Royal Orchid Holidays FAQs

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Q :

Travel Thailand, when's the best time?

A :

In Southeast Asia there is no winter or summer, only a wet or dry season. The wet season is associated with the monsoons. Travellers are often warned to avoid travelling during the monsoons. Here's the rub. Thailand has two monsoons, the Northeast and the Southwest, and when the winds are blowing on one coast and the weather may be foul, the other coast is certain to have clear skies and be sunny. That's when you choose either Phuket on the west coast or Koh Samui on the east coast. So when is the best time to travel in Thailand? The answer: any time.

Also, for a moment, let's consider these monsoons. Monsoons are actually winds, and these winds are what bring the rains. But they are not like the rains we find in Europe and America. When it rains in Southeast Asia, it is generally for short periods of time, an hour or two; nor does it rain everyday. There is, actually, an advantage to travelling during the monsoons. The weather is cooler, and when it isn't raining you can be certain the sun will be out and the air will be crisp and clean. This is also a good time to travel for there are fewer travellers, towns and resorts are less crowded, and for certain, prices will be lower.

Aside from the monsoon season, when's the best time to visit a country? Obviously, it's during a festival, and in Thailand that means just about any time. Thailand is, in fact, a land of festivals. There's certain to be one or two festivals of some sort every month, all year long. Some, naturally, are more interesting than others.

An interesting feature about festivals in Thailand is that they are more than just special events; they are an essential part of social life that is performed by Thais for Thais. Foreign visitors are always invited.

Festivals have many inspirations and follow diverse forms. Some of the most important ones revolve around the main religions of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, while others mark the changing cycle of rural planting and harvest. There are festivals for eating, for traditional sports such as longboat racing, for flowers and fruits, arts and crafts, while others celebrate the hot season, rainy season, or no season at all.

Thais are a fun-loving people and although some of their festivals are serious and solemn, most involve colourful displays of dancing and music, processions and shows, where everyone, locals as well as visitors, can have a good time.

Q :

You mentioned in an earlier weekly travel feature that the best time to visit Thailand is during a festival. Can you please suggest a festival in Thailand?

A :

An interesting feature about festivals in Thailand is that they are more than just special events; they are an essential part of social life that is performed by Thais for Thais. Foreign visitors are always invited. Festivals have many inspirations and follow diverse forms. Some of the most important ones revolve around the main religions of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, while others mark the changing cycle of rural planting and harvest. There are festivals for eating, for traditional sports such as longboat racing, for flowers and fruits, arts and crafts, while others celebrate the hot season, rainy season, or no season at all. Thais are a fun-loving people and although some of their festivals are serious and solemn, most involve colourful displays of dancing and music, processions and shows, where everyone, locals as well as visitors, can have a good time.

Some Thai festivals occur on fixed dates, others follow the lunar calendar, which means they change from year to year. Travellers should check exact dates in advance, through worldwide offices of Royal Orchid Holidays at Thai Airways International. Below are some of the festivals Thailand has to offer, and which are available through ROH. Remember, the list is not complete.

Elephant Roundup (Mid-November) This annual event held in Surin, eastern Thailand, is the largest gathering of elephants to be seen anywhere. Over a hundred of the great beasts take part in many types of spectacles, from parading in ancient war formation and the re-enactment of old battles, to taking part in a football match and tug-of-war contest. There are also demonstrations of how wild elephants were once captured and trained. Near Surin is the Jumbo Village, established by THAI to help orphaned and sick elephants.

River Kwai Week (Late November) A commemoration of historic events surrounding the Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi province. A spectacular sound and light show, fireworks, rides on vintage trains and historical exhibitions.

Loy Kratong (November) Perhaps the most charming and unique of Thailand's traditional festivals, Loy Kratong is celebrated throughout the Kingdom on a full moon night. Celebrants gather beside every lake, river and canal to launch tiny floats, usually made of banana leaf, decorated with flowers, candles and incense. This act symbolises forgiveness of past misdeeds and is a gesture for wish fulfillments. The festival is most spectacular by Bangkok's riverside hotels, in Chiang Mai and in the ancient capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.

H.M.The King's Birthday (December 5th) The love and respect felt by Thai people for their King is on display throughout the country, around this day. City buildings are decorated and brilliantly illuminated after dark. People also assemble on streets during the evening with lit candles to honour their monarch. The most spectacular event is the review of massed Royal Guards by Their Majesties the King and Queen at the Royal Plaza in Bangkok.

Chiang Mai Winter Fair (Early mid-January) The diversity of locally produced handicrafts is the theme for this festival held in Chiang Mai and its surrounding villages. There are many exhibitions, and a large variety of traditional arts and crafts are offered for sale. Processions and beauty contests highlight the fair.

Makha Bucha (February) This is an important Buddhist lunar festival celebrated nation-wide. Highlighted during, full-moon evenings, devotees join candle-lit processions around temples. It's most colourful.

Songkran (April) The hottest month in Thailand is ideal timing for this celebration of the traditional New Year. Water, lots of it, is thrown around by and at everyone. Processions, parties and temple fairs are great fun, but the more serious origins of this festival revolve around ritual blessings to bring good luck for the coming year. Wear your old clothes and leave your camera back in your hotel, unless it's an underwater camera.

Pattaya Festival (April) Asia's most cosmopolitan beach resort is on spectacular display during this full week of processions, beauty and sports contests, music, dancing, local produce markets, fireworks and special entertainment, on the beach and in many hotels.

Yasothon Banglai Rocket Festival (May) This is one of Thailand's very popular festivals that draws foreign tourists by the thousands. It's a spectacular two-day rocket festival held in many northeastern villages, but the main village is Yasothon. In addition to huge rockets being launched, there are splendid pageants, art and culture shows.

Ploughing Ceremony (May) Marking the official beginning of the rice-planting season, this ceremony is attended by farmers from all over Thailand and presided over by H.M. The King. It takes place in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Ceremonial oxen draw the plough and special rituals are performed to predict the quality of the coming crop.

Visakha Bhuca (May) This is the most important religious festival, marking the birth, enlightenment and death of Lord Buddha. In every temple and monastery, throughout the country, worshipers form solemn candlelit processions during the evening, to circle their temple.

Buffalo Races (October) Held in Chon Buri, near Pattaya, this festival celebrates the end of rice harvesting. It is a lively time for all, with much eating, partying, beauty contests and processions. The main event, obviously, is the water buffalo races.

Vegetarian Festival (October) For ten days people of Chinese descent in Thailand's southern provinces, mainly Phuket and Trang, observe a strictly vegetarian diet. Sound boring but it's not. Rituals by religious ascetics are unbelievable. There are parades and colourful ceremonies at most Chinese temples.

Longboat races (September-October) Longboat racing has been popular in Thailand for centuries. Regattas are held on many river locations, among the most spectacular being at Phichit, Phitsanulok, Narathiwat and Nan.

Q :

I plan to travel to Bangkok , but I am not sure what is the best way to carry money. Travelers' checks? And what about cash?

A :

Time was when the only way to travel was with travellers checks. We live in a plastic world today. Credit cards will get you anywhere. In fact, if you want to rent a car, you will need a credit card. Travellers checks will not do, no matter how much you want to deposit. In Thailand, as in most Southeast Asian countries, and China as well, you will find ATM machines anywhere from airports to the smallest village or hamlet. Most restaurants and shops will take credit cards. For cash, I always carry a few dollar bills. One never knows when you might need them.

Q :

THAI was sold out for my planned trip to Thailand in December. Can I book a Royal Orchid Holidays Tour even though I am flying another airlines and if so, whom do I contact?

A :ROH is designed and priced specifically for THAI passengers. The airlines see ROH as, a kind of, value-add they offer to THAI passengers. All the content in ROH have been carefully reviewed and negotiated to give THAI passengers the best value possible, everything from hotels to tours. Unlike most travel agencies that are in business to make profit, ROH will even lose money to satisfy its passengers. However, ROH is extending its services to clients traveling on services operated by partner airlines (the Star Alliance), though some fees may be involved.
Q :

We are spending a week in and around Bangkok. My wife has expressed an interest in doing a Thai cooking class. Can you help please with advice on any such classes available in Bangkok. Guess that we would have to make reservations.

A :Royal Orchid Holidays has just the perfect package for you, it is called "The Taste of Thailand . We have specially selected the best cooking classes offered in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. You would get the best hands-on experience at cooking a wide variety of Thai dishes.
Q :

I am a Star Alliance (Lufthansa) traveller, with miles, and plan to spend one week with my brother in Thailand (2 nights Bangkok - 5 nights Phuket). We will book the flights using airmails and will fly Thai Airways International. We are interested in the Thai Royal Orchid Holidays offerings, and would need more info on prices and options. Could you give us pricing and availability for

  • Bangkok stayover (ROHX1)
  • River Kwai (ROHE1) with additional night option
  • River Kwai and death railway BKKOP12
  • BKKOP8 Thai Dinner and Classical Dance
  • ROH16A Thai Cooking Class - Landmark Hotel

And then for Phuket:

  • ROHS4 with cost of potential additional nights
  • ROH7 Phuket Delight
  • ROHE8 Phi Phi Island Extension
  • ROHA22 Thai Cooking Class - Dusit Laguna Hotel

A :We receive many requests like this one, and the best advice we can give is to consult the nearest Thai Airways International (TG) to your home or office for consultation. ROH representatives can give clients advice, and often, depending upon where you are, the rules and regulations and the best rates available or local promotion champagne. Also schedules do change from time to time.
Q :

In one of your travel features you said Bangkok was a gateway to China. We are vacationing in Thailand and have only a little extra time to spare but my husband and I would like to get a quick look at China. Do you have any suggestions?

A :In deed, Bangkok is the gateway to China, with eight destinations, and a few more scheduled. If we were travelling to China overland, by bus or train, distances would be a concern, but with flight aboard THAI distances are not a problem. An hour or two when a flight is comfortable really doesn't matter. But let's look at some of the destination. Now that Hong Kong (ROHS12) is part of China, it too is a major destination. The others are Beijing (ROHS23), the capital. Shanghai (ROHS24) for shopping. There's Xian, not a direct flight from Bangkok on THAI but it is part of an ROH itinerary (ROH21). It's the home of the terra-cotta army, some 8,000 life-sized warriors in battle array. Chengdu is another of my favourite cities. Anyone who loves pandas will agree, as Chengdu is home to the loveable pandas. You also have the choice of Kunming (ROHS36), Lijiang Extension (ROHE36), and Guilin (ROHE27). The latest destination is Jinghong, a favourite for the THAI people as they can race their heritage to here. And there's more, Guangzhou, and Xiamen. In deed, Bangkok is the gateway to China.
Q :

I'm wanting to travel to Thailand and want to tour the Western and Southern Regions of Thailand at the end of October. What do you recommend for a female traveller for that time period? Would I be safe to travel alone in Thailand?

A :

Over the years we have been asked this question many times-is it safe for a woman to travel alone in Thailand?

The advice we give to these women are those things they already know but tend to disregard. For example, we suggest not to travel with fine jewelry, expensive watches or such things as high-priced leather goods. Why? These items will attract unwanted attention. That, of course, we all know, but do we follow it? Not always. We know we should leave expensive items at home.

The best ways for women to stay safe while traveling are still the simplest:

  • Don't do things on trips that you wouldn't do at home. That includes flashing lots of money and jewelry, walking alone at night or in parts of town you don't know well, going off with strangers and/or not telling anyone where you're going.
  • While overseas, make sure that someone - even if it's just your hotel receptionist-knows your destination, and if you're going out with someone you barely know, tell the desk clerk his/her name.
  • Remember, too, that many behaviors that would be acceptable at home send other signals abroad. In some cultures, for example, even the mere fact that you are female and travelling alone can signal sexual availability. Going out on a date with a man you've just met can do the same thing in a culture where dating is more supervised than at home.
  • Learn all you can about the underlying values of the culture in the area where you'll be traveling, and be conscious of your own behavior and the signals it might send in that culture. Don't travel with such opinions as "I wear shorts at home why can't I here?"

All these worries can be eliminated, of course, if you travel with Royal Orchid Holidays. And, to answer your last question, October is a fine month to travel in Thailand. It's one of the coolest months.

Q :

I want to travel to Thailand with my wife and two young children but we are not sure about the weather. We hear so many conflicting stories. When is the best time? What are monsoons?

A :The climate of Thailand varies widely from region to region. Rainfall patterns and temperature levels are subject to the monsoon. The summer monsoon brings three distinct seasons: cool (November-February), hot (March-June), and rainy (July-November). Monsoons, not latitude, determine the seasons in Thailand. Monsoons are seasonal winds that change direction during the year as a result of differences in temperature and pressure between land and sea. Derived from the Arabic word mansim, monsoons are the life source for farms across the country.
Q :

Thailand has miles of coastline on both its coasts. I was curious about the stretch north of Phuket. Can you tell me anything about it? Are there hotels or does one have to remain in Phuket to explore?

A :

There are some very fine hotels that have sprung up in the area. So there is no need to find accommodation in Phuket, although it is possible to rent a car which is available in Royal Orchid Holidays Fly-Drive progeamme, and make the drive with ease. The roads are excellent.

Q :

I read that Bangkok now has an elevated train and it makes getting around much easier. Now I hear that Bangkok has an underground subway soon to open. Is this true?

A :Bangkok does indeed have an elevated train called the Skytrain as well as the recently opened underground subway. It's now possible to get across town in 15 minutes.
Q :

A friend mentioned that ROH has a program for medical check-ups in Bangkok, at a great savings for tourists and foreign visitors.

A :Go to the first page of ROH and click at Spa & Medical Check-up and you will find the full packages there. We understand the program is getting more and more popular every day.
Q :

My wife and I are planning to visit Thailand with our two young children but we are concerned getting sick. What information can you give us?

A :If you click here , there is “Health in Thailand. What if I Get Sick?” in our Weekly Travel Feature. This will answer your questions. In the meantime, we assure you, travelling in Southeast Asia isn't what it was fifty years ago, even fifteen years ago. In fact, many travellers are coming to Bangkok these days for medical treatment.
Q :

How can I book a tour with Royal Orchid Holidays? I would like to go up North. Can you get me the information?

A :When you say “up north” that's a broad statement when referring to northern Thailand. ROH offers many diverse tours there. Here, for example, are a few of ROH programmes. Mae-Sa Taste of Adventure (ROHA33); Chiang Mai Trekking (ROHA40); Hmong Hilltribe Adventure (ROHA25); Northern 4-WD & Rafting Adventure (ROHA2); Golden Triangle Minibreak (ROHS32); and a number of other Minibreaks and Extensions. I suggest you go to Royal Orchid Holidays tour detail in this website, and contact the nearest TG office to you. I hope you have a pleasant journey - we know you will.
Q :

I would like to ask you about cruising the klongs (canals) of Ayutthaya.

A :Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam lies some 20 kilometres up the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok. ROH has a leisurely overnight river cruise (ROHE47) upriver departing from Bangkok aboard “Mekhala,” a beautifully converted rice barge. Guests have private facilities, all meals that include a candlelit dinner, sightseeing tours and shore excursions. We also offer day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya as well as dinner cruise along Chao Phraya River.
Q :

We've actually visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Singapore and KL in the past, but this time we want to go to Siem Reap and also take the International Express to Singapore, stopping for a night in Georgetown. What do you suggest?

A :

There are overland trips to Cambodia but for security reasons, and comfort, I strongly recommend taking a Thai flight to Phnom Phen ROH37. Travelling to Singapore by train is an exciting adventure, but a roundtrip by train is repetitious and time consuming. I suggest taking the train one way, with a stopover in Penang and perhaps Kuala Lumpur, depending upon how much time you have, and return by air. ROH has programmes for Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Q :

I feel in love with Thailand during a five-day R&R from Vietnam 30 years ago. I understand Thailand has greatly changed since then. I'd like to bring my wife and introduce her to some Thai culture and Thai ways. Is that still possible in our modern world?

A :

Indeed, it is possible. Royal Orchid Holidays has just the thing for you called Experience Thai Life (ROHE2O). You travel by boat and van to your destination and spend a night in a Thai home, an actual wooden houses built on stilts. You live the way the Thais do. Your meals are typical Thai, prepared by your Thai hosts. In the early morning hours you watch or participate with the villagers as they offer food to the monks, who arrive there by rowing boats. You couldn't get closer to Thai ways and culture.

Q :

Having looked through your web site I found that you arrange different kind of tours. I'm writing to ask if you can arrange a jeep tour for a couple along the Northern part of Thailand. We can take a flight to Chiang Mai or Chaing Rai to start. We wish to see the most exciting places of Northern Thailand such as temples, hilltribes, waterfalls and hotsprings. We've heard about Golden Triangle and "long-necked" women.

A :ROH has many wonderful package tours available, and your request is one. You would need at least a week to do all the things you asked about. There are self-drive packages as well as accommodation arrangement available in ROH.
Q :

ROH Fly-Drive Programme , concerned about needing an international driver's license and driving on the left-hand side as they do in Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.

A :

The exceptions to the left-hand driving rule are Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, all having been under French domination at one time. Anyone who is worried about the driving rules in Thailand shouldn't be. International rules are generally accepted. There is a speed limit of 80 kmph in town and 100 kmph on open roads. A driver must always be in possession of a valid driving license from the country of origin. An international driver's license is not required. What is needed is the vehicle's Registration Book. It's a great way to travel, behind the driver's wheel, driving one way and returning by air the other way.