July 2012 marks my second year abroad living in Thailand. One of the main things I’ve noticed while living here is how Thai history, culture and tradition has been woven into most daily activities in one form or another, making Thailand truly unique. During the past two years I’ve also seen some interesting things, learned some interesting facts, and picked up some handy bits of information along the way. When most people think of Thailand a few general ideas usually come to mind such as great beaches, great food, nice people and most things being pretty inexpensive. Yes, all true, but there is so much more. I thought I’d share some of what I’ve picked up, both known and not so well known, that I find interesting about “The Land of Smiles.”
1. The Thai anthem is played every morning and evening and it’s required that you stop what you’re doing and stand as it plays over speakers.
2. The ceremonial name for Bangkok holds the Guinness Record as the longest name for a place. It is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.”
Translated 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.” Bangkok is the short version.
3. An estimated 300,000 stray dogs , called soi dogs, roam the streets of Bangkok.
4. Riding in the back of a truck or on the roof is not illegal.
5. There are 6,480 7-11’s in Thailand.
6. All kids in Thailand wear uniforms to school.
7. It is illegal in Thailand to leave your house if you are not wearing underwear.
8. Swiftlet nests which are used to make one of the world’s most expensive foods, Bird’s nest soup, can be found in the island caves of southern Thailand and can cost more than $900 per pound.
9. Thailand has the world’s longest reigning monarch, HMK Bhumibol Adulyadej, who became King Rama IX in June 1946.
10. Thailand is the world’s number one exporter of orchids and has more than 1,500 species growing wild in its forests.
11. The northern tip of Thailand, which borders the western tip of Laos and the eastern corner of Myanmar, is known as “The Golden Triangle” and is notorious for the production and trafficking of opium and heroin.
12. The original ‘Siamese twins’ were born in 1811 in a village in the province of Samut Songkhram southwest of Bangkok.
13. In Thailand, the head is the most important part of the body. To show respect, Thais will try to keep their heads lower than the head of any person who is older or more important.
14. “Have you eaten rice yet?” or “Gin khao reuyung?” was the original way to say ‘Hello’ in Thai. The now commonly used “Sa-Wat-Dee” was created and introduced during the 1940’s.
15. Chopsticks aren’t widely used in Thailand, except when eating noodle soups. Most meals are eaten with a spoon.
16. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are celebrated on the birthday’s of the King and Queen.
17. Red Bull originated in Thailand and was first called Red Guar.
18. More prominent in the past, however, still practiced today, Thai young men including the kings become Buddhist monks for at least a short time before their 20th birthday.
19. Bangkok was once called the “Venice of the East” because of its many canals and buildings which were built on stilts. As Bangkok grew and grew, most canals were filled and paved to make roads.
20. In 1996 the most expensive pet wedding in the world took place in Thailand. Two rare “diamond-eyed cats,” named Phet and Ploy, were married in wedding which cost $16,241.
21. The bumblebee bat, which is the world’s smallest mammal, lives in caves along the rives of western Thailand.
22. Thailand is home to a fish called the mudskipper, which lives in low tide areas along the beaches and can walk on land and climb trees.
23. Thailand is called the “Land of Smiles” because of the 13 different types of smiles Thai’s use for virtually every situation. It also gets the name because Thai people are extremely friendly and cheerful. If you smile at any Thai while walking on the street you will most certainly receive a smile back.