Dating back to the Neolithic civilization situated at the modern-day UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ban Chiang, the history of Thailand is long, proud, and fairly well documented. Over the early centuries of the Common Era, tribes of Mon, Khmer, and Tai peoples established realms within the borders of modern Thailand; the Mon speaking Buddhist civilization of Dvaravati in the first millennium giving way to the Khmer empire of Angkor by the turn of the second millennium.
However, the history of Thailand as we know it began when the kingdoms of Lan Na (Chiang Rai/Chiang Mai) and Sukhothai, the first truly independent Thai Kingdoms, established highly developed societies in the North and Central regions of Thailand in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which was heavily influenced by the Khmer’s of Angkor, eventually conquered neighboring Sukhothai and dominated the region for the next several hundred years of Thai history. Unfortunately, first Chaing Mai and then Ayutthaya were overrun by Burmese invaders, who occupied the Lan Na capital for several centuries and sacked Ayutthaya, forcing the central Thai kingdom to relocate farther south, establishing a new capital in Thon Buri near Bangkok. After the short lived Thon Buri Period (1767-1772), the capital was moved across the Chao Phraya River, and the first of the current line of Kings, Rama I of the Chakri Dynasty, established the modern capital of Bangkok to commence the Ratanakosin Period of Thai history. The adroit diplomatic leadership of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851-1868) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910) were responsible for maintaining a remarkable 700 year Thai history during which the kingdom was never officially colonized by foreign powers; a turbulent 20th century witnessed the transition to a system of constitutional monarchy, currently overseen by Head of State, King Bumibol Adulyadej (1946- present), is King Rama IX of the Chakri Dynasty and a tenuous but functional democracy has existed under the regency of this much beloved king.
Thai culture may seem similar to western culture on the surface, however a lot of people come to travel to Thailand and don’t realize the culture is vastly different here from that of western culture. There are exceptions too every rule of course but for the most part here are a list of general rules so as not to offend Thai people or make them uncomfortable and enjoy your holiday more.
Affection in public – Thai people in general do not kiss or show a lot of affection in public beyond holding hands. Please be respectful here and do the same. Be discrete.
Confrontation – Thai people generally speak softly and avoid confrontation at all costs. Please do not shout or raise your voice. If you wish to take a photo of a Thai person please ask first.
Dress properly – Thai people pay extra attention to be dressed properly please respect them for there effort and follow there example. Thai people may not mind as much in the touristy areas and beaches however once out of these areas please dress appropriately.
Temples and Holy Places – When traveling to temples and holy places please show respect. You will need to wear long pants and long sleeves especially if your a woman. Also woman are not allowed to touch Monks or there robes and should try to avoid accidently touching them at all costs. There are many sacred items and sites in Thailand please don’t touch or enter these places without permission.
Feet low/Head high – In Thailand your head is considered high and holy and your feet are considered low and dirty. It is considered very rude to raise your feet above someone else’s head (especially if they are older than you). Pointing at or touching something with the feet is also considered rude. Remember to remove your shoes when entering a Thai persons home or a sacred area.
Touching someones head – Touching someones head is very impolite and rude.
Don’t step over someones legs or feet – In Thailand it is considered to be very rude and impolite to step over someones outstretched legs or feet. You should walk around the end of there feet.
Respect for the King – Thai people have great respect for there king and royal family and you should always show respect for the them as a visitor to Thailand. Lese-Majesty - Thai Criminal Code elaborates in Article 112: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
This can be anything from speaking badly of the king, defaming a statue or picture of the King or writing an insulting article about the King. Please be careful as there are several cases of this every year and an unknowing foreigner can end up in Jail. The King however is a gentleman and is know to pardon silly forigners from heafty jail sentences. But its better to avoid it in the first place and show respect to the Thai people as we are guests in there beautiful country.
Sabai Sabai – In Thai Language means to “take it easy”, “Relax” or more to that effect. In Thailand people and things tend to go a little more slowly, this is the way of life here please be patient and don’t expect things to happen in a hurry.
Do smile – Thailand is know as the land of smiles and smiles can mean many things here but try to smile as much as possible at Thai people and they will return in kind and be more friendly, making your experience here much more enjoyable.
Thai people are very forgiving of forigners that dont understand Thai culture, so dont stress to much if you get things wrong, however they really appreciate when you do try. If you do get something wrong be polite and excuse yourself.