Thailand: The Land of Smiles and Spirituality
In 2011 nearly there were more than 19 million international visitors to Thailand, the highest number in more than ten years. Despite last year’s flooding, and sporadic periods of political instability, the number of tourists drawn to the country has nearly doubled in a decade.
A Tourist Paradise
Much of the attraction is that not only is it extremely affordable when you visit, it has some of the most spectacular scenery and landscapes in south-east Asia.
Lying close to the equator it has a tropical climate with the temperatures ranging between 19 and 38 degrees, with the monsoon season typically between May and July feeding the expansive and lush jungles.
Known as the Land of Smiles, there’s something mystically enchanting about Thailand. The spirituality and reverence for its past and religion are almost second to none anywhere else in the world.
It was first populated early in the first millennium when Mon and Khmer ethnic groups migrated from southern China through Vietnam, Laos and eventually to Thailand.
From the 6th to 9th centuries the central plains were inhabited by a mysterious civilisation known as Dvaravati which established great cities, it’s capital near where Bangkok is today.
The kingdom of Sukhothai in the north-west of the country is Thailand’s spiritual home. Founded in the 13th Century, the period is often considered the country’s golden age, when the state was unique balance of a plentiful land ruled by benevolent kings.
Following the death of Ramkhamhaeng the Great in 1298 his kingdom succumbed to the expansion and influence of the more powerful southern state of Ayutthaya. The city of Ayutthaya is regarded as one of Thailand’s most important and magnificent historic and cultural sites. It was the country’s capital for more than 400 years until 1767, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
Reverence and Spirituality
However nothing is revered more than the image of Buddha. Everywhere you go you will see all shapes and sizes.
One of the most spectacular examples is in Bangkok, housed in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This is the most important temple in the country, where a statue carved out of a single piece of jade sits – but nobody other than the king is allowed to get close to it.
In Thailand nothing is more sacred than the image of the Buddha and climbing on to one, or even taking a picture can cause great offence; and it’s especially important that when you are visiting a temple that as a sign of respect, your arms and legs are covered – going shirtless would be highly offensive.
Steeped in amazing history and magnificent cultural and spiritual beliefs, it’s easy to see why people go on holidays to Thailand.
Many who return often lament leaving and have nothing but adoration for its sheer natural beauty and admiration for the world’s most spiritual people.