17 Things About Thailand You Probably Need To Know
After spending two months in Chiang Mai, six days in Pai, and countless bleary-eyed nights in Bangkok, I still had a lot to learn about Thailand.
Many tourist destinations in Thailand have done such a good job catering to foreigners that Thai culture has become somewhat sanitized – especially in the well-traversed areas of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and the southern islands.
But scratch beneath the surface and it’s not too hard to find fascinating religious rituals, mind-boggling festivals, and a people as rich in unique traditions as they are in warm, welcoming smiles.
Here are 17 facts about Thailand that will filled me with shock, awe, and wanderlust – how about you?
Thailand is home to the world’s smallest mammal, the adorable Kitti’s hog-nosed bat. It’s about the size of a chicken wing.
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country untouched by European and American colonialism.
Forget Bangkok – Thailand’s capital city is lovingly referred to by Thais as Krung Thep Maha Nakho. If that’s not enough of a mouthful for you, try the city’s full name on for size: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. For reals.
Bangkok is the most visited city in the world.
The annual Vegetarian Festival held throughout the country is perhaps most popular in Phuket, where local Thai Chinese express their commitment to Taoism through self-mutilation. People cut their skin and tongues, impale their bodies with sticks and other objects, and slash themselves with knives, swords, and axes in demonstration of their piety.
It’s Thailand – not Vietnam, not China – that is the largest rice exporter in the entire world.
In the English-speaking world, Thailand was known as Siam until 1939, when it was first changed to Thailand. The name then reverted back to Siam from 1945 to 1949, when it was changed back to Thailand once more. Potato, potahto, I guess.
In Thailand, it’s illegal to speak ill of the King or to step on Thai Baht, the local currency.
A person’s head is considered very holy, while their feet are considered dirty. You should avoid touching either area on another person, and take care not to point your feet in someone else’s general direction.
There are over 1,400 islands in Thailand.
The world’s first pair of Siamese twins were born in what was then Siam. Eng and Chang Bunker grew up outside of Bangkok and later moved to the United States. By the way, Siamese cats can also trace their roots back to Thailand.
The most expensive cocktail in the world is served in Thailand. It’s available at Bangkok’s Vivaldi restaurant for a cool $15,000, and includes a night in the adjoining hotel and a 5-karat ruby to boot.
Thailand’s calendar is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. At the time of writing, the year in Thailand is now 2,560.
In 2009, a Thai woman named Kanchana Ketkaew broke her own world record when she spent 33 days and nights in a glass room filled with 5,000 venomous scorpions. Ketkaew was bitten 13 times but emerged the unchallenged champion of scorpion co-habiting.
It’s illegal for men to walk around shirtless in Thailand. While most police will look the other way if you’re on the beach, walking around sans t-shirt in the middle of Bangkok could definitely get you fined.
It’s not unusual for summer temperatures in Bangkok to reach 40°C or higher. In fact, Bangkok is the 6th hottest city on earth according to the Telegraph.
In Thailand, it’s illegal to leave your home without wearing underwear. Not sure how they enforce this law, but better safe than sorry, right?
Rebecca Anne Nguyen is a freelance writer and the Founder of TheHappyPassport.com, an inspiration site for solo female travellers.