Surprising Things About Thailand

These twelve things surprised us generally about Thailand:

  1. Pictures of the king are everywhere, not unlike in Cambodia. However, in Thailand, there is also a formal law that prohibits any negative speech about the king! It is called lèse majesté, and violating it carries a hefty prison sentence. The law was recently reinterpreted by the Thai Supreme Court as applying not just to the current king, but to everything from royal building projects to former kings. Last year, there was even a court case over an academic scholar casting doubt on the outcome of an elephant battle that involved the Thai king 400 years ago! It’s good that criticism of the Thai Supreme Court is still allowed.Thai King
  2. Unlike Cambodia, where the same photo of the king (and his parents) was posted everywhere, Thailand uses many different images of its king. Since the current king is the world’s longest-reigning monarch, there are photos ranging from him as a young man to him today. Interestingly, many of them show the king holding something that looks like a map or pointing to the distance, as though giving directions.
  3. Related to this love of royalty is the daily Thai ritual that happens at 6 pm. The national anthem comes on the TV, radio, and even subway speakers. They also play it before concerts and games, like the US does – as well as before movies at the theatre!
  4. The cigarette packages they sell have graphic, disgusting images of throat cancer, dead people, etc.Thai Cigarettes
  5. Many people speak English!
  6. Cars drive on the left, but people walk on the right here. It’s an unusual combination.
  7. Necklaces that look like Hawaiian leis are often made to decorate shrines and holy places, as a sign of respect.
  8. Standard table condiments are salt, red pepper flakes, and small pieces of pepper suspended in a liquid.Thai Condiments
  9. To eat, many Thai people use both a fork and a spoon. They use the fork to scoop food onto their spoon, and eat off their spoon. This requires talent when you’re eating oddly-shaped things.
  10. There are always Thai soap operas on TV, though there only appear to be a few different channels. Several were even supernatural soaps, with ghosts and demons and angels and such.
  11. As in many Asian countries, bargaining is considered a part of life. You can negotiate hard, telling a vendor or a cabby that his price is ridiculous, but once you agree on a price, all is forgotten: everyone is cordial and friendly.
  12. As in many other parts of the world, you do everything at your own risk. There aren’t signs asserting how dangerous an activity is, nor are there waivers to sign. They assume you’ll use your own judgment on what’s a good idea or not.
  13. In Thailand, 2015 is the year 2558! This is because the Buddhist calendar is 543 years ahead. I was confused at first, to see receipt say 22/03/58 (March 22, 2015), but I adjusted. The tourism industry uses 2015, but many systems use the Buddhist timing.

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