Getting There By Air: All leading international airlines have direct flights to Bangkok. Most visitors will arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport, also known as the new Bangkok International Airport. Suvarnabhumi replaced Don Muang International Airport as Thailand's major gateway. Thailand's four other international airports are in Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket and Chiang Rai.
Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) is the country's national carrier.
By Sea: Cruise ships make port calls at two modern deep-sea ports: Laem Chabang Port lies between Bangkok and Pattaya; Port of Phuket is at the island resort of Phuket.
Cruise companies sailing to Southeast Asia, with Thailand included in their itineraries include Azamara Cruises Carnival (www.azamaracruises.com), Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com), Cunard Line (www.cunard.com), Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com), Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com), Princess Cruises (www.princesscruises.com), Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com), Seabourn Cruise Line (www.seabourn.com), SeaDream Yacht Club (www.seadream.com) and Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com).
Tour Operators: Tour operators with programs to Thailand include Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com, [email protected], 800-323-7308), Gate 1 Travel (www.gate1travel.com, [email protected], 800-682-3333), Globus (www.globusjourneys.com, 866-755-8581), Orient Flexi Pax Tours (www.orientflexipax.com, [email protected], 800-545-5540), Pacific Delight Tours (www.pacificdelighttours.com, [email protected], 800-221-7179), Pleasant Holidays (www.pleasantagent.com, [email protected], 800-448-3333), SITA World Tours (www.sitatours.com, [email protected], 800-421-56430, Ritz Tours (www.ritztours.com, [email protected], 800-900-2446), Travcoa (www.travcoa.com, [email protected], 800-992-2003) and Viking River Cruises (www.vikingrivercruises.com, 888-505-7984). Thai Airways (www.thaiairways.com) offers tours through its Royal Orchid Holiday Tour Packages.
Hotels: The best rooms to book at the Banyan Tree Bangkok (www.banyantree.com) are the Banyan Tree Club rooms on floors 48-50. These are popular for the privacy they offer, as well as their views of the cityscape on the south side of the building, and views of the Chao Phraya River on the north side. The travel agent liaison is Victor Koi ([email protected], 805-449-0080).
The hotel unveiled its new spa last summer. Banyan Tree Spa Bangkok has 16 treatment rooms on the 19th and 20th floors, many with panoramic, full-length views of Bangkok. Seven new treatment rooms were added. The three new Grand Spa Suites are couples' rooms equipped with steam facilities enabling guests to revel in the aqua-therapy treatments, including the signature Rain Mist experience. In addition, there are four new Deluxe Spa Suites, which offer steam, jet-pool bath and shower facilities. A beauty salon has also been added. All spa therapists are local specialists and undergo extensive training at the Banyan Tree Spa Academy prior to actually working at the spa. Agents can contact the therapists directly by e-mailing [email protected] or calling +66-2-679-1052/4.
At the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok (www.shangri-la.com), the best rooms to book are those in the Krungthep Wing—these all have private balconies with views of the Chao Phyraya River. In the Shangri-La wing, balconies are harder to come by. Suites 536, 1035 and 1434 are exclusive suites with balconies with river views. The Shangri-La wing's Horizon Club rooms are located on floors 18-25. Rooms 1833 and 2232 have balconies with river views.
Travel agents can contact Puntipa Chan-in, reservations manager (+66-2206-8787, [email protected]).
The hotel is offering the "Ultimate Krungthep Affair" package featuring a stay in a Speciality Suite in the hotel's exclusive Krungthep Wing. The package includes a newly introduced treatment at Chi, The Spa at Shangri-La: Sen Chi, designed to balance the flow of chi (energy) in the body. The package also includes an exclusive dinner on a private cruiser that will float along the Chao Phraya River. The eight-course menu, served with wine and champagne, is prepared and served by a personal chef and mâitre d', while a 12-piece orchestra plays throughout the night. The evening is capped by a fireworks display. The "Ultimate Krungthep Affair" package is available until December 30. The package costs $12,585 for three nights (single/double occupancy), and $2,000 per additional night. Travel agents can contact Puntipa Chan-in, reservations manager (66-2206-8787, [email protected]).
Dining: For a change of pace, I recommend dining at one of the restaurants at Lebua at State Tower (www.lebua.com), which is housed in the second-tallest building in Thailand. State Tower's Dome restaurants are garnering a huge amount of attention for their service, cuisine and stunning views of Bangkok. Choose indoor or al fresco dining at the Breeze Restaurant on the 52nd floor and take in the view from the glass sky-bridge.
Location: Thailand is situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, bordering Myanmar to the west and north, Laos to the north and northeast, Cambodia to the southeast and Malaysia to the south.
Entry requirements: U.S. visitors staying fewer than 30 days do not need a visa to enter Thailand, although they do need to show a valid passport and proof of a return ticket.
Language: The people of Thailand speak Thai, although English is widely understood, especially in Bangkok. Throughout the country, road and street signs are in both Thai and English.
Currency: The Thai unit of currency is the baht. At press time, the exchange rate was $1 to 31.4 Thai baht.
Tipping: Tipping isn't the norm in Thailand. Many of the larger hotels and restaurants add a 10 percent service charge to the bill.
Electricity: 220 volts AC.
Time: Thailand is seven hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.
Tourism Authority of Thailand
Los Angeles Office
New York Office