Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Rough Guide to Thailand

This is the most practical and informative guide to Thailand. Features include in-depth coverage of all the sights, from the Northeast's Khmer ruins to Bangkok's glittering temples and the beaches and islands of the south. The Rough Guide also contains up-to-the-minute reviews of accommodation and restaurants plus first-hand advice on Thailand's adventure opportunities (trekking and white-water rafting, kayaking on the Gulf Coasts etc). It also serves as an incisive guide to Thailand's history, religion, art, music and wildlife.

Paul Gray has been a regular visitor to Thailand since teaching English for a year in 1987. He now works as a managing editor at the Rough Guides office in London. Lucy Ridout has spent most of the last decade travelling in and writing about Asia. She is also the co-author of the Rough Guides to Bali and Bangkok.

When to go The climate of most of Thailand is governed by three seasons: rainy (roughly June to October), caused by the southwest monsoon dumping moisture gathered from the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand; cool (November to February); and hot (March to May). The rainy season is the least predictable of the three, varying in length and intensity from year to year, but usually it gathers force between June and August, coming to a peak in September and October, when unpaved roads are reduced to mud troughs and whole districts of Bangkok are flooded. The cool season is the pleasantest time to visit, although temperatures can still reach a broiling 30C in the middle of the day. In the hot season, when temperatures rise to 40C, the best thing to do is to hit the beach. Within this scheme, slight variations are found from region to region. The less humid north experiences the greatest range of temperatures: at night in the cool season the thermometer occasionally approaches zero on the higher slopes, and this region is often hotter than the central plains between March and May. It's the northeast which gets the very worst of the hot season, with clouds of dust gathering above the parched fields, and humid air too. In southern Thailand, temperatures are more consistent throughout the year, with less variation the closer you get to the equator. The rainy season hits the Andaman coast of the southern peninsula harder than anywhere else in the country - heavy rainfall usually starts in May and persists at the same level until October. One area of the country, the Gulf coast of the southern peninsula, lies outside this general pattern - because it faces east, this coast and its offshore islands feel the effects of the northeast monsoon, which brings rain between October and January. This area also suffers less from the southwest monsoon, getting a relatively small amount of rain between June and September. Overall, the cool season is generally the best time to come to Thailand: as well as having more manageable temperatures and less rain, it offers waterfalls in full spate and the best of the upland flowers in bloom. Bear in mind, however, that it's also the busiest season, so forward planning is essential.

Most helpful customer reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful.
4Good Guide except for the Bangkok section...
By fdoamerica
I just returned from Thailand and I took four guides: Thomas Cook's, Lonely Planet, Let's Go, and this guide (see my reviews on the others guides, and do seriously consider Lonely Planet Islands & Beaches IF you are only going to spend time as a sun lizard).

`Thomas Cook Thailand' is a special niche guide, best suited for those with tour groups and `Let's Go Thailand' is the guide for those backpackers that are `on the cheap'. This leaves Rough Guide to face off with Lonely Planet and in some areas it is superior to L.P and in one big area it is not.

Rough Guide's restaurant recommendations are by far the best of any guide I reviewed; they are both reliable and informative, giving great descriptions and dish recommendations, "the grilled river prawns with chili, the matsaman curry and the delicious durian cheese-cake." The restaurant prices are listed as: Expensive, Moderate and Inexpensive.

The hotel accommodations recommendations are also descriptive, very reliable and most have either webpage addresses or email. Sadly, Rough Guide still uses the user 'unfriendly' price codes, instead of just saying in dollars (or Bahts) what the cost for the hotel is. Thus you need to memorize the table where the number 4=400-600B and 5=600-900B etc., then you can convert to either dollars or euros to get the price. Also, since the Guide is published in 2004 (thus the information is from 2003) you add 10-20% for inflation. Both Lonely Planet and Let's Go just tell you what the price is. "Duh".

The Guide has excellent information that tells you the nitty-gritty that prepairs you for your trip. It also has great history, religion (Buddhism of course), environmental and cultural sections. Not to be missed is the additional reading recommendations (six pages).

Where it bombs is BANGKOK. The Guide says that Bangkok is "sprawling, chaotic and exhausting" and that is exactly how I experienced the 115 pages that covered this mega-city. The layout is dysfunctional. It has no logical consistency between any two points. Bangkok is the home of 11 million people; it is huge and spreads out like greater Los Angeles. It needs to be broken down into regions and then sections and those need to be logically kept together. But, this guide will give you information on one area, like Thanon Sukhumvit, then 60 pages later the accommodations for that area, then 20 pages back will be the Thanon Sukhumvit map; but wait, the restaurants for that area... you guessed it, will be located some where else. Hello! Who laid this out? What herb, pray tell, were they using? So, if you plan to spend any significant time in Bangkok, then Lonely Planet is a better guide.

Maybe the 6th edition Rough Guide will improve the Bangkok section and hopefully increased the guides paltry index (8 pages for all of Thailand - Bangkok alone could be 8 pages) and make this an outstanding guide. Bangkok aside this is still a strongly recommended guide.

42 of 51 people found the following review helpful.
2Rough Guide to Thailand
By Lucy Warner
Fed up with the traditional Lonely Planet I turned to the Rough Guide for an alternative view. While this guide gives detailed historical/background knowledge it severely lacks in the essentials, notably transport prices and detailed maps.@There were just too many times when this book became a more of a frustration than a help. This book is best read before you go and left at home.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5Much better than other reviews here would indicate
By Amazon Customer
I was reading Lonely Planet Thailand (Country Travel Guide) and the book has many positive reviews, but the Rough Guide to Thailand has much worse reviews. I can recall reading some Rough Guides to other countries many years ago, and I came away from that experience feeling confident in the series.

If you read the reviews on Amazon U.S. almost all of them denigrate the Thailand Rough Guide. However, if you look at the reviews, you will see that almost all of them predate this edition. If you judge a travel series by an out-of-print edition, it probably won't seem that good.

Then I took a look at Amazon U.K. The reviews of the Rough Guide were much more positive, and were more recent as well. I bought a copy so I was able to review it. Amazon must love me :)

And here is my take on the book - it's as good as Lonely Planet. Both of the current versions (in Summer 2011) were released in 2009, and so seem to be a little dated. I would suggest that both travel guides take a leaf from Nancy Chandler's Maps of Bangkok or Chiang Mai (both available here on Amazon) and keep a web site with updates every few months. The web is now a necessary tool for backpacking journeys, especially when just about every place to stay and many places to eat (and a whole lot of other attractions) have their own web sites. That saves you hunting around for accommodation in the wee small hours after you arrive, because the place you were headed for no longer exists.

But you cannot plan without a book. Reading either of these books is like having a long conversation with someone who has been there, so that you can find out what you'll expect to pay, whether it's a noisy place or comfortable and quiet (tripadvisor is a good site for this as well). When I was getting information I had both guides available, and I found myself using them interchangeably. The information was no better and no worse, in my experience, and the Rough Guide was definitely not the write-off the reviews claimed.

However, both guides should be up for revised versions in Spring 2012. I hope that they will embrace the web, rather than see it as a competitor. Maybe you won't take your paper guide with you and rely on your tablet or netbook, but I'd still feel happier with a book as well. I've spent around 40 hours on-line with the books at my side, and an abstract idea ("Why don't you backpack around Thailand?") turned into a pretty complete itinerary for a three-week trip. You could google Thailand Travel Blog which in my case threw up several good suggestions.

Unfortunately, the trip isn't for me. I'm wheelchair-bound and such a trip would be so much hard work. However, one of my aides is interested in going with her boyfriend, and since both are around 20 they're fine for all the effort (including bare-back riding an elephant!). I am confident that it will turn out well for them.

So, don't overlook the Rough Guide. I'd suggest you get both it and the Lonely Planet, but the Rough Guide alone is a great resource. Let's hope that the 2012 revisions keep up the good work.

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