Touch points to experience Thai culture

May 20, 2015 by  
Filed under THAINESS

BANGKOK, 20 May 2015: The Discover Thainess campaign encourages visitors to take a journey to explore the spirit of Thailand and the Thai people. The way they live and the way they treat each other is very important part of national identity.

The traditional Thai greeting, the “wai”, illustrates how Thai people respect each other. It is generally initiated by the younger of two people meeting. Hands are pressed together, fingertips pointing upwards as the head is bowed towards the hands. The elder then responds in the same way. Social status and position, such as in government, will also have an influence on who performs the wai first.

Fun (sanuk in Thai) reflects the easy-going attitude and character of the Thai people, which is why Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles.” Simply by mingling with Thais and sharing in the fun, tourists can experience this aspect of Thainess wherever they travel. Thai people love to share jokes, whether they are waiting in queues, at the office or enjoying free time, there is always fun to be found.

Thailand is a land of contrasts with very different landscapes, from steamy rain forests to rice paddies, tropical islands and misty mountains, all rich with natural resources.

4.1  For generations, Thai people have created varied lifestyles reflected in their homes and gardens. A homestay experience allows tourists to enjoy the Thai way of life and develop closer bonds with communities. It is possible to learn traditional handicraft skills, learn the basics of elephant care from a mahout, see how rice is cultivated up close, or visit Royal Projects that extend the horizons for communities to expand market gardening.

The kingdom is also home to a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Thai people have preserved their cultural values and traditions, while showing an ability to absorb and assimilate elements of foreign culture.

Thai cultural heritage takes many forms from tangible legacies seen in golden temples, royal palaces, Thai houses, murals, paintings, as well as arts and crafts to the intangible elements such as meditation and the pursuit of Buddhism.

Each region of Thailand offers different variations in lifestyle, often with influences from neighbouring cultures. One thing that remains consistent throughout the country though is the gracious character of its people.

Thai arts and crafts are the pride of the kingdom and have been practiced for centuries. Local artisans include weavers, potters, goldsmiths and jewelers all displaying great skill. Each region of the country has its own arts. For instance, Phattalung province in the south specialises in Nang Thalung, or shadow puppet plays. The puppets are made of animal hide that is covered with drawings and are delicately carved and perforated.

4.2“Lanna” describes the special northern Thai traditions, customs, art, music, and culture. “Lan”, means a million and “Na” a rice field. Thus, Lanna literally translates to a million rice fields – a reference to the rich agriculture of the region.

The annual Bun Luang and Phi Ta Khon festival in Dansai, Loei province, in the far west corner of the northeast, attracts thousands of visitors, who are interested in the cultural aspects that are special to this province.

The Bun Luang and Phi Ta Kon Festival is one of the biggest cultural festivals in Isan, attracting many foreigners interested in culture and folklore traditions.

The festival is very genuine and reflects the local Northeast or Isan beliefs in ghosts (Phi) or animism.

Phi Ta Khon is a type of masked procession celebrated on the first day of a three-day Buddhist merit-making holiday known in Thai as “Bun Phra Wet”. The annual festival takes place on the second, or third weekend, in June, in the village of Dansai, Loei province. The festival is held to worship spirits, the protectors of the village, and to ask for plentiful rain for the coming rice crop season. The highlight of Phi Ta Khon is a parade of young men who wear huge masks made from carved coconut-tree trunks, topped with wicker work and sticky-rice steamers. Thus dressed as ghosts they accompany the transfer of a sacred Buddha image from the river to a nearby temple.

The procession is marked by music and dancing. On the second day of the festival, the villagers gather at Wat Ponchai to listen to thirteen sermons of Prince Vessandorn recited by local monks.

Ratchaburi in the central region, hundreds of kilometres south of Dansai, is another distinctive province that reflects Thainess features at their best. The most popular tourist attraction is Damnoen Saduak floating market that highlights the importance of the river as a means of commerce.

4.3Vendors paddle their boats along waterways selling and bartering their merchandise. Their faces are often shielded from the strong rays of the sun by large conical hats made from bamboo and palm leaves. The market starts early morning, long before dawn and closes at 1100 to escape the heat of the mid-day.

Today, many tourists from around the world visit this market, located around 80 km west of the capital, because it demonstrates old traditions that are still surviving in a modern world. It is among the top 10 most famous places to visit in Thailand according to a TripAdvisor survey.

The Discover Thainess campaign reminds us of these cultural and destination treasures, asking us to reflect and take time out from other activities to capture the true spirit of Thailand.

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