Do you think you have Thailand all figured out? You might be in for a surprise once you finish reading this list of some of the most interesting facts about Thailand.
Thailand is a land of surprise (and beautiful beach resorts)!
- Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by an European country. In fact, in the Thai language, the name of the country is Prathet Thai which means “land of the free.” Very fitting!
- Thailand is where you’ll find both the smallest and the largest creatures. The smallest mammal in the world, the bumblebee bat, calls Thailand home. You can also find the largest fish, the whale shark, in Thai waters.
- Males were all Buddhist monks for a while. There was a time when all young men in Thailand (including royalty) were required to become Buddhist monks–even if only for a short period of time–before they turned 20. This practice is not observed as it used to be these days, however.
- You’re lucky that you know Bangkok as “Bangkok.” Its real name is one of the longest names of a place in the world, made up of Pali and Sanskrit root words: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. What does that name mean? It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.”
- People often marvel at the forests and jungles of Thailand, but there used to be more. What most people don’t realize is that over one hundred years ago, nearly all of northern Thailand was covered in hardwood forest. Today, about a quarter of that forest is left. Only Singapore has lost more trees. For this reason, logging is completely banned in Thailand.
- One-tenth of the entire population of Thailand lives in Bangkok. It is the capital of this great nation, and, of course, the largest city.
Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand. Photo by Evo Flash.
- Thailand loves its King, and shows great respect for the monarchy. The well-known Hollywood movie “The King and I” was never shown in Thai theaters because it was considered to be derogatory to the King. How serious are they about their King? Thailand has the lese majeste rule, meaning that if you commit disrespectful acts toward the King, you could be imprisoned for treason.
- His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States. He is the grandson of King Chulalongkorn or Rama V. The King is highly educated, with an engineering degree from Switzerland. His grandfather was credited with bringing modernism to Thailand.
- There are about 35,000 temples in Thailand. Thailand is truly a land of temples. Visiting them requires modest clothing, meaning no shorts or sleeveless shirts.
- Showing respect for another person’s head is imperative in Thailand. The head is considered to be the most important part of the body, and so Thai culture forbids touching anyone on the head (even a child). Should you meet someone who is older or more important than you, it is best to lower your head in deference to show proper respect.
- Thailand is home to many, many animals. About a tenth of all of the animal species on the planet call Thailand home, and a tenth of all bird species. To put that into perspective, Thailand has more birds than Europe and America combined!
- The national flower of Thailand is the orchid. If you love exotic flowers, you’ll be pleased to know that 1,500 orchid species can be found growing wild in Thai forest. There’s a reason why it is one of the world’s largest orchid exporters.
- People associate elephants with Thailand. There are more than 5,000 found there (though more than half are domesticated). Over a hundred years ago, though, there used to be about 100,000 with about one fifth of them wild.
There are thousands of elephants in Thailand. Photo by Christian Haugen.
- Thailand has many flags. If you’re observant, you’ll notice the national flag of Thailand being raised at 8 a.m. each morning, and lowered at 6 p.m. There are also many other flags called the “Royal Flags” which are flown along with the national flag to honor the monarchy. You will only see the Royal Flags in Thailand, but they are a common sight.
- Like the heat? Bangkok, Thailand was named the world’s hottest city! Be sure to come prepared when you visit, and stay hydrated.
- Thailand has a few big snakes. You can find the reticulated python in Thai jungles, the world’s largest snake. The biggest one found was over 33 feet long. It doesn’t stop there, though. The longest poisonous snake in the world, the king cobra? Yep. You can find those in Thailand, too.
- Each year, about 6,000,000 tourists visit Thailand. That number continues to grow by leaps and bounds as the world discovers what a wonderful place it is. Bangkok feels an influx of 11,000,000 non-resident visitors each year.
- A smile can go a long way, and you’ll find more smiles in Thailand than just about anywhere else. In fact, it’s sometimes known as the “land of smiles” because the people of Thailand seem to be always ready with a smile. They are a peace-loving culture, desiring harmony over conflict.
- The most important mineral you’ll find in Thailand? It might surprise you, considering all of the beautiful gold jewelry and statues in temples, but it is actually tin. And the most exported crop? Rice, of course! Think of all the tasty Thai dishes that you love. Rice is a staple in Thai cuisine.
- Thailand used to be known as Siam, and it is the country where Siamese cats originated from. Though there used to be 23 types of Siamese cats originally, there are now only six. Giving a pair of Siamese cats to a bride on her wedding day is considered good luck.
- Red Bull, the world-famous energy drink, has its roots in Thailand. It is based on Krating Daeng, a drink made popular in Thailand (and eventually across Asia) since 1976. Red Bull was modified to “suit western tastes.”
- That street you’re driving on? In the past, it might have actually been water. Bangkok used to be referred to as the “Venice of the East” due to the number of buildings that were built on stilts above the river. Gradually, most of the canals were filled in and became the streets you see today.
Thailand has over a thousand islands. Photo by Ray Smith.
- Thailand is made up of approximately 1,430 islands. Many of the islands have become famous for being featured in Hollywood films. A popular habit of return visitors is to “try out” new islands to find their favorite.
- Ever heard of the “Bridge Over the River Kwai”? You can find that bridge near the town of Kanchanburi. The bridge is a part of the Burma-Siam railway, and an estimated 80,000 people died in the course of making that railway.
- Have you ever been to a festival for monkeys? The annual Monkey Buffet is held in front of the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple Lopburi province. The local residents see it as a way of thanking the monkeys for bringing thousands of tourists to the village to see these monkeys that live there. It’s no small buffet: two tons of meat, fruit, ice cream, and other treats make up this feast.
Thailand is such a unique country that it is difficult to stop at just 25 facts! Each visitor to Thailand leaves with a better understanding of how special the country is, with many coming back to get married in a place they fell in love with.
When will it be your turn to discover what makes Thailand so interesting?