10 Things You Didn’t Know About Thailand
Think you know Thailand? Think again! Discover ten cool facts about the foremost Kingdom in Southeast Asia.
Khao Phing Kan – Photo credit
10. Royal Longevity
Think Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee is impressive? Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej a.k.a. Rama IX has been on the job for sixty-six plus years. The world’s most durable current head of state had his coronation on May 5, 1950.
9. Six-Hour Clock
Much of the world thinks and operates on a twenty-four-hour clock but Thai, Lao and Khmer cultures chunk the day up in four six-hour segments and employ specific expressions for each.
8. People Power
Thailand has just under 67 million people. This puts the country at number twenty in the world just behind the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a notch in front of France. Metropolitan Bangkok envelops some 10 million people, which puts it in good company with the likes of Beijing and Nagoya.
7. Muay Thai is the national sport but …
Sepak takraw is big time too. A bona fide “kick volleyball”, the origins of the sport in the Malay-Thai Peninsula date back to the 15th century. Try to catch a match – the action is spectacular. Curiously, Thailand is also the “Golf Capital of Asia”.
6. The King of Thailand is … American?
Yes. Rama IX was born, of all places, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard, M.I.T. … and the King of Thailand. A man now worth some $35 billion, by the way.
5. Five UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Tourists often think of Thailand in terms of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the islands. But you have to give the country’s UNESCO World Heritage cred some love. Start with the Historic City of Ayutthaya for one. The second Siamese capital, some 85 km north of Bangkok, is extraordinary. From there make your way to other gems like the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns, Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries, Ban Chiang Archaeological Site and Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex. Take note as well – Thailand has several sites on the UNESCO Tentative List, namely the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex, the Cultural Route of Phimai and the Associated Temples of Phanomroong and Muangtam and Phuphrabat Historical Park.
4. Ethnic Diversity
Contrary to popular opinion, Thailand is not all Thai people. The Thai (or ethnic Tai) and Chinese do constitute the majority, without question, but close to fifty disparate ethnic groups live in Thailand.
3. Theravada Buddhism
Just under 97% of Thailand practices Theravada Buddhism. The faith is more than just a religion or cultural force. Theravada Buddhism permeates just about every aspect of daily life in some shape or form and is seldom not at the root of manifold social customs.
2. Rice, Rice, Baby
Rice is life in Thailand and a peerless keystone of the country’s agricultural economy. With over 10 million hectares of arable rice land, no other country exports more of the cereal grain than Thailand.
1. Epic Alphabet
The Thai, Siamese, or, indeed, Central Thai language has a significant alphabet. Epic is the more appropriate word, in fact. All told, the language has some forty-four consonants.
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