10 little known facts about Thailand

1. Rainmaker King
A few years ago, rice farmers in Thailand experienced a severe drought. The king, who has been involved in helping rural people in Thailand for many years, invented a method for generating rain, and also filed an international patent for it. Aircraft are used to release silver iodide chemicals into clouds in specific ways, so that they are triggered by precipitation. This method has proven successful.

2. Mysterious fireballs
At a certain time of the year, a strange phenomenon that has not yet been scientifically explained occurs. Well, there have been scientific theories, however, scientists are still baffled by this phenomenon and unable to explain it properly. It is located in the northeastern part of Thailand, and the locals have their own interpretation of the mysterious fireballs that appear from the Mekong River: they say that they are fireballs from the mythical Naga snake.

On one occasion a TV team tried to expose the “hoax” and said the phenomenon was just Cambodian soldiers shooting into the air. However, they were soon proven wrong. There are records of this phenomenon happening hundreds of years ago, and it’s kind of the Thai version of “Loch Ness”

3. Thai Bonsai
Most people are familiar with Japanese bonsai trees. But Thailand also has its own tradition of miniature trees, which are called mai dat. Historical evidence shows that this tradition has already been around since the 13th century. Dat mai have their own style – they are not as small as Japanese bonsai, but often larger. Also, while with Japanese bonsai the goal is usually to make the young tree look as natural as possible, mai dat is meant to look especially well-manicured. MyDate Artist’s goal is to create a tree made according to human shapes. Thailand is a country that was almost entirely covered in jungle and swamps – it was a tropical wilderness. Only in recent decades have forests been cleared and converted into farms and cities. Thus, imitating nature is not what Thais consider beautiful.

4. Demigod King
Traditional Thais believe that the king is the human reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. All kings of the current dynasty, since the eighteenth century, are called “Rama” – the current king is Rama XI. Rama is the name of a demigod from the Indian epic Ramayana, which has its own Thai version, Ramakin.

5. This (monk) can’t be touched
A woman is forbidden to touch a Buddhist monk. Some women are offended by this or think that this is because women are considered unworthy, but this is not the case. It is simply about avoiding triggering feelings that might not be appropriate for monks, feelings like sexual desire.

6. Bangkok Tram
There was a tram once in Bangkok. Nowadays, Bangkok is notorious for its chronic traffic jams, and pretty much the only way to avoid being stuck in traffic is with the ultra-modern Skytrain (BTS) or the newer subway (MRT). However, once upon a time, there was a tram that ran through Bangkok. Bangkok’s tram network was established in 1894 and closed in 1968. In fact, even as early as 1888 a guy named Alfred John Loftus (Phraya Neitholthi) was running a tramway in Bangkok – drawn by horses! However, after some ownership changes were made, the horse-drawn carriages were replaced by electric carriages. New roads were opened and built, until in 1968 the last tram line in Bangkok was discontinued.

You can still see some of the railway tracks at Thanon Charoenkrung Soi 39.

7. Tomboy Thai
While almost everyone knows about ladybugs in Thailand (and cool some guys can tell surprising stories when they found out that the “woman” they’d been hitting on all night wasn’t actually a woman at all), not many people know that there are also a lot of tomboys: Women or girls who dress, act and look like men. Entire books have been written about gender roles in Thailand, and while some ladybugs, tomboys, and gays feel they aren’t treated as equals, they are treated more tolerantly than probably any other country in the world. For example, I know the case of a 15-year-old boy who decided to be a boy’s lady – and indeed dresses, talks, and acts like a woman now. However, his schoolmates never mocked, teased or bullied him. Being a remote village rather than modern-day Bangkok, it says a lot about the Thai people’s tolerance of people who decide to be ‘different’.

9. Men’s nails are long nails
This may sound strange: but many (completely straight) men grow their nails long. The most common is the little finger nail. Part of this is because in rural Thailand, long nails where already a sign of a certain social status: A farmer cannot grow long nails, simply because they will break during hard work in the fields. In fact, in Isan (northeastern Thailand) it is believed that the long nail on the little finger is lucky. Aside from that, many men also tell me when asked why they have long nails that it’s helpful: It’s easy to scratch yourself with long nails, and sometimes it’s just helpful to pry something open.

10. White is beautiful
Being in the northern hemisphere, many people want to get a stronger tan and take advantage of every opportunity to lie in the sun and make their skin darker and more exotic, for Thais white and radiant skin is beautiful. In fact, Thais spend about $50 million USD annually on skin whitening products.

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