The Temple of the Emerald Buddha

By R Non
     The Wat Phra Kaeo official name is Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram. The temple is located in the historic centre of the Bangkok. The district is named Phra Nakhon on Rattanakosin on the royal palace ground. The temple is considered to be Thailand's holiest shrine.
The build of the temple started in 1785 by king Rama 1. the capital of Siam moved from thonburi to Bangkok. No monks live in this temple as do in other temples. The temple of the Emerald Buddha is built along the same lines as the grand chapels from the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya eras.
The emerald Buddha image is 66cm tall, is made from jade and housed inside the temple. The image sits on top of a gilded ornate altar inside the royal chapel.
The image is usually dressed in different costumes based on the season. The image is dressed in jewels and a crown in the hot season, a golden shawl in winter and a gilt robe and headdress in the rainy season. Each time the costume of the emerald Buddha is changed the king presides over the ceremony.
The doors of the chapel have mother of pearl inlays showing scenes from the hindu epic Ramayana.
Inside the chapel the walls show murals of the Buddha's teaching and scenes from the jataka tales about Buddha's life.
When you visit the emerald Buddha you feel how important this statue is to Thailand. The Thai believe that when something happens to the emerald Buddha it is the end of Thailand. I must say I was very impressed. In my travels to Thailand I have seen many nice things and felt the warmth of the Thai people. I visited many temples. The one thing that impressed me the most is service of my local travel agent and my visit to the golden palace and the emerald Buddha. Your pictures will be of postcard quality. In fact I do not buy postcards, I print my picture and send them.
This is my first article and I will be writing more about my travels to Thailand.
If you want more advice, tips or information on the golden palace or the subject above please check out this website.
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Travel to Thailand Made Easy

By Brook Mitchell
     The allure of Thailand for Aussies remains strong. Sitting just six hours flight from Perth and eight or so from the East Coast, Thailand boasts great beaches, mountain forests, temples galore, great shopping and some of the best food on earth. Add to that the seedier aspects of prostitution and the famous full moon parties and you have an entertaining mix that will leave some wanting more while others may be happy never to go back.
It's a common first time destination for backpackers because it's easy to get around, English is spoken widely and finding good times and mischief is never a problem. There is of course also some pretty nice beaches to sleep off the hangover on or just soak up the sun.
Seasons/When to go
Thailand is hot and humid most of the year. The most comfortable time to visit is during November till March. It rains the least and is not super hot. Thailand's peak tourist seasons are at this time and during July and August.
The rainy season runs from roughly July to October. Rainy season gets a bad rap; during this time the more popular beaches can be littered with trash after heavy rains. Despite this the rain can be a break from the heat, and the countryside is lush and green. October tends to be the wettest time of year.
April - June and September - October typically see the cheapest room rates and the least amount of tourist traffic. Consider these times if you want the cheapest travel away from the hordes in peak season.
Getting cheap flights from Australia to Thailand
If you are planning to book the popular choice of a few days in Bangkok and five or more in Phuket or Ko Samui, it's worth looking around for package deals on offer from the major travel agents in Australia. Like Fiji, it's one of the few destinations where booking this way through an agent can be cheaper than booking on the net. Companies will have allotted rooms and seats on preferred airlines that can be sold very cheaply.
If you are booking yourself don't always assume Jetstar (which flys into Phuket direct) will always be the cheapest. Thai airways, British airways and even Singapore airlines will have regular specials into Bangkok from Australia. From there you can book yourself on the domestic carriers to any of the islands (see below). From the East Coast fares have recently been as low as $600 return including tax into Bangkok low season (British Airways or Thai).
For students it's worth checking with STA or Student flights as there are often cheap fares on this route.
The most common route would be to fly into Bangkok, spend a few days and then head out to Phuket or Ko Samui (or both). Expect to pay around $1200 inc tax for all three in low season, while its closer to $2000 inc tax at Christmas (just for flights).
On a backpacking budget allow $30-50 dollars a day in low season. It's not as cheap as some countries in South East Asia but it's still great value. For a more comfortable holiday, $100 a day will get you a decent hotel and have you living pretty comfortably.
Domestic Airlines
Try these carriers to get you out of Bangkok and to the popular Islands and other Thailand destinations.
Thai Air Asia - Flies domestic and international routes
Nok Air - Flies Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Trang, Loei, Udon Thani, Phuket and Nakhon Si Thammarat
One Two Go - Budget carrier with similar destination list to Nok Air. Also has offers free snacks on board.
Bangkok Airways - Flying since 1986 Bangkok air is a popular choice that flys to over 20 Asian cities. Great for Bangkok - Phuket - Ko Samui flights. You can book online and their website also offers a few discounts on accommodation.
Destination Air - A small company that offers scenic flights via sea plane and day trips around Phuket and surrounding islands like Ko Pi Pi. Minimum passenger requirements apply.
Getting into Bangkok Central from Suvarnabhumi airport/what happens when I get to the airport in Bangkok?
Soon after arriving it's easy to change some Aussie dollars to the local currency or use an ATM (for the best rates).
As soon as you leave customs you will probably be set on by locals offering you a taxi into town. Keep cool and ignore these touts as the shuttle bus into the city costs a poultry $9.00AUD and runs from 0430 till 0030. A taxi will be more expensive. Just walk outside and look for the signs for the shuttle bus, it's easy.
Most travellers will be staying on or near the famous Khaosan road, just tell the bus guy that's where your headed. If you are arriving outside of the shuttle bus operating times (and many flights from Oz will) it's still easy to get a taxi. Make sure the driver turns the meter on; it starts at about 35B. Get out of the cab if they won't turn the metre on. Be firm about this - as elsewhere it's a common scam for cabbies to make up the price on arrival. You will have to pay the motor toll if you travel into the city by taxi - so you will be asked for a small amount of extra cash on the way. The cost of a taxi should be no more than $12 or so Aussie dollars into the city. The airport is about 30km or 45mins by road from the centre of town.
If you consider booking a transfer in Australia it's around $40 dollars Aussie one way, so it's much easier and cheaper just to get on the shuttle bus when you arrive. If you arrive late then a taxi is still cheaper than booking a transfer in Australia.
If you're staying in Khaosan Road: After getting off shuttle bus or taxi on Kao Son road, walk to the end of the road where the Monastery (Wat) is, there's a police station off to the right, walk that way, cross the street and go down the red bricked road named Soi Rambuttri (the monastery will now be on your left). This area is far quieter than on the main drag.
Khao san Road accommodation options
In Bangkok Ko Shan road is usually the first port of call for most travellers, usually travellers on a budget. In recent times more comfortable hotels seem to be springing up all over the place. Outside of peak times it's easy enough to just show up in this small area and book a place - though in busier times or if you don't want to wing it booking in advance is easy enough.
The Viengtai hotel is a popular choice for young Aussies. Expect to pay around $10-30 a night.
Rambuttri Inn (15-20AUD) is a popular and comfortable place with a pool.
MyHouse Guesthouse-($10AUD) One of the better cheapies that's nice and quiet by Bangkok standards.
With any guesthouse in this area make sure you check the rooms first, but most will be fine for how cheap they are.
For more comfortable digs most of the big name hotels are represented in Bangkok. If you have the cash the city's most famous hotel, the Oriental is the place to be. If you can't afford that the Royal Orchid Sheraton just down the river has great views at a much cheaper price.
Other areas of Bangkok are just as good to stay; check out Chinatown and the Sukhumvit road area.
Khaosan Road is good for first time travellers to go out or do some shopping and the best place to arrange other travel service like visas and train tickets.
Getting around Thailand
Thailand has fantastic trains and buses which are cheap, fast and easy to use. You can buy tickets from numerous local travel agents, though it's cheaper and not difficult to buy yourself at the bus or train station. The cheapest option to get around is on the 'fan' buses for short or medium journeys - just leave early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. The cheapest rail option is third class, which can take a bit longer than the more expensive AC buses but are a fun way to get around.
Beach Destinations
This Island of half a million people is the most visited in Thailand. It's well serviced by flights from around Asia and has a great mix of accommodation to choose from. Staying in the heart of Phuket town on the beach will be expensive, while staying a few blocks back or 15 minutes down the road in Karon beach are the cheaper options. This is the area from which you can easily visit islands such as Ko Pi Pi (from the movie The Beach).
Ko Samui
Once a purely budget destination Ko Samui is now a fully fledged resort island. All the major hotels are here, with expensive accommodation the norm. For a budget beach holiday Phuket or Khao Lak, an hour north, are the better bets. Most Aussies will come to Ko Samui on their way over to Ko Panyang for the famous full moon parties. Click the link below for a full page on how to get there and the run down on these popular and always loose nights out. The parties are fairly commercialised these days, but still worth the trip.
Off the beaten path
There's heaps more to Thailand than just Bangkok, Phuket and Ko Samui. It's easy to get around so with a little time checking out places such as Khao Sok national park, Ko Chang and the Similan islands will get you away from the masses. Avoid the southern mainland town of Pattaya; package tourists, pimps, members of paedophiles san frontiers: not nice.
If you liked this article check out my travel site Aussie Travel Advice. It's a free and independent site with over 140 pages of travel advice and links, as well as our travel blog. It's written by a former travel agent, doctor and journalist and contains the best travel tips for Australians going overseas.
If you are interested in travel check out the site. It's not just for Aussies.
To see the work of an aspiring freelance travel photographer check out my other site 'new travel image'.

Why Travel To Thailand?

By George Conradie
     There are many countries to visit in the world and each offers its own unique attractions and reasons to be visited. So, why Thailand? What makes this country unique, worthwhile and simply a great place to visit?
With approximately 15 000 000 visitors per annum, and many return visitors from previous years, certainly confirm the popularity of the country, but you are unique and will you find what you are looking for?
Many people have indicated to me that, if you are going to be flying all the way to Thailand, I guess you have to be someone who likes the beach and the ocean.
This indicates the perception of people that Thailand is all about warm weather, islands, blue seas, white beaches and palm trees. While this is certainly part of the allure, it definitely is not all Thailand is about.
The first thing that comes to mind is the price tag for visiting and staying in hotels in Thailand. Whether you are a back packer, 5 star vacationer or somewhere in-between, Thailand remains one of the most affordable travel destinations in the world.
When elements like the quality of hotel establishments in Thailand (which rival the best in the world) the beautiful surroundings, family friendliness and warm tropical weather to name but a few, is also brought into the equation, accommodation in Thailand is an outright bargain.
To add to the attractive hotel accommodation prices in Thailand, this must also be one of the countries in the world, if not the country in the world, where hotels offer the most incredible special deals and money saving packages.
Where else would you find hotels offering deals like "stay 16 nights and pay only 8" or "stay 10 and pay only 5"? It is also not like there is just one or two offering such a deal once in a while. There are a plethora of them, ranging from 3 to 5 star all over Thailand, including destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, Krabi and basically all the rest.
The next reason on my list is the extremes to which hotels and resorts in Thailand go to create the ultimate family friendly vacation destination.
To start with, it is a known fact that Thais are extremely fond of children, and as an expat Thailand resident, this became very apparent very quickly. Hotels and resorts all over Thailand acknowledges children as their future customers and as such the highly professional kids clubs with an array of educational and other fun and exiting kids activities, creates a haven for children to enjoy their own holiday. At the same time, this creates time for the parents to have time available to them selves.
Many hotels in all price categories also offer ideal family friendly accommodation. From two to five bedroom accommodation and themed children's rooms, small to large families will find suitable accommodation anywhere in Thailand.
Thailand is safe. Even for the single female traveler, this must be one of the safest tourist destinations in the world. It certainly cannot be argued that crime will never take place in Thailand. However, Thais are a non aggressive people and the probability of a tourist falling victim to crime, especially violent crime, remains very low. To maintain this status as a safe tourist destination, The Royal Thai Police have established the Tourist Police Division. These men and women are mostly English capable, unbiased and a tourist's first friend when arriving in the land of smiles.
Referring back to our first point in terms of Thailand not being all sand and surf, the diversity of the country's landscape, history and culture as a tourist attraction, needs special mention.
Thai civilization dates back to 3600 BC, though Thailand first announced independence around 1238 AD. Since then, the city of Sukhothai was taken from the Khmer Empire and placed under Thai rule, the Lanna Kingdom was founded, Ayutthaya was the first capital and later moved to more or less where Bangkok is today and cities and temples, of which the outer walls and ruins can still be visited today, was build. Hence, Thailand with all these heritage sites, palaces and museums, is a history lovers dream and will enrich your knowledge of a very old and very exciting culture. Then many historical and ancient places are actually a must for every tourist.
As said, Thailand's beautiful islands, warm azure oceans, crystal white beaches and warm tropical weather is the primary reasons for many, if not most who come here. However, getting off the beaten track can lead to a very exciting and fulfilling visit.
Venture up north to Places like Chiang Mai (a place they say perfected hospitality), Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son, to experience more typical Thai culture, the friendliness of the people and a jaw dropping landscape. Green forested hills, rivers and waterfalls define the beautiful environment, also rich with history and culture.
A plethora of national parks dot Thailand, especially in the north, criss crossed by hiking trails, waiting to be explored. This is a far cry from sipping cocktails under a palm tree on an island right?
And while you are there, visit the Northern Hill Tribes, descendants of Chinese, Burmese, Laotians & Vietnamese who migrated to Thailand over the centuries. Still dressing in traditional clothing and very much still living the way they always did, these friendly people is an experience not to be missed.
Another highlight of traveling through Thailand is the cost of transport. Certainly, if one is going to travel in private luxury all the time, things can be slightly more expensive, but generally, traveling in Thailand can be dirt cheap and the many colourful transport options make it as much fun as it is budget friendly.
Also, the more authentic and local your mode of transport, and thus also more fun, the cheaper it gets. Swap the fancy speedboat for a longtail boat for instance (not all longtail boats look like a canoe. Some are bigger boats carrying larger cargo, but they are basic). It is much slower, but you get to see so much more and it just feels great.
Take the train from Bangkok to Surat Thani if you are traveling to several islands in The Gulf of Thailand instead of flying. Even with a mini bus from Bangkok to Chumpon and from there by boat to islands in the Gulf will cost you less than 2000 Thai Baht for a 600 kilometer journey. All the while it will be a much bigger adventure and part of your entire vacation experience than just taking the fastest and most expensive option.
In summary, you want to visit Thailand because it is so different. Different to the west, but also different to most other eastern or Asian countries.
A big city like Bangkok aside, Thailand is still very much rural, and even in towns a little more developed like Hua Hin, Thailand still retains a very authentic Thai feel. Life is still simple in many ways with a relaxed, tomorrow will see to itself attitude.
Our advice is to book hotel accommodation in more than one region of Thailand. Spend a week on an island, but then also explore the inner and northern part of Thailand, be surprised and impressed at the same time and start making plans to return as soon as possible.