Dive into the Rich and Fascinating Culture of Thailand

The kingdom of Thailand is renowned for its vibrant culture, highly developed craftsmanship, and profound spirituality. Situated in Southeast Asia, Thailand, also known as the ‘Land of Smiles,’ is home to over 68 million people, known for their hospitality!

Ancient stone sculptures of Buddha are artworks that depict Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. His face is typically characterized by half-closed eyes, a subtle smile, and a serene and calm expression.

History

The former name of Thailand is the ‘Kingdom of Siam.’ Its rich and complex history dates back to antiquity, with kingdoms such as Sukhothai and Ayutthaya flourishing from the 13th to the 18th century.

Thailand has consistently maintained its independence against neighboring empires like the Khmers and the Burmese, as well as against European colonial powers.

The history of Thailand is captivating, filled with determined warriors, revered monks, and sacred rituals that continue to endure today.

In 1782, Rama I established the Chakri dynasty in Bangkok, laying the foundation for the present reigning dynasty.

Today, Thailand is an endearing country with a rich culture, a developing economy, and global tourist appeal, all while facing modern challenges and striving to balance tradition and modernity.

Buddhist Calendar

The Buddhist calendar, based on lunar cycles, is widely used in Buddhist countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. Its starting point is the death (or passage into Nirvana) of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

In practice, 543 years need to be added to our calendar to obtain the current year in the Buddhist calendar (so, in 2023, we are in the year 2566 or 2567 B.E. for Buddhist Era).

Language

The official language is Thai, spoken by the majority of the Thai population and used in some neighboring countries due to Thailand’s cultural and economic influence.

Thai has borrowed words and expressions from other languages, notably Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, English, and other regional languages.

It’s a tonal language: the meaning of words can vary based on the tone used during pronunciation. There are five different tones in Thai (high, low, rising, falling, and mid-level).

Thai Alphabet

The Thai alphabet is a complex and unique writing system. It is written from left to right, and words are separated by spaces. The order of diacritical marks is specific; they are placed around the base consonant to form a complete syllable. Tone marks are used to indicate the syllable’s tone.

The Thai alphabet is an abugida script consisting of 44 initial consonants (ก ข ค ฆ ง จ ฉ ช ซ ฌ ญ ฎ ฏ ฐ ฑ ฒ ณ ด ต ถ ท ธ น บ ป ผ ฝ พ ฟ ภ ม ย ร ล ว ศ ษ ส ห ฬ อ ฮ); 32 basic vowels (Short vowels: อะ อิ อี อุ อู อำ อํ แอะ แอ โอะ โอ อา; Long vowels: อาะ อิ อี อุ อู อำ อํ แอะ แอ โอะ โอ อา); diacritical marks (vowel marks), and 5 tone marks (5 tones).

The Thai alphabet might seem complex, but with practice and perseverance, it is possible to learn to read, write, and speak Thai. This learning experience can be rewarding and provides a deep understanding of the country’s culture and history.

Hospitality

Thais are known for their friendliness and hospitality towards visitors. Extending a warm welcome to foreigners is an important value in Thai culture.

Monarchy and Respect

The monarchy is a revered institution in Thailand. The king is regarded as a symbol of unity and stability. Respect for the monarchy is deeply embedded in Thai culture.

In Thailand, images of the king are often displayed in public spaces, places of worship, official buildings, homes, schools, and other locations as a sign of devotion, respect, and loyalty to the monarchy.

Social Hierarchy

Notions of respect and hierarchy hold significant importance in Thai culture. Thai people place great emphasis on demonstrating respect towards their elders and figures of authority.

Religion and Spirituality

Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion in Thailand. Religious ceremonies, offerings, and Buddhist rituals are integral parts of daily life in Thailand.

Offerings to the Buddha encompass a variety of items and are not intended to “feed” the Buddha, who has attained Nirvana and does not require food or material goods. Offerings serve as practices to cultivate positive qualities such as gratitude, compassion, generosity, and spiritual awareness.

These offerings are diverse and include incense, candles, flowers, food, water, precious items, as well as music and chants.

Monastic Life

Monks play a significant role in the community by offering teachings and spiritual guidance to the faithful. They also conduct blessing ceremonies for special occasions such as weddings.

Buddhism holds a central place in life in Thailand and is considered a moral guiding force for most of its inhabitants. It’s common for Thai men to spend a period of time as monks, which can range from a week to several months, or even longer.

This experience in monastic life is seen as a way to accumulate merit and deepen one’s understanding of Buddhism.

Spirit Worship

Spirit houses are altars dedicated to protective spirits and ancestors. In Thailand, they can be found at every street corner, in front of houses, or nestled in trees! Although spirit houses have roots in pre-Buddhist animistic beliefs, they harmoniously coexist with Buddhism in Thailand.

Thai culture is infused with Buddhist traditions as well as ancestral animistic practices. Thais believe that spirits reside in the skies, trees, rivers, and the sea, and they worship these spirits in spirit houses, dedicated temples and shrines, and in nature. Spirits are believed to have a significant influence on the fortune and destiny of families and individuals.

Temples in Thailand

Thailand is renowned for its magnificent temples, known as “wats” in Thai. Buddhist temples serve as important spiritual and cultural centers.

The country is home to numerous temples, both historic and contemporary, serving as places of worship, meditation, teaching, and religious celebration.

In Bangkok, we recommend visiting Wat Phra Kaew, situated within the Grand Palace complex, which houses the revered Emerald Buddha, a highly venerated religious statue. Wat Pho and Wat Arun are also must-visit temples in the capital. Less known, Wat Pariwat, located away from typical tourist routes, is a personal favorite of mine!

Covering Buddha statues with thin sheets of gold symbolizes devotion and reverence. The gold leaves represent the purity of the Buddha’s spiritual light. They adorn the statue and reflect light, serving as a reminder that Buddhist teachings illuminate the world like the sun.

Throughout the country, many other temples and sacred sites reflect the spirituality, architecture, and history of the nation. Their splendor and diversity are truly extraordinary!

The temple guardians, known as “Yaksha” or “Yak,” are mythological figures often placed at the entrances of temples to protect them and prevent negative or malevolent influences from entering their sacred inner space. These imposing statues can have a fierce and powerful appearance or take the form of fantastical or animal-like creatures.

Traditional Festivals

Thailand is rich in traditional festivities. One of the most iconic is Songkran, the Thai New Year celebrated in April. During this period, people engage in water fights and visit temples for purification rituals.

During Loy Krathong, which usually falls in November, Thais release small fire-lit lanterns onto rivers to symbolize the letting go of worries and sorrows.

Phi Ta Khon, also known as the Ghost Festival, is unique to the Dan Sai region. It features dances, colorful masks, and festivities to honor spirits and attract prosperity.

The Royal Barge Procession in Bangkok showcases splendid, elaborately decorated barges in an impressive procession that honors the royal family.

Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival is a period where participants abstain from meat and perform religious rituals to purify the mind and body.

The Surin Elephant Festival highlights the relationship between elephants and local communities through shows, parades, and cultural activities.

These traditional Thai festivals are just a few examples, reflecting the country’s cultural diversity.

Transportation

Options Thailand offers a wide variety of transportation options for travelers. Tuk-tuks, small three-wheeled motorized vehicles, are popular for short city trips. Taxis, both traditional and app-based, are widely available in urban areas.

An iconic mode of transportation in Thailand, the tuk-tuk is a small three-wheeled vehicle often brightly decorated with lights and various ornaments. It’s a picturesque transportation experience highly favored by tourists!

The public transportation network includes local and intercity buses, providing an economical option for traveling between cities and provinces. Motorcycle taxis are common for quick and affordable travel in congested areas.

The longtail boat, known as “reua hang yao” in Thai, is the traditional Thai boat.

Trains connect numerous regions of the country, offering more comfortable and scenic travel options, notably the famous “Death Railway” connecting Bangkok to the Kanchanaburi region. Boats and ferries are used for navigating along rivers and visiting the islands.

The capital, Bangkok, is nicknamed “the Venice of Asia” due to its numerous canals, known as “klongs,” that crisscross the city.

Additionally, modern options like air-conditioned buses and minivans are popular for longer trips between cities. Domestic flights are also a convenient option for covering vast distances quickly.

Food

The durian is dubbed “the king of fruits.” Its intense aroma and strong smell may deter some individuals, leading to regulations prohibiting its consumption in certain public places. However, others consider it a delicate and prized delicacy. Its unique and rich taste is a blend of sweetness, creaminess, and hints of almond.

Food is also at the heart of Thai culture. Thai cuisine is renowned for its unique blend of flavors, spices, and fresh ingredients. Thai dishes often strike a balance between the five fundamental tastes: sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, and sour. Food markets, street stalls, and restaurants are popular places to savor local cuisine.

The Pad Thai is an iconic dish and a delightful example of the rich palette of flavors and aromas that Thai cuisine has to offer. It consists of stir-fried noodles that combine sweet, salty, spicy, and sour tastes, garnished with fresh ingredients and herbs. Pad Thai is internationally celebrated for its well-balanced combination of textures and flavors.

Thai families often spend a lot of time preparing meals to celebrate special occasions and share them with their loved ones.

The dragon fruit, or pitaya, is widely cultivated in Thailand. Its flesh is sweet, juicy, and speckled with small black seeds. The fruit can be consumed fresh, sliced or cubed, added to fruit salads, smoothies, or used as a decorative topping.

Traditional Arts

Traditional Thai arts include classical dance, music, khon (classical masked dance), and Nuad Boran (traditional massage). Sepak takraw (kick volleyball) and Muay Thai (Thai boxing) are also significant cultural expressions.

Thai dance is elegant and diverse. Dancers often wear lavish costumes, masks, and portray mythological or historical characters.

Muay Thai is a traditional Thai martial art. Muay Thai fighters are renowned for their courage, endurance, and technique. They use punches, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks for both defensive and offensive purposes, both in the sport and real-life situations.

Muay Thai is both a competitive sport and a form of traditional martial art deeply rooted in Thai culture, playing a significant role in the country’s identity.

Sepak takraw is a traditional Southeast Asian ball sport popular in Thailand. Players use only their feet, knees, heads, and chests to touch the ball and pass it over the net. Touches need to be executed swiftly and agilely to keep the game in motion. Professional players are stars in the country, and the sport is also enjoyed as a recreational activity.

Sepak takraw is spectacular to watch due to the acrobatic movements of the players in touching the ball. There are several styles and techniques of play, including “sepak raga” (played with the hip) and “sepak bulu ayam” (played with the inside foot wrapped around the ball).

Thai Traditional Crafts

Thai traditional craftsmanship, rich and diverse, dates back several centuries and is known worldwide for its high-quality and beautifully crafted products. Thai artisans specialize in various crafts, from pottery and weaving to jewelry making and sculpture. The vibrant colors, elaborate patterns, and diversity of offered items reflect the creativity and skills of local artisans.

Handwoven Silk: Produced for centuries to create clothing, bags, bedspreads, and other fashion items, Thai silk is renowned for its softness, high quality, and intricate patterns. Silk fabrics are also hand-dyed.

Wood, Bronze, and Other Material Sculptures: Thai artisans are esteemed for their skills in sculpting and carving. They create sculptures of Buddha, deities, animals, and other ornamental motifs.

Garuda, known as “Krut” in Thai, is a creature that is part-human, part-bird, symbolizing power, dignity, strength, loyalty, protection, and the Thai royal family. As a national symbol, it adorns official buildings, passports, and banknotes. A yellow flag with a red Garuda is raised over the royal palace when the king is present.

Ceramics and Pottery: Bowls, vases, plates, and figurines are crafted using traditional pottery and ceramic techniques.

Hand-Painted Umbrellas: Thai umbrellas, made from mulberry paper and bamboo, are hand-painted with floral patterns, traditional scenes, and elaborate designs.


In Thai culture, umbrellas are considered symbols of auspiciousness, protection, and good luck. They are often given as gifts during special occasions.

Jewelry: Silver, along with other materials, is used to craft intricate jewelry and ornaments, sometimes adorned with precious or semi-precious stones.

Thai Puppets: Traditional Thai puppets are crafted from carved wood and hand-painted. Traditional puppet shows often narrate epic and mythological stories.

Traditional Masks: Thai masks, frequently used in ceremonies and festivals or as decorative items, are made from natural materials such as wood, papier-mâché, and palm leaves.

Khon is a traditional Thai dance-theatre performance that depicts episodes from the Ramakien, a Thai epic based on the Hindu Ramayana. Khon masks are elaborate and colorful, representing mythical and legendary characters.

Woven Baskets: Handwoven baskets made from wicker and rattan are used for transporting goods and local produce. They are also frequently employed as decorative items.

Lacquerware Painting: Lacquerware craftsmanship involves applying layers of colored lacquer to wooden objects, creating intricate patterns and designs.

Wooden Massage Accessories: Designed for use in traditional Thai massage techniques or self-massage to help alleviate muscle tension and promote relaxation. These accessories include tools like reflexology sticks, reflexology boards, self-massage rods for the back, and more.

Cushions and Mattresses: Crafted using traditional artisanal techniques such as weaving, hand-stitching, and padding, Thai cushions and mattresses are often versatile and highly decorative.

Comfortable Clothing: “Made in Thailand” clothes includes Thai pants and Thai skirts, often made from soft cotton and natural fabrics, lightweight, breathable, and ideal for warm climates. They can be worn casually or formally, often adorned with embroideries or decorative details.

Traditional Clothing : Traditional Thai clothing reflects the history, culture, and societal influences of Thailand through the ages:

Women:

Chut Thai is worn during special occasions like religious ceremonies, weddings, and other significant events. Sabai is a silk stole worn over Chut Thai or other traditional clothing. Chakkri is often worn by women from royalty or high-ranking status.

Men:

Chang Kben is a traditional outfit consisting of a fabric belt wrapped around the waist and a matching shirt. Aksra is formal wear for men during special occasions. Chatai is worn notably by farmers for outdoor work, comprising loose trousers (suea pat) and a short-sleeved shirt.

These examples represent only a small fraction of the extensive range of Thai craftsmanship, which plays a crucial role in the country’s culture by preserving ancient traditions and crafting beautiful and functional objects.

The lotus and the naga are two significant and culturally important elements in Thailand. In Buddhism, the lotus is closely associated with spiritual awakening. It also symbolizes the illusory nature of the material world as, despite having roots in the mud, it rises above the water without being tainted by it. The naga (serpent) is a mythological creature, regarded as the guardian of underground treasures and knowledge, as well as the protector of waters and natural elements.

In summary, Thailand is a nation deeply rooted in Buddhist culture, rich artisanal tradition, spirituality, and annual festivals. Thai culture is steeped in ancient history, religious traditions, regional influences, and a strong national identity.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen Buddhist monk, poet and author of many books (more than 130, including Vietnam: a lotus in a sea of fire; There is neither death nor fear; The Fullness of the moment, living in full consciousness; Peace in itself, peace on the move.), Thich Nhat Hanh is a tireless peace activist who traveled the world and founded many religious and social institutions.

He is affectionately nicknamed Thay, which means “teacher” in Vietnamese.

Thich Nhat Hanh in 2007 in Vietnam

Youth and ordination

Born in French Indochina (now Vietnam) in 1926, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a Zen Buddhist monk since 1942, when he was 16 years old.

In his youth, he befriended a French soldier who wondered about the usefulness of war. Thich Naht Han was against the Vietnam War and did not want to take sides.

Vietnam War and exile

In 1961, he went to study at Princeton University in the USA, in 1963 he returned to his country and founded a non-violent resistance movement to war.

Accused of communist propaganda, he was forced into exile from 1967. He obtained the right of asylum in France.

Also in 1967, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, but the prize was not awarded that year.

Martin Luther King born in Georgia (USA) in 1929 and assassinated in 1968
is a nonviolent activist for the civil rights movement

Plum village in France

In 1982, he settled in the southwest of France, and founded Plum village, the largest Buddhist monastery in the West.

In this Buddhist community, which has 200 resident members and welcomes 10,000 visitors a year, many practices are taught: the art of mindful living, meditation, inner smiling and conscious breathing.

End of life of Thich Nhat Hanh

In 2005 he returned to Vietnam, to the temple of Tu Hieu in Huê, where he had begun his career as a monk, and he died there in 2022 at the age of 95.

Some quotes from Thay, Thich Nhat Hanh

“The miracle is not walking on water, it is walking green Earth in the present moment and appreciating the beauty and peace that is available now.”

“It is very important to know how to listen with compassion. To listen with compassion is to listen with the will to relieve the other of his suffering, without judging him or seeking argument.

“Meditation is not escaping from society, but coming back to ourselves and seeing what is happening. Once you see, you have to act. With mindfulness, we know what to do and what not to do to help.”

“Christians are my brothers. I don’t want to make them new Buddhists. I want to help them deepen their own tradition. »

The Inner Smile

Originally an ancient Taoist healing method, the inner smile is an extremely powerful meditation ritual that begins at the level of the eyes to go into all the organs of the body. The Taoists have been using the power of the inner smile for 2500 years.

It can also be seen as a broader concept designating a smiling and positive attitude towards every person and every event in life.

A relaxed smile, inside ourselves, can dispel the fears, tensions and negative emotions of life.

Scientists have shown that the smile releases chemical substances in the brain (serotonin, dopamine and endorphins) that instantly cause well-being.

There is a Chinese saying that says that a smile makes the face breathe.

Smiling is also the opening of the heart, a voluntary action that has the effect of feeling happiness in oneself.

But how to practice the inner smile?

It can be practiced at any time, and the more you practice it, the more it will become natural, as a way of being in the world.

You can close your eyes, but it’s not mandatory. Think of your safe place, become aware of your breathing and the present moment … you are alive, you are happy!

Imagine the corners of your lips which rise slightly. Observe this smile, let the joy invade and spread around you …

You can also visualize someone you love who smiles at you and you smile back.

By smiling at yourself, others and the world, you send out waves of positive energy.

“Joy engenders a smile,

And the smile engenders relaxation, calm and joy.

To smile, I do not expect to feel joy;

The feeling of joy can very well be born later.

Being alone in my room, I sometimes smile at myself.

I do it out of kindness to myself, to take care of myself, to give myself love.

I know that if I do not take care of myself, I cannot take care of others. “

_ Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk for peace

Other quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh

Bhumibol, King of Thaïland

The death of King of Thailand plunged the country into uncertainty.

The king of Thailand RAMA IX aka Bhumibol Adulyadej, was born on December 5, 1927 and died on Thursday, October 13, 2016. He ruled over Thailand for 70 years. His dynasty, the Rama dynasty, succeeded the dynasty of the kings of Ayutthaya and Bangkok was established as the capital of the kingdom in 1782.

Bhumibol is revered like a demigod and his portrait is omnipresent in all homes. 90% of the population had only him as a ruler, he held a central role in the unification of the country.

The designated successor is his only son Maha Vajiralongkorn. He is not very popular because of his erratic personality and lack of commitment. Most Thai people would prefer to see his sister,Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, on the throne

The troubled political context of the country:

After a strong economic growth in the 85’s -95’s, Thailand was among the four dragons of South East Asia, nowadays the country is experiencing a troubled politicalclimate.

The relations between the army, the royalist “yellow shirts” and the pro-democratic “red shirts” are often violent. The country is plagued by coups, internet censorship and the imprisonment of journalists and opponents.

Any unfavorable opinion towards the king or his family is punished as a crime of lese majesty according to the Thai constitution. Its authority and legitimacy are truly immutable. The King is the symbolic father of all Thai people.

By tradition, Father’s Day is set on the king’s birthday (therefore on December 5 since 1946) and it is the same for Mother’s Day.

Following the death of the king, the entire country was grieving. A mourning period of one year was declared after which the new sovereign will be crowned.

I convey my condolences to the Thai people for this difficult moment in their history, which I am sure they will be able to face with the wisdom that characterizes them.

The significance of the lotus

The lotus is an aquatic plant with blue, pink, purple or white flowers that is similar to the water lily.

Emerging from the mud, it rises towards the light and thus represents elevation and spiritual realization.

Traditions

The lotus (padma in Sanskrit) is the sacred flower of Buddhism and Hinduism and its symbolism is rich and powerful.

According to Buddhist tradition, when the Buddha walked, lotus flowers bloomed…

Brahma, the creator God of the Hindus is said to have been born in a lotus. This flower is the symbol of the origin of the manifestation of life.

It also often serves as a throne for the deities.

In India

A symbol of beauty, purity and elegance, it is also the national flower of India.

The Lotus Temple in New Delhi, India, is an architectural curiosity in the shape of a lotus flower about to bloom. It aims to be universal and open to all religions. No particular ritual is performed there, but people simply come to meditate in silence and with an open heart.

Yoga

In yoga, the lotus posture (padmasana) is a symbol of meditation and awakening. Like a lotus, a novice person is mired in the materiality of the world. But as she progresses in yoga, she has the opportunity to open up beautifully.

In this posture, the arrangement of the arms and legs evokes the petals of a lotus. This position calms the mind and awakens the divine energy that lies dormant within us.

Lotus mudra

The lotus mudra, to be done at the heart level, is excellent for helping us feel the warmth of existence. This mudra called the lotus flower opens our heart to universal love.

The lotus symbolizes the heart where the divine sits, as well as the chakras, which are also called the lotuses, or the wheels. The wheel is a stylized lotus, where everything starts from the center and returns to the center.

Arasia Shop offers you natural white lotus incense

And the mandala or lotus flower puzzle

And many other products on the theme of the lotus…

The teachings of Buddhism

“My mind is either my worst enemy or my best friend”

Take control of your mind by meditating to deprogram yourself.

Get rid of negativity in the form of anxiety, discomfiture, greed, hatred, ignorance, fear, or anger by familiarizing yourself with positive states of mind: contentment, patience, kindness and wisdom.

Stay calm and accept the events that you have no control of, and eventually you will be in harmony with the universe.

A fundamental concept that teaches Buddhism is the impermanence of all things and itt is therefore important to not get too attached to anyone or anything

“Do not want what you already have! “

Know yourself more through the spiritual development and you can look inside you and know who you really are.

“He who is a master of himself is greater than he who masters the world. “

More information, and Buda statues for sale on my webshop Arasia.

The Happy Buddha, buddha of prosperity

The Buddha of prosperity or the Happy Buddha is not to be confused with Siddhartha Gautama, who is also called the Thai Buddha or the historical Buddha!

Its origin dates back to the tenth century in China , during the Liang dynasty where a Buddhist monk named Budai (pronounced boudaye ) was appointed as an incarnation of Maitreya , the Buddha of the future.

Budai was paunchy, jovial, kind and generous. He is often depicted with a bag of valuables or with a jar full of wine!

Nowadays it is found in almost all Oriental homes, and it is considered a lucky charm, both material and spiritual prosperity. It is said that rubbing his belly brings richness and fulfillment.

His blessed nature, pudgy physique and his eternal smile has made him the quintessential god of abundance and happiness!

The Buddha of prosperity in hand-carved wood by Balinese artisans is available at Arasia.

bouddha rieur arasia