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Last updated : Nov 2009
Thailand Social Profile
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Food and Drink

Thai cuisine is normally hot and spicy; however, most restaurants in tourist areas tone down the food for Western tastes. Pri-kee-noo, a tiny red or green pepper, is 1 of the hot ingredients. These are served on a side plate in a vinaigrette with the primary course. Thai dishes include tom yam, a coconut-milk based soup prepared with makroot leaves, ginger, lemon grass, prawns or chicken; gang pet, hot 'red' curry with coconut milk, garlic, herbs, chilies, shrimp paste, coriander and seasoning, which is served with rice; kaeng khiaw, 'green' curry with baby aubergines, beef or chicken, which is served with rice and gai yang, barbecued chicken; and kao pat, fried rice with pieces of chicken, crab meat, pork, onion, egg and saffron, which is served with onions, cucumber, soy sauce and chilies

Desserts include salim, sweet noodles in coconut milk; and songkaya pudding of coconut milk, sugar and eggs which is frequently served in a coconut shell. Sticky rice and mangoes, rice cooked in coconut milk served with slices of fresh mango, is a popular breakfast dish in the mango harvest season that runs from March to May. Other favourite fruits are mangosteens, papaya, jackfruit, pineapple, pomelos (similar to grapefruits), rambutans, and durians, which foreigners either love or hate. Because durians have strong smell, most of the hotels do not allow them onto their compounds.

Mekhong and SamSong, local whisky, are worth trying. The local beer comes in various strengths and Beer Chang is quite good. Fruit juices and shakes are always fresh and good. Coconut milk straight from the shell is available during the harvest season. Bars usually have counter or table service. There are a few un enforced licensing laws.


Bangkok has a great number of entertainment spots, from nightclubs, bars, pubs, cinemas and restaurants (many of which are open air), to massage parlours, pool halls and cocktail lounges.

Performances of traditional court and religious dances are available at the Thai Cultural Centre.

The islands are famous for their nightlife, and attendance at the larger venues is almost entirely foreigners.

The full moon parties are notorious with the backpackers and continue well into the following morning.


Great purchases include Thai silks and cottons, batiks, pottery with celadon green glaze, precious and semiprecious stones, silver, dolls, masks, lacquerware, pewterware, bamboo artefacts and bronzeware. The Chatuchuk Weaken Market in Bangkok has a huge area selling varieties of products ranging from genuine antiques to fighting fish. Tailor-made clothes can be cheap and can be made in a few days.

Shopping hours: Monday to Sunday 10.00 am to 9.00 pm; department stores 10.00 am to 10.00 pm daily.

Special Events

There are a range of festivities in Thailand throughout the year. For a full list of taking place around the country in 2005-2006, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand (see Contact section).

Social Conventions

 Present-day Thai society is the result of centuries of cultural mixes, especially with China and India, but lately with the West.

 A Thai is greeted with the traditional closed hands and a slight bow of the head, known as the Wai. Buddhist monks are normally greeted in this way.

 The Thai Royal Family is regarded with an almost religious reverence. Travellers should always respect this.

 It is bad manners to make public displays of anger, as Thais regard such behaviour as a loss of 'face'.

 Public displays of affection are also frowned upon, and it is considered rude to touch anyone's head or to point one's feet at someone.

 Shoes should always be removed before entering a temple or someone's home.

 Informal dress is acceptable and men are rarely expected to wear suits.

 It is a custom to arrive a little early if invited out socially.

 Smoking is not acceptable.


Most hotels and restaurants add a 10% service charge and a 7% government tax into their bill.