Quite a while back, I introduced a whole bunch of amazing Thailand facts which were a compilation of weird and wonderful oddities offered in LOS as posted by members over at thailandqa.com/forum. The thread on 100 things You Didn’t Know about Thailand soon began to sink into the abyss as it seemed most posters had simply run out of stuff to post. That’s where yours name in here has come in handy, continually trying to keep this interesting thread going. Most of the facts posted below have been found by myself while searching the Net, but some of others have been found by other forum members. If you know of any other facts, do comment below!
1. The most expensive Buddhist Amulets are ‘Somdej Wat Rakhang’. Some of them, around 150 years old, are valued at more than 30 million baht.
2. Thailand sent a 1300 strong expeditionary force to France in 1918.This act gave Siam a seat at the Versailles Peace Conference which was used as a platform to regain its full sovereignty in the 1920’s- including the right to impose its own laws on foreigners and set import tariffs.
3. Former actress Jim Sara, is Thailand’s very first ladyboy that is officially registered as ‘Miss’ in Thailand. But she is also the very first Thai ladyboy to ever get legally married – in New Zealand. Read her story here
4. The Marxist historian, author and finally Communist – Jit Poomisak, was the first person to refuse to attend his graduation ceremony to receive his degree from HM The King.
5. The Thai Royal Anthem (Sansoen Phra Barami) was composed by a Russian, Pyotr Schurovsky. Prior to the 1932 revolution, it was the Thai National Anthem.
6 Queen Sunandha, First Consort to King Rama V (and a daughter of King Mongkut!) was killed in a tragic boat accident on the Chao Phraya River. It is said that no-one dared rescue her while she was drowning, as it was strictly prohibited that no commoner touch such a high-ranking royal!
King Rama V was supposed to have been terribly upset that no-one rescued her and ordered in a new regulation that allowed commoners to touch a high-ranking royal in times of such incidents!
7. Thailand’s Loy Krathong (in its present form) is not what it is taught, an ancient festival originating during the Sukhothai era, 700 years ago. It is in fact, a newly invented tradition, made up by the Department of Fine Arts at the end of the 19th century. Read more here.
(Original Somdej Wat Rakhang amulets can fetch amazing prices)
8. The most viewed directly Thailand related video posted on YouTube is the clip of the un-edited fight sequence in the movie Tom Yum Kung. The video has been viewed, as of 21 September – just short of 3,500,000 times. Some movie experts have claimed it to be the greatest fight scene in the history of films.
9. Thailand’s first strip-shows were in Had Yai in 1953. They were ordered by none other than FM Phibunsongkram himself as part of a drive to Westernization he began that year. Worried the strip-shows may be just too intoxicating for the natives if left to their own devices, Phibun made it law they must be located in temple grounds under the auspice of monks.
10. The well-known Thai-English word ‘Butterfly’ widely used in bar-beers for people that ‘play around’, was not originally imported by Westerners. It is believed that the word was in fact imported by the Japanese during their WW2 occupation. The word ‘Butterfly’ in Thailand derives from the name of the 15 year-old Japanese Geisha (nickanamed ‘Cho-Cho’ = ‘Butterfly’) in the opera ‘Madame Butterfly’ who marries an American sailor. The Japanese also imported the bar-beer/go-go bar word ‘mama-san’ meaning the ‘big boss’ (or owner of a brothel!)
11. Thanon Mittraphap (Friendship Road) in the north-east of Thailand, was built with financial assistance from the U.S. It is the first highway in Thailand to meet international standards, and use both asphalt and concrete.
12. The most valuable Thai Baht banknotes ever printed were the special edition 500,000 Baht ones issued in the year 2000 to commemorate HM The King and Queen’s 50th wedding anniversary.
13. Grandfather and grandson – King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) share the same birthday – September 20.
14. Thailand’s Kings – Top 5 Fathers (number of children)
1. King Mongkut (Rama IV) = 82
2. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) = 77
3. King Loertla (Rama II) = 73
4. King Nangklao (Rama III) = 51
5. King Phutthayotfa (Rama I) = 42
Others: King Rama VI had just one, Rama VIII & Rama VII had none and King Rama IX has four.
(Wouldn’t mind getting me hands on one of these!)
15. The Late Princess Galyani was born in London on May 6 1923. On Her UK Birth Certificate she is named, ‘May’.
16. The world’s largest ever cremation took place in Bangkok over 7 days in December 1997 when over 21,000 bodies were burned. The bodies were those of people killed in road accidents or other fatal incidents and left unclaimed over the previous 10 years.
17. According to the latest up-dates from Forbes, Chaleo Yoovidha the founder and co-parter of Red Bull energy drink is Thailand’s richest man with a fortune of approx. 4 Billion USD.
18. The well-known slang word for a gay, ladyboy-like guy ‘toot’ is English in origin. The word in fact, entered the Thai language after the success of the 1982 movie ‘Tootsie’ starring Dustin Hoffman.
19. The Thai lese-majeste law also applies to foreign heads of states. So, if you come to Thailand and say something patronizing or insulting about the likes of the Queen of England or George W Bush, you can, in theory, be sentenced to imprisonment!
20. The popular Thai dish ‘Phat Thai’ (Thai-style fried noodles) was believed to have actually been invented by the wife (La-iad) of anti-Chinese PM dictator Field Marshall Phibulsongkram at the beginning of the Second World War. According to a biography of La-iad, her husband had asked her to “Dish up a tasty noodle dish (with Vietnamese origins) and call it Thai and not bloody Chinese”.
21. King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V), in the late 19th century, banned the act of crouching (bending down low in servility) in front of members of the royal family in public. The practice of crouching to royalty was only revived by Field Marshall Sarit Dhanarajata during his stint as prime minister (1957-1963).
22. The name Bangkok is in fact Thai, meaning ‘Village of Olives’. In the past, before the name was changed to Krungthep – Bangkok referred to the eastern side of the Chao Phraya and Thonburi on the west. Foreigners didn’t like the word Krungthep and stuck to saying Bangkok. In the Thai southern dialect, they still say Bangkok (Bang – gawk) instead of Krungthep.
23. Khao Kheow in Sri Racha in Chonburi Province is the only visible mountain from Bangkok. Have a look for it the next time you are on an expressway in the capital and especially going in the Bang-na/Suvarnaphumi Airport direction!
24. Contrary to popular belief, Thailand does not mean ‘Land of the Free’. It does in fact mean ‘Land of the Tai/T’ai Peoples’. The original name Siam was changed to Thailand by FM Plaek Phibulongram as part of his plans to re-conquer what Siam had lost in the past. A completely far-fetched idea as the Tai/T’ai peoples are spread throughout Southern China, North-eastern India and as far east as Vietnam. Unfortunately, FM Plaek hadn’t realized that.
25. Meaning “one hundred and one”, Roi Et is a province in the north-east of Thailand named after the city’s gates and satellite cities. However, there are only eleven city gates and satellites cities. The province should have been called “Sip Et” but to exaggerate the importance of the place it was decided to call it “Roi Et”.
26. Published originally in the 1940’s, So Sethaputra’s “New Model English-Thai Dictionary” is recognized as the most famous Thai-English dictionary written. Sethaputra, did however, compile the dictionary during his 11 years in prison as a political prisoner soon after the events of 1932.