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Sabaidee!
By Pierre and Benoît

From Chiang Mai to Bangkok, we both visited central Thailand but at different periods. There are on those lands some places which history takes you back long time back. Thai culture is so rich thanks to its past. We will describe you here some elements of Thailand history and culture.

2



Sukhothai, the dawn of happiness

Sukhothai was the capital of the first Thai kingdom which was founded in the XIII century when the Siams (name given to Thai people at the time) succeeded for the first time to get rid of the Khmers (Cambodia) by supporting the Mongolian invaders.
This city got an international influence for nearly a century. They became later dependent to the capital Ayutthaya. Sukhothai remained a few centuries more the cultural, artistic and religious capital of Siam empire. 

It is now ruined.

3



The art around the representation of the Buddha

The Buddha statue, the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, is in the center of the Buddhist religion. It is supposed to represent at various moments of his life this man who got "awake". He can be seen in various positions (calming, reclining, walking…), his eyes staring at the inner self he reached to turn away from things of down Earth.
The representation of Buddha follows the period they belong. Indeed Sukhothai inherited from Khmer art and did evolve to a pretentious art, beautiful but far from their original spiritual teaching function. One day, the monks decided to come back to a statuary closer to the original one. They came to Ceylan island, the actual Sri Lanka, a holy island that was still practising the oldest traditional rites. They returned to Sukhothai with standards.

4



The Sukhothai Bouddha

The classical statues from Sukhothai therefore followed strict rules. The flame over the head symbolizes the spiritual energy of Buddha glowing. The elegant curve of the eyebrows joins on the aquiline shaped nose like a "parrot beak". The three folds on the neck and very elongated ear lobes are symbols of his previous Prince condition. The represented Buddha has broad shoulders and a chest inflated by an imaginary inspiration. Body shapes are softened as if Buddha was not really in the material world. That's why it lokks like he has an almost feminine body.

5



Lopburi, full of history

Formerly named Lavo, Lopburi has 1500 years of history. The place has obviously been influenced by the Mon empire, the Khmer Empire and the kingdom of Siam. It was then abandoned then colonised back by Thai people. We see these influences in Khmer and Hindu temples in the city.

6



Lopburi where monkeys are masters

Now monkeys wandering in Khmer temples are the main interest of this town.
And indeed Pierre attended at 7am the invasion of hundreds of monkeys in the town. They crossed roads, jumped on people, plundered the offerings the temples, stole distracted tourists... What a show!

7



Ayutthaya, the fallen capital

Capital of Thailand since 1350, the city was a strategic crossing of commercial roads and had become millionaire in 1700 and held a world renown. During the last war opposing the Burmese and the Thai in 1767, the Burmese invaded the city. To mark permanently the Thai and to prevent them from rebuilding their capital city, the Burmese profaned the Buddha statues of the place (in addition to plunder the city) although they are very religious. Thai capital city has been transferred to Bangkok which was at this time only a wide counter trade held by Chinese merchants. Ayutthaya disappeared and its buildings were destroyed to recover the stones, in order to build Bangkok.

8



A country not colonised

Thailand has never been colonized. Under Louis XIV, the French were driven out of the country after failing to convert the king of Siam to the Catholic religion. In colonial times, the country, for keeping its independence, gave some of its territories to the English Burma and French Cambodia. Thus it remained untouched by colonization. So the culture remained pure of Siam origin. Certainly one reason why Thais speak English with so much difficulties.

9



Temples and temples

While visiting Thailand, the Wat - temples in Thai - are present everywhere giving an idea of the level of devotion to the Buddhist worship. It is, in Thailand, stained of Hindu and animistic influences. The Thai are following the Buddhist discipline but they never forgot Hindu gods (especially Brahma in this part of the world) and local spirits.

10



Spirits

In this culture, it is important to consider the spirit world that coexists with the real world. That's why thresholds of temples has a step to prevent crawling spirits to enter. To repel flying spirits, they put pieces of mirrors all around the door. The spirits see their ugliness and run awsy facing their image. There are also many small houses in the street, the gardens, to house the local spirits. Thai people never forget to give them offerings (incense, food,...). This tradition exists also in Burma. The locals greet respectfully when passing these homes.

11



Garudas

Garudas are mythological birdmen, evil lords of the airs living on Mount Meru, the sacred and symbolic mountain and of Hindu religion. But the Buddha converted them. They follow since his teaching. But because they aren't human, they can't reach paradise. They got therefore responsible by Buddha for protect its education.
So there are around temples many statues representing the garudas that protect them.

12



Entering inside the houses

People remove their shoes when entering inside a house. It shows you respect the place. And nobody walks on the step of the door. This would let enter the crawling spirits. Houses are very clean. For Thai people wearing sandals, it is not a big issue to remove the shoes. But for travellers like us, we had to remove the big shoes every time... annoying!

13



Smiling

And this is one of the most famous point about Thai culture. The smile is the most important! You negotiate with a smile. You say hello displaying all your teeth. Getting angry is losing face. So smile and laugh! It is so unusual to see a white on a joyful mood!

14



What we will remember from Thailand

Thailand is a country with a huge cultural and historical heritage, especially in its central region. This country can satisfy any kind of travellers. This article gave you the basis to understand the history of the country and local beliefs beyond the stereotypes.
If you go to Thailand, I advise you to visit the Bangkok National Museum where you can enjoy certain days a free tour in English, French or German. It would be sacrilege to travel only along Thai beaches without discovering this culture so rich and unusual!

1


Sabaidee!
By Pierre and Benoît

From Chiang Mai to Bangkok, we both visited central Thailand but at different periods. There are on those lands some places which history takes you back long time back. Thai culture is so rich thanks to its past. We will describe you here some elements of Thailand history and culture.



Sukhothai, the dawn of happiness

Sukhothai was the capital of the first Thai kingdom which was founded in the XIII century when the Siams (name given to Thai people at the time) succeeded for the first time to get rid of the Khmers (Cambodia) by supporting the Mongolian invaders.
This city got an international influence for nearly a century. They became later dependent to the capital Ayutthaya. Sukhothai remained a few centuries more the cultural, artistic and religious capital of Siam empire. 

It is now ruined.



The art around the representation of the Buddha

The Buddha statue, the Prince Siddhartha Gautama, is in the center of the Buddhist religion. It is supposed to represent at various moments of his life this man who got "awake". He can be seen in various positions (calming, reclining, walking…), his eyes staring at the inner self he reached to turn away from things of down Earth.
The representation of Buddha follows the period they belong. Indeed Sukhothai inherited from Khmer art and did evolve to a pretentious art, beautiful but far from their original spiritual teaching function. One day, the monks decided to come back to a statuary closer to the original one. They came to Ceylan island, the actual Sri Lanka, a holy island that was still practising the oldest traditional rites. They returned to Sukhothai with standards.



The Sukhothai Bouddha

The classical statues from Sukhothai therefore followed strict rules. The flame over the head symbolizes the spiritual energy of Buddha glowing. The elegant curve of the eyebrows joins on the aquiline shaped nose like a "parrot beak". The three folds on the neck and very elongated ear lobes are symbols of his previous Prince condition. The represented Buddha has broad shoulders and a chest inflated by an imaginary inspiration. Body shapes are softened as if Buddha was not really in the material world. That's why it lokks like he has an almost feminine body.



Lopburi, full of history

Formerly named Lavo, Lopburi has 1500 years of history. The place has obviously been influenced by the Mon empire, the Khmer Empire and the kingdom of Siam. It was then abandoned then colonised back by Thai people. We see these influences in Khmer and Hindu temples in the city.



Lopburi where monkeys are masters

Now monkeys wandering in Khmer temples are the main interest of this town.
And indeed Pierre attended at 7am the invasion of hundreds of monkeys in the town. They crossed roads, jumped on people, plundered the offerings the temples, stole distracted tourists... What a show!



Ayutthaya, the fallen capital

Capital of Thailand since 1350, the city was a strategic crossing of commercial roads and had become millionaire in 1700 and held a world renown. During the last war opposing the Burmese and the Thai in 1767, the Burmese invaded the city. To mark permanently the Thai and to prevent them from rebuilding their capital city, the Burmese profaned the Buddha statues of the place (in addition to plunder the city) although they are very religious. Thai capital city has been transferred to Bangkok which was at this time only a wide counter trade held by Chinese merchants. Ayutthaya disappeared and its buildings were destroyed to recover the stones, in order to build Bangkok.



A country not colonised

Thailand has never been colonized. Under Louis XIV, the French were driven out of the country after failing to convert the king of Siam to the Catholic religion. In colonial times, the country, for keeping its independence, gave some of its territories to the English Burma and French Cambodia. Thus it remained untouched by colonization. So the culture remained pure of Siam origin. Certainly one reason why Thais speak English with so much difficulties.



Temples and temples

While visiting Thailand, the Wat - temples in Thai - are present everywhere giving an idea of the level of devotion to the Buddhist worship. It is, in Thailand, stained of Hindu and animistic influences. The Thai are following the Buddhist discipline but they never forgot Hindu gods (especially Brahma in this part of the world) and local spirits.



Spirits

In this culture, it is important to consider the spirit world that coexists with the real world. That's why thresholds of temples has a step to prevent crawling spirits to enter. To repel flying spirits, they put pieces of mirrors all around the door. The spirits see their ugliness and run awsy facing their image. There are also many small houses in the street, the gardens, to house the local spirits. Thai people never forget to give them offerings (incense, food,...). This tradition exists also in Burma. The locals greet respectfully when passing these homes.



Garudas

Garudas are mythological birdmen, evil lords of the airs living on Mount Meru, the sacred and symbolic mountain and of Hindu religion. But the Buddha converted them. They follow since his teaching. But because they aren't human, they can't reach paradise. They got therefore responsible by Buddha for protect its education.
So there are around temples many statues representing the garudas that protect them.



Entering inside the houses

People remove their shoes when entering inside a house. It shows you respect the place. And nobody walks on the step of the door. This would let enter the crawling spirits. Houses are very clean. For Thai people wearing sandals, it is not a big issue to remove the shoes. But for travellers like us, we had to remove the big shoes every time... annoying!



Smiling

And this is one of the most famous point about Thai culture. The smile is the most important! You negotiate with a smile. You say hello displaying all your teeth. Getting angry is losing face. So smile and laugh! It is so unusual to see a white on a joyful mood!



What we will remember from Thailand

Thailand is a country with a huge cultural and historical heritage, especially in its central region. This country can satisfy any kind of travellers. This article gave you the basis to understand the history of the country and local beliefs beyond the stereotypes.
If you go to Thailand, I advise you to visit the Bangkok National Museum where you can enjoy certain days a free tour in English, French or German. It would be sacrilege to travel only along Thai beaches without discovering this culture so rich and unusual!

.