Thailand • Land of Smiles
Known as the land of smiles for its friendly welcoming towards visitors. Great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and great beaches.
A country about the same size as France, Thailand is sure to amaze you with the most interesting markets, places and culture, simply an unforgettable experience and one many people return to experience again and again.
The warmth of the people and places, in busy city markets or away in the islands in the Andaman Sea, I have never been anywhere that matches what Thailand has to offer the visitor (so far), finding yourself surprised with how far or how much you can get out of your experience in this land of sunshine and smiles.
An independent country that lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, officially the Kingdom of Thailand, with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only South-East Asian country never to have been colonised by a foreign power. A revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy where the king is officially titled as the Head of State, the Head of the Armed Forces, an Upholder of the Buddhist religion, and the Defender of all Faiths. The largest city and capital Bangkok.
The national religion is Theravada Buddhism where the place of worship are wats, temples identified by their ornate, multicoloured, pointy roofs. One pre-Buddhist tradition that still survives is the spirit house (usually found at the corner of any house or business), which houses spirits so they don’t enter the house and cause trouble.
The traditional Thai greeting, the wai, is a sign of respect for another. With hands pressed together as in prayer, fingertips pointing upwards as the head bowed to touch the face to the hands, is generally offered first by the younger of the two people meet. The higher your hands go, the more respectful you are. Thais often do a wai as they walk past temples and spirit houses. If somebody makes a wai to you, a slight bow alone is more than sufficient.
Thai people smile constantly and are a subtle way to communicate, a smile can indicate any emotion – from fear to anger, to sadness, to joy, etc. “Saving face” is a very important aspect of Thai culture and they will try to avoid embarrassment and confrontation.
Thai cuisine blends five fundamental tastes: sweet, spicy, sour, bitter and salty. Some common ingredients used in Thai cuisine include garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemongrass, and fish sauce. The staple food in Thailand is rice, particularly jasmine variety rice which is included in almost every meal. Thai food has a reputation for being spicy, with hot little torpedo-shaped chillies making their way into many dishes. Since Thai dishes are usually made to order, it’s easy to ask for anything on the menu to be made with or without ingredients you choose.
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, is the national sport in Thailand, with its full-contact rules allowing strikes including elbows, throws and knees, derived from the military training of Thai warriors and royal soldiers for combat on battlefield if unarmed.
There are many ways to get around and a few traditional methods including the tuk-tuk, a three-wheeled small/lightweight vehicle, often found in cities and towns. Common in the islands (known as kho) and coasts of Thailand are the Long-tail boats, a long thin wooden boat with the propeller at the end of a long “tail” stretching from the boat.
Taboos in Thailand include touching someone’s head or pointing with the feet, as the head is considered the most sacred and the foot the dirtiest part of the body. It’s illegal to show disrespect to royalty, a crime which carries up to 15 years imprisonment. Do not make any negative remarks about the King or any members of the Royal Family.