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100 Things You Didn’t Know About Thailand

 

 

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1. The Thai greeting “sawatdee” was invented during the Second World War. Before that, people greeted each other by asking if they had eaten yet.

2. According to the World Meteorological Organization, Bangkok is the hottest capital city in the world.

3. HRH The Crown Prince, an avid collector of classic cars, has the largest private collection of ”Classic cars” in Thailand.

4. H.M. The King once met Elvis Presley and Walt Disney.

5. HM the King is a renowned Jazz saxophonist who has played with many of the world’’s greatest Jazz musicians.

6. HM the King is an Olympic standard yachtsman.

7. The Orchid is Thailand’’s best flowering export. Exports of the Orchid are valued at US$250million per annum.

8. According to the Thai media, the estimated public gathering of 1 million people on 9 June 2006, to celebrate HM The King’’s 60th year - was the largest public gathering in history to celebrate a royal event.

9. The beautiful Similan Islands in the south of Thailand got their name from Malay language. The islands are 9 in total and the Malay word for ”nine” is - Similan.

10. In Thailand, both Father’’s Day and Mother’’s Day are celebrated on the birthdays of Their Majesties the King and Queen.

11. Prior to 1913, most Thais did not have surnames.

12. Thailand’’s most expensive pure-breed of dog is the beautiful ”Bangkaew”. Half-wolf/half-house dog, the Bangkaew has it’’s origins in Phitsanulok province. Premium Bangkaew dogs sell for around 50,000 baht ($1,300). There is currently one in Phitsanulok (Top Father) which is watched by a security guard as it is valued at an astonishing…….2,000,000 baht ($54,000)!

13. According to the ”Guinness Book of Records 1995”, the Thai language has the second largest alphabet in the world. Second only to Khmer.

14. The name Bangkok (Thai language in origin) means ”Village of Olives” (Ban Mah-gork).

15. An English mistake is the ”Maekhong River”. Known in every English book about Thailand - as the ”Maekhong River”, it ought to be called the Khong River instead. ”Mae” already means ”river” so there is no need to repeat oneself.

16. The 1994 Guinness Book of Records contains the entry: the world’’s biggest restaurant - the Royal Dragon Restaurant, Bangkok - can serve 5,000 eaters in its palatial dining rooms at one time.

17. According to extensive research carried out in 2001, there is an average of 5.2 cockroaches per Thai house!

18. Nakhon Pathom, boasts the tallest Buddhist pagoda both in Thailand and in the world.

19. Wat Traimitr (Temple of the Golden Buddha) this is the world’’s largest solid gold Buddha, cast about nine centuries ago. The image is three meters high and weighs five and half tons.

20. It is illegal in Thailand for women to visit night-time entertainment venues alone. They must go with a man!

21. It is illegal in Thailand for men (and women of course) to go bare-chested in public. You must wear a top at all times!

22. It is illegal in Thailand, to leave your house if you are not wearing underwear.

23. After spending the night together (unmarried couple) the female is entitled to ask the man to marry her - and give a dowry. If the man doesn”t want to get married, the women is entitled to seek compensation ie….money.

24. The man is entitled to sue his new wife in a court of law and get his dowry back, if it is found that the bride had had sex with another man before, and so - not a ‘virgin’ at the time of marriage.

25. Since 1939, it has been illegal to NOT stand-up for the national anthem.

26. Bangkok full name in the Thai language is the longest city name in the world.

27. H.M. The King was born in America.

28. Some barbers close on Wednesday because Thais believe that it’’s not good to have hair cut on Wed.

29. Don”t touch Thais” heads if you are not very close friend to them.

30. Point something with foot is impolite in Thailand.

31. Thai calendar is counted on Buddhist Era (After the death of the Buddha). Now 2008 in Thai calendar is 2551.

32. Guinness World Records attributed to Thailand:
- In December 2006, 1,436 participants set the record for the world's longest condom chain, which was tied together at Lumpini Park. The chain featured 24,516 condoms, measured 2,715 metres and was made to mark World AIDS day.
- In February 2006, the world's largest freefall formation record was set by skydiving group World Team, with participants from the Royal Thai Air Force. The formation consisted of 400 skydivers, who held an airborne link for 4.25 seconds above Udon Thani.
- Other past records include the largest aerobics session, held at Sanam Luang in November 2002, featuring about 47,000 participants. The event was led by former-PM Thaksin.

33. Thai superstitions about color. Thais are a very superstitious people and there are many superstitious beliefs and customs that have long been observed in Thailand. Some superstitions are about good luckand some are about bad luck. For example, there are superstitions about the meaning of colors and some take it very seriously. Thais believe that wearing the right color on the right day would bring luck. Most people don’t really seem to follow this practice anymore, but some may have a small piece of clothing, like a tie or handkerchief, which is the correct color.

34. Pad-Thai come from a chef realised that stir-fried Thai people would quell a population crisis before it started. Backpackers needed a dish they could easily find at Khao San that wouldn't cause irritable bowel syndrome.
It was brought to Thailand by Vietnamese traders, but gained popularity as a national dish thanks to prime minister Plaek Phibulsongkram during the 1930s. He promoted it as part of an aggressive campaign for Thai nationalism. After World War II the sale of rice noodles at stalls and shophouses was encouraged to revive the Thai economy and lower unemployment. The government distributed thorough instructions and recipes to teach the poor how to operate noodle stands throughout the country, while using pad thai as a way to evoke patriotism. And as you can see, these street hawkers are still here today.

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35.The significance of zebra statues at spirit houses it's a subtle way to show the government we should have more zebras in Bangkok.
- Black and white is so in this season.
- Animals are an important icon in Buddhism to remind people about their relation to the natural world. There is an interesting theory about why the zebra is the chosen statue around some Thai spirit houses. It's believed that because a pedestrian zebra crossing is technically a "safe zone" on the road, placing the statue at shrines can bring that same sort of protection to an individual. It is alleged that a monk told one truck driver to deploy zebra statues to ensure a safe path to success, and over time, other Thais began placing similar statues.

36. Thais didn't have last names before 1913 because a first name and a nickname are already too hard to remember. So they couldn't be easily identified when buying land for foreigners. Because the Family Name Act of 1913 wasn't in place yet. This law was initiated by King Rama VI, who realised that it was difficult to keep accurate records in Thailand's census system. Family names were given based on a person's origin (for example, adding "Na" to denote geographical origins), and to create Thai unity. Today, only one family can use any given Thai surname.

37. Sukhumvit Road named after parents named it; they were hippies. Mr and Mrs Sukhumvit, known for spreading potholes and traffic. It was named after Phra Bisal-Sukhumvit, who served as the chief of the Department of Highways while the road was being constructed. Incidentally, the road was ordered to be built by revered politician Pridi Banomyong, who wrote Thailand's first constitution and was influential in the 1932 coup that transformed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. Sukhumvit Soi 71 is named after Pridi.

38. Part of Bangkok is regarded as the last truly green area of the city. Patpong. No one wants to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Is there such a thing in this congested city? Bang Krachao. Nicknamed the "lung of Bangkok", it's a kidney-bean shaped peninsula located in Phra Pradaeng, Samut Prakan. It was voted as Asia's best urban oasis by Time magazine in 2006, given that there are no buildings or cars there and only has a handful of visitors who cycle in the area. Inside, the Si Nakhon Keun Kan Park (locally known as Suan Klang Central Park) boasts mango orchards, over 50 species of bird and a plethora of natural beauty. You can reach Bang Krachao via a longtail or shuttle boat from Wat Klong Toey Nok pier.

39. Silom Soi 4 gain its gay-friendly reputation because the best moo ping can be found in the area. Because "4" is considered an auspicious number in the gay community.
It's likely that the gay community felt at home at Silom, with the opening of the now extinct Rome discotheque in the mid-1980s. The club was opened by two gay entrepreneurs and became popular among the gay community. Rome gradually became popular with a diverse crowd. However, after a change of management in 1995, the new owners put a sign on the door saying that homosexuals were no longer welcome. The once infamous club went out of business shortly after but by this time other gay bars had opened in the area, including institutions such as Telephone, which has been around for over 20 years.

40. The statues of traffic police around Bangkok. It's part of a campaign to make the city greener. It's designed to prevent motorists from making traffic violations. The dummy policemen were situated around the city in early 2008, at such places including Ratchayothin intersection and Rama 5 Road. The idea is that from a distance drivers may think the statues are police officers and slow down or avoid running red lights accordingly.

41... With its chaotic veneer, Thai customs are easily overlooked in Bangkok. Respect the local people by knowing these ten cultural points before you embark on travels in Thailand.....

Versatile Greeting
The wai, or pressing your palms together at chest or nose level and bowing your head slightly, is a gesture that you will encounter almost immediately upon arrival in Thailand.

An integral part of Thai etiquette, it denotes respect (or reverence when performed in front of a Buddha image), and can be used to express a hello, thank you, or goodbye.

Absolute Reverence
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and the royal family is revered throughout the country. The King is especially beloved for his six decades of public service and humble demeanor.

His image is everywhere, from posters plastered on the exterior of buildings to photos displayed on taxi dashboards.

Always stand when the King’s anthem is played before movies, concerts and sporting events. Travelers should also refrain from making disparaging remarks about the royals.

Strict lèse majesté laws apply, and offenses are punishable by imprisonment.

National Pride
Over the past several decades, the government has introduced various practices to encourage nationalism.

One example of this institutionalized patriotism is twice daily broadcasts of the national anthem.

Pedestrians, commuters, and students are required to stop or stand whenever this song is played.

In recent efforts to boost patriotism, a group of generals proposed that traffic also come to a standstill, arguing that motorists “already spend more time in traffic jams anyway.”

Colorful Days
Based on pre-Buddhist Hindu legends, a particular auspicious color is associated with each day of the week. This is most noticeable on Mondays, when many people wear yellow shirts, acknowledging and honouring the day on which the King was born. Other popular colors include pink (Tuesday) and light blue (Friday, the Queen’s day of birth).

Given recent political protests, the colors red and yellow are also of significance, representing opposing movements.
Never mind!
The phrase Mai pen rai (never mind) describes the country’s unofficial philosophy, capturing locals’ knack for keeping cool in taxing or annoying situations. In the grand scheme of things, why stress about trifling matters? Mai pen rai!

This laidback mindset goes hand-in-hand with an inherent sense of light-heartedness. Nothing is taken too seriously, and anything worth doing should contain some element of sanuk (fun)!

Sexual Tolerance
Thailand has long enjoyed a reputation for sexual tolerance, based more on non-confrontational (as opposed to progressive) attitudes. The country is very safe for GLBT travelers.

Transsexuals, also known as krathoeys or ladyboys, are highly visible in mainstream society, from scantily clad teens to high-profile celebrities.

Religious Objects
About 95% of Thailand’s population is comprised of Buddhists from the Theravada school.

Despite teachings against material attachment, many Thais worship Buddha images and don amulets for protection.

Various animist practices have also been integrated into Thai religious life.

Most buildings boast spirit houses or altars, where offerings of food and garlands are made to appease the spirits inhabiting the land.

Avoid touching such displays as some Thais can be highly superstitious, fearing disruption of harmonious balance.

Bodily Conduct
Based on Buddhist beliefs, the head is the most valued part of the body while the feet are the lowest, symbolizing attachment to the ground, a cause of human suffering.

Touching someone’s head is highly offensive, as is raising your feet or pointing them at people or religious objects.

Shoes are to be removed before entering homes and religious structures.

Most types of attire are tolerated in areas frequented by tourists. It is a good idea, however, to cover up when visiting temples and shrines. Those wearing sleeveless tops, short skirts, shorts, and flip flops may be denied entrance.

It is not unusual to encounter signs prohibiting women from entering highly sacred places, such as temple libraries. Women who wish to worship do so outside the buildings.

Also, while it is taboo for a woman to touch a monk or pass things to him directly, polite conversation is fine.
Nicknames
Thais are generally addressed by their first names, preceded by the honorific title Khun, appropriate for both men and women. In more casual settings, mono-syllabic nicknames are used.

More traditional monikers cover categories such as colors, animals, and fruit, including Daeng (red), Lek (small), and Moo (pig); these days, you will encounter nicknames such as Good, Money, and Benz (as in the luxury auto).

Bathroom Basics
Outside of large cities, squat toilets rule. These are flushed by pouring water from an adjacent bucket into the hole. Also, used toilet paper is to be discarded in the bin provided; never try to flush it down as it most plumbing isn’t designed to handle paper.

Traditional washrooms include a trough filled with water where a ladle or bowl is used to sluice water over the body. In areas where outdoor bathing is the norm, women will don a cotton sarong or wraparound, and men will bathe in their underwear.

The King Makes it Rain
The King of Thailand perfected and holds the patent on a form of cloud seeding. He has designed bridges and dams and holds an engineering degree from Switzerland.

The King also plays the sax and composed the Thai national anthem. He built his own sailboat and is a talented oil painter.

He is the longest reigning monarch in the world. The Thai people love him and with many good reasons.

2009 It is Year 2552
Thai people start counting from when the Buddha was born, who came along before Jesus. A few other Asian countries also count from Buddha’s birthday, but they are all a few years apart.

The Clock Starts Over Every 6 Hours
You know the 12 hour clock, you’ve heard of the 24 hour clock, but you didn’t know that most of Thailand runs on a 6 hour clock that resets 4 times a day.

Bangkok
Bangkok was the temporary Thai capital after the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya. After 10 years or so the Thais moved across the river to start a new capital city called:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.

This is the longest place name in the world. Thais usually shorten it to just Krung Thep.

The original temporary capital city “Bangkok” was soon swallowed up by the rapidly expanding Krung Tep, so Bangkok is now just one of the many outlying neighborhoods.
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If you ask most Thai people where Bangkok is they only have a very vague idea and wouldn’t know exactly how to get there.

The “Thai” in Thailand Means “Free”
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized. This is a fact that they are very proud of and want ingrained in their national identity.

Even Thai Kings Often Misspell Words
The Thai alphabet has 6 more vowels than the entire English alphabet! All together, Thais have 32 vowels and 44 consonants.

All the Thai kings in the past several generations have been educated overseas. If you read their personal memos and writings there are many spelling errors.

The Chinese run Thailand
Many generations ago there were no paid jobs in Thailand. Every man had to work for 3 months for free for the monarchy.

Sometimes that labor wasn’t enough and sometimes the kings didn’t trust their own subjects for accounting jobs, so they hired Chinese workers.

Their salaries may have been small, but they gave the Chinese the upper-hand in business, which paved the way to political success.

Thaksin (the highly polarizing former Thai Prime Minister), and a large majority of Thailand’s businessmen and politicians are the ancestors of these early Chinese workers.

Despite living in Thailand for many generations, many of these powerful individuals hold on to their Chinese heritage and often read the newspaper in Chinese.

Vegetarianism is NOT a Western Import to Thailand
The Chinese also brought vegetarianism with them hundreds of years ago.

The Thais still use the Chinese word for vegetarianism, simply pronounced “J”. Eating vegetarian has been a major part of the Thai worldview for generations.

Despite the recent article in the New York Times about the “booming” vegetarian movement in Thailand, little has changed in the last 100 years and almost nothing has changed in the the last decade.

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