Top 10 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THAILAND
History, nature, awe, wonder - all of these things and more await you in this incredible Archive! We're heading to Southeast Asia, between Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia to explore Thailand, the Land of Smiles. Join us as we cover these ten amazing factoids of Thailand, spanning food, culture, and the weird!
World Records from Thailand
Not every country can tout being home to the world’s largest gold Buddha, but Thailand can. No other country can praise themselves for raising the world’s hairiest girl, but Thailand can. Nowhere else will you find the largest crocodile farm, but in Thailand. If you haven’t caught our drift yet, Thailand, like every country we've visited, is home to a list of strange world records. On top of these unique wonders, the country also once housed the world’s tallest hotel - until 1999 when Dubai debuted the Burj Al Arab hotel - holds the record for largest parade of automatic motorcycles with 2,474, has the world’s largest wave pool, and is home to the woman who has spent the most time living with scorpions.
Air Pollution in Thailand
As cities grow more industrial, air quality is sacrificed. For Thailand, specifically the Bangkok region, industrialization has led to detrimental levels of pollutants in the air. As it houses 20% of the country’s population, over half of its factories are rife with diesel trucks and other harmful motor vehicles, and is ill-equipped with emission treatment facilities. Bangkok’s Air Quality Index can very easily reach over 300, which is considered hazardous with possible serious health effects. While battling the hazardous conditions has proven difficult, the local government has taken steps in the right direction, including diminishing agricultural burning which further worsens the haze that frequents the region. Despite efforts, however, as of early 2016, no positive change had been reported.
Early life in the region of Thailand has been dated to over 20,000 years ago with signs of life purportedly found in the Khorat Plateau, but it wasn’t until the 9th century B.C., when the region was ruled by the Mon Lavo Kingdom and Khmer Empire that the culture related to Thailand’s development started to appear. Between the 7th and 13th centuries, the Tai people of Nanchao began a migration to Southeast Asia, eventually leading to a declaration of independence from the Khmer made by Tai chieftain Sri Indraditya. With his independence, Indraditya developed kingdoms at Sukhothai near central Thailand and his people started referring to themselves as Thai, meaning free. For many years the region was ruled by an absolute monarchy until the Revolution of 1931, which was replaced by a constitutional monarchy. As of 2014, the Thai military took over in order to bring about political reforms.
The Birth of "Siamese"
Every phrase has a beginning and in the case of “Siamese Twins,” that beginning was all the way back in 1811 with the birth of conjoined twins Eng and Chang Bunker. The two were connected above their waist by 5-inches or about 13-centimeters of cartilage and, despite the nuisance of being connected, were able to live a fairly normal life until the age of 62, when they died of a heart attack in North Carolina. So, how did the two brothers lead to the widespread use of the term “Siamese twins?” When the two were born, Thailand was known as the Kingdom of Siam. When they were teenagers, they left Siam and, along their travels, adopted the label of Siamese twins.
Thailand and Sports
There is a wide variety of sports played in Thailand, including traditional classics like golf, badminton, football, tennis, and bowling, but there are also a range of sports that are more common in Thailand than anywhere else. One of the most culturally significant sports still practiced today is Thai boxing, or Muai Thai, which stems from an ancient form of martial arts that is passed down across generations. Pulled from the Ayutthaya period is the custom of Kaeng Ruer, or boat racing, which is held after the rainy season. Chon wua, or bull fighting, len wow, or kite flying, and fun daab and krabi kra-bong, or sword fighting, are also widely played within Thailand. Representing the country in national sports is the Thailand national football team, which has earned multiple honors within the AFC Asian Cup, AFF Championship, King’s Cup, Olympic Games, and the SEA Games.
Thailand Customs and Traditions
Should you ever travel to Thailand, you’ll want to remember when greeting others to press your palms together at chest or nose level and bow your head. Not only is it the appropriate means of introduction, it’s a show of respect. Also, reserve your Buddhist jokes for your rowdier crowd back home as over 90% of Thailand’s population practices Buddhism. If you come across people asking an invisible entity if they can stay in a home, you’re simply witnessing an age-old tradition of requesting permission from the phra phum, or spirit ghost of the land. Some other things to keep mindful of include removing your shoes inside someone’s home, never touch another’s head as it’s considered a sacred part of the body, and be sure to keep your voice low as a raised tone is considered an act of aggression.
Wildlife in Thailand
When you consider the size of the world and the large number of different species spread throughout it, it’s incredible to think that Thailand alone is believed to be home to 10% of all animal and bird species. The diversity amongst the wildlife will allow you to observe langurs, barking deer, flying foxes, record-breaking king cobra, massive reticulated pythons, tigers, 13 different species of primate and over 900 species of bird. Off the coast, Thailand’s waters are home to the largest non-mammal vertebrate, the whale shark. Sharing the water with this gliding monster are snakehead, carp, and the largest freshwater fish, the Giant Mekong Catfish. Monkeys, specifically, are quite revered in Thailand and are even thrown their own buffet at the Monkey Buffet Festival.
The Many Sites to See
A place rich with culture is likely to have a bunch of locations worth visiting or, at the very least, getting to know better. Thailand, if you don’t already know, is a place rich with culture. Whether you’re checking out Thailand first-hand or doing some lengthy online research, you’ll want to explore the picturesque region of Pai, which boomed from a quiet village into a tourist hotspot, Ayutthaya Historical Park, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the golden façade of the Grand Palace. If you feel you’ve grown too accustomed to roads, you’ll want to check out the Damnoen Saduak, Taling Chan, and Bang Ku Wiang floating markets. Some of the more unique and unusual finds include Lotus Lake, Wat Rong Khun Buddhist Temple - complete with golden bathroom - and, for the morbidly curious, the Siriraj Medical Museum.
Fame of Thailand
Every country has spawned its own listing of famous and infamous individuals and Thailand is no different, though its list of actors, actresses, singers, writers, athletes, and the like may not be as mainstream as others. Fans of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue may recognize Thai-born Chinese / American actor Michael Chaturantabut as the man behind the Blue Ranger while Weezer fans may already know of former bassist Matt Sharp’s birthplace as Bangkok. Martial artist and actor Tony Jaa, or Jaa Phanom in his homeland of Surin Province, is an easy-to-recognize face. Locals will likely know pop singer Thongchai McIntyre, model Cindy Bishop, actor Ananda Everingham, and actress Pachrapa Chaichua. For your taste of Thai YouTubers, check out WeLoveKamikaze, Genierock, Bie the Ska, and SkizzTV.
Thai food is no secret cuisine as Thai restaurants tend to have a fair amount of real estate over the globe, but do you really know the staples of this eastern culture or just a westernized version of it? You can expect a variety of sweet and sour dishes along with hints of bitterness and, of course, plenty of spice to go around. As Thailand has avoided western influences, its flavors are very authentic to Asian cuisine. Some dishes pulled straight from Thailand include Nam Pla Prig, or a commonly used dipping sauce, tom yum goong, gaeng daeng, pad thai or kai med ma muang. If your dish doesn’t have some combination of coriander, garlic, turmeric, lemon grass, cardamom, chili pepper, or some sort of fish sauce or paste, it’s likely not authentic Thai food.