9 Things You Didn’t Know About Thailand
Thailand as we know is full of surprises, mostly good and some a bit odd.
So here are 9 things you didn’t know about Thailand:
1. It’s All Bull
If you’ve never heard of Red Bull you must have been hiding under a rock.
But as it’s sold across the world, and they sponsor dozens of sporting events, it’s more likely you’re familiar with it.
But did you know that there are two Red Bull companies?
Krating Daeng was first produced in Thailand as an energy booster for manual labourers.
An Austrian businessman discovered it ‘cured’ his jetlag, and co-invested with the Thai owner Chaleo Yoovodhya to produce a ‘western’ version.
With a complicated licensing agreement, the Austrian Red Bull version was aimed at a higher income market than the original Thai Krating Daeng version.
The Yoovodhya family control 51% of the Austrian company, but don’t take part in company operations.
Both versions are sold around the world and the two families became extremely rich.
Katoeys (“Ladyboys”) get some bad press, sometimes justified but often not.
The Thai word ‘Katoey’ covers a wide spectrum of the human character, from an effeminate man right the way through to a transgendered person who has transitioned completely from male to female.
What ever their situation ‘Katoeys’ have to work a lot harder to be accepted by society, and even more than that to be admired.
There are plenty of examples of transgenders rising above the struggle and abuse they must endure just to live their lives and be successful. Here are just two of them:
1. One such is the famous and highly respected Thai-language tutor Kijmanoch Rojanasupya.
Known to all as Kru Lilly, she teaches Thai at her own school in Bangkok’s Siam area, but more notably on mainstream TV classes.
She doesn’t just teach kids the language in school, but speaks and writes about the language, it’s roots and nuances, with a knowledge and passion few others can match.
While she has a great sense of humour, she also has a sharp tongue. Few ever dare to criticise her transition, and rightly so.
Kru Lilly also teaches Buddhist Dhamma classes at her retreat in Pak Chong, in Korat.
2. A 16 year old Muay Thai boxer who wore makeup in the ring and mercilessly pummeled most opponents into submission, was made famous in the movie “Beautiful Boxer”.
As an young effeminate man Parinya Charoenphol (“Nong Toom”) was often humiliated by Muay Thai officials ordering him to strip naked for weigh-ins, when other boxers were always weighed in their underwear.
He soon gained the upper hand, and a lot of respect, by winning most of his bouts decisively, gaining a Muay Thai championship.
But Parinya had always felt she was trapped in the wrong body, and fully transitioned into a beautiful woman at the age of 18.
This didn’t end her boxing career as she had several bouts later which showed she still had her passion and Muay Thai skills.
She later set up a Muay Thai training camp, but also dabbled in modelling.
3. Most Deadly
The main cause of death in the country is having a Stroke; an estimated 50000 people die from a stroke every year.
But, what do you think is the single most dangerous activity in Thailand?
Riding a motorcycle.
Road accidents in Thailand killed 20169 people in 2018 -- but these statistics only account for fatalities on scene.
Those who died later in hospital as a result of traffic accident injuries are not included.
Motorcyclists accounted for 70% of those deaths.
4. Skinny Points
You might have heard that in Prachuap Khiri Khan province the narrowest part of Thailand is 22km from the sea going inland to the Myanmar border.
That really is narrow, and it’s only a short drive to the border market.
But, the narrowest part of Thailand isn’t where lots of people think it is.
In Trat province, Highway 318 goes south and ends at the border with Cambodia. It’s a good hopping off point for Koh Chang and many other beautiful islands.
Just a few km before the border crossing into Cambodia, there is a narrow point where the distance between the Gulf of Thailand and the Cambodian border over a nearby hill is only 2 (yes two) kilometers.
So this is the narrowest point in Thailand. There is a pretty garden and a viewing area to record it with lovely vistas of several islands.
5. Battle of Ao Minao
On 8th December 1941, soon after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, Japanese troops launched their invasion of Thailand.
Waves of assault troops landed along the coast of several provinces, including Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The capture of the naval airbase at Ao Minao (Lemon Bay) in the small provincial capital was a primary aim of the invaders.
Local defenders were taken by surprise but quickly rallied to defend the base.
Sailors, police, and teenage volunteers co-operated in a brave but hopeless attempt to repel the Japanese invaders flooding ashore.
Armed with rifles, pistols, and two light machine guns, they were seriously outnumbered by the heavily armed enemy.
Of the few operational aircraft the Thai defenders had, all but one were quickly destroyed, killing the pilots. The remaining plane was unable to make much impact against the Japanese forces because the weather was quite bad.
A message they received telling them to stand down was ignored as a false flag; unknown to them the government in Bangkok had capitulated.
The Japanese drove the defenders out of most of the airbase. The surviving men, running low on ammunition, made a last stand on a nearby hill.
Fighting only ended on 9th December when a provincial officer arrived with a letter from the Prime Minister ordering a ceasefire.
The bravery and sacrifice of these men is remembered in a monument at Ao Minao airbase in Prachuap Khiri Khan town.
6. Tiny Land
The ownership of every plot of land in Thailand is registered with the government’s Land Department.
So it’s easy and quick to buy and sell property with some confidence.
The smallest registered plot of land in Thailand is in a busy suburb of Bangkok.
This tiny triangle of land is in Ramindra Road Soi 8, measuring an amzing 0.1 square wah (about 250sq cm).
The owner has erected a plinth over the plot with an engraved copy of the chanot (land ownership certificate) embedded in it.
Thailand holds a good few Guinness World Records for some silly stuff, most recently in January 2019 for a huge plate of Mango and Sticky Rice weighing in at 4500kg!
Silliness doesn’t stop there. Thailand’s scorpion queen, Kanchana Ketkeaw, topped her own world record when she spent 33 days in a large glass box with 5,000 scorpions. It must be love!
An unbroken record from 1996 is the ultimate in silliness, with the most expensive pet wedding ever, between two cats.
The bride’s dowry was 500,000 baht, and high society wedding guests gave the be-meowsed moggies 15 million baht worth of gifts -- hopefully there was some catnip in there.
The best man was a parrot who received the bride from her Rolls-Royce, and the groom from his helicopter. Very Monty Python!
This last record is not so silly as it had a serious message.
For World AIDS Day in 2006, Bangkok did its part to promote safe sex by creating the world’s longest chain of condoms.
Some 1,436 people tied together 24,516 condoms, which stretched for more than 2.7km.
8. Tyre Food
A street food vendor in Bangkok’s Pha Khanong district has kept her Michelin 1 star rating for another year.
Jay Fai turns out the tastiest crab omlettes and other delicious sea food from her nondescript food outlet in Bangkok’s Mahachai Road.
Despite it being street food, you can’t say it’s cheap, but long waits for a taste of her gourmet cooking prove her success.
Several other street food outlets around the city received have received Michelin’s Bib Gourmand designation too.
9. Nesting Money
Bird’s Nests are in huge demand in Thailand and across Asia, both as a food delicacy and as a so-called beauty and health supplement.
“Brand’s” Birds Nest drink seems to be the most widely available label and is on sale in most supermarkets, 7/11s, etc around the country and sells extremely well.
There are numerous other brands too. Most are sold on the basis of improving your health (and your looks in some cases!) as well as allegedly prolonging life.
There is a perception of men climbing rickity ladders in dark caves to retrieve these bird’s nests, but the reality in most cases is much more mundane and industrial.
Artificial “caves” which mimic the swift’s natural habitat are built next to processing plants where the nests are prepared for human consumption.
Bird’s Nest soup is a high-end and high cost dish available in many restaurants around the region, sold on the same basis.
Swiftlet nests harvested from wild birds can command up to and sometimes over 100000 baht (@US$3000) per kilo!
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