15 facts you didn't know about Thailand

written by Lottie Gross

updated 2.11.2023

Sixteen million tourists fly into Thailand each year, and despite the influx of visitors, this country's cultural integrity remains relatively intact. From the idyllic islands to the bustling cities, there are 77 provinces housing 63 million people across mountains – so if you're thinking about visiting, why not clue up on a few of these interesting facts about Thailand:

1. Thailand was known as Siam until 1939

Thailand was known as Siam until 1939, when the government officially changed its name to "Thailand" to promote nationalism and modernization. The name "Siam" was restored briefly from 1945 to 1949, only to be changed back to Thailand in 1949. This switch reflects the country's complex history and its evolution into a modern nation.

2. Siamese cats are native to Thailand.

Siamese cats, known for their striking blue almond-shaped eyes and short, fine coat, are native to Thailand, where they were once revered as royal pets in the Kingdom of Siam. These elegant felines have a long history and cultural significance in Thailand, symbolizing good fortune and royalty.

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3. In Thailand, it is illegal to leave your house without underwear on.

In Thailand, it is indeed illegal to leave your house without wearing underwear. This quirky law, although rarely enforced, reflects the cultural importance of modesty and personal hygiene in Thai society.

Wat Mahathat Yuwarajarangsarit Rajaworamahavihara, Bangkok Thailand © huihyper/Shutterstock

Wat Mahathat Yuwarajarangsarit Rajaworamahavihara, Bangkok Thailand © huihyper/Shutterstock

6. Thailand's constitutional monarchy

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, similar to England. The country's monarchy has played a significant role in Thai culture and politics, and it remains highly respected by the Thai people.

7. The term "Siamese twins" comes originally from Thailand

The term "Siamese twins" was inspired by Chang and Eng Bunker, Thai brothers born in 1811, who were conjoined at the chest. They gained worldwide fame and toured with P.T. Barnum, becoming one of the most famous conjoined twin acts in history until their deaths in 1873.

8. Bangkok's real (and elaborate)

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, boasts one of the world's longest place names: "Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit." The name is a testament to the city's rich history and cultural significance.



Water boat canal, Bangkok, Thailand © Cyrsiam/Shutterstock

9. Muay Thai boxing, Thailand's national sport, is known as "the art of eight limbs".

Muay Thai, Thailand's national sport, is often referred to as "the art of eight limbs" due to its use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins in combat. This ancient martial art is deeply ingrained in Thai culture and is both a sport and a way of life for many Thais.

10. 90% of of the Thai population is Buddhist

Approximately ninety per cent of the Thai population practices Buddhism, particularly Theravada Buddhism. - Temples, known as "wats," are not only places of worship but also community centres where religious ceremonies, cultural events, and education are held. Buddhism plays an integral role in the daily life and rituals of the Thai people.

11. It is illegal to drive shirtless in Thailand

Thailand is known for its warm climate, but it's important to note that driving shirtless is illegal in the country. This law emphasizes the cultural significance placed on modesty and appropriate attire, even when behind the wheel.

12. It is illegal to step on any Thai currency.

Thai currency is treated with deep respect, primarily due to images of the king prominently displayed on its notes and coins. Stepping on Thai currency is not only considered disrespectful but is also illegal, emphasizing the reverence that the Thai people hold for their monarchy.

Nam Talu Cave or Through Water Cave is a long cave with water streaming through in Khao Sok National Park : Surat Thani Province, Thailand © Shutterstock

Nam Talu Cave or Through Water Cave, Khao Sok National Park © Shutterstock

13. Respecting elders and importance

Thai society places paramount importance on hierarchy and respect for elders. One of the most visible displays of this is the custom of keeping one's head lower than that of anyone older or more important as a sign of respect.  This cultural norm underscores the Thai value of hierarchy and deference to those with more experience or higher social standing.

14. Thailand is known for being friendly

Rough Guides readers voted Thailand as the world's fifth friendliest country, a testament to the warm and welcoming nature of the Thai people. Visitors to Thailand often find themselves captivated not only by the country's natural beauty but also by the genuine hospitality and kindness of its inhabitants.

15. The Thai record for living with scorpions

In a display of incredible courage and endurance, a Thai woman lived for 33 days and nights in a glass room filled with scorpions, setting a new world record. This remarkable achievement exemplifies the unique talents and remarkable feats that some individuals in Thailand undertake, pushing the boundaries of human potential.

Tansawan waterfall, Khao Sok National Park in Thailand © Shutterstock

Tansawan Waterfall © Shutterstock

Plan your trip to Thailand today

These captivating facts unveil the depth of Thailand's culture, history, and customs, making it a destination that beckons travellers to explore its unique tapestry.

Our tailor made trip service means you can skip the research and go straight to your dream vacation. We take care of all the planning and booking, and our trips are thoughtfully curated by local travel experts, and fully tailored to your preferences. See our Thailand itineraries for inspiration.

Explore more of Thailand using the Rough Guide to Thailand.

Lottie Gross

written by Lottie Gross

updated 2.11.2023

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