The country of Thailand can be found in southeast Asia. It’s surrounded by four other countries, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Malaysia.
Thailand wasn’t always called Thailand. It used to be called Siam. In 1939 the name was changed to Thailand. Then it changed back to Siam in 1946, but in 1949 the country was officially renamed the Kingdom of Thailand.
The name Siam, or Syama, was a Sanskrit word meaning dark or brown. It is thought this word referred to the people inhabiting the area. Used by the travelers and explorers going through the region, the name was adopted by everyone outside of the country.
The native people of Thailand referred to their country as “Mueang Thai.”
The Siamese cat is native to Thailand!
All in the Name
The name came from Prathet Thai, which translates as “nation free.” The country is one of the only countries in Asia which avoided European colonization. This name for the country seems appropriate.
Thailand is also called the “Land of Smiles.” This term was used in the 1980’s as part of a marketing plan to bring tourism to the country. Although the nickname began as a slogan, it really does reflect in the people. They just love smiling!
Geography and Population
While Thailand isn’t a very large country, it’s only about three times the size of the state of Florida, it has a big population. There are just under 70 million people living there. Almost 10% of the population lives in the capital city of Bangkok!
The country is shaped a little like an elephant’s head. The bulk of Thailand makes up the head and ears while a long isthmus, connects the country with Malaysia in the south. An isthmus is a narrow piece of land connecting two larger land masses across water.
Thailand also has 1430 islands dotted through Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
The mainland and all the islands are a big tourist draw. No matter what time of year you visit, the weather is typically hot and humid. Being so close to the equator helps with that. It does get a lot of rain though. They have six months of monsoon weather, when it rains regularly.
Thai culture seems to be a blend of the surrounding countries. As far as ancient history goes, little is known from before the 13th century. There wasn’t a whole lot of information written down about the people who inhabited the area.
Much of what has been discovered was through archaeological findings, which is a lot like putting a puzzle together without a picture to reference.
From these findings, it seems the people of Thailand migrated there from China starting as early as 1050 A.D. There were also people who migrated from India.
The Thai Kingdom was established when the local Thai chiefs combined forces and ousted the Khmer empire in 1238. An absolute monarchy was established and the first king, King Rama Thibodi, ruled the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. King Thibodi made Buddhism the official religion all the way back in 1350.
Buddhism is still the main philosophy practiced to this day. A whopping 95% of the people are Buddhists, and every young man is encouraged to be a Buddhist monk at least once in their lives. Even if it’s only for a few weeks.
Thailand stayed an absolute monarchy until 1932, when a revolt by the people changed the government to a constitutional monarchy. It’s stayed that way since. Thailand’s government operates much like England, with a King and Parliament.
Another big part of Thai culture is the floating markets. Much of the grocery shopping is not done at the local store. People get up early and go to the rivers running through the country and do their shopping from the vendors floating along with their wares!
The country of Thailand contains a whopping 10% of the animal population of the world! This includes all sorts of mammals, birds, and reptiles.
In addition to Asian elephants and Siamese cats, there are 285 species of mammals which call Thailand home. The abundance of wildlife is in part due to the diverse landscape of the country. From mountains to wetlands, there’s a little bit of everything for all kinds of animals.
While elephants are the largest land mammal in Thailand, it’s also home to the smallest mammal. The bumblebee bat can be found roosting in the limestone caves along the coast. They are so tiny; an adult bat is only a couple of inches big and weighs as much as two dimes!
The largest fish can also be found cruising through the tropical ocean waters of Thailand. The whale shark migrates to Thailand annually. These giants might seem imposing, but they really are gentle. They are filter feeders, meaning they swim into clouds of debris kicked up by the waves with their mouths open and the water filters out through their gills, trapping the tasty bits for them to eat.
Food of Thailand
Thai food is thought to be very spicy, and it can be, but not always.
Food is a big part of the culture and is always a part of social gatherings.
Dishes are influenced by Chinese and Indian cultures. Many common dishes include hot chilies, basil, ginger, and coconut milk. It’s a yummy blend of sweet, salty, and spicy.
One of Thailand’s national dishes is Pad Thai. It’s very popular as it is a quick and easy dish of fried rice noodles, spices, and usually shrimp or chicken. Pad Thai can be made as simple or as fancy as you want.
The history of Pad Thai is interesting. It seems that it was the chosen winner of a dish to represent the country and came about when Siam was renamed the Kingdom of Thailand!
Another popular dish is Somtum. This is a spicy green papaya salad eaten with sticky rice and raw cabbage. Another simple staple that is found throughout Thailand.
And that’s a little bit about the country of Thailand. Enjoy the taste of Thailand as you eat2explore!