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Top 10 Strange Facts About Bangkok

Most backpackers will tend to book their flight, and go wherever the wind takes them. Perhaps not much research is done, preferring to go with the flow and follow the masses. But when you’re trying to discuss your adventure with people who don’t understand this mentality, it helps to have a few little fun facts up your sleeve:

1. Longest City Name in the World

Known to us ordinary folk as ‘Bangkok’, locals refer to it as ‘Krung Thep’, but this is just another shortened version that actually reads ‘Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit’ in Thai. This roughly translates to ‘City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest’. It contains 169 characters, and is an extreme version of the good ol’ tongue twister.

2. Never Colonised by European Power

If you mention this little fact to any local, you’ll be met with instant nods and big smiles. Thailand is the only country in South East Asia that has never been colonised by Europeans. During the 19th century, or the ‘Age of Empires’, Thailand’s strategic location ensures it was never subjected to full-on military invasion. King Rama V, revered by the locals, ceded small amounts of land to maintain the peace with European powers, and his portrait hangs in many shops, restaurants and homes.

Tip: It is illegal to say anything bad about the king, or to even laugh at a picture of him. Read our page on staying safe in Thailand.

3. Island Wonder

Thailand has 1,430 islands, among which lies the most famous of them all – Koh Phi Phi, which was featured in Danny Boyle’s famous movie ‘The Beach’.

4. Temple Run

All of the temples pictured on each of the Thai Baht coins are actually located in Bangkok. Make a game out of it, and spend the day (yes, it only takes a day) locating them around the city.  Just to help you out, the 1 Baht coin displays Wat Phra Kaew, the 2 Baht coin displays Wat Saket (Temple on the Mount), the 5 Baht coin portrays Wat Benjamabophit (The Marble Temple) and the 10 Baht coin shows Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

5. Discouraging Dogs

Along the shopfronts and buildings you’ll see quite a few bottles of water lining the pavements, which Thais believe stop the soi dogs from urinating there. Soi is a Thai word meaning ‘side street’, and most major roads will have numerous sois along its length. Because of the abundance of stray dogs found along these side streets, they are now referred to as ‘soi dogs’.

6. Slowly Sinking

Bangkok was once known as the Venice of Asia, crisscrossed by dozens of canals, or ‘khlong’, where buildings stood on stilts and divided the people from the water, which is how it earned its nickname. Most have now been filled, and due to heavy development, Bangkok is now sinking at a rate of 2-5cm per year! This, combined with rising sea levels may bring back the name, making the city more Venice-like than it once was in the not-so-distant future.

7. Street Water Fight

Every year, in April, Bangkok hosts the world’s largest street water fight during the Thai New Year Holiday, which is known as the Songkran Festival.

8. Three is a crowd?

You know that desperate moment when nature is screaming, and you’re trying to figure out which door you need to push? Well…in Thailand, you may have to choose one  of three doors now.  Along with the ordinary male and female washrooms, Thailand has now become one of the first countries in the world to introduce a third gender option for transgender men. Although still rare, you will now no longer be surprised to see one of these.

Tip: Thailand in general, but Bangkok in particular, is very liberal in terms of sexuality and tolerance towards gender identity.

9. Underwear is a MUST!

Thailand, like all other countries, also has some outdated laws which have failed to keep up with modern times. Leaving the house without underwear could very well land you in jail…as will driving a motorised vehicle bare-chested (so boys, keep your shirts on!).  Using a durian fruit as a weapon is also against the law, and a fine will be levied determined by how many thorns strike the victim (what?!).

Tip: It is illegal to step on any Thai currency – coins or notes – as they carry an image of the King.

10. Large, Larger, Largest

Thailand is home to many of the world’s largest things – the largest gold Buddha, the largest crocodile farm, the largest restaurant, the longest single-span suspension bridge and the world’s tallest hotel.

*Bonus Fact*

The world’s tiniest mammal, the Craseonycteris Thonglongyai (the Bumble Bat), is found in Thailand. Aren’t they adorable?

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Article Name
Top 10 Strange Facts About Bangkok
Samantha ilbassa
A collection of the top ten strangest facts about Bangkok for travellers and backpakers

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