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Thailand honeymoon

Fascinating culture, world-renowned food, unique architecture and spectacular beaches.

Thailand Overview

There are five regions of Thailand: North, Northeast, East, Central, and South, which are divided into 75+1 provinces, each geographically distinct from the others; each Thailand province contains unique cultural, historical, and natural attractions from the northern peaks (replete with wildlife and home to exotic hill tribes) and the central plains (the “Rice Bowl of Asia”) to the northeastern plateau (stretching to the Mekong River border with Laos) and the spectacular beaches and islands of the south (including both Phuket and Samui).

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About Thai food

While Thai food has a reputation for being spicy, Thai food is actually based on a balance between different flavors including spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. This goes beyond simply combining the flavors within an individual dish to incorporate the contrast in flavors between two or three different dishes, which is one reason Thai’s share meals and eat family style.

One distinctive aspect of Thai food is the use of fresh herbs and spices as well as the inclusion of fermented fish sauce in nearly every dish –a potential problem for vegetarians, though saying “jay” to indicate you are vegetarian goes a long way.

However, there are certainly regional variations in what is typically considered Thai food; these are due to the influences of neighboring countries, such as China, Laos, Burma, and Malaysia. While some Thai restaurants specialize in specific dishes, most have a huge menu of Thai and western fare and prepare Thai food from throughout the kingdom.

Rice

Rice is the staple food for Thais, eaten with most meals, from breakfast to dessert. In fact, in Thai language, if you say you are hungry or you want to eat you literally say “I want to eat rice.” Its should be unsurprising to learn then that Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice and that Thai rice includes more than one strain, each of which has its own characteristic and flavor.

The most esteemed Thai rice is Jasmine Rice, sweet-smelling long-grain rice that is indigenous to Thailand. Served steamed, jasmine rice is the finest rice to accompany most dishes, including Thai curries.

While Jasmine rice is the most coveted, it is also the most expensive. Consequently, most restaurants serve Khao Suoy, “beautiful rice”, a plain white variety that grows in abundance and is consumed with all style of entrée.

Khao pad or “fried rice” is made with fried with pork or chicken, chilies and fish sauce, typically with leftover Khao Suoy, so as not to waste leftover rice that is a bit “stale”.

Khao Tom is a popular breakfast dish, a salty porridge-like soup that is cooked with pork and garlic.

Khao Niaw, “sticky rice” is eaten by hand when served with dishes of northeastern influence, such as grilled chicken (gai yang) and spicy papaya salad (som tam); however, sticky rice is a crucial ingredient in a favorite Thai dessert, sticky rice and mango.

Mains

While noodle dishes are quite common in Thailand (an influence brought by Chinese migrants) most Thai dishes are stir fried or grilled and served with rice. Fish (blah), pork (moo), beef (neua), and chicken (gai) are all prepared in a variety of ways, though typically cut into bite sized pieces and stir fried with various spices, such as garlic, chili, and/or basil. Fish and chicken are frequently grilled or fried, fish typically cooked and served whole.

photo by 	Spolloman

Thai Curry and Soup

As Thai meals are typically served family style, with all diners sharing entrees, a Thai curry or soup is usually ordered with a meal. The consistency of each Thai curry varies widely, with some curries arguably classifiable as soups. However, most Thai curries are coconut milk-based and some are spicier than others. Gaeng Massaman, is a mild, peanut and potato curry; Gaeng Kiaw Wan (Thai green curry) is a curry of medium thickness and spiciness, while Gaeng Daeng (red curry), otherwise known as Gaeng Pet (spicy curry), is a thinner, obviously spicier option. Tom Kha, a mild coconut soup, blurs the lines between soup and curry, while Tom Yam Kung, a quintessential Thai soup, is often blisteringly hot.

While Thai curries are shared and meant to be ladled over rice, soups are served communally with diners receiving small bowls to eat out of. Although some curries and soups can be served without meat for vegetarians, many Thai cooks put fish sauce in all dishes as it’s the Thai substitute for salt.

Thai Noodles

Unlike typical Thai dishes, which are served for communal consumption, most Thai noodle dishes are served as individual dishes. While some restaurants will serve Thai noodle dishes, particularly Pad Thai noodles, noodles are more frequently served and eaten at street stalls that specialize in Thai noodle dishes. Thai noodles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, including “small” (sen lek), “large” (sen yai), angel hair (sen mee), and x-large (gway tiow). Most Thai noodles are made of rice, though egg noodles (ba mee) and mungbean based glass noodles are also common.

Other than pad Thai noodles, rad naa and gway tiow are stir fried noodles served with beef, chicken, or pork; condiments, including dried chilies, fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar, are available to tailor to individual diner’s taste.

Otherwise, Thai noodles are normally served in soup, either with spicy red pork (moo daeng), chicken (on the bone), and occasionally coagulated pigs blood. Unlike most Thai dishes, which are eaten with fork and spoon, Thai noodles are typically eaten with chopsticks and spoon, a reflection of the Chinese origin of the cuisine.

Thai Desserts

You couldn’t tell by looking at slim waste lines of many Thais, but Thai people love to eat dessert. This includes both traditional Thai desserts as well as western fare, including cakes and ice cream. Traditional Thai desserts are quite sweet, made predominately from various combinations of rice, coconut milk, and sugar, along with a few seemingly less common dessert ingredients, such as sweet corn or kidney beans. Some egg based Thai desserts trace their history back to the influence of Portuguese missionaries (who also introduced the chili!) While these desserts are not prominently featured on menus in Thai restaurants and infrequently ordered at the conclusion of a meal, they are occasionally served complimentarily or can be found sold at street stalls that specialize in particular desserts.

Fruit is also a common Thai dessert and is usually served plain and sliced, though Mango with sticky rice, covered in sweet coconut milk is a popular dessert when Mangos are in season.

Thai Salad or Yam

A Thai salad is often one of the spiciest Thai dishes and is frequently ordered as one of the many communal dishes in a meal. A Thai salad is generally made of raw vegetables mixed with chili, lime, and fish sauce, though some, such as Yam Neua (Thai beef salad) contain meat.

The most internationally recognized Thai salad, Som Tam is technically a dish of Lao origin, and is most popular in Northeastern Thailand, where it is prepared in a manner that would wreak havoc on the stomach of an unsuspecting visitor unaccustomed to real spicy Thai food. Som Tam consists primarily of shredded papaya and is often served with grilled chicken (gai yang).

Yam som-o, is a more mild salad that is based on the pommels, a fruit similar to, but less sour than, a grapefruit. Yam som-o is usually served with shredded chicken.

Other salads include Yam Neua, a Thai beef salad served with tomato and onion, and Yam Wonsan, a glass noodle and shrimp salad.

Technically Thai meals don’t include appetizers per se; all dishes are ordered at once and come out in random order for diners to share as they arrive. However, there are certainly finger-food style dishes that can be categorized as appetizer style foods. Satay (grilled meat on a stick) and spring rolls are the most common of these, the former available on many street corners and technically classified in Thai cuisine as a snack rather than an appetizer.

Chili paste

Thai chili paste, or nam prik, is the base of many Thai dishes, though variations of it are also served as dips. Thai Chili pastes are made by muddling chili, garlic, shrimp paste, lime, and other spices (depending on region of origin). As a dip, it is served along with raw vegetables and occasionally pork rinds.

Thai fruit

Thailand is undoubtedly a nation of fruits; fruit vendors sell dozens of different chilled fruits on street corners throughout the kingdom, selling sliced ponelamai (fruit) for as little as 10 baht per serving. Thai fruits include the familiar: banana, pineapple, watermelon, and papaya, as well as the exotic: dragon fruit, chompu, durian, and jackfruit.

Dragon fruit is a large, odd looking fruit, with pink spiky skin, though beneath the extravagant exterior is a tender white meat akin to a mellow, juicy kiwi fruit. Chompu is a refreshing pear-shaped fruit that tastes something like a watery apple. The pungent smelling durian and its mellower cousin the jack fruit require an acquired palate, their flavors and textures revered by some and reviled by others; in fact so strong is the smell of the durian that it’s not infrequent to see “no durian” signs inside many buildings!

Mangos are served both ripe and juicy and unripe and excruciatingly tart, a taste that Thai’s typically balance by dipping in a mixture of sugar and chili.

There are literally dozens of other exotic Thai fruits, available seasonally, and always reasonably priced. Buy a bunch and share with friends; they make economical and healthy snacks.

Thai Beer & Beverages

While tap water is not generally recommended for consumption, ice is generally safe in Thailand and bottled water is ubiquitous and cheap. If you are concerned, you can always stick with Thai beer, its nearly as cheap and the high alcohol content of Thai beer ensures that any germs aren’t likely to survive; Singha (pronounced “Sing”) and Chang (which means elephant) are the two most popular.

Fruit smoothies and fruit juice are both very popular: smoothies made with fresh fruit and sugar syrup are blended with ice that is generally safe to consume. Coconut milk is another safe option as the coconut is simply cracked open from the top and served whole with a straw.

Thai ice tea is served with condensed milk, which gives it a pinkish orange color and sweet flavor. Thai ice coffee (oliang) is a strong black pick me up far superior to the Nescafe that is so often served as “coffee” in many restaurants. Otherwise, there are many Starbucks throughout the Kingdom, particularly in Bangkok, if you really need a quick coffee fix.

Finally, red bull energy drink was invented in Thailand and can be procured at 7-11 and mom and pop minimarts for 10 baht. There are other local brands, but taste and potency vary widely.

Thai Gourmet Specialties

While “Thai food” has gained international recognition, Thai cuisine can actually be broken down by the region from which it originated. Each of Thailand’s different regions has developed its own style and is responsible for dishes that are quite different from those of other regions. Thai food from Issarn, in the northeast of Thailand, shares many similarities with cuisine from neighboring Laos, though the Thai versions of the dishes, such as Som Tam, are a lot heavier on the chili. Southern curries on the other hand, are less spicy, with a greater Malaysian influence, and feature more coconut and turmeric. And while Thai people love fish, whether from the river or the sea, Thailand’s beaches are the prime destinations to sample the best Thai seafood dishes.

About the country

Thailand, the only Southeast Asian nation never to have been colonized by European powers, is a constitutional monarchy whose current head of state is HM Bhumibol Adulyadej. A unified Thai kingdom has existed since the mid-14th century, and Thailand was known as Siam until 1939 when it officially became the Kingdom of Thailand. The capital is Bangkok.

Geography

Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world; most nearly equal in size to Spain.

Located just 15 degrees north of the equator, Thailand has a tropical climate and temperatures typically range from 19 to 38 degrees C (66-100 F).

Thailand’s largest peak, Doi Inthanon, is 2,565 meters (8,415 ft) tall.

Thailand covers 510,890 sq km of land and 2,230 sq km of water.

The coastline of Thailand is 3,219 km long.

Thailand’s longest shared border is with Myanmar (Burma), stretching 1,800 km.

Weather

The weather in Thailand is generally hot and humid: typical of its location within the tropics. Generally speaking, Thailand can be divided into three seasons: “hot” season, rainy season, and “cool” season, though Thailand’s geography allows visitors to find suitable weather somewhere in the country throughout the year.

Population

The population of Thailand comprises of roughly 65 million citizens, the majority of whom are ethnically Thai, though peoples of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Mon, Khmer, Burmese, and Lao origin are also represented to varying degrees. Approximately 7 million citizens live in the capital city, Bangkok, though this number varies seasonally and is otherwise difficult to accurately count.

People

The vast majority (roughly 80%) of Thailand’s nearly 65 million citizens are ethnically Thai. The remainder consists primarily of peoples of Chinese, Indian, Malay, Mon, Khmer, Burmese, and Lao decent. Of the 7 million citizens who live in the capital city, Bangkok, there is a greater diversity of ethnicities, including a large number of expatriate residents from across the globe. Other geographic distinctions of the population include a Muslim majority in the south near the Malaysian border, and hill tribe ethnic groups, such as the Hmong and Karen, who live in the northern mountains.

Language

More than 92% of the population speaks Thai or one of its regional dialects. While the Thai language is the official language of Thailand, as a result of its cosmopolitan capital city and established tourism infrastructure, English is spoken and understood throughout much of Thailand.

Religion

94.6% of Thais are Buddhist,

4.6% of Thais are Muslim

0.7% of Thais are Christian

Government

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, not dissimilar to England’s, whereby an elected Prime Minister is authorized to be the head of government and a hereditary Thai King is head of state. The constitution of Thailand allows for the people of Thailand to democratically elect their leaders in the form of a parliament, with a bicameral legislature consisting of a Senate and House of Representatives, and executive authority in the hands of the Prime Minister. A Judiciary, overseen by the Supreme Court, was designed to act independently of the executive and the legislature.

Temperature

Located just 15 degrees north of the equator, Thailand has a tropical climate and temperatures typically range from 19 to 38 degrees C (66-100 F)

Currency

The currency of Thailand is the Thai Baht. Baht come in both coin and banknote form.

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Your comments

Comments (1)

  1. gemma:
    Dec 27, 2011 at 05:33 PM

    my brother's girlfriend is from thailand, I can't wait to go and visit, perhaps I'll persuade my fiance to book our honeymoon there!






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