I have written this page to mention some of the customs in Thailand.† I hope to add to this list later on.
I was given a disembarkation form to fill out on my flight to Bangkok.† You will be assessed an airport tax of 500 Bhat when you depart from Thailand.
January in Bangkok feels similar to midsummer in the Midwest, and then it only gets hotter for the rest of the year.† Heat and humidity feel oppressive by April.† Bangkokís wet season begins in May and lasts until October.† I went to Bangkok during the last month of their wet season, and the still had many thunderstorms.
Thais prefer that we dress modestly, which means jeans, slacks or skirts of at least knee length, and at least short sleeves.† One woman told me someone had called her Ďslutí when she wore shorts.† I always wore a bra, and covered my shoulders and legs, so nobody ever called me anything derogatory.† Modest dress is mandatory for the Royal Palace and temples.
Itís always hot (or at least very warm) outside, but I did feel chilly in some air-conditioned places.† I did bring one sweater with me.
I brought tons of panties with me, and changed them often after my surgery.
Thai electricity is 220 volts.† Surprisingly, you can fit your 110-volt appliances in most outlets in Thailand, but the 220 volts will destroy your appliances if you donít use a converter.† I purchased a converter from Radio Shack for about $25.
See Electricity Around the World.† Outlets at my hotel were a hybrid of types A and C shown on this website.
It is criminal to speak against or offend the Royal Family.† This includes stomping on any image of the King, so if you drop any cash, whatever you do, donít stomp on it to prevent it from blowing away in the wind.
I exchanged dollars for Bhat at currency exchange windows in the airport, and also at Dr. Kamolís bank.† My hotel also exchanged currency, but at a less favorable rate.† Bills that have been torn or defaced are unacceptable.
Thai people are more affectionate than those in America, especially the women.† Thailand is called the Land of Smiles, and the people here do smile a lot.
Metropolis 107.0 FM, which is a 24-hour English radio station, plays contemporary western music from the 60s to the present.† I heard many familiar songs on this station.
SRS Letters, Notarizing at US Embassy
I carried with me a copy of a post from a mailing list written earlier this year.† Even in October 2005, this information was apparently outdated.† I provide this advice with the warning that it too could easily be out of date when you go to Thailand.
Before you leave Thailand, you will need to ride a taxi to the US embassy to have your surgery letters notarized.† Authorities in the USA are much less likely to accept your letters if you donít notarize them.† You need to present your letters in person.† If you donít have your letters notarized here, your only option for having your letters notarized would be returning to Thailand in person.† My friend tried to notarize another friendís letters on their behalf, but the embassy told us that her friend would have to return to Thailand so she could appear in person.
The US embassy charges $30 US dollars to notarize one letter, and $20 more for each additional letter.† I decided to have all four of my letters notarized, just to be sure I would have what I needed back home.
The US embassy opens at 7AM until lunchtime, and then reopens for a shorter period in the afternoon.† First, we waited in line for their security checkpoint.† They searched our bags and had us walk through a metal detector.† They will hold any cell phones until you leave the embassy.† After going through security, there was a station of three windows and very slow lines of people waiting for these windows.† We made the mistake of waiting in these lines, which were mostly for Thais applying for visas.† We should have immediately taken the sidewalk around the right side of this area, and through a door.† In the front room is a window for ĎAmerican Citizen Servicesí.† This was the place to go first.† We handed our documents to the clerk, and she directed us to a window in the next room where we paid our fees for notarizing our letters.† After we paid, we returned to the front room and gave our receipt to the clerk.† Then we waited for a short while as they notarized our letters, and then called our names.
We were warned to ride only in metered taxis.† Fortunately, metered taxis are easy to find.† Whenever we needed a ride, we would walk the short distance from the hotel to the arterial street in front, and then wait for a cab that had the sign Ďtaxi meterí on top and a red light inside its front windshield, indicating that this taxi was available.† Jaruwan provided us with paper notes (in Thai) containing addresses to our hotel, the clinic, and our destinations (including the US embassy and malls) so we could show these to the taxi drivers and let them know where we wanted to go.† Occasionally, a driver would indicate that he wasnít going to our destination, but even then we didnít have to wait very long before we found a taxi driver who would take us.† Fares begin at 35 Bhat, but are much less than what you would pay for a taxi ride back in the USA.
To tip a taxi driver, we would at least round the fare to the nearest 10 Bhat, or sometimes 20 or 25 Bhat.† We typically left tips of 20 Bhat in restaurants.
I would never wish to drive in Bangkok.† Thaiís drive on the left side of the road, and many other rules of the road are different from those in the USA.† Traffic is slow.† Distances in Bangkok are measured in time.† For example, Thais will tell us that the mall is íhalf an hourí from here rather than any distance in kilometers or miles.
Thailand automatically grants a 30-day visa to tourists upon arrival.† If you are going to Dr. Suporn, or if you need to stay in Thailand longer than 30 days for any other reason, you will need to seek an extension of your tourist visa.† Thailand assesses a fine of 500 Bhat per day for overstaying a visa, and Iíve heard that there is a slight risk of spending time in a Thai jail Ė EEK!
Tap water is unfit for drinking.† I used only bottled water for drinking and brushing my teeth.
Websites for more Thailand information:
††††††††† Tips for Women Travelers
SRS In Thailand for women considering any Thai surgeon.† Please read membership requirements on the front page.