Thailand is home to royal palaces, religious monuments, delicious cuisine, and a vibrant nightlife scene. Alongside breathtaking views of the skyline, fresh mountains, and islands – it is a popular destination for many.
This article will explain what Thailand is known for and why these things make it so unique and famous around the world.
Thailand is famous for being the 9th most visited country globally. All popular components adapt to urbanized societies; the development of luxury resorts, shopping malls, unique cafes, and nightlife, in addition to the calming sites of local foods, temples, monks, and Buddhist statues.
While these aspects might seem popular in other countries, Thailand has a special way of combining them. Let’s take a look:
What Is Thailand Famously Known For?
For many people, Thailand is most famous for “massage.” The massage was often on the wrong tourist trail with assumptions of misbehavior and connections to Thailand’s history as a center for prostitutes and party life.
However, the massage industry of Thailand dates way back. Listening to the background sounds of waterfalls and birds, you enjoy a relaxing foot massage, spine cracking, and shoulder popping Thai massages that will have you feeling relaxed for months (2).
Thai massages can also be very intense, stretching you out in multiple positions, which is why some would instead go for the less relaxing treatments (3).
Enriched with rich Buddhism traditions and home to 41,000 temples, temples remain one of Thailand’s top tourist attractions (2). Some of the most iconic temples include Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, Wat Ratburana in Ayutthaya, and the White Temple in Chiang Rai. Interestingly, “Wat” is the traditional Thai word for “Temple.”
Remember, when visiting Thailand’s temples, Thai people request that you cover your knees and shoulders, additionally asking to take off shoes at the entrance. The country desires all tourists to behave respectfully, especially in regards to Buddhist statues.
Wondering what temples to visit first? Check out our post: 6 Thailand Temples You Must See
3. Street Food
Street food is one of the most common popularities of Thailand. It is a very vague category; it would simply be impossible to name all iconic Thai dishes. While merely mentioning a few, Pad Thai, Green Curry, and Tom Yum Goong are a few of the most popular must-try favorites (2).
Most tourists do not recognize that each region of Thailand is famous for different cuisines; the north heavily focuses on curries while the eastern and southern areas of Thailand are famous for spicy flavors. The city is the most well-known attraction for tourists to find cuisines of all the different cultures and traditions of the Thailand provinces.
Thai food being an enriching experience, it has taken the global world by storm. People from all backgrounds and cultures are now following Thai recipes in the comfort of their own homes.
Nervous about eating Thai street food? Check out our post: Is Street Food Safe to Eat in Thailand?
There are about 1000 islands across the coast of Thailand. Breathtaking views can be seen in the Andaman Sea on the western coast, while islands like Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe dominate the transparent water snorkeling business.
One of the most visited islands is Phuket; making up hundreds of huts, hammocks, and beach laying sites, you will never find such opportunities elsewhere. They offer services for parasailing, scuba diving, and even horseback riding on the beach! Phuket also offers western convenience, world-class restaurants, six-star resorts, world-class plastic surgery, and designer boutiques (4).
Another popular destination is Koh Phi Phi, famous for solo and single travelers. This is the perfect island if you want to take a short vacation alone or with another friend. With a reputation for offering activities such as cliff-jumping, they also offer boat trips to Koh Phi Phi Ley, famously known for film lovers as the popular destination of The Beach (3).
5. Buddhism and Monks
With 41,000 temples across Thailand, Buddhism is the most populated religion consisting of 94.50% of Thais, while others attain Islam and Christianity. Buddhism is taken very respectfully within the country. Tourists are asked to follow specific rules, not using Buddha as a decoration, not getting Budha as a tattoo, and not opting for a Buddha statue for your garden (2).
Home to 300,000, you will be able to recognize them as soon as you are off the plane. Dressed in bright orange robes, they traditionally carry alms bowls and collect food donations. Highly respected by locals and tourists, monks are to be provided priority seating, express lines at immigration checkpoints, and first taken at ticketing venues (2).
Most importantly, monks are known for abstinence from sexual relations; be mindful and respectful not to touch monks even upon greeting.
Want to know what’s forbidden in Buddhism before your trip? Check out our post: The 5 Precepts (Rules) of Buddhism
Speaking of animals, the country is particularly famous for elephants. While this might be a good factor and a bad one, elephants are known as setters for the tourist industry. However, with these animals’ growing cruelty and coverage, elephants are just beginning to roam free without being tortured or kept in chains (2). Many recommend that tourists do not visit elephant sanctuaries as they initiate animal mistreatment.
Besides being a tourist attraction, elephants are also vividly depicted on Thailand apparel. One of the most famous things about Thailand is elephant pants; worn by backpackers around Khao San Road, you will spot hundreds of travelers in these iconic, baggy, yet comfortable pants. They can be bought in night markets and are usually 200 to 300 THB (2).
Wondering why elephants are so famous in Thailand? Check out our post: Thailand Animals: Elephants & Monkeys as Cultural Symbols
7. Tuk Tuks
Thailand is also famous for another exciting and loud invention of public transport. Known as the “Tuk Tuk Mafia,” you get the experience of traveling in the backseat of a three-wheeled open vehicle (2). Not only will you catch them in the morning, but the city is crawling with Tuk Tuks throughout the night.
A popular vehicle in several countries from India to Germany and Switzerland, all Tuk Tuks originated from Thailand and exported to other countries worldwide. Taking a ride on a Tuk Tuk is a must-have experience for any tourist visiting Thailand; it is the perfect way to experience the atmosphere and culture around the city.
Excited about grabbing a tuk-tuk ride in Thailand? Check out our post: Things You Should Know before Riding Tuk-Tuks in Thailand
8. Unique Cafes
Next on the list is an exciting overview of Thailand’s most popular business; instagrammable cafes. Thai girls and boys are always on the lookout for aesthetic cafes and restaurants to achieve the perfect shot. With booming economic rates within the Instagram industry, businesses have tried to expand their connections and look for pleasing ways to attract customers.
Amongst these lovely cafes include animals. With popular cat cafes, dog cafes, rabbit cafes, and even raccoon cafes, people will take pictures with cute animals while having a unique selection of drinks and meals. One of the most popular cafes is Big Dog Cafe, located in Bangkok. Known for extremely big dogs, the cafe offers drinks and even allows you to buy food for the dogs and play with them (5).
In the same way, Bangkok has created a unicorn-themed cafe where hundreds of unicorns are attached to the ceiling. Following a playful pink and rainbow theme, all desserts and drinks are also unicorn-themed and colored. Additionally, customers can even rent unicorn onesies to take pictures in.
Another famous attraction in Thailand is flowers. Located within the flower market in Bangkok is the Floral Cafe (5). Renowned for its dark-themed flowery aesthetic, they follow hot and cold coffee drinks with a stunning view of downtown.
Thailand is also home to several diners that offer fries, milkshakes, and burgers. Taking on the 70s and 80s theme of red, black, and white, these cafes provide a traditional western feel of the states.
Thailand is also well-known for its shopping economy. Offering designer boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Prada, the country is famous for its luxury malls; Siam Paragon, Icon Siam, and Central World are just a few to name.
However, Thailand is also famous for its cheap clothes, cheap souvenirs, and cheap electronics. Being a center for shopaholics, you can get almost any type of product you need. Night markets and malls such as Platinum and MBK offer millions of local products to choose from (2).
Weekend markets are also particularly famous for tourists. Chatuchak serves as the hub for furniture shopping, clothes, electronics, and home decor. With local music, coconut ice cream, and floating market views, outdoor markets are a must-visit.
Preparing a shopping list for Thailand? Check out our post on: 5 Best Things to Buy in Thailand.
10. Parties and Nightlife
Due to the increase in tourism, Thailand has also become famous for nightlife partying. Hundreds of bars, rooftop discos, and nightclubs remain open all night long. Popular attractions include Khao San Road, Soi Ranbuttri, and the Full Moon Party.
These are recommended places for locals and tourists who wish to drink at night in Bangkok, meet people, and enjoy street food and night activities (3).
One of the most well-renowned party stops is the famous Walking Street in Pattaya. It is the central hub for Disco and Club Insomnia. The street also offers ping pong shows, strip clubs, massage, and Muay Thai (8). Another favorite is Hard Rock Café, Phuket. It consists of onsite swimming pools and incredible DJs of Thailand’s highest-quality sound and light systems.
Want to know the best places to party in Thailand? Check out our post: Nightlife in Thailand: Best Places to Party & Have Fun
11. Cultural Festivities
For those living in Thailand, cultural festivities are a significant contributor to Thai’s adventurous and fun life. One such celebration is the Khao Phansa in Thailand. This celebrates the beginning of the Buddhist monks’ three-month period, in which they do not leave their monastery. During this duration, you’ll have to put that beer on hold – alcohol is prohibited, and there is a candle festival to prepare. On this day, candles are placed on floats around the city, and girls are seen wearing traditional costumes (7).
Another famous event is Songkran, Thailand’s most celebrated festival. It is an important event on the Buddhist calendar in which the water festival marks the beginning of the Thai New Year. The name Songkran comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “approaching” or “passing.” Thousands of Thai’s and foreigners gather around the streets with water guns and water buckets (8).
12. The Land of Smiles
Appreciated for its hospitality and laid-back lifestyle, Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles.” Locals will show you absolute respect, warmth, and love, whether you travel to a fantastic beach resort or walk past a night market. With contagious smiles and welcoming celebrations, Thai people make you want to remember them and stay for as long as possible (2).
They share a carefree attitude with locals from Indonesia, where they tend to live life happily and stress-free. In general, Thai people will welcome you in the best way possible (3).
It got its nickname from the idea that a smile is more than just a smile but a subtle impersonal message. There are 13 different smiles that a Thai person uses, each embedded with its unique meaning (6).
- Yim Thang Nam Taa: “I’m so happy I’m crying” smile
- Yim Thak Thaani: The polite smile
- Yim Cheun Chom: The “I admire you” or “I’m proud of you” smile
- Fuen Yim: The stiff smile
- Yim Mee Lessanai: Wicket or bad intent smile
- Yim yaw: The teasing smile
- Yim Yae-yae: The ‘I know things are looking bad but there’s no point of crying” smile
- Yim Sao: The sad smile
- Yim Haeng: The dry smile
- Yim Thak Thaan: The “I disagree with you” smile
- Yim Cheuad-chuan: “I am the winner” smile
- Yim Soo: “Impossible struggle” smile
- Yim Mai Awk: The “I am trying to smile, but can’t” smile
It is safe to say that Thailand is known for more than one reason alone. It is a mixture of traditional and cultural attributes alongside an urbanizing and modern identity. Uniquely paving its way into the developing world, Thai people are moving hearts and creating friendly bonds with people from all over the world. It’s no wonder why Thailand’s special lifeways remain so famous and instantly recognizable.
1. Organization, World Tourism. International Tourism Highlights. s.l. : World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2019.
2. Contributor, Guest. What Is Thailand Famous For? Travel Drafts. [Online] June 7, 2020. https://www.traveldrafts.com/what-is-thailand-famous-for/.
3. The Traveller Twins. What Is Thailand Famous For? 10 Facts About Thailand. The Traveller Twins. [Online] August 24, 2020. https://thetravelertwins.com/what-is-thailand-famous-for/.
4. Wulfhart, Nell McShane. The 11 best islands in Thailand. Condé Nast Traveller. [Online] September 11, 2019. https://www.cntraveller.com/gallery/thailand-islands-guide/.
5. Lennon, Beverley. 34 Charming New Unique Cafes And Restaurants In Bangkok That Are Must-visits! TripCanvas. [Online] October 29, 2019. https://thailand.tripcanvas.co/bangkok/unique-cafes-restaurants/.
6. Digital, Chicago. Thailand, The Land Of The Smiles. IMPACT Group. [Online] October 13, 2020. https://www.impactgrouphr.com/insights/thailand-the-land-of-the-smiles/.
7. Jules. What Is Thailand Most Famous For? PureTravel. [Online] September 16, 2012. http://www.puretravel.com/blog/2012/09/16/what-is-thailand-most-famous-for/.
8. L., Christian. Top 10 Places To Party In Thailand. Unusual Traveller. [Online] October 2, 2021. https://www.unusualtraveler.com/top-ten-places-to-party-in-thailand/.