Thailand is one of the most popular countries to visit in Southeast Asia. From its striking landscapes to its colorful temples, there are many reasons why Thailand is renowned around the world.
When you think of Thailand, images of beaches and longtail boats may come to mind. But what is Thailand famous for really? The country is so much more than just its stunning scenery.
In this guide, we will explore 15 of the many things that Thailand is known for, including its famous landmarks, unique food and drinks, and its fascinating history.
What is Thailand known for? The country’s 15 top claims to fame
Whether you are planning a trip to Thailand or simply want to learn more about this fascinating country and its contributions to the world, this list will give you an idea of what Thailand is famous for and the unique attributes that make the southeast Asian country so special.
Table of Contents
For centuries, elephants have had significant historical and cultural ties to the people of Thailand. They once served as transportation for people and heavy materials like logs, and even participated in wartime battles.
Eventually vehicles replaced elephants as a means of transportation, and stringent restrictions were placed on logging, so the role of elephants in Thailand evolved and elephant tourism became a big industry throughout the country.
Elephant rides for tourists became a means for families owning elephants to generate income, supporting the well-being of these creatures that couldn’t be reintegrated into the wild – after years of being fed and raised around humans.
In recent times, there has been a global shift in perspectives concerning animal welfare, particularly in relation to captive wild animals being used to entertain tourists in Thailand.
As information about the mistreatment of elephants in various tourism-related activities became more prevalent, conscientious travelers began seeking ethical alternatives when visiting this incredible country.
Numerous elephants have found refuge in sanctuaries, where they now reside, offering visitors to Thailand more responsible and compassionate interactions with these majestic beings. You’ll find many ethical elephant sanctuaries near Chiang Mai, that allow you to observe and sometimes interact with elephants in ways that are more humane and respectful.
Thailand’s reputation for natural beauty is nothing short of enchanting.
From the limestone karsts in Thailand’s Khao Sok National Park to the country’s postcard-perfect islands and beaches, Thailand’s natural scenery will not disappoint.
The country draws travelers from every corner of the globe eager to explore its diverse landscapes and tropical ecosystems. With its dense and untamed jungles on land to the vibrant coral reefs that lie just off the coast of the mainland, Thailand provides a serene backdrop for a family vacation.
Thailand has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the best food destinations in the world. Captivating taste buds worldwide, Thai cuisine artfully blends sweet, savory, spicy, and sour elements, creating so many unique, different, and famous dishes.
From the iconic Pad Thai to the fiery Khao Soi, which hails from Chiang Mai, each dish tells a delicious story of Thai culture and culinary craftsmanship.
One of the great things about Thai food is that most of the best foods to try in Thailand can be purchased for the equivalent of a few US dollars at street food markets.
Street food culture is a beautiful part of the Thailand experience, where you’ll select your food from a myriad of food stalls, and sit down at small, outdoor tables to enjoy the bold and dynamic flavors of your meal.
Thailand may be one of the best destinations in Asia for families, but it is also a very popular destination for backpackers – thanks to its affordability, nightlife, unique cultural activities, and its welcoming atmosphere.
Inexpensive accommodations, street food, and transportation makes Thailand an attractive option for budget travelers, long-term backpackers, and digital nomads, allowing them to stretch their dollars while still enjoying endless adventures.
The well-established backpacking infrastructure, coupled with a plethora of backpacker and family-friendly hostels and guesthouses, facilitates easy exploration and fostering a sense of community among travelers
Because Thailand is famous for its backpacking culture, the reputation has made it a bucket list country for this group of travelers. Every backpacker seems to have a story about their time spent in Thailand – further cementing its status as a go-to destination for backpackers.
Muay Thai Boxing
Frequently known as Thai Boxing, Muay Thai stands out as a widely embraced combat sport in Thailand.
Distinguishing itself from Western kickboxing, Muay Thai allows fighters to employ a range of striking techniques, incorporating elbows, shins, feet, and knees into their martial arts repertoire.
One of the reasons Thailand is renowned for Muay Thai is its deep-rooted cultural significance and historical connection to the country. With its origins deeply embedded in Thai history, Muay Thai has evolved into the national sport of Thailand.
In addition to the formidable fighting skills displayed by Muay Thai practitioners, they are easily recognizable by their distinctive shorts.
These shorts, often adorned with vibrant designs, Thai symbols, and bold colors, are not merely a fashion statement. They are meticulously crafted to accommodate the demanding movements and high kicks that characterize Muay Thai, showcasing the fusion of functionality and tradition in this iconic martial art.
Thailand is known for its vibrant markets that serve as cultural hubs showcasing the country’s engaging energy.
At the bustling markets across the country, you can find vendors selling an extensive array of goods and Thai souvenirs, from spices to handmade crafts and intricate textiles.
These bustling bazaars are not just places to shop, often, the location of the market adds to the uniqueness of the experience.
Just outside of Bangkok, float through the famous Damnoen Floating Market to see locals hawking their goods from the bows of longtail boats, or walk along the tracks at the Maeklong Railway Market that folds and unfolds multiple time each day to make room for the train that moves through the center of the market.
Visiting the markets that Thailand is famous for provides a glimpse of daily life, where the sound of lively chatter of vendors and shoppers and the aroma of street food create a sensory delight.
Thai Massage may be one of the things Thailand is most known for. Renowned globally for its exceptional massage techniques, Thailand is a wellness destination for many.
Thai massage combines elements of stretching, applied pressure, and traditional massage. Practitioners, often trained in specialized schools, use a blend of techniques to relieve tension, improve flexibility, and restore balance to the body.
The prevalence of affordable and high-quality spa services across the country makes it a paradise for those seeking massage and rejuvenation solidifying Thailand’s reputation as a global hub for wellness tourism.
Thailand’s fame for tuk-tuks and other unique forms of transportation is derived from the chaotic and busy streets that characterize its urban landscape. Tuk-tuks, sometimes called samlor in Thailand, are three-wheeled motorized rickshaws that have become iconic symbols of Thai transportation.
Renowned for their ability to navigate through traffic-clogged streets, these compact, open-air vehicles are an adventurous and memorable way to get around cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Tuk-tuks are not just a practical means of getting around; they embody the fun and unique spirit of urban life, making them an integral part of the cultural experience for anyone exploring the bustling streets of Thailand’s cities.
Buddhism and Temples
Thailand is famous for its countless, ornate temples, or “wats”. These architectural marvels are testaments to Thailand’s devotion to the practice of Buddhism.
Adorned with intricate details, golden spires, and ornate carvings, Thai temples including Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun and Wat Pho are among the best places to visit on any Bangkok itinerary.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya also boasts a historical treasure trove of temples, as do the northern cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
These cultural landmarks are often spiritual sanctuaries in the midst of chaotic cities, welcoming visitors with a serene ambiance and an inviting calmness.
One of Thailand’s more intriguing claims to fame is the open acceptance of the transgender community. In fact, the country’s most popular cabaret shows are performed by the famous “ladyboys”, transgender women locally known as “kathoeys”. While the term “ladyboy” may seem offensive, it is not considered a slur or insult.
Although a conservative country, Thailand is renowned for its unique acceptance and celebration of gender diversity, and ladyboys are a visible and accepted part of society.
The country’s entertainment industry often features performances by the talented and glamorous ladyboys, showcasing their beauty, grace, and artistic talents.
Buddhism has been an integral part of Thailand for centuries, shaping its values, customs, and way of life. Not only does Thailand have thousands of opulent temples, it is also home to thousands of monks.
Monastic life is highly revered, and many Thai families consider it an honor for at least one male member to ordain as a monk for a certain period. The act of becoming a monk is seen as a path to spiritual development.
Monks play a vital role in the community, providing spiritual guidance, participating in religious ceremonies, and often engaging in charitable activities.
When visiting Thailand, you’ll notice monks in their orange tunic-style robes just about everywhere, from the temples to the train stations.
Islands and Beaches
Thailand has earned worldwide acclaim for its breathtaking islands and pristine beaches that span across the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
The allure of these islands lies in their diverse and idyllic landscapes, characterized by powdery white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters.
Head to Phuket or Krabi to visit some of Thailand’s most famous beaches. Krabi is the gateway town to the popular Koh Phi Phi islands. One of the best things to do in Krabi is to take a day tour to the islands, home to the famous Maya Bay and Pileh Lagoon.
You can also relax on Railay Beach and watch rock climbers scale the limestone karsts that seem to jut straight out of the water.
The Thai islands are both tranquil escapes and adventure playgrounds for those seeking water activities like kayaking, snorkeling, or simply splashing in the water.
Nightlife and Full Moon Parties
Perhaps one of the reasons Thailand has become so popular with young backpackers in their early 20’s is because of its nightlife and party atmosphere after sunset.
From the Khao San Night Market in Bangkok to Phuket, upon nightfall cities transform with chic rooftop bars and bustling nightclubs. Even in smaller beach towns, you’ll find Full Moon Parties continuing until dawn.
The famous Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan is a legendary celebration, attracting partiers from around the world with its beachfront setting and electrifying music.
Family travelers need not worry. If you are visiting Thailand with kids, it is easy to avoid the wild nightlife and fill your days with fun or cultural events and your nights shopping and eating at night markets and bazaars.
PLANNING A FAMILY TRIP TO THAILAND? CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE 2-WEEK THAILAND ITINERARY.
Thailand is one of the more affordable countries we have visited. Its status as an inexpensive destination stems from the country’s plethora of budget accommodations, cheap yet delicious street food, and low cost transportation, including regional flights and overnight, sleeper trains.
Visitors will be pleased to find high quality food, hotel rooms, and even souvenirs at a fraction of the cost in many Western countries, making it an easy country without breaking the bank.
The favorable exchange rates for many international currencies also contribute to Thailand’s reputation as a cost-effective destination.
Thailand is famous for having friendly locals, known for their emphasis on warmth, hospitality, and genuine kindness. Often referred to as the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand is known to have a welcoming and gracious attitude towards visitors.
Whether it is an extension of the peaceful Buddhist culture or just a genuine interest in making others feel at home, Thai people come across as respectful and polite.
Thailand is a destination where the warmth of its people is as memorable as its stunning landscapes.
A Quick List of Things Thailand is Famous For
- Thailand is known as: The Land of Smiles
- Famous landmarks in Thailand: Wat Arun, Grand Palace, Ayutthaya Historical Park, Wat Pho, White Temple, Doi Inthanon, Khao Sok National Park, Maya Bay, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
- Famous Thai foods and drinks: Pad Thai, Mango Sticky Rice, Khao Soi, Pad Krapow, Tom Yum, Thai Milk Tea
- Famous Filming Locations in Thailand: Maya Bay – The Beach and Stealth, Bangkok and Phuket – Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Khao Lak –The Impossible, Chiang Mai – American Gangster
Other Thailand Travel Resources
Planning a trip to Thailand? Check out these other articles to help you plan your trip.
- How to spend 4 Days in Bangkok
- A guide to visiting the Damnoen Floating Market
- Bangkok day trip to the Maeklong Railway Market
- Taking the Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
- What to do in Chiang Mai with Kids
- Things to do in Krabi
- Guide to visiting Khao Sok National Park
- What to know before visiting Thailand with kids
- A guide to visiting Into the Wild Elephant Camp
- Best souvenirs from Thailand
Conclusion: What is Thailand famous for?
Whether you are visiting Thailand for the food, festivals or planning to travel around the country to see its many cultural delights, Thailand is an intriguing place to visit.
With so many famous things that Thailand is known for, the country in Southeast Asia is well worth a visit.
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