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People in Thailand

Thailand is a rich blend of cultures and influences. The country can be roughly divided into 4 distinct ethnographic areas, each with its own particular personality, culture, cuisine and even language. Although never colonised, Thai people have long been interested and influenced by foreigners, which means many of them speak English and they also have a good knowledge of western culture. Thai people are for the most part very generous and accepting. They take life as it comes and face every day with a smile.

Southern Thai's speak a fast, clipped version of the Thai language. Many of them still live simply, especially on islands like Koh Phangan where apart from tourism, fishing and coconut farming provide the principal form of income for many families. Most coastal communities centre around a village temple, which is the location for important festivals and ceremonies throughout the year. The people in the villages are friendly and spirited, and their preferred cuisine is spicy, but often tamed by the addition of coconut milk.

The central Thai's are considered the most sophisticated i the country. Largely because most of them live in Bangkok, the nation's capital, which is a sprawling blend of Thai and international commerce and culture. Central or middle Thai is the nation's official language and therefore the one used on television and by national leaders. The people are polite and courteous, while a strong Chinese heritage in Bangkok also means they are keen and clever business people.

Northern Thailand was an independent country for more than 600 years, with its own kings and distinctive culture. For this reason, the Northern Thai people that live around the ancient capital of Chiang Mai are very proud and remain quite traditional in many ways. The New Year Songkran Festival is a good example of this, still celebrated with gusto in and around Chiang Mai with 5 days of water throwing on the streets. Despite being very gentle by nature, Northern Thai's like their food spicy, but will happily tone down their cooking to suit foreign tastes.

North Eastern Thais have strong historical links with Laos. Their language is almost identical to their cousins across the Mekong River and they are even referred to as Laos People by some central and southern Thais. The north east is also the nation's biggest rice producing area so many north eastern Thais are farmers with their own plots of land. They often travel to fine extra work between crops, so you will meet north eastern Thais in almost every part of the country. Their distinctive cuisine includes spicy salads like the famous Som Tam, made from raw papaya. It is very popular nationwide and eaten with soft, sticky rice.

Such a rich blend of culture and cuisine makes Thailand one of the most appealing countries in South East Asia to travel, spend a holiday or even as a place to live.

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