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Thailand is known for its beautiful islands with picture-perfect beaches, dramatic limestone cliffs, delectable cuisine, some of the world's friendliest people, and glistening temples. However, the Land of Smiles has a distinct culture and history in addition to its natural beauty and tourist attractions. Sixteen million tourists visit Thailand each year, and the country's cultural integrity has remained substantially intact despite the surge of visitors. And few of these people are even aware of this.
Well, what a shame! Some of the facts are strange and peculiar. So, if you're planning to visit or live in the country, why not brush up on some of its fascinating facts for fun? Plus, with this collection of lesser-known tidbits, you can wow family and friends the next time you're out at a Thai bar chatting over drinks.
Khao Sok National Park is among the world's oldest tropical evergreen forests. It contains remnants of a rainforest dating back approximately 160 million years.
Craseonycteris thonglongyai, the world's tiniest mammal, is found only in Thailand. This bat is about an inch long and weighs about two grams. It is also known as Kitti's hog-nosed bat or the bumblebee bat.
Thailand has both the smallest and the largest animals. The whale shark, which can grow up to 40 feet long and be the size of a school bus, can be found deep beneath the ocean nearby. So if you visit the islands in April, you might catch a glimpse of whale sharks.
The Rafflesia may be found in the Khao Sok National Park's unique habitat. This tropical plant's varieties produce the world's most giant flowers, measuring up to 90cm in diameter and weighing up to 7kg. Unfortunately, Rafflesias also has the distinction of being one of the stenchiest flowers on the earth, with an odour similar to rotten meat since flies pollinate them.
Until it officially became known as the Kingdom of Thailand in 1948, the country was called the Kingdom of Siam. Siamese cats bear the name of the defunct Kingdom of Siam. This popular cat breed is from Thailand. Siamese cats once came in 23 varieties. Six remain. In Thailand, a bride's wedding day is blessed with a pair of Siamese cats.
Why are conjoined twins called Siamese twins? Because of Chang and Eng Bunker, the conjoined brothers born in 1811 in Siam. When they first arrived in England to be shown in a circus, they were called "The Siamese Twins."
Bangkok is the foreign title for the capital. Thai people call Bangkok Krung Thep, the shortened version of the city's full name. Bangkok's real name is made up of Pali and Sanskrit root words: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. 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.'
Many original buildings were placed on stilts over the Chao Phraya River and Bangkok's many meandering canals. Hence the name. However, most have been filled and paved over as roadways. Although there are still a couple of attractive canals in Bangkok for tourists and locals to enjoy boat rides.
Wat Traimit in Bangkok has the world's most giant gold Buddha. Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon's 15-foot-tall golden statue is a magnificent sight. The 5.5-ton statue costs millions. Looters stole temple statues in the past, so a stucco disguise protected the statue for many years. Now, you can see it in all its golden glory.
Stepping on a Thai Baht can get you arrested because the King's picture is on Thai bills and coins. This odd law is easy to remember. If coins or money fall, avoid walking on them to prevent them from flying or rolling. Instead, use your hands.
King Bhumibol Adulyade was the world's longest-reigning head of state when he died 13 October 2016. He ruled Thailand for 70 years and 126 days. He had a cloud seeding patent and a Swiss engineering degree and created Thailand's national hymn, among many more impressive achievements.
Thailand is 543 years ahead of most other countries. Thailand uses the Western calendar too, but the Buddhist calendar is official. Buddha died and entered Nirvana in 543 BC. Therefore, 2021 is 2564 in Thailand. Thai ID cards and 7-Eleven receipts use the Buddhist calendar, so you may notice this peculiarity frequently.
In Thai culture, each day has a colour. Although the old habit of wearing the day's colour is less common, it's still visible on specific occasions.
Most Thais know their birthday colour and 'lucky' colour. The days and their colours are:
Thailand is a Buddhist country with animist beliefs and customs. Spirit houses are everywhere in Thailand. They're often elaborate shrines where people place daily gifts for the spirits.
Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport has gigantic 'yaksha' figurines near the check-in desks. Thai temples also have them. Yaksha is a Buddhist guardian warrior that wards off evil demons (spirits).
You've certainly seen decorated serpent-like animals at Thai Buddhist temple gates. These are nagas. They are defenders in Hindu and Buddhist mythology who scare away evil spirits.
Thailand's emblem is the garuda. The garuda (or 'khrut' in Thai) denotes the Thai monarch's authority. Thai banknotes, legal documents, and regal temples include the half-bird, half-human khrut.
Thais have long, intricate names. Instead of their formal name, they are given a nickname ('chue len') at birth. It may be an abbreviation of their legal name or a short name the parents enjoy. Noy (small), Nok (bird), and Fon (rain) are examples of common nicknames. Multinational names like Benz, Beer, and Coffee have become more popular in recent years.
Red Bull, an Austrian business, has Thai roots. Red Bull is based on Krating Daeng, a sweet, non-carbonated Thai energy drink created in the 1970s. Dietrich Mateschitz adjusted Krating Daeng's taste and launched Red Bull in 1987. Krating Daeng and Red Bull have similar logos today.
With their sea-salt salty flavour, Swiftlet nests are one of the most costly, prized, and sought-after delicacies. These Thai cave-collected nests cost over $900 a pound. According to traditional Chinese medicine, people who can afford the salty delicacy have many health benefits from eating these nests.
Thailand is a popular gastronomic destination. Thai cuisine's strong flavour combinations are a sensory thrill. Deep-fried cockroaches and other Thai staples take some getting accustomed to. Tourists venture to try them on Khao San Road, but they're not a gimmick. Thais eat fried insects like candy or potato chips at festivals and marketplaces across the country.
In November, in the province of Lopburi, there is an annual Lopburi Monkey Banquet. Locals arrange a two-ton spread of delicious food for 600 monkeys. The monkeys eat rice, fruits, salad, sausages, and ice cream. The celebration honours the concept that respecting these furry animals will bring good luck. Locals do it to thank the monkeys for attracting thousands of tourists each year. This celebration is a spectacle for monkey lovers.
The blind, waterfall-climbing Cryptotora thamicola utilizes its two front and two back fins to climb waterfalls. It crawls like any four-legged mammal. No fish has ever had skeletal adaptations for walking like Cryptotora thamicola. Cavefish are a distant relative of pet goldfish, despite their salamander-like structure.
Thailand contains 1,430 islands, 35,000 temples, and a population of over 67 million people. And finally, rice is the country's most exported crop (naturally).