Although Thais like to give and receive presents, it is considered rude to open a gift in the presence of the giver. Thais put the gift aside and open it when they are alone.
At the Bun Bung Fai (Rocket Festival) in May in Yasothon, Thais set off homemade rockets. In southern Thailand, they race brightly colored fishing boats during the Narathiwat Festival in September. In October at Bang Phli near Bangkok, people celebrate the Lotus Festival by throwing lotus flowers at a statue of the Buddha as it moves along the river on a barge. In November, there is a parade of elephants in Surin.
Because the traffic moves very slowly in the congested roads of Bangkok, many parents leave home with their sleeping children early in the morning. They feed and dress their children upon arrival at school.
Before the 20th century, rivers and canals were the roads of Thailand. Although some canals have been filled in, many still serve as thoroughfares. Vendors hawk their goods at floating markets; parents take their children to school in motorboats, and monks paddle from door to door to receive their daily alms.
During the Second World War, Japan forced 200,000 Asian laborers and prisoners of war to build a bridge over the River Kwai to ensure a supply route to Burma. They worked under inhumane conditions on almost impassable ground. By the time the bridge was finished, more than 100,000 workers had died. The route was called the 'Death Railway.'
In 1811, two boys joined at the chest were born in a village near Bangkok. They travelled the world and became celebrities, but they were never able to find a surgeon who could separate them. Since then, twins who are joined at birth have been called Siamese twins.
In the 1980s, Thailand became an important diamond-cutting center. Today, precious stones from all over the world are cut and polished in Thailand.
Most Thais believe that people are only incidental occupants of land and property, which rightfully belong to local guardian spirits. Most homes have a spirit house in the garden. Some are miniature replicas of the home, set on a pole. Incense, flowers and food are offered to the spirits every day.
Nang talung (shadow plays) are believed to be the earliest dramas performed in Thailand, but are now rarely seen except in southern Thailand. Puppets made from water buffalo hide are used to enact scenes from popular dramas against a backlit screen, while the story is chanted.
Semi-nomadic chao khao (mountain people) live in the mountainous regions of the north. They include Hmong, Lahu, Karen, Akha, Mien and about a dozen other distinct cultural groups. The hill tribes maintain their own culture, customs, laws and beliefs.
Sidewalk vendors in Thailand serve delicious meals at all times of day. With only a few pots and a brazier, itinerant cooks prepare noodle dishes, banana fritters or sweet pancakes for passersby.
Some Thais wear charms and amulets to ward off bad spirits. The most popular amulet is a small image of the Buddha. Other Thais have special symbols tattooed on their bodies to keep away evil spirits.
Thailand has recently revived the art of maleng thap. These are collages made by cutting and assembling the metallic, multicolored wings of wood-boring beetles.
Thammasat University, which is famous for its law and political science faculties, was the scene of student riots on October 14, 1973. Students demonstrated against the military government of the time. As a result of the demonstrations, free elections were held for the first time in Thailand.
The lotus is a Buddhist symbol of goodness, purity and intelligence. It grows in swamps with its roots in the mud, but its beautiful flower faces the sun. Buddhists believe the lotus is like a person who tries to be good in the midst of evil and suffering.
The Mekong River, which flows between Thailand and Laos in the northeast, is home to the giant catfish pla buek. The pla buek is said to be the largest freshwater fish in the world, measuring up to 3 meters in length and weighing about 300 kilograms.
Traditional Thai dress for both men and women is an ankle-length piece of cloth wrapped around the waist, which is called a sarong in the south, phasin in the north and phathung in central Thailand. This dress is still worn in rural areas.
When a Thai is hospitalized, family members or friends stay with the patient. Rooms in private hospitals usually provide sleeping space for at least one companion for each patient.
When two strangers meet, they begin by establishing who has the higher status. Questions such as "How old are you" and "How much do you earn?" are not considered rude.
Bangkok, known as 'Krung Thep' means City of Angels.
When a child loses a tooth their sisters and brothers tell them to throw their lower teeth on the roof and put their upper teeth under the bed or on the ground.
Thailand has about 26 million registered vehicles.
Thailand Lost Tooth Traditions
They will throw their baby teeth to the roof so that a new tooth will grow nicely.