Thailand, situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, is one of the most popular travel destinations on earth, bursting with everything from breathtaking scenery, a rich culture, and a fascinating history.
Opulent temples dot the hilly jungles as well as the bustling cities, white sand tropical beaches are among the best on earth, and of course, the country formally known as Siam is famous for its mind-blowing food, so much so that many of its dishes are ranked among the Top 10 best dishes in the world. And another special thing about Thailand is its tolerant, open society, and warm, generous people.
Did you know: Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonised by a European power? This freedom enjoyed by the Thais is one of the reasons the country changed its name from Siam to Thailand.
Thinking of visiting? I’ve compiled here a post of 53 of the most interesting, curious, lesser-known and fun facts about this incredible country to test your knowledge.
Scroll on to read: 53 Interesting Facts About Thailand (and why you should visit):
Table of Contents
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12 General Facts about Thailand
#1. Thailand was originally known as Siam until 1939
On 23rd June 1939, Siam became Thailand following reforms which transformed the country from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Thailand was renamed Siam from 1946 to 1948, after which it again reverted to Thailand.
#2. There are over 40,000 temples in Thailand
Most of them are active while others are in ruins, as is the case of many structures still standing in the historical parks of Ayuttaya and Sukhothai.
Thailand is truly a land of temples. Visiting them requires modest clothing, meaning no shorts or sleeveless shirts.
#3. Siamese cats are native to Thailand
They are thought to have originated in Thailand around the 14th Century, making them one of the world’s oldest cat breeds.
#4. 1/10th of the entire population of Thailand lives in Bangkok
There are 10.7 million residents in the Thai capital, which is also the country’s largest city.
#5. About 1/10th of all animal species on earth live in Thailand
It is home to about one-tenth of all bird species too. To put that in perspective, Thailand has more birds than Europe and North America combined!
#6. There are more than 5,000 elephants in Thailand
Elephants are widely associated with Thailand and they are an important part of Thai culture. More than half of all elephants in Thailand are domesticated. Over 100 years ago, there used to be over 100,000 elephants in the country.
#6. Bangkok was named the world’s hottest city!
Thats according to the World Meteorological Survey, though this was not because of any particularly impressive peak temperatures, but because its consistently hot all year round. Between March to May, the smog-saturated city reaches nearly 35C daily with 90% humidity.
#7. Home to the world’s largest snake
The reticulated python lives in Thai jungles, and the biggest one found was over 33 feet long. It doesn’t stop there, though. The longest poisonous snake in the world, the king cobra? Yep – you can find those in Thailand, too.
#8. Thailand receives more than 6 million tourists a year
The country is one of the most visited in Southeast Asia, with the number rising gradually year on year before the pandemic struck.
#9. The world’s richest monarch
According to Forbes rich list, King Vajiralongkorn (also known as King Rama X), the current monarch of Thailand, is the wealthiest monarch in the world, with a net worth estimated to be between US$30 billion to US$70 billion.
#10. Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles”
A smile can go a long way, and you’ll find more smiles in Thailand than just about anywhere else. In fact, it’s sometimes known as the “land of smiles” because the people of Thailand seem to be always ready with a smile. They are a peace-loving culture, desiring harmony over conflict.
#11. Home to the world’s smallest mammal and largest fish
The smallest mammal in the world, the bumblebee bat, can be found in Thailand. Meanwhile the largest fish, the whale shark, resides in Thai waters.
5 History facts about Thailand
#12. The Mon and Khmer are the first peoples of Thailand
The first peoples to inhabit Thailand are the Mon and Khmer, and later came the Tai, who migrated from southern China to Vietnam and then into Laos and northern Thailand. The first Thai kingdom, Ayutthaya, was established in the 14th century. The country was known as Siam until 1939.
#13. Thailand was never colonised by a European empire
Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonised by a European power. In fact, in the Thai language, the name of the country is Prathet Thai, which means “land of the free.” How very apt!
#14. The first known Siamese twins were born in Thailand
Chang and Eng Bunker, the first known conjoined twins, were born on the 11th of May 1811, in a province near Bangkok in the Kingdom of Siam. The twins married two different women, who were also sisters, and each couple were parents to more than ten children each! At first, they lived together and shared a bed big enough for four, but after a number of years the two sisters began quarrelling, thus two separate households were established. The Siamese twins ended up spending three consecutive nights at each home, until their death in 1874.
#15. Most of Thailand was once forest and jungle
Many people don’t realise that more than a hundred years ago, hardwood forest covered nearly all of northern Thailand. Today, just one quarter of that forest remains. Only Singapore has lost more trees. For this reason, logging is completely banned in Thailand.
#16. The Bridge Over the River Kwai still stands today
You may have heard of the famous “Bridge Over the River Kwai”? in Hollywood movies, and you can find that bridge near the town of Kanchanburi. The bridge was constructed as part of the Burma-Siam railway by the Japanese during WW2, and an estimated 80,000 prisoners of war died in the course of making that railway.
7 Interesting facts about Thailand food
#17. Thailand was once the world’s largest exporter of rice
In 2020 Thailand exported US$3.7 billion worth of rice, about 15% of the global output. In recent years, India overtook Thailand for the top spot of the world’s largest rice exporter. Source: Worlds Top Exports
#18. Thai Food is so unique because its all about balance
One of the main reasons why Thai food is so delicious is the careful juxtaposition and perfect balance of aromas and ingredients in their dishes. Authentic Thai food relies on four prominent flavours in their cooking: sweet, sour, spicy, and salty.
#19. There is no concept of having three big meals per day
The three meals per day concept is a Western one and is not recognised in Thailand. Thais eat whenever they feel hungry, and will literally drop whatever they are doing to satisfy their cravings. They eat little portions often throughout the day, and are renowned for their snacking! This explains why you will not see them helping themselves to big servings of food during mealtimes.
#20. One of the world’s most popular and loved cuisines
Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world and is loved for its distinct and strong flavours. Another great thing about Thai food is that its very healthy compared to other countries’ dishes, this is because lots of fresh green vegetables, fruits and herbs are used in it.
#21. Chopsticks are rarely used in Thailand
This may come as a surprise to many, but Thai people don’t use chopsticks to eat Thai food, instead, they use a fork and spoon. Chopsticks are only used to eat noodles, and never to eat rice. Food is served already cut into bite-size pieces, so there is no need for knives.
#22. Baked food is uncommon in Thailand
You will struggle to find baked food anywhere in Thailand, since Thai people almost never own an oven, and they love to stir-fry, deep fry and grill their food. The only traditional bakeries in Thailand are found in the Thai Chinese areas that mainly sell Chinese bread and filled buns. And due to the huge demand for tourism, you’ll also find Western bakeries.
#23. Noodles were introduced to Thailand in the 20th Century
Today, most people see noodles as a staple and essential ingredient in Thai cuisine, as without them, we wouldn’t be able to feast on delicious and iconic dishes like Pad Thai. However, noodles have only been eaten in Thailand since as recently as 80 years ago! They were only introduced to the country during World War 2, to help alleviate a rice shortage that occurred due to the war and floods.
5 Amazing facts about Thailand culture
#24. Muay Thai boxing is the national sport
Known as the “art of eight limbs”, Muay Thai boxing, also called “kickboxing”, is the second most popular sport in Thailand, after football (soccer). Given the rise of MMA globally, Muay Thai boxing has become an important martial arts to be a “complete” fighter, and has seen training camps open all over Thailand.
#25. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, like the United Kingdom
This means technically there is a democracy in which the Thai parliament led by the Prime Minister oversees the running of the country, and the King gives approval of legislation. However, Thailand has a very complex power structure that has seen numerous coups and military rule in the country in modern times.
Related post: 71 Fun Facts About England
#26. Showing respect for another person’s head is extremely important in Thailand
The head is considered the most important part of the body, and Thai culture forbids touching anyone on the head, even a child. Should you meet someone who is older or more important than you, it is recommended to lower your head in deference to show proper respect.
#27. The rivers in Thailand always were and still are the place where people went to shop for food and goods
Floating markets are not only a tourist attraction but part of Thai daily life. If you want to see how Thai people shop for groceries, you must rise early in the morning to not miss out on a wonderful experience!
#28. How did Thailand get its name?
The name Siam has its origins in Sanskrit, coming from the word Śyāma, meaning dark brown, referring to the skin colour of the native people. Siam’s name changed to Thailand in 1939, before becoming known as Siam once more, between 1946 and 1948 – and then finally reverting back to Thailand again.
The name Thailand is better understood by breaking it down into its two constituent parts: “Thai” meaning “free”, but also “Tai” is an ethnic group in the country, and “land” obviously meaning land. Together, the name Thailand has a double meaning of both “Land of the Free” and “Land of the Thai People”. The “free” aspect of the name is a source of huge pride for the Thai people, as they managed to retain their independence in the region whilst Western powers were carving up and colonising land all over Southeast Asia.
8 Fun facts about Thailand for Kids
#29. Thailand is made up of approximately 1,430 islands, of which Phuket is the largest and the most famous is Koh Phi Phi.
#30. The Thai flag is made up of three colours; red, white and blue. Red symbolises the nation, land and people. White represents the purity of Buddhism, and blue symbolises the monarchy.
#31. 69.43 million people live in Thailand, of which 22 million live in the northeastern region of Isaan. 75% of the population are Thai, 14% Chinese and 11% are made up of other nationalities.
#32. Thailand is a country on the Asian continent in a region called Southeast Asia. It shares a land border with 4 other countries: Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
#33. Thailand’s National animal is the elephant. And the National symbol is the Garuda – this is a giant, mythological creature that is half-bird and half-man.
#34. Around ninety per cent of Thai people are Buddhist. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion, making up 94.6% of the population. The remaining population is split between Malay Muslim (4.3%), Christian (1%) and other (0.1%).
#35. Thailand houses approximately 10% of the world’s bird species. Some of the popular species include flamingoes, herons, kingfishers, as well as ducks, geese and pigeons.
#36. The most popular sports in Thailand are football, Muay Thai boxing and golf. Other popular sports in the country include rugby, badminton, and tennis.
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#37. Bangkok’s full name is the longest city place-name in the world
Here’s Bangkok’s official name: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
And it translates as: “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.”
#38. Red Bull has its origins in Thailand
The world-famous energy drink, Red Bull, is based on Krating Daeng, a drink made popular in Thailand (and eventually across Asia) since 1976. Red Bull was modified to “suit western tastes.” has its roots in Thailand.
#39. It is illegal to leave your house without underwear on in Thailand
Though how this law is enforced remains to be seen. Another strange law in Thailand is that an individual is not allowed to own more than 120 playing cards.
#40. Home to an exorbitantly priced delicacy made from saliva
The sea-salt briny flavour of swiftlet nests are made from the strands of saliva from the male cave-dwelling swiftlet bird; and among the most expensive, coveted and sought after delicacies on the planet – charged at more than USD900 per pound!
#41. It is illegal to step on Thai currency
Another one of Thailand’s strange laws, though this one makes sense – as Thai currency features the image of the King, and of course the monarchy is deeply respected in Thai culture.
#41. Bangkok was once known as the “Venice of the East”
This was because many of the original buildings were built on stilts over the Chao Phraya River as well as the many meandering canals that were a significant factor in Bangkok’s trading activities. Although there are still a fair number of pretty canals in the capital for tourists and locals to enjoy boat rides along, the majority of canals were filled and paved and have become streets and pavements today.
#42. It is illegal to drive shirtless in Thailand
You’ll likely end up with a fine if you drive (or ride a bike) shirtless, and though it may be a small fine, you’d be doing nobody any favours. So it’s best to keep your clothes on.
Here’s a post about strange laws in Thailand.
#44. All males were Buddhist monks for a while
There was a time when all young men in Thailand (including royalty) were required to become Buddhist monks – even if only for a short period of time – before they reached the age of 20. However, this practice is not observed as much as it used to these days.
#45. Thailand is home to a fish that can walk on land!
Built like no other fish in the world, the Cryptotora thamicola, otherwise known as the blind, waterfall-climbing cavefish, uses its two front and two back fins to propel itself up waterfalls. And remarkably, it can walk on land too – the same way that any four-footed animal would.
#46. The SkyTrain may stop for no apparent reason
In downtown Bangkok, the SkyTrain may stop for no reason, which might seem annoying for the commuters, but there’s actually fascinating reason behind it.
When any member of the Royal family travels downtown, the train will stop so it is not directly above the Royal member. In Thai custom, you should not have your head directly above a member of the Royal family. That rule applies when walking on overhead passes as well.
What is Thailand known for?
Thailand is famous for its stunning tropical beaches and numerous opulent temples, elephants, kickboxing, and friendly, generous people. Other things Thailand is known for are: floating markets, tuk-tuks, full moon parties, and mind-blowing delicious food!
6 scary facts about Thailand
#47. Beware of what lurks in the sea
Man-eating sharks are not native to the waters of Thailand, but poisonous jellyfish are.
#48. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is grotesque and gory
In October each year the Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held and despite what the name suggests, this is actually quite a grisly affair. A key feature of this festival are the people who take part in very gory self-mutilation and parade in trance-like states in an attempt to purify their souls. As well as piecing their faces and body parts with strange and everyday objects, the locals walk barefoot across hot coals and abstain from eating meat for the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar, out of the belief that they will be rewarded with excellent health and peace of mind. Not for the squeamish or the fainthearted.
#49. If you’re not careful you could be sentenced to death
You can still get the death penalty in Thailand for drug smuggling and murder. Execution is now done by lethal injection.
#50. Ghosts are a big deal in Thailand
Thailand is a Buddhist country with its roots in Brahmanism and Animism, and as such, there are a number of superstitions and spirit-related worship practices entwined in the culture.
One such practice is asking the permission of the phra phum (spirit ghost of the land) when moving into a new home or staying over at someone else’s home.
#51. Spirit houses can be found outside most properties in the country
These temple-like houses provide shelter for spirits who have not passed on to the heavens. Thais pay respect to the protecting spirit of the property by performing a wai when walking past the spirit house, and through daily offerings of food and drink.
#52. Some spirits are considered good and others evil
However, most are said to be mischievous.
Below is a video about Thai spirit houses, their importance in Thai life and how the spirits are looked after:
#53. Whistling in the evening is said to call ghosts into your presence
Refrain from whistling outside at night, as you’re likely to spook the locals.
So there you have it – 53 of the most fascinating, peculiar, and fun facts about Thailand.
I hope you find this post an interesting read, and that it inspires you to visit Thailand some day!
More Facts Posts
Thailand Wiki Facts:
More information, statistics and general information about Thailand, updated as of 2022:
- Anthem: Phleng Chat Thai (Thai National Anthem)
- Flag: thong trai rong (the tricolour flag)
- Government: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
- Monarch: Vajiralongkorn
- Land area: 513,120km2 (198,120 sq miles)
- Capital city: Bangkok
- Population: 69,950,850 people.
- Currency: Thai Baht (฿) (THB)
- Languages: Thai, Isan, Kam Mueang
- Religions: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism.
- National Holiday: Constitution Day, 10th December
- Highest Mountain: Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai District 2,565m (8,415ft)
- Largest Lake: Songkhla Lake, 80km in length
- National Dish: Pad Thai
- National Flower: Golden Shower Flower
- Member of NATO: No
- Official Website: tourismthailand.org
- Time zone: UTC+7 (ICT)
- Driving side: left
- Country Number/Prefix: +66
- Country Code: TH
10 Largest Cities in Thailand
Here’s the ten largest cities in Thailand. The capital, Bangkok, tops the list, followed by Nonthaburi, a former fishing village neighbouring the capital, and thirdly is Nakhon Ratchasima, which has become the commercial hub for Cambodia and Laos. Approximately 50% of Thailand’s 69 million inhabitants live in urban areas. Source: World Atlas
What makes Thailand so special?
Thailand is not just famous for its stunning white sand beaches. The country is also famous for its amazing and picturesque, rural locations that cater extremely well for tourists despite seemingly being in the middle of nowhere. Whether you are looking for somewhere quiet to stay or an offbeat adventure, you can easily find accommodation and activities.
Book Your Trip to Thailand: Budget Tips & Tricks
I use Booking to find fantastic cheap stays with free cancellation options.
Travel insurance will protect you from theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. A safety net in case anything goes wrong, I never leave without it. World Nomads is my favourite agent for total peace of mind.
Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.
Thank you for reading 53 Interesting Facts About Thailand
Do you know any other interesting facts about Thailand? What’s your favourite? Let me know in the comments!