Thailand: Customs and Lifestyle
Diet and Eating
Rice (plain in southern and central regions; glutinous in the north) is the dietary staple. It is usually served with very spicy dishes that consist of meat, vegetables, fish, eggs, or fruit. Curries and pepper sauces are popular. Typical meats include beef, chicken, and pork. Thailand boasts a variety of tropical fruit year-round. Restaurants in Bangkok serve a range of international cuisine.
Thais use forks and spoons at the table. They hold the spoon in the right hand and the fork in the left, pushing food on to the spoon with the fork. Knives are usually not necessary because foods are served in bite-size pieces. In northern areas, people eat a steamed, sticky (glutinous) rice with their fingers. Chopsticks are used when eating noodle dishes and in Chinese homes. Guests usually receive a second helping of food and are encouraged to eat as much as they can. Diners choose small portions from various dishes at the centre of the table to eat with rice. Bones and other such items are placed on the plate. Water, the standard mealtime drink, is drunk at the end of (not during) the meal. When one has finished eating, utensils are placed together on the plate.
Among the most popular sports are football, table tennis, badminton, basketball, and volleyball. Traditional sports include takro (a game of skill involving keeping a wicker ball in the air without using the hands) and martial arts. As in many parts of the region, people enjoy movies and television. Kite-flying is a popular activity, and many enjoy watching Thai chess, played without a queen and according to its own rules.
Holidays and Celebrations
Although the government uses the Western calendar, Buddhist holidays are set by the lunar calendar and vary from year to year. Official holidays include the international New Year’s Day (1 January); Chinese New Year; Chakri Day (6 April); Coronation Day (5 May); Royal Ploughing Ceremony (11 May); the Queen’s Birthday (12 August); Chulalongkorn Day (23 October, honouring the “beloved monarch”, who abolished slavery and introduced many reforms); the King’s Birthday (5 December); Constitution Day (10 December); and New Year’s Eve (31 December). Some important religious holidays include Makha Bucha, Asalaha Bucha, and Visakha Bucha, which mark important events in Buddhism’s history. Songkhran is the Thai New Year. Loy Krathong honours the water goddess for providing water throughout the year; people float small “boats” with candles, coins, or flowers on waterways.