GENERAL REMARKS

Wikitravel entries for Thailand and Bangkok are highly informative, and it is advisable to consult them in addition to this page. Please also refer to the WORKSHOP MAP.

Chulalongkorn University (which will host the workshop) is located in the center of the modern part of Bangkok. Immediately to the north is the Siam area (which is the center of shopping and entertainment), and to the south is the Silom-Satorn finance district (which is also notorious for its seedy and colorful nightlife that may be either annoying of amusing, depending on one's preferences, but is in no way unsafe). A third central area, which is the historical center by the Chaophraya river is located a few kilometers west (and is most easily reached by boat from Ratchathewi pier to the north of the university).

IMMIGRATION

Citizens of a large number of nations (including EU, US, Canada, Russia, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand a number of South-East-Asian countries and Hong Kong passport holders) enjoy visa-free entry to Thailand for up to 30 days. Some others (including India, mainland China and Taiwan passport holders) can obtain a visa-on-arrival at the airport for up to 15 days.

Note that most of the above immigration concessions are technically for tourist visitors. Even though Thai immigration officers tend to be rather easy-going about formal requirements, it is advisable not to emphasize that you travel in relation to your academic work (stating that you're here on a personal recreational trip should be sufficient to clear immigration).

SAFETY

Bangkok is exceptionally safe for a city of its size. Scams against tourists do happen, and touts may be somewhat annoying in tourist areas, all of which can be avoided to a large extent with adequate behavior. Walking in the streets alone (at least without ostentatious displays of wealth) should generally be considered safe 24 hours a day in any part of the city.

WEATHER

During the time of the workshop, you should expect a reasonably hot "sunny summer" weather, and you're unlikely to need anything besides light summer clothes. Precipitation is also generally unlikely at that time of the year.

NUTRITION

Bangkok is a gastronomical paradise, at least for those who enjoy spicy non-vegetarian food. Large tracts of the city look like an interminable cooking workshop cum food market, and the cheapest and most basic street food may easily rival the culinary sophistication of fine dining in most economically developed countries. A pivotal aspect of Thai cuisine is a delicate balance between sharp chilis and sour flavors, enhanced with fermented fish condiments and a striking array of aromatic herbs.

Caution has to be taken amidst all this glamor nonetheless, since much of the food is cooked by traditional methods (without refrigeration) under tropical conditions. Sensitive stomachs may experience episodes of digestive unrest. The problem tends to be overstated, but you're encouraged to use your judgement.

The notion of vegetarianism is universally understood (and the simple word "jeh" designates rigorously vegan dishes). This kind of vegan Thai food is not widespread, however, and generally requires special arrangements to acquire. Certified halal food is available from a few stalls at the university cafeterias around the campus (this may also be useful for those who follow other dietary restrictions that have similarities with halal food).

LANGUAGE

The official language is Thai, which is a tonal language with rather complicated phonetics, relatively straightforward grammar and a large amount of vocabulary borrowed from (genealogically unrelated) Indian languages.

A large part of the general population speaks some very basic English, though not always to a useful extent. More educated people and people in the tourist industry will often speak semi-fluet to completely fluent English, though at times with specific phonetic and grammatic distortions that may take a while to get accustomed to. Overall, you should expect a much higher English proficiency than in East-Asian countries, perhaps at a level similar to India and slightly lower than in Malaysia. Comparisons to Europe are somewhat more difficult because of a different set of linguistic and cultural circumstances, but generally proficiency will be much lower than in Northern Europe and somewhat higher than in much of Southern Europe (and can perhaps be seen as comparable to Greece). In general, one should expect to be able to get by with English alone, though outside tourist areas it will require some effort.

To avoid unnecessary complications, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to have all essential addresses written in Thai script. Addresses written in Latin script are useless, more often than not. The reason is a combination of the lack of standard romanization system and objective difficulty of representing Thai phonetics with Latin script. Unless you're talking to a person with serious linguistic inclinations, or you're looking for an extremely obvious location, addresses writen in Latin script will not be understood. (You should also not expect to be able to pronounce Thai proper names in a way comprehensible for the locals, even if you have some basic Thai language training.)

Below are a few addresses important in relation to the workshop:

directions

TRANSPORTATION

Bangkok traffic can be hectic and jammed, though the situation is improving. Of relevance for most visitors are 
two sky-train lines (running on elevated tracks and usually abbreviated as BTS), one subway line (usually abbreviated as MRT), and the airport train line. The bus system is extensive, but often outdated, usually not English-friendly and plagued by traffic jams. There are also boat buses running along the canals (which is typically the best option for going to the old parts of Bangkok along Chaophraya river).

Sam Yan (can be spelled Sam Yarn) MRT station is located at the southern edge of the university campus. The campus is also reachable on foot from National Stadium and Siam stations of the sky-train. Most recommended accommodations are around the National Stadium BTS station (and can also be reached on foot from Siam or Ratchathewi BTS stations). Siam BTS station is a major transportation hub and can get crowded during peak hours.

Taxies are extremely cheap and plentiful, but (unless you give an impression of a person who knows Bangkok very well) you should keep an eye on the driver to avoid getting scammed. You have the right and should always insist on going by the meter (this includes transportation to and from airports). Directions below explain how to reach the city from the airports not relying on taxies.

(Note: It is advisable to avoid tuk-tuks, the three-wheel passenger vehicles, which are often seen as an exotic low-tech tourist attraction, but are dangerous, noisy, polluting, and will typically charge more than a modern metered taxi. Passenger motorcycles are likewise considered unsafe, but may occasionally be indespensable in emergency circumstances for their ability to penetrate traffic jams.)

If coming from Suvarnabhumi Airport (where most international flights land), take the airport train from the basement of the airport building (you will typically not need the Express Line, City Line should suffice, the fare is 45 baht or less, depending on the point of disembarkation). If going directly to the university, you can exit the airport train at Makkasan station, transfer to the adjacent Petchaburi MRT station, and take subway (MRT) to the Sam Yan station located at the southern edge of the campus. If going to a hotel located to the north of the campus, you can take airport train to Phayathai (the last station) and then either take a short taxi ride, transfer to BTS and ride 1-3 stops (to Ratchathewi, Siam or National Stadium) or walk (1-2km).

Don Mueang Airport (mostly served by regional and budget airlines) does not have train access. You can take bus number 29, 59, 510 or 513 to Mo-chit, where you can connect to either BTS or MRT and then proceed in the same way as described above. (Some varieties of bus 29 continue all the way to the university, as a matter of fact, but that may take a long time.)

If despite the above advice (or because of a night-time arrival) you decide to take a taxi from Suvarnabhumi airport, please follow the guidelines below (failure to do so is likely to result in overcharging):
1) Do not accept any taxi offers inside the terminal building.
2) Walk to the taxi desk right outside the exit of the terminal. Make sure you're never separated from the crowd of the locals.
3) You should be taken to a car in the immediate proximity of the taxi desk. The car should be an impeccably new and clean Toyota painted in bright colors with a TAXI-METER sign on top.
4) Make sure your driver turns on the meter immeditely. If he refuses to do so, leave the car.
5) You have to pay the meter price, plus a small airport fee (for which you get a receipt), plus the toll, if the car takes the tollway to the city (not necessary at night, quite necessary during peak hours, optional otherwise).

ON-CAMPUS ORIENTATIONGem building

The workshop will be held at the 2nd floor of the Computer Center/IT building, which may be better known locally (for historical reasons) as the Gem building, or Anyamanee Building. This is a light-brown six-story tall compound located at the edge of the campus along the Phayathai Road and marked on the workshop map. Security personnel should be able to direct you to this building if you show the picture to the right (which also has the Thai name of the building written on it).

One reference point is the main (western) gate of the campus with a pond, a large lawn behind it and an ornate Thai-style main university auditorium behind the lawn. 200 meters south along the Phayathai Road, there are two small gates leading into the campus. If you enter one of these smaller gates and immediately turn to the right, the Gem building is about 50 meters staight ahead of you and slightly to the left.

CURRENCY EXCHANGE

ATMs are ubiquitous and it's possible to withdraw cash using regular international systems (Visa, Mastercard, etc), as well as the Chinese UnionPay system (the latter is only serviced by some of the banks). However, there are relatively large per-transaction fees and, overall, cash exchange is likely to provide better value.

Major currencies can be exchanged at the airport. The rates are not advantageous, but bearable. At the same time, the airport rates for all other currencies may be totally unreasonable. It is therefore advisable to do the bulk of your currency exchange operations in the city. If you need to change a small amount for immediate needs at the airport, you should bring it in a major currency (euros or US dollars would be a safe bet).

Once in the city, much more favorable rates can be found. The Siam Exchange immediately to the north of the Siam intersection (see the map) has been known to trade at exceptionally favorable rates all major currencies (euros, UK pounds, US dollars, Japanese yen), as well as a number of other regional currencies (India, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, etc). For other currencies, you're advised to convert to euros or US dollars before arriving in Thailand.

CONNECTIVITY

Pre-paid SIM-cards are widely available and extremely inexpensive (around 50 baht for a new phone number, including some calling credit). You're advised to purchase such a card immediately after arrival (it should be possible at the airport, or at any of the ubiquitous 7-11 convenience stores). There are many providers, but TRUE Tourist SIM is often recommended.

Armed with a local SIM-card, it should be easy to contact Auttakit at O8I8693683 in case of emergency, or with other questions.