GLOBETROTTER — Thailand
Thailand is a country with natural beauty, inspiring temples, renowned hospitality and ruins of magnificent ancient kingdoms. Thailand was known as Siam until 1939. It is the only Southeast Asian country which have not been taken over by a European power. Like other Asian countries, Thailand has also been influenced by contact with foreign cultures. Classical Thai music has similarities to Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Indonesian music. Among several forms of classical dance of the country, most are connected to drama particularly the epic journey tale of Prince Rama’s search for his beloved Princess Sita, who has been abducted by the evil demon Ravana.
One of the major events of the country is Songkran in April — celebrated by bathing Buddha images, paying respects to monks and elders by sprinkling water over their hands. A Rocket Festival in May — a volatile mixture of bamboo and gunpowder is used to convince the sky to send rain for the new rice season. The Vegetarian Festival in which Chinese Buddhists eat only vegetarian food. The most visible expression of this festival is the merit making processions. An elephant festival — an elephant roundup in Surin in November. The Loi Krathong Festival in November is celebrated by floating candle lit into waterways to bring good fortune for the coming year.
One of the major attractions is Wat Phra Si Sanphet — the largest fortress located in Ayuthaya which once contained a 55-foot standing Buddha covered in gold. The fortresses like Wat Phra Chao Phanan Choeng and Watphra Meru has an attractive carved wooden ceiling, 20-foot sitting Buddha and a 1300-year-old green stone Buddha posed European style in a chair. The most popular beaches are Hat Chaweng and Hat Lamai with plenty of rustic, thatched-roofed bungalows. Phra Pathom Chedi — a 417-foot monument is the tallest Buddhist monument in the world. The original monument has been buried within the massive orange-glazed dome, which was erected in the sixth century by Theravada Buddhists.
Thai dishes mainly include hot and sour fish ragout, green and red curries, various soups and noodle dishes. Rice is eaten with most meals and fish sauce or shrimp paste are mainstays of Thai dishes. Thai food is served with a variety of condiments and dipping sauces. Thai cuisine is hot and spicy, seasoned with garlic and chillies and a mix of limejuice, lemon grass and fresh coriander. There is an incredible variety of fruit available either fresh or juiced. Sugar cane juice and for stronger drink rice whisky are the favourite drinks of the country.