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10 Unknown Facts About Thailand
1. Rainmaker King
A few years ago the rice farmers of Thailand went through a severe drought period. The king, who has been involved in helping the rural population of Thailand for many years, invented a method to make it rain, for which he also registered an international patent. Airplanes are used to shoot silver iodide chemicals into the clouds in specific ways so that they are stimulated to rain. This method proved successful.
2. Mysterious Fireballs
At a certain time of the year, a strange phenomenon occurs that has not yet been scientifically explained. Well, there were scientific theories, however, scientists are still confused by this phenomenon and are unable to explain it properly. It is in the northeastern part of Thailand, and the residents there have their own explanation for the mysterious fireballs that come out of the Mekong River: they say that these are fireballs from the legendary Naga snake.
On one occasion a television crew tried to uncover “the hoax” and said the phenomenon was simply Cambodian soldiers shooting into the air. However, they were quickly proven wrong. There are records of this phenomenon occurring for hundreds of years, and it’s sort of Thailand’s version of “Lake Ness”.
3. Thai Bonsai
Most people are aware of the Japanese bonsai trees. But Thailand also has its own tradition of miniature trees, which is called mai dat. Historical evidence shows that this tradition has existed since the 13th century. Mai dat have their own style – they are not as small as the Japanese bonsai, but quite often larger. Also, while with a Japanese bonsai the goal is usually to make the small tree look as natural as possible, a mai dat is supposed to look especially well trimmed. It is the goal of the mai dat artist to create a tree that is made according to human forms. Thailand is a country that used to be almost completely covered in forest and swamp – it was a tropical wilderness. Only in recent decades have the forests been cleared and transformed into farms and cities. Thus, imitating nature is not what Thais consider beautiful.
4. Demigod King
It is a traditional Thai belief that the king is a human reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. All the kings of the current dynasty, since the 18th century, have been called “Rama” – the current king being Rama XI. Rama was the name of a demigod from the Indian epic Ramayana, which has its own Thai version, the Ramakien.
5. Can’t Touch This (Monk)
It is forbidden for a woman to touch a Buddhist monk. Some women feel offended by this or think that it is because a woman is considered unworthy, but this is not the case. It is simply a matter of avoiding arousing feelings that would not be appropriate for monks, feelings such as sexual desire.
6. Bangkok Tram
There was once a tram in Bangkok. Nowadays, Bangkok is known for chronic traffic jams, and almost the only way to avoid being stuck in traffic is the ultra-modern sky train (BTS) or the even newer metro (MRT). However, there was once a tram through Bangkok. The Tram network in Bangkok was established in 1894 and closed in 1968. Indeed, even as early as 1888 there was a guy named Alfred John Loftus (Phraya Nithetcholthee) who operated a tram line in Bangkok – pulled by horses! However, after a few changes of ownership, the horse-drawn carts were replaced with electric carts. New routes were opened and built, until in 1968 the last tram in Bangkok was stopped.
You can still see some of the railways in the Thanon Charoenkrung Soi 39 area.
7. Thai Tomboys
While almost everyone knows about the ladyboys in Thailand (and quite a few men can tell surprising stories when they found out that the “woman” they hit on all night wasn’t actually a woman at all), not so many people know that there there are also many tombs: women or girls who dress, act and look like men. Whole books have been written about Thai gender roles, and while some tomboys and tomboys and homosexuals feel they are not treated equally, they are treated far more tolerantly than in probably any other country in the world. For example, I know the case of a 15-year-old boy who decided to be a ladyboy – and indeed dresses, speaks and behaves like a woman now. However, schoolmates never teased, teased or bullied him about it. This being a remote village and not modern Bangkok, it speaks volumes about the tolerance of Thai people towards people who decide to “be different”.
9. Long Nails of Men
This might be strange: but many (totally straight) men grow long nails. Most often it is the nail of the little finger. Part of this is because in rural Thailand, long nails where indeed a sign of a certain social status: a farmer cannot grow long nails, because they will simply break during the hard work in the fields. In fact, in Isaan (North-Eastern Thailand) it is even believed that a long nail on the little finger is lucky. Besides that, many men also told me when I asked why they have a long nail that it is useful: it is easy to scratch yourself with a long nail, and sometimes it is only useful to open something.
10. White Is Beautiful
While in the Northern hemisphere, many people would like a stronger tan and take every opportunity to lie in the sun and make their skin darker and exotic, for Thais, white and light skin is beautiful. In fact, Thais spend about US$50 million a year on skin whitening products.
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