Samui Wining & Dining
THAI VISA DOT COM
Far more than just visas, it’s one of the best online resources for Thailand info.


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By trawling around the internet, you can find many things: it’s the biggest research tool mankind’s ever created. Not only that, but you’ll probably use it to shop for your flights and pay for your hotel, too. If you then Google ‘Samui’, you’re going to come across a dozen or more websites that are crammed full of info about the island. There’s everything you could need, from details of beaches to advice on bargaining, from how to cope with the taxis here to or what to do in an emergency. All these sites are treasure houses of information that are worth their weight in gold. Except that’s not quite true.

        Unchanging aspects such as geography, distances, locations or major tourist attractions will probably be just about spot-on. But things that can alter on a monthly, or even on a yearly basis, are more suspect. Sure, yes, most of these sites feature plug-ins that give ‘live’ exchange rates or weather conditions. But when it comes to restaurants, bars, maps, or even things like the schedules of buses or ferries, it might pay you to be cautious. It’s not a lot of fun if you navigate your way across the island only to discover on arrival that the excellent restaurant you were heading for closed two years ago. Unfortunately, Samui just isn’t big enough to support a daily, or even monthly, newspaper in which current or upcoming events are broadcast.

        Well, actually, even that’s only partly true! Whereas it’s correct to say that there’s no published news, there are a couple of news sites already online. (And if it’s info about current aspects of Samui, then check out our very own online SamuiHoliday.com. This is a treasure trove of info all by itself.) But what’s missing is some kind of access to information about what’s happening now on the island. Roads that are closed due to flooding, or the visit of a VIP. Details of power cuts and what areas are affected. An accident somewhere that’s holding up traffic. An event, a festival, a name-band that’s going to happen this weekend.

         These daily splashes on the otherwise smooth surface of life’s pond are normally handled by local radio stations, and we haven’t even got one of those (at least not in English anyway). But what Samui does have is ‘Thaivisa’.

          Yes, I know, it’s been oft said before. Why would anyone wanting current information about local storms, or possibly travel problems on Samui, bother to look at a website about visas in Thailand? The answer is, quite simply, that www.thaivisa.com is not just about Thai visas. It certainly was to begin with, and that’s how it all began. But it grew. And today it’s become a vast database of resources and information about every aspect of life and living in Thailand (including details of visas!) and with regional and local forums that are constantly providing up to the minute information about all of the things mentioned above.

          It all started back in 2002, with three people in Bangkok who, well ahead of their time, were experimenting with search engine optimisation. To do this they established a website and set about maximising its search potential. They, together with friends and helpers, were playing with the results of live forums and the effect these had on the search engines. Dummy forums were created with imaginary topics, and the results of the fabricated responses measured again search engine positioning. In the process of all this, it came to the notice of one of Thailand’s largest business services networks, Sunbelt Asia, which then expressed their interest in the website as a means of advertising. One thing led to another and the website actually became a live and active presence, and one which other businesses rapidly became keen to engage with.

          Today it’s uncertain exactly how many members there actually are – there are so many! Some are merely observers, wanting to keep in touch and up to date whilst back home and thinking about their next visit to Thailand. Others are resident over here, and the kind of people who in earlier generations might have made it their hobby to write ‘letters to the editor’ about everything under the sun! And, between these extremes, there are thousands of people who are seeking an answer to one aspect or another of life in Thailand. But one solid fact is that, this time last year, the website was getting 50,000 individual visits each day, and this figure can only have increased since then.

          This is hardly surprising really, as you’ll discover for yourself once you’ve spent half an hour exploring their extensive website. It’s divided into many different sections and sub-sections, which broadly range from Thai law and everything connected with visits, visas and working or staying here, through to the history and culture of the Nation, all aspects of property, renting and ownership, on to business, travel and even to a whole forum about learning the Thai language. There’s a huge ‘for sale and wanted’ classified ads section. There are constant and ongoing news reports and flashes. And a whole load of local forums covering Bangkok, Issan, Chiang Mai, Central Thailand etc. and . . . Koh Samui.

          And this is where to look when you need the up-to-the-minute news about what’s going on around the island. There are several ‘running’ topics concerning the previously mentioned flooding and road closures, together with all sorts of useful information – in January when there were several weeks of political demonstrations in Bangkok and across the nation, this was where to look if you needed to find out what government offices here were affected, or if flights were running on time.

          It contains all sorts of facts about public holidays, renting vehicles, the best internet providers for mobile phones and where to find them, where to buy real cider, or who is showing various international sports. Plus a hundred other things to do with daily life on Samui, whether you live here or not. And, if you’re still in the planning stage of your next Samui holiday, well, it’ll even give you the latest information about visa regulations. Who could ask for more!

          

 Rob De Wet


 


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