17 Interesting, Unusual and Fun Facts about Thailand
Thailand (Photo: The crazy tourist)

Odd and bizarre in Thailand seems to be measured by a unique yardstick altogether and the country is full of surprising oddities. KnowInsider will pull back the curtain to reveal unusual, interesting and fun facts about Thailand.

1. Thailand is the only country in South-East Asia that has never been colonised under European power

The name Thailand in the Thai language is Prathet Thai, which directly translates to ‘Land of the Free’. It seems pretty apt then that this country is the sole country in the whole of South-East Asia to never have been colonised by any European nation. Considering that only very few countries in the world have managed to escape European rule, this in itself is a huge accomplishment.

2. The first known Siamese twins were born in Thailand

Chang and Eng Bunker, the first known conjoined twins, were born on the 11th of May 1811, in a province near Bangkok in the Kingdom of Siam, today’s Thailand. The twins married two different women, who were also sisters, and each couple were parents to more than ten children each. Innitially they lived together and shared a bed big enough for four but after a number of years the two sisters began quarrelling and so two separate households were established. The Siamese brothers then ended up spending three consecutive nights at each home until their death in 1874.

3. Speaking about Siamese…

As mentioned above, Thailand used to be known as the Kingdom of Siam and is the country where Siamese cats originated from. The Thai people seem fascinated by these cats and a 14th- century poetry book describes how there used to be 23 different types of Siamese cats, although nowadays there are only six. It is also considered a gesture of good luck to present a bride with a pair of Siamese cats on her wedding day.

4. Home to an exorbitantly priced delicacy made from saliva

The sea-salt briny flavour of swiftlet nests are made from the strands of saliva from the male cave-dwelling swiftlet bird; and are one of the most expensive, coveted and sought after delicacies on the planet. Perhaps not for everyone, these nests are collected from Thai caves and are charged at more than USD 900 per pound. These nests are dangerous to harvest, painstaking to prepare and according to traditional Chinese medicine, have a long and extensive list of health benefits for those who can afford the salty dish.

5. Every year there is a festival dedicated entirely to monkeys in Thailand

Yet another one of Thailand’s funny things - In the month of November there is an annual Lopburi Monkey Banquet that is hosted in front of Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in the province of Lopburi. The locals invite over 600 monkeys to feast on a buffet of over two tonnes of scrumptious food that has all been lovingly prepared by the locals. The monkeys’ menu consists of rice, tropical fruits, salad, grilled sausages and even ice-cream. The festival is hosted out of the belief that good luck will follow from treating the furry creatures with respect. The locals also do it as a means of saying thank you to the monkeys who bring thousands of tourists to the city each year. All those who appreciate any and all monkey business will get a massive kick out of this unusual festival.

17 Interesting, Bizarre and Peculiar Things about Thailand
Photo: Mundo Asia

6. The grotesque and gory Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Continuing along the theme of bizarre and weird festivals, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held every year in the month of October and despite what the name suggests, is a rather grisly affair. A key feature of this festival are the people who get involved in very gory self-mutilation and parade in trace-like states in an attempt to purify their souls. Along with the self-mutilation of piecing their faces and body parts with strange and everyday objects, the locals walk barefoot across hot coals and abstain from eating meat for the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar out of the belief that they will be rewarded with excellent health and peace of mind. Not for the squeamish, the woozy or the fainthearted.

7. Paying respect to the royal family is a very serious matter.

In Thailand the royal family is adored and deeply respected by its citizens and it is strictly against the law to criticise any member of the monarchy. The country has the lèse majesté law, which means that any disrespectful acts that are performed toward the king, queen or royal heirs are punished with imprisonment for treason. The popular Hollywood film, ‘The King and I’ was even banned from Thai cinemas as it was deemed to be derogatory to the king. Mother’s and Father’s Day in Thailand are also celebrations for the king and queen rather than for one’s one mother and father and is celebrated nation-wide by the Thai people. Lastly, in the capital of Bangkok the overhead walkways and the monorail will simple come to a complete halt if any royal personage is passing beneath the platform. This is because no layman should ever pass above the head of royalty.

8. All men used to become Buddhist monks

In the past, all Thai young men under the age of twenty, of all social rankings, including the princes and kings, became a Buddhist monk for at least a short amount of time in their lifetime. Although it was never a national requirement, if from a Buddhist family, it was almost always done. Obtaining monkhood is considered to be a very blessed event and by dedicating a portion of one’s life to Buddhism, it is believed that the good karma will be bestowed upon the man’s family. Today there are far fewer Buddhist men who observe the practice of monkhood.

9. Bangkok’s ceremonial name is one of the longest names in the world

Not only is the Thai capital Thailand’s largest city but one-tenth of the entire Thai population live in Bangkok. Made up of Pali and Sanskrit root words, Bangkok’s ceremonial name is, ‘Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.’ Phew! What a mouthful. The name 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.’

10. Thailand is home to a fish that can walk on land

Built like no other fish in the world, the Cryptotora thamicola, otherwise known as the blind, waterfall-climbing cavefish, uses its two front and two back fins to propel itself up waterfalls. In fact, it crawls on land the same way that any four-footed animal would. This is pretty remarkable as the Cryptotora thamicola’s skeletal adaptations for walking have ever been observed in any sort of fish before now. While the cavefish’s anatomy is described as being ‘salamander-like’, the cavefish is actually a distant relative of the commonly known, pet goldfish.

17 Interesting, Bizarre and Peculiar Things about Thailand
Thai women. Photo: This Life of Travel

11. Thailand is the world’s number one orchid exporter

Not only is the delicate, exquisite orchid Thailand’s national flower, but it is also the world’s largest exporter of the floral treasure. Around 45% of Thailand’s orchids are exported out of the country and the rest are sold to locals on the domestic market. Flower enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that there are 1,500 different orchid species growing wild in Thailand’s forests and jungles. Markets, shopping centres, temples and festivals abound with the exotic flower and it is not uncommon to see orchids growing on the side of the road or between one of the many tangled electricity cables.

12. It is considered disrespectful to touch anyone on their head even a child

In Thai culture, the head is considered to be the most important part of the body. As a result, no one should ever touch the head of another person, even a child. As a sign of respect and acknowledgment.

Thais often try to keep their heads lower than the head of anyone older than themselves or anyone in a higher position. On the opposite end of the body, the feet are considered lowly as they are symbols of attachment to the ground or earth, which is deemed to be a cause of human suffering and struggle. For this reason, feet should always be tucked under one’s body and if sitting down, one’s feet must not point toward another person or any statue in a temple.
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