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Countries Information & Lifestyle
 Thailand Thailand

Country Information & Lifestyle

 The Land Of Smiles

The Land Of Smiles

Thailand, the Land of Smiles, means Free Land, and until 1939 was known as Siam or Sayam in the Szechwan dialect of Chinese.

The country is a mixture of the ancient Thai and Khmer civilisations and is located on two contiguous peninsulas, the Indochina peninsula, where the mainland is situated, and the Malay peninsula, this is an exciting and exotic country where a smile is part of everyday life.

The western coast is on the Gulf of Thailand and the southern region on the Malay peninsula in the Andaman Sea.

The country is a mixture of the ancient Far East, selectively melded with the 21st century of the west and is democratic with a strong economy and has a role as a world leader with King Rama 9th the longest reigning Monarch in the world.

The main cities are Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the north and Ubon and Udon in Issan in the east. Issan borders Cambodia and Laos on the Korat Plateau and is where the water buffalo remains the primary beast of burden. Bangkok, known as "The Venice of the East", is a cosmopolitan metropolis, a positive cultural melting pot where elephants share the road with tuk tuks, vans and buses. Here you will find luxury shopping districts, quiet temple compounds, bustling markets and tiny alleyways, and a warm welcome wherever you go.
Chiang Rai, a city considered noble due to its past as the capital of the Kingdom of Lanna, is especially famous for its proximity to the golden triangle; an area on the Mekong River where the territories of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet, forming a triangle. The golden triangle is widely known abroad as world’s most important region, second only to Afghanistan, for the production of opium during the 50’s.

Chiang Rai is however known for its Buddhist temples, particularly the marvelous White Temple (in Thai: Wat Rong Khun), located a few kilometers outside the middle of the city.

The city of Chiang Rai is about 800 kilometers from Bangkok, and is the capital of the province of the same name. Just a little smaller than Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai has a population of 70,000 inhabitants. Its territory is mainly mountainous, being situated 600 meters over sea level. This characteristic makes it so that in winter the lowest temperatures go down to even 15 degrees, which is very low for Thailand. Its strategic position makes Chiang Rai a perfect spot for those that also want to visit Myanmar and Laos.

Chiang Rai is known for its many Buddhist temples located in splendid oases of peace. The most beautiful and special remains the aforementioned White Temple. Constructed in 1997 by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist, it has become the symbol of the city.

The old city is easily seen on foot. The gold clock located in the middle of the town is lit up a thousand colors and is quite interesting as is the Wat Phra Kaew temple with its jade carved Buddha. Attractions such as the monkey quarry, the long-necked womens' village and the opium museum can be visited in a day trip from the city.

The tropical islands of Koh Samui and Koh Chang, (Elephant Island), off the Gulf of Thailand, Phi Phi and Phuket in the Andaman Sea ,and the area of Krabi have some of the most pristine, isolated beaches in the world where the scenery is so spectacular you imagine that you are in the Lost World.

Koh Samet is one of the closest and easily reached islands to Bangkok. Located only 175 kilometers from the capital, the island is also called Koh Kaew Phitsadan by the Thais, which means “Jewel Island”.

Due to its wonderful beaches and tropical nature, Koh Samet was declared as a Thai national park, and as such, as soon as you get off the boat onto the beach at Haad Sai Kaew, you will see a local policeman who will ask you to donate (it’s mandatory) 220 THB to support the park.

The entire island, 7 km x 4 km, hosts about 3,000 people and the only town on the island (Sai Kaew) is next to a beach with the same name. The rest of the island is composed only of beaches with a few restaurants and hotels.

Scattered throughout the country are ancient walled cities and huge, elaborate, ancient Buddhist temples, with some of the most beautiful being in the north of the country.

The ancient capital of Ayuttaya is so fascinating it is here that a glimpse into Thailand's past, or take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai where you enter the Himalayan foothills about dawn the following morning with the view of unspoiled mountainous tropical jungles. 30 minutes south of Mai Sai is where Thailand, Laos and Mynamar meet and is known as the Golden Triangle.

While the great Khmer ruin of Angkor Wat in Cambodia is one of the many tourist sites in the area, few visitors realise that Angkor is but one of the many dozens of Khmer sites scattered throughout Southeast Asia.

Fortunately Thailand has always valued her historic treasures and has long understood their full potential as tourist attractions. The Tourism Authority of Thailand promotes this "Khmer Culture Route" in lower Isaan offering the visitor an unparalleled opportunity to explore the glories of the Khmer past. The Khmer Empire was like a cartwheel with Angkor Wat in the centre like a hub with roads radiating in all directions and reaching to the far-flung outposts.

Phimai is the largest and perhaps the most prominent of the ruins and certainly the best known in Thailand. Phimai was the main religious and administrative centre for the Khmer northwest. The complex dates originally from the reign of King Surayavarman II during the first part of the 12th century. Angkor Wat in Cambodia had served as the hub for the vast Khmer Empire from the 10th to the 14th centuries

The people were great craftsmen and artisans and they had a love of beauty. Equally impressive was their water engineering and high technological complexity in the field of astronomy.

Thailand is so much more, a country brimming with beauty like no other, the people the friendliest in the Orient, full of history and dignity at places like the River Kwai, once captured, and you will be, it will be hard to tear yourself away.

Thailand is a mysterious country and one of the most famous mysteries must surely be the disappearance of Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King.

Jim Thompson was a military intelligence officer during World War II and after his discharge he made Bangkok his permanent home because he liked the local people and the easy going way of life in Thailand.

He was by profession an architect but he saw there was an opportunity to promote Thai silk as the industry at that time was very much neglected and in a declining state of affair. Slowly he built up the Thai silk industry and he became known not only in Thailand but abroad as well.

While his silk empire prospered he also contributed back to the silk industry and to the Siamese people involved in the silk production from the silk worm growers to the weavers as well.

After many years he took a break with some friends in the Cameron Highlands and stayed at the Moonlight Bungalow located on a hill and still in existence today. One day he went for a walk in the jungle and when he did not return his friend was worried and contacted the authorities who organised a search party.

Many Oran Asli trackers were called upon to help in the search and even with their expert tracking skills no trace of Jim Thompson could be found in the dense jungle.

Meanwhile news of his disappearance reached the media and this became front page news around the world. As the search dragged on everyone began to wonder what could have happened to him.

Was he kidnapped on this beautiful Sunday afternoon whilst out strolling or was there something more sinister? Could there be some conspiracy, after all he had worked with OSS military intelligence or maybe he was eaten by tigers that roamed the jungle in those days.

The Vietnamese war was being fought, maybe Jim still worked for the intelligence and his cover was blown and his life was in danger. He left for the Cameron Highlands in a hurry as some of his guests in Bangkok were expecting to meet him but to their surprise found out that he had to go to Malaysia for vacation, but of course this was not true.

Even today there are many theories but the mystery remains unsolved. Given a new identity he could be living back in the US or perhaps he was eaten by a tiger, who will ever know the truth of Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King.

Purchasing a Property

Buying real estate in Thailand is not easy and you will certainly need professional help.

A foreigner can own condos if less than 40% of the condos or apartments in the building are owned by foreigners. A company can own property and hence the foreigner can buy land and a house via a Thai registered company so long as no one foreigner owns more than 39% of the company and total foreign ownership of the company does not exceed 49%

The Thai wife of a foreigner can own property in her name only.

A foreigner can lease land for 30 years with an option for another 30 years. The first 30 years are guaranteed and are registered with the Land Department however the second can be contested.

Foreigners are currently prohibited from buying land in Thailand without special permission from the Minister of Interior, or own a condo in a building if more than 49% of the other condos are owned by foreigners.

Therefore purchase must either be for an apartment which does not include land, or if landed property on a leasehold basis, (30 year leases with two or more automatic renewals each of the same duration).

Buyers can take buildings on a freehold basis and then take out leases on the underlying land and can also buy land through a company. Offers are usually made after all the relevant checks have been carried out and the procedure normally runs relatively quickly from that point on.

The buyer and vendor sign a PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT outlining the details of transaction, a deposit is normally paid and the rates can vary, this is forfeited if the terms of the PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT are not met by the buyer.

On a date specified in the PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT the parties will meet, a final contract will be signed and the balance will be paid to the vendor. The deeds are then registered with the LAND DEPARTMENT and the transaction is complete.

Property ownership for foreigners in Thailand is carefully controlled as foreigners cannot own land freehold unless you have 40 million baht ($1,100,000), and then you will be allowed to acquire just over a third of an acre.

One of the common solutions is setting up a Thai-registered limited liability company and purchase through this method. Otherwise an increasing number of foreigners are considering long-term leasing.

A Thai nominee purchases the property with your funds and you enter into a long-term lease, subsequent extensions should be clearly stated in the contract, along with a declaration that these have been paid for in advance. An option can be included in the contract to allow you to purchase the land outright if the law changes to allow foreign ownership.

A right of use infrastructure, temporary ownership rights for a period of up to 30 years renewable, but although these rights can be sold or transferred they cannot be inherited as they expire upon the death of the holder.

Becoming a permanent resident is one other possibility especially if you are thinking about retiring to the country, check the website www.thaivisa.com for details.

Buying real estate through a company must have at least seven shareholders in the company and the foreign shareholder cannot hold a stake of more than 49%.

The Minister of Interior whilst ostensibly not wishing to stymie foreign investments, is cracking down on the use of Thai-owned companies which appear to hold land for foreigners, so more foreigners are looking at alternatives.

There are several existing structures through which foreigners can legally purchase real estate, all of which have stood up to testing during the past 30 years.

Whenever a property in Thailand is purchased or sold there are four potential taxes/fees to be paid. Which of these taxes/fees will be applicable depends on the details of the transaction, the seller and the duration of the seller's ownership. It is also significant to note that most of the fees are calculated relative to the government's "tax assessment value" of the property and this value is usually well below the market value.

Fees & Taxes

Transfer tax 2% for a period of one year beginning from April 2008 property transfer tax will be reduced to 0.01%. Paid by the buyer and seller.

Specific Business Tax reduced from 3.3% to 0.1% paid by the seller.

Stamp Duty 0.1% - 0.5% paid by the seller.

Company tax where applicable

Capital gains tax at a variable rate

Withholding tax 1% or 5% - 37%paid by the seller

Legal fees

Visas

TOURIST ENTRY PERMIT is valid for 30 days and is renewable for 30 days by crossing any border and then returning to Thailand.

From October 1 2006 a foreigner is allowed 3 x 30 day extensions in a six month period, the regulation stipulates that visitors can only spend 90 days out of every six months on the visa-exempt stamp.

This entry permit is granted upon arrival at Thai immigration and is automatic for American, UK, Australia, Japan and most EU countries. A 30 day, 60 day, 90 day, 6 month and 1 year tourist visa is available at the Thai Embassy/Consulate in your home country.

THAI WORK VISA requires documentation from your employer and those applying for work permits for the first time will require a non-immigrant business (type B) visa from the Thai Consulate/Embassy abroad.

THAI RETIREE VISA requires 400,000 THB, the problem most Thai banks require a work visa to open an account, a classic catch 22 situation.

If you are on a retirement visa you are not permitted to hold a work permit which presents a problem in opening a bank account with the required amount of money.

A retiree visa requires the money in a Thai bank or a combination of cash and proof of pension paid in the retirees home country. The visa allows foreigners aged 50 years and over to have a 12 month Thai retiree visa.

THAI MARRIAGE VISA is just that, document marriage to a Thai national and then the legal spouse can extend a non-immigrant visa for up to 12 months and the minimum cash in a Thai bank is 400,000 baht.

The Immigration Police Chief of Thailand has said that a new immigration card will be introduced for use by those going in and out of Thailand by the end of this year.

Holders of the Immigration Card will include those who travel in and out of the country three to five times in a year, regardless of their nationality.

The Immigration Card holders, Thai and foreign alike, will bypass normal procedures of the Immigration Police which include scanning for criminal suspects or those on the police and immigration Watch List. Immigration Card holders have the privileges to go through fast passage at airports.

The Immigration Card, which will be issued to travellers by the end of this year, at the height of the tourist season, was part of the efforts to promote tourism and investment in the country.

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