Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Thailand, you likely know that it’s home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, friendliest people, and tastiest dishes. Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is officially known as the Kingdom of Thailand.
While these reasons are more than enough to convince you to see Thailand for yourself, there’s nothing like some fun facts to show what makes a country and its people truly unique. And trust us, if you thought that the ‘Land of Smiles’ was like nowhere on earth before, just wait till you get a load of these weird fun facts!
From curious customs to language linguistics, keep reading to learn more about all these Thailand facts!
Fun Facts About Thailand
Enjoy reading fun facts? Check out these other fact guides around the world.
1. Bangkok’s Real Name Is a Real Mouthful
Only foreigners call Thailand’s capital city Bangkok. In Thai, its real name is Krung Thep. But, even that’s a shortened version of the city’s full name: The offical name of Bangkok is one of the longest names in the world! Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom. Try saying that after a glass of SangSom! Read more: Thailand Travel Tips – 32 Things to Know Before you Go
Krung Thep translates as ‘City of Angels’, while Bangkok actually means ‘village of wild plums’, so you can see why Thais prefer the former. Check out Ultimate 3 Days in Bangkok – A Local’s guide to The Perfect Bangkok Itinerary
2. Bangkok Was Once the ‘Venice of the East’
While we’re on the subject of Bangkok/Krung Thep, would you believe that the city used to be built on stilts overlooking canals? As in Venice, these waterways or ‘khlongs’ served as the main travel and transport routes for the city. Now, most of these canals have been filled, although there are still floating markets for tourists and locals to enjoy on the outskirts of the city. Read more: 27 Best Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand – Plus Insider Local Tips
3. Thais Adore Their Royal Family
Thai people have the utmost adoration and respect for their royal family, which is just as well since it’s considered treason to criticize or show disrespect to any member of the monarchy.
You’ll also find that Mother’s Day in Thailand is held on the Queen’s birthday while Father’s Day is held on the King’s birthday, with both days celebrated by Thais all over the country in honor of their beloved monarchs. Read more: Thailand Travel Tips – 32 Things to Know Before you Go
4. Around 95 Percent of Thais Are Buddhist
Although Thailand doesn’t have an official religion, around 95 percent of the population is Buddhist. And, as the ‘guardian of the faith’, the Thai King must always be Buddhist. Read more about Wat Suan Dok Temple at 35 of the Best Things to do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
5. Thailand Is Home to the World’s Largest Solid Gold Buddha
One of the most impressive sights in Thailand has to be the 15-foot-tall golden statue of Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon. Although looters stole from temples throughout the centuries, this statue was covered in stucco and was saved as a result.
If you see one Buddha statue, make it this one, not least because it’s worth millions of dollars and weighs an impressive 5.5 tons. You can find it at Bangkok’s Wat Traimit. See it as part of this Bangkok Itinerary.
6. Most Thais Have a Nickname
Most Thai people have two names – their full, official name and their nickname. But, unlike in other countries where a nickname is usually just a shortened version of your real name, Thai nicknames are meaningful and chosen by your parents at birth.
Thai parents will often choose names with significance in Thai or words that they like the sound of in foreign languages. Some common nicknames include Bank, Neung (one), and Benz for boys and Tangmo (watermelon), Chompoo (rose apple), and Nan.
7. The Thai Language Has 76 Letters
If you love learning fun facts about language, Thai has plenty of unique and interesting features.
There are 76 letters in the Thai alphabet, including 44 consonants and 32 vowels! Thai also has five tones, making it very difficult to learn. To our Western ears, a lot of tones sound the same but getting an inflection wrong can make all the difference.
For example, ‘s?ai’ with a rising tone means lovely or pretty, but ‘suai’ with a mid-tone means unlucky. For a non-Thai native, it’s easy to confuse these similar sounds. But doing so could obviously land you in trouble!
8. Monkeys Rule in Lopburi
Ever wanted to visit a city run by monkeys? If so, you should head to Lopburi, where macaque monkeys rule the city’s old town neighborhood.
The monkey business gets even weirder in November during the annual ‘Monkey Banquet Festival’ at Lopburi’s Pra Prang Sam Yot temple.
It might not be as fun as the legendary Songkran festival, but watching 600 monkeys feast on menus of rice, salads, tropical fruit, sausages, and even ice cream is a real must-see! Locals hold it to thank the furry creatures for the tourists they bring to the city and because of the luck they think it will bring them to treat the monkeys with respect.
9. Thailand was Known as Siam and Siamese Cats Came from there
Thailand was known as Siam until 1939 when it was changed to Thailand. But it was changed back to Siam for a short period from 1945 – 1949 until it settled on its current name. But did you know that Siamese cats originated in Thailand? That explains the name for you! Siamese cats are considered lucky in Thailand.
10. Rice Is a Staple at Every Meal
To Thai people, rice is such a staple that it stands alone as its own category. Rather than a type of food, it’s an essential part of every meal, including breakfast.
In fact, a common way to greet people translates as ‘Have you eaten rice?’, while saying you’re hungry in Thai has the literal meaning, ‘I want to eat rice.’
11. Thailand Was Never Colonized by Europeans
As this impressive feat shows, random fun facts can be educational too!
Unlike neighboring Southeast Asian countries Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia, Thailand was never colonized by Europeans. It seems apt, then, that Thailand’s name in Thai is Prathet Thai, which translates as ‘Land of the Free’.
12. Thais Eat With Spoons and Forks
First-time visitors to Thailand are often surprised to see a distinct lack of chopsticks. But the truth is that Thais only use chopsticks when eating Chinese food.
Otherwise, they use a spoon as their main utensil for eating and cutting, while they use a fork to push food onto their spoon.
13. Heads Are Sacred and Feet Are Lowly
Thai culture considers the head as the most important part of the body. As such, you should never touch someone else’s head, not even a child’s.
At the other end of the body, Thais consider feet to be lowly. Feet are seen as symbols of our attachment to the earth, linking our human bodies to suffering and struggle. For this reason, you should never put your feet up on a table and show the soles of your shoes. And using your feet to point at another person or a temple statue is considered the height of rudeness.
14. The National Anthem Is Played Twice a Day
If you’re ever in a public place at 8 am or 6 pm, be prepared to stand up, stop what you’re doing, and keep silent as the national anthem plays. These times mark the raising and lowering of the Thai flag, and it’s considered offensive to talk or remain seated when the anthem is playing. Also note that the Thai National Anthem plays before every movie. Be sure to stand up, watch the video that goes with it and remain silent.
15. Deep-Fried Cockroaches Are a Popular Snack
Thailand is a popular spot for culinary travel, and with good reasons. The intense combinations of flavors used in Thai cooking make sampling local delights a real treat for all the senses.
But, there are some Thai favorites that take a little more getting used to, including deep-fried cockroaches and other insects. Many tourists try them out on the Khao San Road for a dare but they’re actually not a gimmick like many foreigners think. At fairs and markets all over the country, you’ll see Thais tucking into a bag of fried insects in the same way we’d munch on candies or potato chips.
16. Be Careful With Your Hands
It’s not just pointing or gesturing with your feet that’s rude in Thai culture. Using your index finger to point at another person is also unacceptable.
Thais also consider the beckoning motion we use in the West as impolite. Rather than facing your palm up and moving your fingers to beckon, you should tell people to come closer with your palm facing down.
As for shaking hands, while it’s not rude, you won’t see any Thais doing it. Instead, they do the ‘wai’, where they place their hands together and lift them up to their faces while lowering their heads in a bow. The higher you raise your hands, the more respect you show.
17. Expect To Keep Your Clothes on During a Thai Massage
Although you’ll often see massage beds on many of Thailand’s busier beaches, a traditional Thai massage is usually performed with loose and comfortable clothing still on.
Unlike other forms of massage, the Thai technique involves stretching and twisting your body using a sequence of yoga-like movements. Often, your therapist will use the weight of their whole body to put you in various positions and work your entire body for an unforgettable relaxing experience.
18. Home Cooking Isn’t Common
How about this for one of the most surprising weird fun facts? Thai people rarely cook food at home, especially if they live in big cities like Bangkok. Many Thais live in small apartments where there isn’t room for much of a kitchen beyond a sink and a fridge for essentials.
What’s more, eating out is so cheap that it’s often more affordable to eat a typical street dish than it is to buy the ingredients and make it yourself. And, since Thais don’t like to eat by themselves, they’re often motivated to head out to eat for company as well as convenience and cost. Read more: 9 Massively Tasty Thai Dishes
Fun Facts About Thailand to Impress Your Friends
Thailand Facts 19 – 22
And now it is time for the lightening round of Fast Thailand facts.
- 19. Thailand hosts the world’s largest waterfight called Songkran. Read more here Songkran Festival
- 20. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of orchids. It’s no wonder, there are 1500 orchid species that grow in the wild in The Kingdom of Thailand.
- 21. Thailand is also the world’s largest exporter of rice (by value) India is #1 but Thailand exports more expensive Jasmine rice.
- 22. There are 40,000 temples in Thailand – When visiting temples in Thailand, be sure to cover up!
- 23. The smallest mammal in the world is located in Thailand. The bumblebee bat is the smallest mammal on earth and we have never seen one while traveling Thailand.
As these fun facts about Thailand show, it sure is a fascinating country!
If learning about this special slice of Southeast Asia has inspired your wanderlust, be sure to take a look at our Thailand travel guide for all the best tips and tricks.
Or, for more general travel tips and information, feel free to contact us today!