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What All Is Thailand Famous For?

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Thailand. What do you think about when you hear the name? No, now come on–besides that. Well, the truth is that unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for your entire life (give or take 12 years of education), you should know that Thailand is a country.  You may have heard some stuff about it (both good and bad), but if you haven’t been there then you may just be wondering what’s true, what’s exaggerated, and what’s outright ridiculous.

So just what is Thailand truly famous for?

I decided to look into that and answer the question and it turns out that there is a lot of good stuff to know. Thailand is famous for a lot of things that are actually quite famous, such as massage, kickboxing, and Pad Thai, as well as a lot of stuff which people may not know much detail about, such as beaches and hospitality. I suppose that it depends on where you are in the world.

If you live in and around Thailand, you are going to notice different things when compared to tourists and holidaymakers. I wanted to get to the bottom of this issue, and in the process, I have learned a lot about what Thailand has to offer. I hope that I can share some of that with you and you can come to the same conclusion that I came to – that Thailand is a place full of wonder and excitement.

Let’s Start With the Basics About Thailand

When I asked some of my friends to tell me what was famous about Thailand, most of them answered ‘massage’ (some of them went a little further, but let’s not explore that avenue). Massage was a common answer, and those who eat takeout regularly also suggested Pad Thai. After a short amount of thinking, I suddenly remembered the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Kickboxer (best dancing scene ever), and so it seems to me that Muay Thai kickboxing, massage, and food seem to be common themes, so let’s start with them!

Muay Thai Kickboxing

According to the bits I’ve gathered, Muay Thai kickboxing is at least a couple of thousand years old and, like most martial arts, was essentially a self-defense tool. Later, it seemed to become more like the American football of Thailand, a way to essentially wage war when there was no war to be fought!

Similar to American football, Thai kickboxers are superstars in their own right. As a matter of fact, outside superstars of martial arts have actually helped Muay Thai kickboxing become even more popular here and there throughout the years as they brought more attention to the arena of martial arts and sometimes even to Thai-style itself.

As I mentioned earlier, Van Damme was not only the star of a popular film about kickboxing in Thailand, but it also caused a huge increase in its popularity in the world. There is also sufficient evidence to support the belief that stars in other martial arts disciplines—such as my hero and legend Bruce Lee, my modern-day favorite Jet Li, and even people like Chuck Norris—have contributed to its continued success and ability to draw in new students.

Today, the kickboxing world itself is still largely controlled and influenced by Thailand and their sporting organizations, so strong are their stakes in the sport. If you have the opportunity to check out a fight, I am sure that it would be a memorable thing to witness! I’m not much into full-contact fighting but I have a feeling that even if I were to boycott Muay Thai because of the violence, it wouldn’t have any effect on them!

Thai Massage

Thai massage is a traditional massage, sometimes referred to as Thai-style massage or ancient-style massage. It combines principles of acupressure, Ayurvedic, and yoga (I could do with some of that right now). It also differs from what many people imagine Thai massage to be. With a Thai-style massage, you stay fully clothed the entire time. There are no lotions or oils. Your body is rocked, stretched, pulled, and compressed. Your body is put under pressure and moved into yoga positions. A full massage can last up to two hours. I need to get myself one of those.

Pad Thai Food

I cannot claim to have had Pad Thai a lot in my life, and I often wonder how the traditional dish differs from the dish we are served here, so I decided to look at authentic Pad Thai and Westernized Pad Thai. My mouth is watering as I am looking at the ingredients for a traditional Pad Thai. Rice noodles are soaked and then stir-fried with eggs and tofu. Fish, shrimp, garlic, shallots, chili, sugar, lime, tamarind, and peanuts are used to flavor it.

Thinking back, I do have a slight memory of the fresh taste. I was surprised to find that Pad Thai in the Western world is pretty similar to that in Thailand. The only main difference is that the spice level is cut down in Western dishes; traditional Thai food is spicier and packed with more unique flavors. On the whole, well done Western world.

Not So Famous or lesser-known things about Thailand

My journey into Thailand took me through Thailand’s fame and fortune. When we discount Pad Thai and Thai massage, what are we left with? Here are some of Thailand’s claims to fame which you may not have thought about, but when I mention them, you will instantly remember that they are a part of Thai culture.

Have you heard of a Tuk Tuk? You are probably scrambling around in your mind to find to find a mental image of the vehicle. If you thought of a rickshaw, then points off. Tuk Tuks are small three-wheeled vehicles with a driver in the front. They look a lot like a three-wheeler motorbike that has been enclosed by a yellow casing. They are the cabs of Thailand.

You have probably seen pictures of floating markets too. Was there a Netflix documentary that you remember or an issue of National Geographic? Floating markets make for a wonderful photo. Locals sell everything from fruits and vegetables to clothes and local dishes. One thing is always for sure, no matter what is on sale, the colors are rich and vibrant.

If you have ever seen pictures of Thailand, then you will also have seen the coastline and beaches. Thailand has some of the most fantastic beaches in the world. If you ever get to visit, then Hua His beach is one of the most popular beaches in the world. I have seen pictures and would love to go there someday.

The Not So Famous Parts of Thailand

If I were to talk to you about Thai massage, Pad Thai, floating markets, sprawling coastlines, and Tuk Tuks, I am sure that you would nod your head in agreement while wondering why this person is so fascinated about Thailand. When I set out to discover what made Thailand famous, I wanted to get to the root of what actually makes Thailand great. I did not want the outside perception; I wanted the inside knowledge. I wanted the stuff which makes people say, ‘huh, I didn’t know that.’

So here is my rundown of the very best things, which you did not know about (or maybe you did), that Thailand is famous for.

Thailand is famous for Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok. This is one of the largest markets in the world, and if you are looking for a place where you can shop to your heart’s content, then this is the place for you. Everything from vintage to modern is available here. The great thing about the market is that everything is negotiable. Bring your best bargaining skills, and you can have that new leather jacket for pennies, or that special kitchen whisk for cheaper than back home. Get there early and spend the entire day there.

The Tiger Temple is a one-of-a-kind adventure which you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the world. Tigers roam free in the temple land and are raised by the monks who live there. Man and animal live together, and if you are brave enough, you can walk with the tigers too and have a photo taken with them if you want to get up close and personal.

If you like animal adventures, then there is the elephant show to visit too. Many towns and cities feature regular elephant shows where elephants will perform tricks and stunts. Why have I never heard about the elephants and tigers when people have been talking about Thailand?

Koh Kret is an artificial island. No big deal, I hear you think. I mean, Dubai has a few human-made islands which are amazing. They are a wonder to behold; they are a modern marvel. And, that is where the difference lies. Koh Kret is not a modern marvel. The artificial island was created 300 years ago. Now, it is a bustling weekend utopia. Take a day trip from Bangkok on the weekend and find shopping, markets, eateries, and nightclubs.

When you think about Thailand, China is probably not your first thought. I was surprised to find out that Thailand has one of the best Chinatowns outside of China. The street food is amazing (and easy on the wallet too). There is something on every day and something for everyone. I have heard that if you go there during Chinese New Year, you will have the time of your life. It makes sense when you realize that Chinese heavily tour and work in the country.

The Oriental Thai spa is one of Thailand’s most successful exports. You do not need to visit Thailand to get an authentic spa experience. Most major cities around the world will have a Thai spa (and most of them will have been set up by a Thai). Having the Thai experience in Thailand is as authentic as it gets, but you can get it outside of Thailand too.

So, What is Thailand Famous For?

A lot. Some you may know and some you may not. It is clear that Pad Thai and Thai massage are the most well-known, but Thailand has a lot more than just the massage and its food. Go to any major city in the world, and you will find evidence of Thai culture. You can order Thai food or have a Thai massage, but you can also find so much more. Thailand is famous for a lot of exports, but it is only when you visit Thailand (physically or, like me, on the internet) that you truly see what Thailand is famous for.

Thailand is teeming with things to do. If there is one thing which I truly learned from my research, it is that Thailand is a hospitable place. Almost everything which they are famous for is associated with community and people. The food is delicious and brings people together. Animals and people live in harmony. Markets are vibrant and all about connection. There is nightlife, museums, temples, spas, mansions, human-made islands, other cultures, beaches, and parks.

I was surprised at how little I knew about Thailand. The more I read about it, the more I want to visit.

You might be wondering why I didn’t discuss the “ladyboys” of Thailand, who are indeed quite well known to most, especially in Asia. That is an entire topic all its own however, so I will save that for another time!

On a more relatable note for most of us, Thailand is famous for its massage and Pad Thai, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Go to Thailand, and you will realize that these two things are part of regular life. To the people in Thailand, this is not what makes their country famous. What makes their country famous is them.

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