SQUIZ THE WORLD (1400 × 700px)

Squiz the World goes to… Thailand

Royal Ploughing Ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frqy_MClMDY
Map of Thailand: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand#/media/File:Thailand_(orthographic_projection).svg
Thai Consonant Alphabet Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRqdAiPg618&t=0s
Time for (Monkey) School: https://www.firstschoolformonkeys.com/multimedia-and-external-links/
Traditional Muay Thai-National Geographic video: https://video.link/w/77Mpd
Pad Thai recipe: https://www.recipetineats.com/chicken-pad-thai/


Each week, we give the world globe a spin, and see where we land. Then we take the kids of Australia on an audio excursion to visit that country and its people.

I’m Amanda Bower, and today on Squiz the World we’re visiting Thailand, where the 16 million people who make their living growing rice—almost a quarter of all Thai people—are getting ready for something called the Royal Ploughing Ceremony.

Thailand is the second-largest exporter of rice in the world, after India, so a good rice growing season is important to the economy of this south-east Asian nation. At the Royal Ploughing Ceremony, which is a public holiday, oxen are fed special treats before pulling a plough in a circle nine times. Rice is scattered into the rows created by the plough, and I’ve put a link to a video of the 2019 ceremony in your episode notes, so you can see crowds rush to the field at the end of the ceremony to collect lucky grains of rice for their own planting.

There’s so much more to learn about this country to our northwest than just rice … Strap yourselves into the Squiz Kids Super Fast Supersonic Jetliner as we take off and take a squiz at Thailand …

Just the Facts
If you look on a world map—I’ll pop one in your episode notes—you’ll see that the top of Thailand is shaped a bit like a love heart leaning to the right… and has a long tail that extends south, to join up with Malaysia. Its other neighbours are Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.

What makes Thailand different from those neighbours… and something that Thai people are very proud of… is that they were never colonised by a European power. While Britain and France were occupying its neighbours in the 19th century, the king of Thailand strategically gave up small bits of land while keeping the rest of the country independent.

Up until 1932, Thailand was a monarchy, meaning that the king ruled the country. Since then, Thailand has described itself as a constitutional monarchy, meaning that the king has to follow the rules set down in the constitution. Australia is a constitutional monarchy too, because our official head of state is still the British Queen, with the governor-general representing her.

But Thailand’s system of government is much less stable than Australia’s. There have been 20 different versions of the constitution, and many periods where the military took over from the government in something called a coup. Right now, the Thai Prime Minister is a former commander in chief of the military, and his government is described as “part democracy, part dictatorship.”

Okay, enough politics. I bet you don’t know the name of the capital of Thailand!

If you said Bangkok, most people would pat you on the back in congratulations. But actually, that’s not the official name. I’ve asked my friend Daniel Green, a teenager who was born and raised in Thailand—he has one British parent and one Thai parent—to say the name of where he lives for us.

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit.

That full ceremonial name means, roughly translated: “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the 9 Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.”

Bangkok is actually just a part of the city, and locals refer to their capital as Krung Thep. In good news, both those short names are understood everywhere.

Whenever you travel, it’s important to learn a few words in that country’s language. It’s a great way to show respect. So, let’s….

Learn the Lingo

In Thailand, the official language is Thai. The Thai alphabet is different from ours, and is made up of 76 characters – 44 consonants and 32 vowels. I’ve popped a link in your episode notes to their alphabet song that’s just for the consonants… it is complicated.

Daniel explained to me that how you say hello to someone depends on whether you’re a boy or a girl. He’s a boy, so he says:


But girls would say Sawadee-ka. Go on, you give it a try! Boys, sawadee kap. Girls, sawadee ka.

People are always really grateful when you just try to speak their language. They may even thank you for it. Hey, Daniel, how do boys say thank you?

Of course, I’m a girl, so I’ll say K̄hxbkhuṇ-ka (cop-coon-ca) to you, too.

Now that we can communicate a little bit, it’s….

Time for School

The school day starts at 8am, which is when the national anthem is broadcast all over the country. Everyone stops moving to listen respectfully, then slightly bow when the anthem ends. Oh, and if you ever go to the movies in Thailand, be ready to stand before the film when the King’s Anthem is played. It’s illegal not to!

Anyway, back to school. Kids all over Thailand wear basically the same school uniform. They have a white shirt, with the school’s initials or logo on the left hand side, and the name of the school or the student’s ID number on the right.
Boys wear either khaki shorts with brown shoes, or black shoes with blue or black shorts. Girls wear navy blue skirts with a very specific design: six pleats, or folds, in the front, and six in the back.

Even university students wear uniforms in Thailand! But students attending monkey college don’t have to.

That’s right, you heard me correctly. Thailand has a school for monkeys in the region of Surat Thani. The man who founded the college in the 1950s saw that some coconut farmers had trained monkeys to pick coconuts, but were beating them if they left ripe coconuts behind. He knew there had to be a better way, so he started teaching the monkeys through positive reinforcement – you know, rewarding them for doing the right thing, instead of punishing them for doing the wrong thing.

And yes, of course I’ve put a link in your episode notes to multiple videos of monkey school. You’re welcome.

Just like we do PE at school, and many of us do sport on the weekends, kids in Thailand are also active! But they have some different options when it comes to…

Sport Time
The national sport of Thailand is called muay Thai, and it’s a kind of boxing that is accompanied by traditional music. It’s known as the “art of eight limbs” … the word limbs usually refers to just arms and legs, but in muay thai, boxers are allowed to hit their opponent with their fists, elbows, knees, and shins. That’s four body parts, and two of each… eight limbs.

Before a muay Thai bout the boxers perform the ram muay, a five-minute dance that pays tribute to their teacher and to the guardian spirit of Thai boxing.

Last year, the Muay Thai Federation achieved Olympic Committee recognition, which means that it can now be included in the Olympics. Most people think that won’t happen before 2028, so if you want to see some before then, there are Muay Thai gyms in Australia, and yes, there’s also a link in your episode notes. Which, by the way, is definitely the safest way to participate!

Phew! I’ve learned a ton about Thailand, and now I’m starving! I think it might be…

Dinner Time
I’m guessing a lot of you will have already tried Pad Thai, a delicious noodle concoction that many consider to be the national dish of Thailand. But do you know its history?

During World War II, Thailand suffered a rice shortage after bad flooding. Rice noodles were considered a Chinese food, not Thai… but producing one serving of rice noodles used much less of the grain, so the government created the patriotic dish “Pad Thai” in an effort to encourage noodle-eating and save rice!

And if you’ve ever had Pad Thai – noodles with a tangy sauce, veggies, meat, peanuts, a squeeze of lime – you’ll know why it’s become famous all over the world. I’ve put a recipe in your episode notes to chicken pad thai, but you can swap in any protein you like. Mmmmm.

The S’Quiz
This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening.

Question 1 What are Thai monkeys learning at their own special school?
Question 2 When was Pad Thai invented?
Question 3 What’s the official ceremonial name of Bangkok?
Okay, if anyone got that, you’re an absolute legend. Let’s hear our friend say it again…

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit.