History and Culture of Thailand

Knowledge is power. If you know about the trials and tribulations of others, you can apply their experiences in your own life and work wonders. This is why fables and similar stories are so popular. It is also why knowing one’s history is important to living a higher quality life.

Not only your own, but the history of foreigners and foreign countries could also be of great benefit to you in trying to avoid mistakes and seize opportunities. Knowing more about the history of Thailand certainly can’t be bad for you. You might even pick up something good from the mess.

Before Thailand even was the Kingdom of Thailand, it went by another name, Siam. This was indeed the source of the famous Siamese breed of cats, which possess sleek bodies and elegant frames. There is evidence that people have been living in and around the area of modern day Thailand for as far back as 40,000 years ago, that’s quite a long time when you think of it. The origins of Thailand or Siam, were in the 13th century when the empire of Khmer was finally decimated by infighting and rebellious rabble. Sukhotai is considered the first true Thai state.

The Kingdom of Ayutthaya would prove to succeed the Sukhotai and dominate the area between the 14th and 15th centuries. When that kingdom was destroyed by the Burmese back in 1767, the conquerors moved in and enslaved nearly a third of the area’s population. Since then, things have only continued to be chaotic, with no real peace in sight for the people in this corner of the world. Being stuck right in the middle of things and trapped between the area’s major powers has often led to Thailand and her people being taken advantage of or abused in some way.

The history of Thailand has been one rife with conflicts. Wars and upheavals both bloodless and red have torn up the political and even the physical landscape of the country time and time again. If this sounds interesting to you, they have plenty of museums in Thailand which chronicle this violent past, though the people there are more peaceful these days. Following a Japanese invasion and the end of World War II, Thailand has been a consistent ally and partner of the United States, who totally crippled the Japanese and saved the Thai from oppression back in the mid 1940s.

Many people now believe that it is ingrained into Thailand’s culture to have unrest and rampant corruption. Simple examples of this is the unstable political situation in Thailand where very few years there are military coups armed by tanks in the streets with riots and the vast majority of police and public servants in power will happily take bribes for a desired outcome.

However after saying this, there are also some good and interesting cultural aspects of Thailand that many foreigners take a while to understand, many of these date way back in history.

Old Thai Temple


You should never point your feet at someone (when sitting) or touch another persons foot as Thai people believe that feet are disgusting. On the other end, do not touch someones head who is older than you or seen as more important than you. 

 Thais love their King very much, don't walk over pictures of the King in anyway, even money as it has the kings head on it.
Thai FlowersColors and the meanings of Flowers also play a major role in Thailand cultural beliefs. It is hard to get beyond the colored shirt politics of modern Thailand, but that is a only a recent thing.

Yellow is the color of the much loved King of Thailand and is a color of respect. If you are going to give almost any Thai a gift, you can not go wrong with it wrapped in yellow. 

Another example is giving yellow flowers in Thailand, meaning friendship and is a common gift for friends and work colleagues, white is also a good color for this, how ever white is used for Thai funerals which is different to the west where it is used at weddings. A good local florist can help you get it right though.

A large percentage of Thais living in the Bangkok area have Chinese heritage and call them selves Thai-Chinese, the color red is of great meaning to them meaning wealth. Unless I knew someone was proud of their Chinese heritage it is best to avoid red due to political implications, unless it is romantic red roses which has the same meaning as in America due to western movies influencing the old Thai culture. Frangipani's are also popular as a friendship flower with no romantic meaning in Thailand, likewise the famous Thai Orchids which are much loved in by locals and grow abundantly locally. 

John Shaone is a Bangkok based florist who is regarded as one of the most knowledgeable experts on Thai Orchids in Bangkok, he advises and teaches Bangkok florists and loves all things Thai. He can be contacted at Google+.

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