1

8 Fun Facts About Thailand

 

Thailand is an amazing country that stuns the visitor in many ways. Thus, get ready for some fun facts about Thailand in numbers 🙂

8 Fun Facts About Thailand

  • 2 grams weights the world’s smallest mammal. It is the Kitti’s Hog-nosed bat which is also known as the bumblebee bat. It is a vulnerable and rare species of bat and the only extant member of the family Craseonycteridae. It occurs in Western Thailand in the Kanchanaburi province, more specifically in the Sai Yok National Park, where it occupies limestone caves along rivers.

Kitty's Hog nosed bat (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

Kitty’s Hog-nosed bat (photo credit: nationmultimedia.com)

  • 95% of all Thai people are Buddhists. Thai tradition supports laymen to go into a monastery for a certain time period. This retreat is expected of all male Thais and is commonly scheduled after high school. Such retreat brings honour to the family and merit to the young man.

Young novices entering a monstery in Thailand (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

Young novices entering a monastery in Thailand (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

  • 169 letters has the official name of the capital Bangkok: It is known to Thais as Krung Thep Maha Nakho, but its full ceremonial name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.

View from Baiyoke Sky Tower on the capital Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

View from Baiyoke Sky Tower on the capital Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

  • 70% of all animal and bird species are living in Thailand. Thus, Thailand is one of the world’s countries richest in species. There are over 200 different reptiles living in Thailand according to Thai National Park’s ‘List of reptiles’.

A country rich in species (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

A country rich in species, here a lizard (photo credit: Siwaphong Pakdeetawan, Instagram@knack66)

  • 172 meters high is the world tallest stupa. It is located in Nakhom Pathom and called Phra Pathom Chedi. It was completed in 1870 and the name Phra Pathom Chedi means ‘the first holy stupa’.

Phra Pathom Chedi (photo credit: ScorpianPK, wikimedia.org)

Phra Pathom Chedi (photo credit: ScorpianPK, wikimedia.org)

  • 1430 islands are there in Thailand, ranging from desert islands to spectacular islands. Some are well-known and popular among tourists while others are still pristine.

Angthong Islands National Marine Park (photo credit: Amazing Thailand, FB page)

Angthong Islands National Marine Park (photo credit: Amazing Thailand, FB page)

  • 1586 meters long was the catwalk of the Pattaya International Fashion Week in 2010. Thus, it was a Guinness World Record in Pattaya.
  • 1,500,000 Bath (around 37.000 Euro) was paid for a painting created by eight elephants from the Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai. The painting measured 2,4 x 8 meters.

A paiting elephant (photo credit: elephantpaintings4you.com)

A paiting elephant, a fun fact about Thailand (photo credit: elephantpaintings4you.com)

Well, did you know all that? Do you know more amazing and astonishing fun facts about Thailand? Feel free to comment 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Thailand Magazin TAT 2015, German Version)




The Thai Tradition of Tattooing (Sak Yant)

The custom of tattooing has a long history in Thailand. Tattoos are generally divided into two categories, those for loving-kindness (metta) and those for invulnerability and empowerment. These tattoos are part of Thai magic (Sak Yant) and not for beautification. Thus, Sak Yant is an ancient magical practice using Buddhist, Brahman and animist imagery. In particular, Wat Bang Phra in Nakhom Pathom Province is known for Yantra tattooing by monks living in the temple. During March each year there is a tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra.

Thai Tattoos

Hlwong Pi Pant tattooing a Yant in Ang Tong Province (photo credit: sakyant, wikimedia.org)

Luang Pi Pant tattooing a Yant in Ang Tong Province (photo credit: sakyant, wikimedia.org)

Tattoos for loving-kindness serve to enhance in the person a feeling of benevolence and kindness towards others and simultaneously instill in others the same feelings to oneself. Some tattoo motifs for loving-kindness are:

Swan – the swan is the vehicle of the great God Brahma (Phra Prom) and it promises liberation from worldly bondage.

Turtle – since turtles appear to be slow and clumsy, they arouse compassion and pity. Thus, nobody truly wants to harm them. Thus, the Great Turtle Yantra also stands for auspicious blessings.

Yant Paya Tao Ruean – Great Turtle Yantra – excellent auspicious blessings, riches, treasures (Pokasap), health and long life from this Yantra (photo credit: Ajarn Man Anusas, sak-yant.com)

Yant Paya Tao Ruean – Great Turtle Yantra – excellent auspicious blessings, riches, treasures (Pokasap), health and long life from this Yantra (photo credit: Ajarn Man Anusas, sak-yant.com)

House Lizard – the house lizard is supposed to warn people. Hence, according to Thai belief if one hears the cry of a house lizard when about to leave the house, it is recommend not to go because something awful might happen.

Mynah Bird– the common mynah bird is sometimes tattooed on the tongue, since its song is enchanting and causes those who hear it to experience great joy.

A Buddha Image (Ongk Pra) is flanked by a Heavenly Bird Yant (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

A Buddha Image (Ongk Pra) is flanked by a Heavenly Bird Yant (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

Buddha – since the Buddha is an enlightened being, he feels compassion and loving-kindness towards all living creatures.

Tattooed Monk of Wat Bang Pra (photo credit sak-yant.com)

Tattooed monk of Wat Bang Pra, sacred Thai tattoos (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

Sak Yant, the tattoos for invulnerability, however, have been selected for the intrinsic power that they possess. These characteristics may be fierceness, speed, strength, cunning and endurance among others. The tattoos are supposed to protect the wearer from bullets, knifes and other weapons. In particular, people who work in high risk occupations like soldiers, taxi and tuk-tuk drivers like to wear these kinds of tattoos.

Yant See Bantat (four lines), Yant Gao Yord (Nine Peaks of Meru) Yant Jing Jok (Gecko Charms), and Yant Paed Daan (eight sided Yantra) (photo credit sak-yant.com)

Yant See Bantat (four lines), Yant Gao Yord (Nine Peaks of Meru) Yant Jing Jok (Gecko Charms), and Yant Paed Daan (eight sided Yantra) (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

In addition, tattoos for invulnerability are also sought after by people with a criminal background like gang members and convicts. Nevertheless, Sak Yant tattoos or Yantra tattooing are nowadays very popular both with Thai people and Westerners. However, some Thai people think that Westerners fail to appreciate the true meaning and spirituality of the Sak Yant. Tattoos for invulnerability are:

Dragon – the dragon stands for fearlessness, strength and wisdom.

King Cobra – the cobra is a venomous fearless snake that will attack rather than retreat.

Eel – the eel stands for the ability to escape because it is very slippery and hard to catch.

Hanuman – the monkey god from the Ramakien is known for having powers of invulnerability and invincibility from the God Shiva.

Yant Hanuman Haw Pen Daw Pen Duean (Hanuman Yawning the Moon and Stars (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

Yant Hanuman Haw Pen Daw Pen Duean (Hanuman Yawning the Moon and Stars (photo credit: sak-yant.com)

Tiger & Mythical Lion – they represent cunning, strength and fierceness.

Toad – the toad is supposed to be a robust animal since it has coarse skin.

Sak Yant on Monk by Luang Pi Pant (photo credit sak-yant.com)

Sak Yant on Monk by Luang Pi Pant (photo credit sak-yant.com)

The Thai tattoo master is called ajahn (teacher) which is a title of respect. He is different from other tattooist because he is most often a Buddhist monk and knows the magic of symbols, figures, cabalistic signs and verses of power. It is also important to note that each tattoo has a ‘heart’ wherein the power lies. Merely the tattooist knows the location of the heart of the tattoo. Verses of power are often reduced to a few letters or even numbers. Hence, each tattoo master knows which verse is represented by the particular groups of letters. Thus, their power is protected. The following clip shows Luang Pi Pant tattooing Wat Ko Poon in Singhburi.

Summing up, we may claim that the art of Thai Tattoos are both spiritual and traditional. However, today Yantra tattooing has become an international phenomenon and there are also places in Western countries that offer these kind of tattoos. Nevertheless, people should not forget about the origin and spiritual and ‘magical’ meaning of the Sak Yant.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Writing From Asia. Treasures Myths and Traditions. The National Museum Volunteers Group, 1996)




Woodcarving – A Famous Thai Art Form

Woodcarving can be regarded as a characteristic decorative Thai art form. It reflects the fertility and vitality of nature in technique and subject matter. Wood has been primarily used for furniture and religious objects, and thus not so much for creating Buddha statues. Hence, woodcarvers have sought their inspiration primarily in nature and mythology since they have been free of restrictive iconography.

Thai Woodcarving

Carved facade at Thawan Duchanee's Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

Carved wooden facade at Thawan Duchanee’s Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

Woodcarvers have employed a composite technique that allowed them to carve single parts of a work separately and later assemble them. Thus, the art work appears spontaneous and effortless, hence paralleling the creativity of nature.

In tropical countries like Thailand, wood is an abundant material that is also considered to have a kind of spiritual quality. Therefore, trees are considered to house spirits. Among these spirits, the most well-known to Thai people are Phra Sai (the spirit of the banyan tree) and Phrase Pho (the spirit of the pipal tree). These are frequently mentioned in Thai literature and are included in the group of heavenly spirits. The other two famous spirits are Nang Tani (the woman spirit of the banana tree) and Nan Takian who is the female spirit of the hopea tree. Nevertheless, teak wood is preferred to other wooden material because it is easy to carve and relatively resistant to the elements and insects.

Large Carving on Wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bikkhu)

Thai woodcarving from the most recent past: large carving on wall at the Black House Museum (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

The earliest Thai woodcarving pieces date from the 16th century. The high-point of this Thai art form is found in images of lesser religious figures which date from the late Ayutthaya period, i.e. the 17th to early 18th century. For instance, the collection of the National Museum in Bangkok includes such fine pieces like the mythical dancer and celestial swan Kinnari (in Thai: กินรี).

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok (photo taken by myself)

The Kinnari is a mythological figure, an inhabitant of the Himaphan (Himalaya) forest, that is half-human and half-swan. It is a symbol of feminine beauty, grace and cultural accomplishment. The Kinnari statue at the National Museum in Bangkok is 110cm high and dates from the 17th to early 18th century. Its tail is in a stylized design which is called ‘kranok’. It is often found in Thai art.

Peaceful head wood carving by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu)

‘Peaceful head’ by Thawan Duchanee at Baan Dam (photo credit: Anandajoti Bhikkhu, photodharma.net)

In fact, there had been a rich developing tradition of woodcarving in Thailand over prior centuries. However, earlier works, before the 17th century, did not survive. Nonetheless, this amazing workmanship continued into the early Bangkok period. Nevertheless, in the most recent past, Thai National Artist Thawan Duchanee also created stunning wall and façade carvings at Baan Dam, the Black House Museum in Chiang Rai.

Even today, woodcarving is a prominent art in Thailand. Thus, the finest wood sculptures have been closely associated with architecture, animals being a favourite subject. You can buy objects carved from wood at special markets like the cultural and craftsman’s market in Chiang Mai. The following video shows you which kind of objects are created and available at these markets. In addition, it also relates something about the history of this art form (in Thai).

By the way, there is also a new privately-owned museum named Woodland in Nakhom Pathom Province. The presentation is about a fantasy land and Grandfather Teak who relates the story of the woodmen in thousands of elaborate woodcarvings. These sculptures are from a collection owned by Narong Thewphaingarm and his father. There are three areas in the exhibition: firstly, the Story of Woodland, with over 5,000 wooden objects, secondly, Woodland Village where you find restaurants and souvenir shops, and thirdly, the Resort, which is the former residence of the owner’s family.

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Woodmen room at the Woodland museum (photo credit: bangkokpost.com)

Finally, we may say that Thai woodcarving has a great tradition in Thailand. It is a very elaborate, amazing and stunning craft that requires a lot of skill by the craftsman.

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Treasures from The National Museum Bangkok, Selected by The National Museum Volunteers Group, 4th reprint 2006)