Fun Facts About Thailand

January 24, 2024

Paul Kay


Is it time to plan a destination vacation? How about Asia? We have fun facts about Thailand in this post. Thailand is a country located in Southeast Asia, known for its beautiful beaches, rich culture, and delicious cuisine. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice, and rice is a staple food in Thai cuisine. Thai cuisine is known for its bold flavors and use of herbs and spices, including lemongrass, galangal, and chili peppers. Is it time to start planning your vacation? As a traveler, here are some fun facts to consider about Thailand. In this post I’ll give you a little history about the country and the top five destinations you should consider exploring.

The King and I Movie Anna and the King of Siam Thailand

Many people probably heard of Thailand as Siam through the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – “The King and I.” I remember watching Yul Brenner and Deborah Kerr sing and dance their way through the movie version.

The musical was based on Anna and the King of Siam, a novel based on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, as written by Margaret Landon. Leonowens was a governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. The musical’s plot tells the story of Anna who was hired originally as a governess but fell in love with the king.

Thailand is certainly one of the earliest Asian civilizations starting some 4,500 years ago.   There are conflicting opinions as to the origins of the Thais.  Some scholars believe that Thai people came from China and others believe they were more indigenous.  

Both the French and British attempted to colonize Thailand but they compromised to keep it as a neutral territory.  At this time, it was still called Siam.   The Siamese Revolution occurred in 1932 when the absolute monarchy of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and established a constitutional monarchy was overthrown and a new constitution and rule occurred that was largely overseen by military personnel. 

During World War II, Thailand aligned itself with Japan in order to avoid being destroyed and conquered.  After the war, it aligned itself with the United States unlike other neighbors that embraced communist rule.  They established a democratic government in 1992 which has resumed to the present day.

Bangkok

Bangkok Thailand at night Blue

Bangkok was originally a small town on the Chao Phraya River but in 1782, King Rama I named it the capital city.  The name roughly translated to “City of Angels” – reminiscent of Los Angeles.  One of the first things you’ll notice in Bangkok is how busy it is.  It feels like New York, Chicago, Tokyo or any other very busy city.  

Bangkok Thailand Wat Phra Dhammakaya

As a tourist, you’ll want to see the Wats.  What is a Wat?  It is a temple and in Thailand, it is largely a Buddhist temple.  As you travel through Asia you will see how temples would change from Buddhism to Hindu and back again.  Our phrase for traveling in Bangkok was – too many Wats and not enough Bahts. 

Stack of Thai Baht banknotes

The Baht is the Thai currency, and a small offering is generally required to visit many of the Buddhist Wats.  However, when you see some of the grander Wats with gold leaf domes, you wonder where all the Bahts came from to build them. The Thai Baht is worth about 3 cents USD so you will need larger denominations of Bahts to get around town if you are carrying cash.

In Bangkok, you should see Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Traimit, Wat Saket and the Golden Mount, and Wat Kalayanamit.  These are just a few of the Wats you should consider.  The Grand Palace is not exactly a Wat but should definitely be on your itinerary.

Bangkok Thailand Tuk Tuk

When you visit Bangkok, you are mindful that it is a big city but there are plenty of Tuk Tuk drivers to take you around.  A Tuk Tuk is essentially a motorized rickshaw so there is a motorcycle type driver and you in the back in a carriage of sorts.  We tried using them to get around and it is really hit or miss.  The drivers are entrepreneurs and they know the city and you don’t.  You are likely to get someone that wants to take you to their favorite jewelry store or special art shop.  They are really not taxis and shouldn’t be considered as such.  However, they are clearly not criminals and only trying to make some money or introduce you to places you might not know about.  If you want a tour guide, don’t choose a tuk tuk driver but you might be entertained by one.

We still like Bangkok as a place to visit but now it is usually a jumping off place to other Thailand locales.

Chiang Mai

Wat Phra That Doi Kham Temple Chiang Mai Thailand

Often referred to as the northern capital, Chiang Mai offers an invigorating blend of culture and nature. Chang Mai is inland unlike Hua Hin and Phuket. With over 500 temples to choose from, this is a cultural adventure. The picture above is from Wat Phra with a very large Buddha. The area has plenty of resorts with very nice accommodations. 

You will have plenty of activities that are oriented towards jungle treks and rafting on rivers. Thailand’s highest point is at Doi Inthanon where you will be able to meet ethnic hill tribes, see beautiful waterfalls, and interact with magnificent elephants at an ethical sanctuary. 

Nightlife is much less hectic compared with Bangkok. Much like other areas, Chiang Mai has a nigh bazaar and plenty of bars available. At the night bazaar, you can find plenty of souvenirs.

Ayutthaya

Famous Buddha Head With Banyan Tree Root At Wat Mahathat Temple In Ayutthaya Historical Park Thailand

About an hour’s drive north of Bangkok is one of Thailand’s ancient cities, the UNESCO-listed Ayutthaya. Anytime we see UNESCO, we are interested because Madeline and I are fascinated by history and culture. The ruins in this city will take you back in time to Siam’s golden age. Wat Yai Chai Mongkorn is particularly worth a trip. Here, you will see plenty of stupas.

Phra Pathom Chedi, The Tallest Stupa in The world located at Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand

What is a stupa? It is a Buddhist monument that was usually used to store sacred relics associated with the Buddha or other saintly persons. It is shaped like a dome and it may have retained that shape from pre-Buddhist burial mounds in India. The tallest stupa in the world is at Nakhon Pathom Province which is shown above.

Famous Buddha Head With Banyan Tree Root At Wat Mahathat Temple In Ayutthaya Historical Park Thailand

Wat Mahatat has a famous stone head encased in a tree as shown in the picture above. Pretty remarkable isn’t it? Other notable Wats include Wat Ratchaburana, and Wat Si Samphet. 

Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam, and a prosperous international trading port, from 1350 until razed by the Burmese in 1767. The ruins of the old city now form the Ayutthaya Historical Park, an archaeological site that contains all of the Wats and places listed above.

You can take a day trip to visit Ayutthaya from Bangkok. We would recommend the Viator tour that takes you from your Bangkok hotel to Ayutthaya. Your guide takes you to all of the major spots, takes you to lunch and then travels with you on a river cruise that takes you back to Bangkok where you are returned to your hotel. This is really a perfect chance to experience culture without any hassles.

Hua Hin

Hua Hin Thailand Kings

Thailand is known for its Kings and Hua Hin has a large grouping of them as you can see in the photo. They are in Rajabhakti Park, standing in a line. The seven giant king statues are each over 40 feet tall. Each statue carries a plate with the name of the King and the period of reign.

Even though the kings suggest a royal atmosphere, Hua Hin is more known as a seaside resort. Hua Hin is about a 3-hour car ride from Bangkok. It is located on the eastern side of Thailand. It is not nearly as famous as Phuket.  However, it has plenty to offer. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Erawan in Bangkok and we arranged transportation through the hotel to the Hyatt Regency in Hua Hin.   The ride was pleasant, and we took the ride back to Bangkok after our week’s stay in Hua Hin. Phuket may be more famous, but Hua Hin is simply stunning.

It has beautiful vistas, long beaches, rainforests, caves, and clean white sand. We learned that many Thai people from Bangkok will take the bus to Hua Hin for the weekend to get out of the heat of the city and to enjoy the beautiful sea breezes and beaches.

Madeline and I enjoyed Hua Hin and visited many fine restaurants in the city and in our resort hotel.  We found it to be much more beautiful than Phuket.

Phuket

Phuket Thailand Beach

Phuket is an island on the western side of Thailand and is largely known for its beaches and tourism.  Before tourism, the area was essentially a jungle only visited by tin miners.  It had a good port and was used for traders going back and forth between China and India.

Tourism began in the 1970s with backpackers discovering the beaches and clear waters.  The airport came a bit later in the mid-1970’s.

Today, tourism is by far the island’s biggest industry with over 3 million tourists visiting the island annually, making Phuket one of the most popular travel destinations in South-East Asia.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Phuket and it was a beautiful property.  However, we really didn’t want to venture far from the hotel because there was not much beauty to see.  Phuket has a nice public beach, but it is not as well maintained as those in Hua Hin or other Thailand resort locations.  We are glad we visited Phuket and we knew they have endured plenty of hardship in 2004.  

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, also known as the Boxing Day Tsunami, was a massive undersea earthquake that occurred on December 26, 2004, with a magnitude of 9.1-9.3. It caused a tsunami that struck the coastlines of several countries in the Indian Ocean, including Thailand. In Phuket, a popular tourist destination in Thailand, hundreds of people were killed and thousands were injured. The disaster caused widespread damage and economic losses in the region. Phuket is still recovering in some places. The Hyatt Regency was just fine and because all of the rooms are well up on a hillside, damage was likely minor in 2004. 

We really enjoyed our stay in Phuket but we enjoyed the Hua Hin property more the last time we visited. Both are great resorts but Hua Hin is more beautiful and tranquil

You can read our Thailand Hotels post for our review about the many hotels we’ve stayed in. We have attractions posts for Hua Hin, Phuket and Bangkok for your review. We also have restaurant recommendations for each of those cities. Enjoy!

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