Let our next journey begin… Thailand!!
Honestly, when someone mentions Thailand, I immediately think of crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. A place where the days are always full of sunshine and mountain views that take your breath away. A place where everything is exotic and tropical. Occasionally, I’ll think of floating on a boat down a canal observing the morning market bustle or of standing outside the rink of a may thai match. But my first thoughts were never of things like Thai temples or their country’s government.
Our adventure to Thailand brought to life these common images I previously had plus more. The importance of the royal family, nature, religion, and temples now come to mind as well. Not that I was oblivious to them to begin with, it was just nice to explore past the stereotypical image of Thailand’s exotic beaches and party scenes and see the other lesser highlighted areas of this extremely touristy country.
From the tippy top of Northern Thailand, crossing through some cities on the outskirts of its capitol, around Bangkok, and then down to the coastal islands, we took in as much as we could that the Thai culture had to offer! And wow, what an amazing trip!
OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of Thailand
GEOGRAPHY: Thailand is in the heart of Southeast Asia. Cambodia and Laos border the country to the east and northeast, and Myanmar (Burma) lies to the northwest. To the west is the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma. The long southern region, connecting with Malaysia, is hilly and forested. The highest mountains are in northern Thailand.
POPULATION: 68,083,850 (29 February 2016)
GOVERNMENT: Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy that remains to this day. The king is the leader of the country. The prime minister is picked from among members of the House of Representatives, but is appointed by the king.
CURRENT KING: Bhumibol Adulyadej (as of 2016)
ECONOMY: Agriculture and tourism are the most important industries in Thailand. In December 2004, the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami hit Thailand, but the country’s economy has largely recovered from the disaster’s effect.
RELIGION: 90-95% Buddhist; 5-10% Other (including Muslims)
HISTORY: Around 2,000 B.C. people built settlements in the hillsides of Thailand. The first one is thought to be Ben Chiang. Pieces of pottery, tools, and jewelry from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. have been dug up in this area.
PEOPLE & CULTURE: About 90% of the people are Buddhist, but about 3 million Muslims live in the south near the border with Malaysia. Thai children go to elementary school for 6 years. Then they may attend high school for another 6 years, but their families must pay for the education. Boys begin military training in the 9th grade. Food in Thailand is influenced by the Chinese and Indian cultures. Most Thai dishes are spicy, with many common dishes including hot chilies, lemongrass, basil, ginger, and coconut milk. Thai farmers cultivate mulberry trees that feed silkworms. The worms create silk, which is made into beautiful silk clothing in Thailand, France, and the U.S. Bangkok is also called the “Venice of the East,” because there are 83 canals. As many as 10,000 boats full of fruits, veggies, and fish crowd the canals and create a floating market. The city of Bangkok is home to many impressive Buddhist structures featuring gold-layered spires, graceful pagodas, and giant Buddha statues.
NATURE: Rain falls almost every day between the months of May and September. The wet and humid weather encourages the diverse and abundant wildlife in Thailand. Lotus flowers are common and the favorite flower in Thailand. They live above the surface but are rooted in the mud. There are many flowering trees and shrubs and fruit trees. The deep forests are home to tigers, elephants, wild ox, leopards, and the Malayan tapir. Cobras and crocodiles are also found in Thailand.
Did You Know?? 24 Interesting Things About Thailand That You May Not Know:
- Bangkok’s real name is actually: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. …..Whoa…..
- In Thai, Thailand means “Land of the Free.” Before it adopted this name, the nation was called Siam, which is Sanskrit for “dark”or “brown.”
- Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized by a foreign power.
- Thailand has over 1,400 islands within its territory.
- It is illegal to leave the house without underwear on!
- It is illegal to step on Thai Baht (currency).
- Feet are considered unclean and should never touch people or point in their direction.
- Thailand is a place where monkey’s have their own college and festival, Monkey Buffet Festival! The locals see the festival as a way of thanking the monkey’s for bringing thousands of tourists to the village to see the monkey’s that live there. Two TONS of meat, fruit, ice cream, and other treats make up this buffet feast!
- Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Thai’s adore their king and queen. Many families display portraits of the king/royal couple in their homes and you cannot speak ill of them (especially in public! – if you are caught or heard, you can be arrested or penalized!). The Thai royal families have been so revered that, in the past, no one was even allowed to touch them. In fact, in the 1800’s, a queen drowned when her boat capsized and no one came to her rescue because of this strict rule!
- Bangkok is one of the hottest cities in the world.
- Thailand is home to the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Mekong giant catfish which can weigh up to 700 lbs! And it’s home to the world’s smallest bat, the bumblebee bat (or Kitti’s hog-nosed bat), which grows to a little over an inch and weighs two grams!
- Siamese cats are native to Thailand.
- Thailand’s coastline is 3219km long.
- Bangkok once had dozens of canals & its buildings stood on stilts. Most have now been filled.
- Muay Thai boxing, Thailand’s national sport, is known as “the art of eight limbs” (hands, elbows, knees, feet)
- Thai’s must always keep their head lower than that of anyone older or of more importance than them. This is very important! For instance, if the king and queen are driving down an underpass, traffic on the above highway is actually stopped until the king and queen pass! This is to ensure no one is crossing over the kings and queens heads as they are driving.
- It is illegal to drive shirtless in Thailand.
- The Thai alphabet has 32 vowels and 44 consonants.
- Thailand’s national symbol is the elephant. A century ago there were around 100,000 elephants in the country. Today, there are around 5,000, maybe about 2,000 of them not domesticated.
- Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are not for paying tribute to one’s own parents but held in honor of the mother and father of the nation, the king and queen.
- National flower is the orchid.
- Tin is the most important mineral found in Thailand and rice is the most exported crop.
- All of the temples pictured on Thai baht coins are in Bangkok.
- The King’s Anthem is played before movies and cultural performances (and twice daily in public places, 08:00 and 18:00).
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!