You may have probably heard of Thailand’s successful “Amazing Thailand” tourism campaign. As a result, more than 19 million tourists visit Thailand every year, making it the most heavily-visited country in Southeast Asia.
But beyond the gorgeous beaches, amazing cuisine, spellbinding temples, huge shopping malls, towering golden Buddhas and the welcoming smiles of the Thai people, there are some things that you should know about Thailand that make the country all the more amazing and enchanting.
1) Thailand was never colonized by Europeans.
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never conquered or colonized by the Europeans, while their neighbors were colonized by mostly either the French or the British. While Thailand has had alliances with the Japanese (during World War II) and the United States, it has never otherwise been conquered, technically speaking.
Thailand’s name in the Thai language is “Prathet Thai” which means “Land of the Free,” which the country truly is!
2) The real name of “Bangkok”
Bangkok is Thailand’s capital and largest city, home to about eight million people (as of 2010). You’re lucky if you know Bangkok as “Bangkok.” However, its actual name is (get ready for this):
Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.
The name is a combination of Pali and Sanskrit root words. It is translated as: “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 Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.”
3) Temples, lots of them!
Thailand is home to some 35,000 temples, so really, the country is the land of the temples. When you visit these temples, you are required to dress modestly. Meaning: no sleeveless tops, shorts and miniskirts.
4) The bigger, the better.
A nuclear family – consisting of two parents and their children – is rare in Thailand. Rather, large extended families are the norm there.
5) Bangkok — the hottest city in the world!
Bangkok was declared by the World Meteorological Organization as the hottest city in the world, with an average air temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (or 82.4 degress Fahrenheit). It’s hot and sweltering all-year round. Yes, it even beats the temperatures in the desert which becomes chilly during the evenings and during the winter season. So get prepared to spend hot days (and nights) in Bangkok.
6) National language
Thailand’s sole and official language is Thai, which is believed to have been derived from Chinese, with several loanwords from English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Khmer. Like Chinese, Thai is a tonal language. Its alphabet consists of 32 vowels and 44 consonants.
7) The biggest mineral found in Thailand?
When you hear of Thailand, it conjures images of gold and the dazzling diamonds and rubies that are embedded in their temples and Buddha statues. But this might surprise you, as tin is actually the most important mineral in Thailand. In fact, it is one of the world’s major tin producers.
8) Some weird laws
Strange laws exist in most countries in the world, and Thailand is no exception. These include: a) You must wear an underwear when going out of the house; and b) You must wear a shirt when driving a vehicle. Forget wearing any of them and you’re automatically breaking the law.
9) A wine country in Thailand? Yes, there is!
When you think of a “wine country,” you’d first think of Italy, France or Napa Valley in California. But Thailand? With its hot weather and chalky terrain, it’s hardly the first destination that most wine connoisseurs could think of. But the wine industry in Thailand is actually thriving, with locally-produced quality wines being served in expensive restaurants. These labels are also exported overseas.
There are at least about five wine regions in Thailand. Check out this interesting article “Unexpected Wine Destinations in the World” and you will find some information on Thailand’s most famous vineyards, the Monsoon Valley and the Silverlake Vineyard.