Bursting with culture and excitement, Thailand is a major destination for tourists from all over the world. But before you pack your bags, here are few things most people don't know about the Kingdom formerly known as Siam. Who knows? Maybe they'll help you break the ice with some locals.
1. What's In A Name?
Bangkok's official full name is: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.
If you thought that was a mouthful, it's not much better when translated into English. Composed of both Sanskrit and Pali root words, 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."
Shortening it to "Bangkok" was a pretty smart move, branding wise!
2. Getting A Head
In Thailand, the head is considered the most important, sacred part of the body. Because of this, their culture forbids touching anybody directly on the head -- including children! Having respect for your elders is also incredibly important, and to show this respect, you're in fact expected to lower your head to them.
3. Birds Of A Feather
While the country is known for its overabundance of exotic animals, most people don't realize quite just how much wildlife there is to explore in Thailand.
There are nearly 1,000 different species of bird in Thailand, more than Europe and America combined, including 45 species that are considered rare. Thailand is also home to around a tenth of ALL animal species on the planet. For a country that's only slightly larger than the state of Wyoming, that's quite a slice of the pie!
4. Does That Bug You?
Thailand is a country with rich and varied culinary influences, so if you don't want to eat bugs, you'll definitely have other options. Still, due to the incredible demand for edible insects, 800 tons of edible bugs are imported from China, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar every year just to meet demand.
There are also over 20,000 cricket farming facilities in Thailand alone, with the edible insect industry generating $30 million in revenue! Other edible insects routinely eaten in Thailand include grasshoppers, water bugs, and bamboo caterpillars.
5. Monkey Business
It's no secret that Thailand's extensive population of monkeys attracts a lot of tourists to the country. So, as a way to reward the monkeys for their tourist-attracting abilities, the Monkey Buffet Festival is held in their honor every year in Lopburi.
During this festival, over 2,000 monkeys are fed an estimated 4,000 kilograms of fruit.
6. De-Forest Gump
If you're looking to retreat into nature, northern Thailand, where you can find Chiang Mai and Doi Inthanon National Park, is where you want to be. Just 100 years ago, most of northern Thailand was covered in thick forests, and much of the mountainous region still is today.
While Thailand is still home to many lush areas full of vegetation, it can't be denied that the vast majority of it has been completely destroyed by humans, leaving only a quarter of the original northern woodlands left.
The only other country that has lost more trees than Thailand is Singapore. Logging is now fully banned throughout Thailand as a result of these extensive losses; hopefully, at least some of the damage can be reversed.
7. Flower Power
Orchids are Thailand's national flower, so it's no surprise the plant should be ubiquitous throughout the country. It's been estimated by botanists that over 1,500 types of orchid grow wild across Thailand, making it an absolute haven for lovers of exotic, vibrant flowers.
8. People in Thailand don't greet each other with "how are you?"
Instead, Thai people will often say "have you eaten yet?"
Thailand is renowned for its incredible food, so it's no wonder that eating and sharing meals with loved ones are considered very important activities within the culture.
In fact, a lot of Thailand's culture was heavily influenced by the neighboring Chinese, who also take food and eating very seriously, leading many people to use the subject of food as their primary icebreaker.
9. Keep your feet to yourself!
In Thailand, the feet are generally seen as a lowly part of the body. This is thought to be because they symbolize unison with the ground, which is a cause of suffering. Because of this, pointing your feet while sitting at a temple, or at a statue, or at another person is considered very disrespectful. Feet should be tucked away, preferably underneath the body.
We hope these super important facts prove useful when exploring and learning about Thailand's culture, and help you enjoy this magnificent country in a whole new light!