Thailand has a land area of 513,115 sq.km (198,000 sq. miles), of which approximately 3,200 km (2,000 miles) is coastline along the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The official population is just over 65 Million people, with an annual growth rate of 0.85%, which is the lowest in SE Asia. About 75% of the country is ethnic Thai, 14% Chinese and the remaining 11% is mostly made up of Indians, Malay and Khmer.
National Flag/ Symbol: The current striped red, white and blue flag was introduced in 1917, with the 3 colours representing the 3 pillars of the Thai nation. Red is the life blood of the Thai people, white shows the purity of Buddhism, the national religion and the blue stripe symbolizes the monarchy. The national symbol of Thailand is the Garuda, a mythical half bird, half human figure that adorns King Bhumibols scepter and royal standard. The Garuda is a sign of Royal Appointment and only granted at the King’s discretion, therefore such an award is considered a great honour.
Currency: Thai currency is the Baht (THB). One Baht is divided into 100 Satang. The paper denominations are B1000 (brown with green), B500 (purple), B100 (red), B50 (blue) and B20 (green). There is a B10 coin of white metal with a bronze center, a metal B5 and B1, and a bronze 50 and 25 Satang.
The Monarchy: The monarchy is a strong unifying force within Thailand; the King’s powers are regulated by the constitution but he is still the Head of State and greatly loved and respected by his people. All over Thailand you will see many pictures of the King and Royal Family in every type of building.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej or Rama IX was born in the USA on December 5th 1927 and came to the throne on June 8th 1946. On April 28th 1950 he married Queen Sirikit with whom he has 4 children, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, Princess Ratana, Crown Prince Maha Chakri and Princess Chulabhorn. The King is a gifted photographer, painter, jazz saxophonist and composer as well as being dedicated to his people. The Royal Family is involved with many conservation and environmental projects in addition to giving aid to disaster victims when needed. The Thai’s highly respect and honour their royalty and it is illegal to insult royalty and this is an arrestable offence.
Thai Religion: Here in Thailand over 92% of the population is practicing Theravada Buddhists. With the teachings of Buddha being compatible with most religions Buddhism is at the very heart of Thai culture, giving life to all the traditions, social systems, art and literature of the nation. On your travels you will see four faced Brahma statues, trees with coloured ribbons around them and vendors of good luck charms. These are practices from Brahmanism, the early form of Hinduism and Animism and such elements have been absorbed into Buddhism to varying degrees.
Courtesy: The Buddhist belief of earthly impermanence makes the Thais a fun loving people who appear unruffled by events and rise above the problems of life with never mind attitude. They accept frustrating situations easily and never seem to be in too much for anything. If as a foreigner you make the effort to respect Thai customs and culture they will appreciate you for this. Be aware of how you dress, your general manner and avoid very affectionate gestures with others in public. Here are a few tips:
Never be disrespectful to the Monarchy or Royal Family.
Show proper respect to Buddha statues by not touching them, climbing on them for photos or pointing your feet towards them when seated.
Dress appropriately in temples.
Do not use your feet to point at someone or something.
Remove your shoes before entering a house.
Do not touch anyone’s head.
Loss of Face: To raise your voice or lose your temper is seen as bad manners in Thailand and no Thai will respect you for this. You will not gain anything by getting angry or assertive; in fact it is counterproductive. These actions will be considered a loss of face and most Thais will stop interacting with you. For a Thai the loss of face is an awful disgrace; so try to avoid direct confrontation and in any dispute make sure there is a suitable compromise that allows everyone to keep face.