Thailand

Thailand is the kingdom of Thailad is a country in Southeast Asia with coasts on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. It borders Mynmar (Burma) to north – west, Laos to the north – east, Cambodia to the south – east and Malaysia to the south.
With great food, a tropical climate, fascinating culture and great beaches, Thailand is a magnet for travelers the world over.

Thailand is the most popular tourist destination Southeast Asia, and for a reason. You can find almost anything here : thick jungle as green as can be, crystal blue water that feel more like a warm bath than a swim in the ocean and there are a lot of food that can curl your nose hairs while tap dancing across your taste buds. Exotic, safe, cheap equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beach front backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential Thainess, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun seeking enjoy lifestyle.

Many travelers come to Thailand and extend their stay well beyond their original plans and others never find a reason to leave.

Thailand’s people are largely Thais, although there are significant minorities of Chinese and assimilated Thai – Chinese throughout the country, Muslims in the south near the Malaysia border and hill tribes such as the Karean and the Hmong in the north of the country. The overwhelmingly dominant religion is Theravada Buddhism, although Confucianism, Islam, Christianity and animist faiths also jostle for position.

Smiles

Travel brochures, leaflets and guide books often refer to Thailand as the Land of Smiles. Many authors have written about their experience with smiling people in Thailand and assumed that Thais are happy people because they smile all the time even in difficult situations. It’s true that Thais smile a lot but the smiles they show cannot always be interpreted that they are happy. When smiling, facial details involving the shape of the mouth, the eyes, the eyebrows, and the nose add subtle meanings to the smiles. The meanings enable Thais to communicate non-verbally with the smiles in all kinds of situation. Smiles are used in placed of “yes”, “no”, “sawat dee”, “thank you”, “sorry”, or even “I don’t understand.” Thais, for example, don’t greet each other on a daily basis, they only smile a little when they meet. Smiles can also be used by a senior as a sign of acknowledgement and appreciation of the wai initiated by a junior.

A number of expressions beginning with the word yim “smile” are listed below together with their meanings. Some of them can be found in the Thai-Thai Dictionary 1999 compiled by the Royal Institute.

yim chaeng ‘ a broad smile’
yim haeng ‘ a dry smile’
yim koe ‘ a friendly smile which is not recognized or returned
yim yo ‘ a disdainful smile’
yim kae khoen ‘ a smile in an embarrassed situation’

With the many different meanings of smiles, miscommunication can occur even among Thais themselves. Foreigners should not take it seriously if a Thai bumps into them and smiles. The person does not think it’s fun to hurt you but always have a smile on their faces. Those who look sullen are considered unfriendly and unsociable. Those people are of course unpopular because they have a look which can be described as bok bun mai rap “rejecting the charitable contribution in invitation ” which means the person is so gloomy that even a means of merit accumulation is denied.

Thai Elephants or Chang Thai

Chang Thai or Thai Elephants ( National Animal ) have long been part of the Thai history and customers. They were beats of burden when the country was peaceful. When the country was at war, they served as vehicles in royal battles. The victory of King Naresuan the Great on the elephant back duel party attributed to the courage and intelligence of his elephant. In the past, white elephants were considered a symbol of royal prestige and an auspicious gain for a king. An Ayutthaya King was named the King of the White Elephants because as many as nine white elephants were captured during his reign. The picture of a white elephant used to be on the Thai national flag until the flag was redesigned by King Rama VI in 1917 ( B.E> 2460 ).

Thai Silk

Thai Silk is a long, continuous filament produced by worms that feed on mulberry leaves. The worms spin their cocoons with their saliva when they change from larvae to pupae in their life cycle. The fiber which they produce can be reeled off the cocoons and spun into a fine thread and then woven into silk cloth. The cultivation of silkworms and development of silk weaving techniques started in China around 2700 BC. Thai Silk was a highly valued commodity then and a trade route from China to the Mediterranean was opened and named the Silk Road.
In Thailand, evidence from Ban Chiang excavations suggests that there was independent production of silk at that time. In 1902 King Rama V decided to improve the quality of Thai silk and invited a team of Japanese experts to teach villagers silkworm breeding and rearing as well as weaving techniques. A center was established in Korat and in Buriram to serve this purpose. The training, however, was not successful because villagers found it too troublesome to adopt the Japanese production techniques.

Thai silk has a relatively coarse texture with uneven lumps or knotty threads. This results from the fact that each step of production i.e. reeling, spinning and waving is done by hand.
Such characteristics make Thai Silk more appealing and unique. Thai silk had not been known widely until Jim Thompson used it to make costumes for the play The King and I.Jim Thompson is an American who settled in Thailand and set up a silk production house in Ban Khrua in Bangkok. Thai silk and, to some extent, Thailand were well-known to the world through this fabulous Broadway production.

Thai silk comes in different thickness. The light and medium weight or tie two-ply and four-ply silks are used for clothing items. Thicker materials like the heavy and extra heavy silks are good for draperies and upholsteries. Contrary to the popular belief that silk clothes need special care, in fact, they can be dry-cleaned or hand -washed with mild soap. Ironing is easier done when the clothes are moist.

Thai silk is mostly home products with different production techniques which result in different qualities of silk. The quality of Thai silk had not officially been certified and the different types of silk not been categorized. Many silk buyers were disappointed to find that the quality of Thai silk they bought was not up to their expectations. The Ministry of Agriculture, therefore, announced that from now on a peacock emblem bestowed by Her Majesty the Queen will be used to guarantee the quality of Thai silk.

The National Silk Commission divides Thai silk into four grades based on the types of silk and production processes, including weaving and dying. Buyers can use the emblem as a guideline when buying Thai silk. The quality of silk and production techniques are indicated by the different colors of the peacock emblems – gold refers to premium silk with traditional production methods; silver refers to classic Thai silk produced from specific silkworm breeds; blue refers to Thai silk with chemical dyes and green refers to silk which blends with other types of filament.

Siamese Fighting Fish

Siamese Fighting Fish or Betta Splendens are native to Thailand and have long been raised in Thai households as a hobby. In the past the fish could be caught from their natural habitats: rice fields, canals and ponds. The fish are called “fighting fish” because of their instinct to fight fiercely and cruelly. Villagers take advantage of this natural characteristic of this natural characteristic of the fish and organize fish fighting contests mainly to gamble on their fish. Such a contest is, however, considered inhumane and gambling is illegal so the fish fighting contests have dwindled. The fish, when seeing one another, will be alert and show signs of combat mode. To threaten the opponent, their gills, fins, tails and scales are fully spread and their colors turn to be more intense. Thus these fish have to be kept in separate glass jars or bottles or else they fight to the death. A piece of paper is inserted between the jars to prevent the fish from seeing one another. Once the paper is lifted and the two fish see one another, they will automatically turn into combat mode. However, when they are in this mode, the fish display their most beautiful form. The male fish are more beautiful than the female with more brilliant colors, longer tails and larger fins.
The fighting fish are ferocious even when they mate. The male will chase a female around until it it submits to mating. After that the male fish will form a bubble nest which floats on the surface of the water. The female will lay eggs in the bubbles. After the eggs hatch, it is necessary to move the female to another jar or else the eggs might be eaten or the two of them will fight violently.

At present, raising fighting fish has become a big business. New species have been developed. The fish are now much bigger in size, have more colors and longer flowing fins and tails. The fins and tails are not only longer but also come in different forms, for example, half-circle, etc. Each fish may consist of two or three colors or more. The muti-coloured ones fetch very high prices.

Muay Thai Boxing

Muay Thai or Thai boxing is a traditional martial art. In the past, Thais fought with other neighboring states to maintain the independence of the state or to lay claim over a territory. Apart from using war weapons, Thai worriors were trained to use parts of their bodies: fists, elbows, knees, legs, etc. to defend themselves or seriously hurt their opponents. It was recorded that during the Ayutthaya period, an audacious Thai boxer was able to defeat his Burmese opponent and saved Ayutthaya from being colonized by Burma. Thai boxing has thus been highly recognized and considered a noble form of martial art. Boxers were trained not only to deliver and receive kicks, punches or blows but also to have self-discipline, sportsmanship and respect.
Thai boxing has become a national sport and rules and regulations were established. A boxing match begins with both boxers performing a homage-paying ceremony to their teachers. Each boxer wears an auspicious fillet on his head. In this ceremony, boxers dance to the tune of live Thai classical music played by a Thai orchestra which is located in the arena. The dance imitates the fighting movements and aims to intimidate the accelerate the excitement when the fight becomes frantic. After the homage-paying ceremony, the auspicious fillets are removed from the boxer’s head and the bell signals the beginning of the fight.
A boxing match consists of no more than 5 rounds. Each round is 3 minutes long with a 2-minute rest period. Contestants must wear trunks but no shirt or shoes. Ankle caps are allowed. They must wear supporters to protect their groin. Mouth guards must be used. Contestants’ hands can be bound with a soft bandage not longer than 12 years and not wider than 2 inches. In a contest contestants score when they deliver a strike with a fist, foot, knee or elbow. The effectiveness and strength of the strike together with its target and the outcome are also taken into consideration when points are given. The defensive ability, and the attacking and fighting skills of the constants also count.

Traditional Massage and Herbal Sauna

Traditional Thai Massage is a holistic therapy originated in India and practiced by hermits as a form of self-healing. The evidence can be found at Wat Phra Chetuphon or Wat Pho, where statues of hermits illustrating various postures featuring self massage methods known as rishi dat ton or “Hermit’s Self massage” were sculpted at the command of King Rama III. The energy lines that run all over our bodies. If these lines are blocked, the person may suffer from aches, tension or even fevers. When the body is unwell, the mind will be weak too. To cure such ailments, one needs to release the blocked energy lines. This can be done by pressing the ailing parts with the thumbs so that the energy will flow and the ailments will be cured. Not only is pressing used in Thai massage, stretching is also applied. Other traditional healing techniques are also adopted. Steamed herbal compresses filled with herbs and herbal sauna are offered together with the massage. When the body is relaxed, the mind will become less tense and the person will feel more at ease physically and mentally.

With acupressure, the internal organs are stimulated and the blood circulation improved. The treatment is supposed to prevent and cure headaches, tension, asthma, constipation, sinusitis, etc.

Herbal sauna which is another branch of traditional Thai holistic therapy can be combined with the massage. The sauna steam enhances the health of the body, rejuvenates the skin and relaxes muscle tension. A combination of herbs such as turmeric, borneol, senna, tamarind leaves, acasia, pandanus etc. are boiled vigorously in a steamer for sauna attendants to inhale the herbal vapour. The aroma of the herbs helps clear the respiratory system. Postpartum herbal sauna and lying by a fire fuelled either by charcoal or wood were , in the past, a home remedy for women after child birth. Nowadays herbal sauna has become popular again as it enhances physical relaxation and clears the mind.

Thai Massage

Thai massage practitioners can be male or female but the majority are fermale. The must be trained and certified. The massage is done on a mattress on the floor or bed. Clients wear loose clothes and oil is not use except for foot massage.

The massage beings after the masseuse pays respect to the hermit  and her teachers. There are two styles of traditional Thai massage : The court style in which the masseuse use only thumbs and the commoner’s style in which thumbs, knees, elbows and feet are used. The masseuse works from the feet up. After a few presses, the client will be asked whether the pressure is too hard or too soft. The main energy lines will be pressed to activate or unblock the energy flow. Muscles are also stretched to reduce stress and tension. A massage session lasts about two hours and finishes with the neck and head massage. A through foot massage can be conducted separately if the client requires a special treatment for the feet.

Foot massage is adopted from the Chinese art of healing. It is believed that sensory nerves of the internal organs are rooted at the sole of the feet. The masseuse will press at the points where the internal organs  are rooted using a wooden stick.

 

Tea Plantations in Thailand?

Not many people know that there is excellent tea grown in Thailand, especially Oolong tea. The Doi Mae Salong mountain in Chiang Rai province is one of Thailand’s highest – with 1800 meters.

But what makes it more special is the climate: temperatures drop deep at night and raise high during the day time – thus causing the tea plants to grow more slowly. And when tea plants grow more slowly, that has a positive effect on their aroma: more flavorful and sweet. Plus, there is a lot of fog and many clouds surrounding the mountains, which causes the tea leaves to absorb more moisture. The air is crisp, cool and refreshing all year round, and the annual temperature is around 25 degrees Celsius.

To get there, you can take a bus from Chiang Rai to Ban Basang (15 Baht). Once in Ban Basang, just get on a songtaew and drive to the mountain top (50 baht).

You will notice a strong Chinese influence there, and many Chinese families still live there. In fact, many still speak Chinese. There’s a historical reason for that. When in 1948 China was taken over by communists, the nationalists from Yunnan fled to this area.

A lot of tea is grown and harvested in around 1300 meters high.

There are 28,125 hectares of tea plantations in Mae Salong. The most popular tea is here is Taiwanese-style Oolong, grown by Chinese descendants.

Many of the tea bushes that grow here actually are imported from Taiwan, because the climatic conditions are very similar to those of Taiwan.

While the Oolong tea from Thailand can’t keep up with Taiwan’s premium quality, you get a lot better value for your money.