Full name: Kingdom of Thailand
Population: 69.5 million (UN, 2011)
Area: 513,115 sq km (198,115 sq miles)
Major language: Thai
Major religion: Buddhism
Monetary unit: 1 baht = 100 satangs
Main exports: Food including rice, seafood and live animals, office equipment, textiles and clothing, rubber
Internet domain: .th
International dialling code: +66
Climate: The tropical climate in Thailand is warm and humid with temperatures averaging 31°C (85°F) all year round. The driest months are December to May. Therefore, Christmas is a great time for a tropical beach holiday on one of Thailand idyllic, paradise islands. Lewis the Lion seemed to have timed his trip there just perfectly as he arrived in Thailand on 29th December 2012!
Here are some of the cool facts that Lewis the Lion discovered about Thailand on his three-week stay there:
* If you look at the map of Thailand, it looks just like an elephant’s head with its trunk swooping down! Lewis the Lion learnt indeed that elephants (“Chang” is the Thai word for elephant) are a revered animal in the Thai culture and he even got the chance to go elephant trekking there which he will tell you about in one of his blogs.
* Thailand is also known as the “Land of Smiles.” Lewis the Lion thinks that’s because Thailand is a world famous tourist destination where foreigners are warmly welcomed to this beautiful country. In the past, it was called Siam. Nowadays, many people arrive at Bangkok’s international airport which is called Suvarnabhumi Airport, meaning “Golden Land” and it is one of the busiest airports in Asia.
* Lewis the Lion noticed that Thai people do not shake hands when they greet each other but rather put their hands together and bow slightly. He learnt that in this custom called the “wai,” the less important (or younger) person bows first and the more important (or elder) person returns the gesture. The higher the hands are held, the more respect a person is given. (Learn some more Thai greeting words in the Lewis Loves Languages section).
* Lewis learnt that the Thai royal family are very respected across Thailand with their picture evident everywhere he went. He realised that this is hardly surprising when the Thai king is currently the world’s longest serving head of state, serving his people since June 1946!
* The majority of Thais are Buddhists and many boys and young men become monks at some point in their lives. Monks have shaved heads and wear orange robes and rely on the community to provide for them. Lewis the Lion also noticed many beautiful Buddhist temples and monestaries (called a “Wat”) and Buddha statues around Thailand, especially when he did a famous riverboat cruise on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. He learnt that you must take your shoes off before entering a temple (and the same is true if you enter someone’s house in Thailand).
* Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city is a very busy, bustling city as more than 10 million people live there. Lewis the Lion discovered the world’s largest weekend market one Saturday called the Chatuchak market and also saw some floating markets. He also learnt that boats along the city’s canals are often the quickest way of getting around Bangkok as the roads can often be gridlocked. Traffic in Bangkok is notorious with its cars, tuk-tuks and bikes. Other alternatives to try to avoid the crazy traffic are the city’s skytrain (the BTS) and the underground train (MRT). At times, Lewis the Lion felt frustrated catching taxis in Bangkok because some of the taxi-drivers he encountered had difficulty reading maps even when they were written in Thai!
* Due to its tropical climate, Lewis the Lion disovered lots of exotic fruits and vegetables, particularly when he went to a Thai food market and learnt how to cook some famous Thai dishes. He learnt that Thailand currently supplies about a third of global rice exports and is also the world’s largest producer of pineapples. He had a fun time seeing how coconuts are harvested too with the help of some industrious monkeys! (Look out for his blog from his stay in Koh Samui).
* Thailand has many paradise islands (‘Koh’ is the Thai word for ‘island’) which are popular tourist destinations; some on the east coast in the Gulf of Thailand (or Siam) such as Koh Samui, Koh Phangan where Lewis the Lion was lucky enough to stay and some on the west coast in the Andaman Sea such as Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Krabi. Lewis the Lion discovered that there were fantastic diving and snorkelling opportunities there which he will tell you about in his blog.
* Thailand has some different competitive sports that Lewis learnt about such as kite flying, the ball sport called takro and Thailand’s most popular sport, the martial art, Thai boxing (Muay thai) which Lewis will write about in one of his blogs.
* Best of all, Lewis the Lion learnt that in Thailand on the second Saturday of July every year there is “Children’s Day” where children are celebrated. The Thai people believe that children are very important and a Thai proverb says:
“Children are the future of the nation: if the children are intelligent, the country will be prosperous.”
Lewis the Lion couldn’t agree more: he thinks that children are very intelligent and that getting a good education is the passport to life! A good education would certainly have helped those taxi drivers in Bangkok to gain more customers at any rate!