In 2018, 38.3 million tourists made their way to Thailand. Were you among them? If not, what are you waiting for? The Southeast Asian nation delivers on the hype, with stunning natural scenery, delicious food, and awe-inspiring spiritual sites. Best of all, Thailand is inexpensive despite its popularity.
Below are several interesting facts about Thailand, along with Thai phrases to know, must-see destinations, and more:
- Thailand welcomed the ninth-most visitors worldwide in 2018.
- Thailand is home to the world’s smallest mammal, the bumblebee bat.
- Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation to never be colonized by Europeans.
- King Bhumibol Adulyadej (1927-2016) was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and served as king of Thailand for 70 years and 126 days, the second-longest reign for a monarch in world history.
- All Thai males were once required to spend time as Buddhist monks before they turned 20.
Thai Phrases to Know
- "Hello" - Sawatdii
- "How are you?" - Sabaadii mai
- "Thank you" - Khop kun
- "Excuse me" - Koortoot
- "Cheers" - Chon gâew
- "Can you speak English?" Kun pood paasaa anggrit dai mai
With some 2,000 miles of coastline and more than 1,400 islands, Thailand is a paradise for the aquatically inclined. Railay Beach, for example, offers travelers relaxation on the sand and adventure in the form of rock-climbing, island-hopping, hiking, and more. Those interested in spelunking or kayaking should also prioritize Phra Nang. Solitude seekers will find the sands of Kantiang Beach welcoming. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s no better party than the Full Moon Party at Koh Phangan.
You’ll love the balance of history, natural beauty, and modernity that defines Thailand. That balance can be found in the country’s biggest cities. In Bangkok, for example, you can explore a metropolis by street, canal, or rail. And you’ll stand in awe at the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, the ornate architecture of the Grand Palace, and the quaint energy of the floating market.
Head north to Chiang Mai, a city founded in the 13th century, where you can barter at the night bazaar, or escape to the neighboring mountains and jungles: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the most sacred sites in Thailand, overlooks the region, while the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Chiang Mai grants visitors the chance to admire Thailand’s national animal up close in an ethical setting.
Those who splurge for Thai food in the United States will find a welcome truth in Thailand: The authentic stuff is cheap. Most meals will run you about 90-150 Baht ($3-$5), so you can go on your own culinary tour without breaking the bank. Start out with staples such as guay teow (noodle soup), som tam (spicy green papaya salad), and tom kha gai (chicken in coconut soup) before venturing to more exotic dishes like pad phuk tong (stir-fried pumpkin) and yam pla dook foo (fried catfish with mango salad). No matter what you try, you can’t go wrong.
Thailand has worked to preserve its jungles and wide range of wildlife that call them home. The country is filled with national parks championing conservation while still providing visual and physical thrills. Khao Sok National Park in the south features the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world. Visitors can go on a two-, three-, or four-day jungle tour. The Flight of the Gibbon—named for the smallish tree-swinging apes that call the Thailand jungles home—gives parkgoers a ziplined tour of the jungle canopy. (Note: There’s one near Chian Mai and another near Bangkok.)
There are more than 40,000 temples in Thailand. For tourists, temples are architectural or spiritual attractions. For Buddhists, the monks especially, they are sacred places that should be treated with the utmost respect. Before you visit a temple, keep these customs in mind:
- Dress modestly
- Avoid using your cell phone
- Remove your shoes
- Don’t point
- Never turn your back directly on Buddha; instead, take a few steps away from the effigy before turning
Okay, so now that you have the proper etiquette down, where will you go? How about the green-in-appearance-and-spirit Temple of a Million Bottles, which is made from recycled beer bottles and bottle caps? Or the centuries-old Wat Phrang That Lampang Luang? Maybe you’ll find peace at the famous White Temple. Wherever you choose, you’re sure to be awed. Each temple tells a different story and contributes to making your Thailand vacation simply unforgettable.