Next time someone giggles at the name “Bangkok,” inform them that the full name of the city is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. That’ll teach ‘em. FYI, that’s the longest city name in the world.
Photo: Justin Vidamo
Speaking of traditional names, Thailand, in Thai, is Prathet Thai, meaning "Land of the Free." Before it adopted this name, the nation was called Siam, which is Sanskrit for “dark” or “brown.”
Photo: Vinoth Chandar
"Land of the Free" is appropriate, because Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized by a foreign power.
Photo: Darren Johnson
Thailand has over 1,400 islands within its territory. Arguably the most famous—thanks to the movie The Beach—is Koh Phi Phi near Phuket.
Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Another famous beach is Koh Phangan, birthplace of the Full Moon Party, a debauched concept that's now spread throughout the region. Be warned: It comes with risks of physical harm (perhaps diving through a flaming hoop?) and arrest (if caught purchasing illicit substances), among other serious consequences. In the morning, all that remains is the trash of the masses, unconscious, over-yolo’d 20-somethings, and most people’s dignity.
Photo: Thomas sauzedde
Feet are considered spiritually and symbolically dirty, and so a person should never point their feet at another person, or at a temple. (This is mostly a concern when sitting, especially if cross-legged in a chair—your crossed foot should not dangle in someone’s direction.)
Photo: Caitlin Regan
On the flip side, the head is the holiest part of the body. Thus, you should never touch someone’s head—even a child's.
Photo: Georgie Pauwels
Thailand has a college just for monkeys. It's called Thani Monkey College, and the students learn all sorts of street-preforming tricks, as well as how to collect coconuts. Speaking of monkeys, Thailand also has a special banquet—a monkey banquet, where thousands of monkeys are served platters of fruit and vegetables.
Photo: Andy Rennie
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, and most Thais adore their king and queen. Many families display the king's face in their homes, and it’s pretty much illegal to speak ill of him. The Thai royal families have been so revered that, in the past, no one was allowed to even touch them; in fact, in the 1800s, a queen drowned when her boat capsized and no onlookers came her to rescue due to this strict rule.
Many Thais have a firm belief in ghosts. For example, after purchasing a house, it’s very common to build a small spirit house for whoever occupied the site in the past, and to give offerings to the spirits. If you were to stay in a Thai home, you might be asked to make a small offering and ask permission from the spirits for your stay. Of course, every family and their degree of belief is different, but walking around after dark just got a little spookier.
Photo: Ray Bodden
Thailand is one of the most Buddhist nations on Earth, with 95% of the population identifying as such. It’s common for Thai men to spend a little time in their youths trying out life as a monk, though most do not enter monkhood.
Photo: KX Studio
Everyone loves Thai food, right? Next time, try one of these more “authentic” dishes: goong ten (live shrimp salad), larb mote daeng (red ants and their eggs), baak bpet (duck mouths), or mok huak (grown tadpoles in fermented fish sauce).
Photo: J Aaron Farr
In Bangkok, it’s normal to see the thermometer soar above 40C (104F), and wintertime temps hang out around 26C (79F).
The Vivaldi Restaurant in Bangkok served the world’s most expensive cocktail, the “Valentine’s Cocktail.” Coming in at 540,000 baht (that’s more than $15,000 US), it was garnished with a five-karat ruby instead of an olive, and served with a six-course dinner, a night in the adjoining luxury hotel, and a bottle of Dom. Happy Valentine’s Day, millionaires.
Thailand is home to one of the world’s largest freshwater fish, the Mekong giant catfish, which can weigh up to 700lbs, as well as the world’s smallest bat, the bumblebee bat (or Kitti’s hog-nosed bat), which grows to a little over an inch and weighs two grams.
Photo: Gilles San Martin
Songkran is one of the world’s largest water festivals and takes place in one of the hottest months of the Thai year—April. It's also a time for cleansing (both personally and in the home, similar to spring cleaning) and signals the Thai New Year. By the way, in Thailand, the current year is 2557 (543 years ahead of the Gregorian Calendar).
Photo: John Shedrick
Another famous festival is Yi Peng, which takes place in November—an excellent month to visit Thailand, weather-wise—and is a celebration that sees thousands of paper lanterns lit and released to the sky. The festival also includes boat races, beauty contests, fireworks, and parades galore.
Photo: John Shedrick
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This post is proudly produced in partnership with Tourism Authority of Thailand and STA Travel, working together to tell stories of the peoples, places, and cultures that make Thailand special.