, the Vimanmek Teak Mansion, Phahurat Market, Jim Thompson's House, Wat Saket, and the Siriraj Museums.