10 interesting facts about Thailand you didn’t know

10 interesting facts about Thailand you didn’t know

Thailand is one of our favourite countries in Asia, and Bangkok our favourite base where we keep returning to. Along the way we’ve picked up some unique and interesting facts about Thailand, which we think will fascinate every traveller.

Celebrating the popular King of Thailand

Posing at the famous neon sign celebrating The King at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport

#1 LONG LIVE THE KING! 

The former King of Thailand, Bhumibol Aadulyadej, is big here. Also known as Rama IX, he is idolised and revered by everyone in Thailand as a god like symbol.

Portrait of The King in Siam

We noticed this beautiful portrait of The King whilst shopping in one of the malls in Siam, central Bangkok

Thailand has some of the strictest lese majeste (injured majesty) laws in the world. Defaming or insulting The King is a criminal offence and you risk several years imprisonment under Thai law.

This applies to foreigners as well. In 2007, a 57 years old Swiss national (Oliver Jufer) was sentenced to 10 years for accidentally spilling black paint on a portrait of The King in Chiang Mai while drunk. He was eventually pardoned.

Oliver Jufer arrested for insulting The King

In 2007, Swiss national, Oliver Jufer was arrested for spilling black paint on a portrait of The King

You risk being arrested if you deface or even step on the currency (which has The King’s image on it) or as one nurse recently found out, wearing black on The King’s birthday on 5th December 2014, or failing to stand for the Royal Anthem in the cinema.

Shrine to The King in Bangkok

A shrine to The King in Bangkok outside the Christian Hospital in Silom

#2 TWO NATIONAL ANTHEMS

Thailand is one of the few monarchies (like Denmark and Sweden), which has a separate National Anthem for the royal family as opposed to the national anthem for its citizens.

The Thai Royal Anthem, is called the Sansoen Phra Barami and is performed during state occasions and before a film in the cinema begins. When the Royal Anthem plays in the cinema, it is a criminal offence not to stand and take in the short movie clip about the King.

We watched the film, “The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies” in Siam in Bangkok and just before it began, we had to stand through a clip similar to this:

#3 FREEZE AND RESPECT THE THAI NATIONAL ANTHEM

The National Anthem of Thailand (“Phleng Chat Thai”) is as important as the Royal Anthem. At around 8am and 6pm in Thailand, it is played in all public places from a loudspeaker. Thais are required by law to stop whatever it is they’re doing, stand still and respect it for the few minutes it’s playing.

When we first arrived at Sala Deung Sky Train station, we tried to ask around for the correct exit to leave the station and got extremely confused when we saw everyone standing still completely immobile. The man we asked smiled at us, gestured “one minute” with his fingers and then went statue-esque. Now we know why!

We took this short clip in central Bangkok and what made us laugh was the Chinese tourist walking in between the motionless Thai people wondering what the hell was going on:

#4 BANGKOK’S FULL NAME…yikes!

The city is known in Thai as “Krung Thep Maaha Nakhon” but its full ceremonial name is:

“Krungthep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”

The name is listed by the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest place name and Thai children are taught to sing the name as a way to remember it.

This boy we met in Silom in Bangkok kindly obliged for us:

#5 INTERNET CENSORSHIP LAWS

It’s not quite China standards in Thailand, but since 2008, the Thai government invested around 500 million bahts (£10 million / $15 million) to build a gateway to block websites with contents defaming the monarchy, porn and anything with “improper content and language aimed at inciting hatred and undermining national security for political or other reasons”.

We tried to open this article by the Daily Mail about Thailand banning scuba divers from damaged coral reefs, but instead got this message:

strict internet laws interesting facts about thailand

Access a blocked website in Thailand and you will receive this message

(We also decided to test it for porn, [strictly for curiosity of course!] and found the site http://besttwinkvideos.com was also blocked, receiving the same message).

 

#6 DON’T LEAVE THE HOUSE COMMANDO!

Apparently both are illegal, so always wear underwear when in public in Thailand and don’t drive shirtless.

Not sure how this would be checked but we couldn’t find details of anyone who’d been arrested for going in the streets commando. Sebastien decided to do his own practical research and had no problems from the Thai police:

commando banned interesting facts about thailand

Don’t leave the house commando again Sebastien!

#7 SIAMESE CATS

Siamese cats originated in Thailand where they are called “Wichian Mat”, meaning “Moon Diamond”. Siam was the former name of Thailand until 1949.

Giving a pair of Siamese cats to a bride on her wedding day is a gesture of good luck to her marriage.

Siamese cat one of interesting facts about thailand

Siamese cats originated from Thailand

 

#8 SIAMESE TWINS

The name, “Siamese twins” comes from the first reported case of conjoined twins, brothers, Eng and Chang Bunker, born in 1811 in a village near Bangkok, who were joined at the chest.

Both brothers married and had 22 children between them. Eng died in 1873 from pneumonia and Chang died a few hours later.

Siamese twins interesting facts about thailand

The first Siamese twins, Eng and Chang Bunker, were born in 1811 in a village near Bangkok

 

#9 LARGEST EXPORTER OF RICE

Thailand has historically been the biggest exporter of rice. It lost out to Vietnam and India recently but is apparently set to reclaim the title in 2015 according to the Bangkok Post with shipments estimated at 10-11 million tonnes this year to places like China, Nigeria, Iran and the Philippines.

rice exporers interesting facts about thailand

Graph showing the projected rice exports in 2015by the Foreign Agricultural Service


#10 GIANT LIZARDS ROAMING FREE!

The monitor lizard is the world’s largest living lizard and is native to Thailand. They can grow as long as 2 metres (7 feet), are carnivorous but generally not harmful to humans.

They are common throughout the Thai islands and we spotted this one at Koh Adang when we were island hopping:

Monitor lizard interesting facts about thailand

Monitor lizard spotted on our day trip to Koh Adang

For more inspiring advice, check out Paula of the Contented Traveller’s tips for Bangkok for first timers.

Also, watch our Thailand travel video as we island hopped through this beautiful country:

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14 Comments

  1. Trevor Barre

    great info and photos guys, thanks

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Trevor!

      Reply
  2. sally

    Haha I was just telling my boyfriend about the commando fact the other day! I saw one of those Lizards on Koh Lanta and nearly pooed my pants! Great post 🙂

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Ha! Thanks Sally 🙂

      Reply
  3. Amahl

    You can see lizards walking around and about at Lumphini Park. You can get good close-up ones.
    The Snake museum is an interesting place to go, too.

    We were told off before in the cinemas for not standing up during the anthem. And you finish your popcorns before the film even starts. Haha.

    We’ve not been arrested for going commando though.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Amahl- will check out Lumpini Park next time we’re near Silom 🙂 Snake museum eh? Wow

      Reply
  4. Amy

    Ha, I love the fact that they blocked the Daily Hate Mail website in Thailand 🙂 I really like the way everyone stops for the anthem, it’s awesome to watch in a bus and train station; the best bit is when everyone just hastily walks off at the end as if nothing’s happened!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Amy 🙂 So true!

      Reply
  5. Tim @ Homo Nomadic

    LOL. Laws against Freeballing! Well … I can report one offender in Koh Samui . I’m just boarding the ferry to Koh Tao – in search of more of this type of criminal activity. Cheers Boys!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks for your comment Tim. Would LOVE to know more about your Koh Samui offender!! 🙂

      Reply
  6. I-nomad

    Did you know that in Thailand, by law people are not allowed to leave their home without underwear. Also you should not put your feet on a high place like a chair as well as moving a ladies handbag from the seat to the floor. This has to do with Buddhism. Feet are regarded as very low and there could be a Buddha statue nearby lower than your resting feet. Just in case, Thai see it as offending. Ladies handbags often contain amulets or small statues which should never be put at the same level as your feet.
    I have seen monitor lizards on islands in Thailand (Max 2m) as well as in Malaysia. In Thailand they are certainy not the biggest. On Perhentian Buyuk, Malaysia, I saw a monitor lizard of 3 meters long eating from the garbage of the hotel. I could verify this by the distance of the two trees he was right behind. I took pics of all encounters, but it would take some time to dig them up should you be interested.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Amazing!

      Reply
  7. I-nomad

    As far as reading the dailymsil in Thailand is concerned, just put the web- page through Google translate (from Thai to English or Chinese to English, so that it doesn’t effectively translates anything. This is a low level proxy hack in the land of smiles..

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Ha!

      Reply

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