This is Thailand

 |  December 29, 2008

For those of you with any questions regarding Thailand, Thai culture, history, tourism, laws, rules, food, nightlife, sub-cultures, dating; generally anything as long as it is relevant,
we have a panel of three experts who will respond to your enquiries.

1. I don’t understand the law that restricts buying alcohol during the weirdest times. Can you explain why they picked these hours?

Although if you really search you can buy alcohol around the clock in Thailand, the legal hours for selling alcohol at stores are between 11 a.m. _ 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. till midnight but it is legal to still serve after midnight. Many ‘Mom and Pop’ shops ignore these rules but bigger stores like Tops and Rimping supermarkets are very strict _ unless you are buying more than 10 litres in one go (for commercial reasons presumably, though people wanting to buy one bottle of wine have been known to simply buy a dozen out of frustration). As to why you can buy booze in the morning but not in the afternoon, your guess is as good as mine. The official announcement is to curb alcoholism.

2. I keep hearing about Buddhist retreats and mediation camps in Chiang Mai and the surrounding area. Which ones are traditional and not just for tourists?

Wat Rampoeng, near Wat Umong is probably the best meditation place for foreigners.

3. So many beaches in Thailand are overcrowded during this time of the year. Are there any untouched beaches left that you can suggest?

Since tourism has become such a big industry in Thailand and since the movie ‘The Beach’ everyone is in search for the untouched beaches and islands making them harder and harder to come by these days. Often the less populated beaches are kept on the down-low and travellers there want to keep it their own little secret. A beautiful island that has not been taken over yet is Koh Jum. For more information check out the web sites,

If I suggested an untouched beach to you (and I know of a couple) then it wouldn’t be untouched anymore, would it? Sorry.

4. I teach private English lessons and keep hearing about the penalties of working in Thailand without a work permit. What are the penalties and should I be worried?

Generally, Thai officials are not into hassling foreigners nor random interrogations, they’re not ‘out to get you’, but if you’re going to be in Thailand long and do business here, then you must follow the proper ways and get a work permit.

Penalties for working without a work permit include imprisonment not exceeding 3 months or a fine of up to 5,000 baht, or both.

People who do work reserved solely for Thais are liable to imprisonment of up to 5 years or to a fine from 2,000 baht to 100,000 baht, or both. So skip the hassles and do it the legal way.

5. I am coming to Thailand in three months and my doctor is trying to get me to get every shot imaginable. What diseases are big risks in Thailand? What shots do you recommend I get before my trip?

Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis and viral hepatitis, typhoid fever, HIV/STDs, malaria, malnutrition, goitre, rabies, and parasites, among others. I don’t give medical advice so I can’t confirm or refute your doctor’s fears. But I can tell you that I don’t take any inoculations. I do suggest you try not to get overly tired or stressed, stay out of the direct sun, sleep with screens or mosquito netting, don’t pet strange dogs, wash any raw vegetables you eat, eat only cooked meats, drink only treated or bottled water (Chiang Mai’s water is treated and is reported to be pretty clean), look 6 ways before crossing the street, drive slowly and defensively, wear a crash helmet when riding a motorcycle, and definitely use condoms at the appropriate times.