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1. Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by an European country. In
fact, in the Thai language, the name of the country is Prathet Thai which means “land of the free.” Very

2. Thailand is where you’ll find both the smallest and the largest creatures. The smallest mammal in
the world, the bumblebee bat, calls Thailand home. You can also find the largest fish, the whale shark,
in Thai waters.

3. Males were all Buddhist monks for a while. There was a time when all young men in Thailand
(including royalty) were required to become Buddhist monks –even if only for a short period of time –
before they turned 20. This practice is not observed as it used to be these days, however.

4. You’re lucky that you know Bangkok a s “Bangkok.” Its real name is one of the longest names of a
place in the world, made up of Pali and Sanskrit root words: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin
Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatra tchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan
Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. What does that name mean? It means “City
of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal
Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.”

5. People often marvel at the forests and jungles of Thailand, but there used to be more. What most
people don’t realize is that over one hundred years ago, nearly all of northern Thailand was co vered in
hardwood forest. Today, about a quarter of that forest is left. Only Singapore has lost more trees. For
this reason, logging is completely banned in Thailand.

6. One-tenth of the entire population of Thailand lives in Bangkok. It is the capital of this great nation,
and, of course, the largest city.

Bangkok is the largest city in Thailand. Photo by Evo Flash.

7. Thailand loves its King, and shows great respect for the monarchy. The w ell-known Hollywood movie
“The King and I” was never shown in Thai theaters because it was considered to be derogatory to the
King. How serious are they about their King? Thailand has the lese majeste rule, meaning that if you
commit disrespectful acts tow ard the King, you could be imprisoned for treason.

8. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the United States. He
is the grandson of King Chulalongkorn or Rama V. The King is highly educated, with an engineering
degree from Switzerland. His grandfather was credited with bringing modernism to Thailand.

9. There are about 35,000 temples in Thailand. Thailand is truly a land of temples. Visiting them
requires modest clothing, meaning no shorts or sleeveless shirts.

10. Showing respect for another person’s head is imperative in Thailand. The head is considered to be
the most important part of the body, and so Thai culture forbids touching anyone on the head (even a
child). Should you meet someone who is older or more importa nt than you, it is best to lower your
head in deference to show proper respect.

11. Thailand is home to many, many animals. About a tenth of all of the animal species on the planet
call Thailand home, and a tenth of all bird species. To put that into persp ective, Thailand has more
birds than Europe and America combined!

12. The national flower of Thailand is the orchid. If you love exotic flowers, you’ll be pleased to know
that 1,500 orchid species can be found growing wild in Thai forest. There’s a reason why it is one of the
world’s largest orchid exporters.

13. People associate elephants with Thailand. There are more than 5,000 found there (though more
than half are domesticated). Over a hundred years ago, though, there used to be about 100,000 with
about one fifth of them wild.

There are thousands of elephants in Thailand. Photo by Christian Haugen.

14. Thailand has many flags. If you’re observant, you’ll notice the national flag of Thailand being raised
at 8 a.m. each morning, and lowered at 6 p.m. There are also many other flags called the “Royal Flags”
which are flown along with the national flag to honor the monarchy. You will only see the Royal Flags in
Thailand, but they are a common sight.

15. Like the heat? Bangkok, Thailand was named the world’s hottest city! Be sure to come prepared
when you visit, and stay hydrated.

16. Thailand has a few big snakes. You can find the reticulated python in Thai jungles, the world’s
largest snake. The biggest one found was over 33 feet long. It doesn’t stop there, though. The longest
poisonous snake in the world, the king cobra? Yep. You can find those in Thailand, too.

17. Each year, about 6,000,000 tourists visit Thailand. That number continues to grow by leaps and
bounds as the world discovers what a wonderful place it is. Bangkok feels an influx of 11,000,0 00 non-
resident visitors each year.

18. A smile can go a long way, and you’ll find more smiles in Thailand than just about anywhere else. In
fact, it’s sometimes known as the “land of smiles” because the people of Thailand seem to be always
ready with a smile. They are a peace-loving culture, desiring harmony over conflict.

19. The most important mineral you’ll find in Thailand? It might surprise you, considering all of the
beautiful gold jewelry and statues in temples, but it is actually tin. And the most exported crop? Rice,
of course! Think of all the tasty Thai dishes that you love. Rice is a staple in Thai cuisine.

20. Thailand used to be known as Siam, and it is the country where Siamese cats originated from.
Though there used to be 23 types of Siamese cats originally, there are now only six. Giving a pair of
Siamese cats to a bride on her wedding day is considered good luck.

21. Red Bull, the world-famous energy drink, has its roots in Thailand. It is based on Krating Daeng, a
drink made popular in Thailand (and eventually across Asia) since 1976. Red Bull was modified to “suit
western tastes.”

22. That street you’re driving on? In the past, it might have actually been water. Bangkok used to be
referred to as the “Venice of the East” due to the number of buildings that were built on stilts above
the river. Gradually, most of the canals were filled in and became the streets you see today.

Thailand has over a thousand islands. Photo by Ray Smith.

23. Thailand is made up of approximately 1,430 islands. Many of the islands have become famous for
being featured in Hollywood films. A popular habit of return visitors is to “try out” new islands to find
their favorite.

24. Ever heard of the “Bridge Over the River Kwai”? You can find that bridge near the town of
Kanchanburi. The bridge is a part of the Burma -Siam railway, and an estimated 80,000 people died in
the course of making that railway.

25. Have you ever been to a festival for monkeys? The annual Monkey Buffet is held in front of the Pra
Prang Sam Yot temple Lopburi province. The local residents see it as a way of thanking the monkeys for
bringing thousands of tourists to the vil lage to see these monkeys that live there. It’s no small buffet:
two tons of meat, fruit, ice cream, and other treats make up this feast.


1. Jakarta’s Gelora Bung Karno Stadium is one of the largest stadium in the world. When it was completed in 1962 to
host the Asian Games it’s original capacity was 120,800 people, which would have made it the second largest today.

2. The Komodo dragon, found in Indonesia, is the largest lizard in the world, growing up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length.

3. The world’s largest flower, Rafflesia Arnoldi, weighs up to 7 kg (15 pounds) and only grows on the island of Sumatra,

4. According to the 2004 Global Corruption Report, former Indonesian President Suharto was the most corrupt leader of
all time, embezzling between 15 billion and 35 billion USD.

5. Indonesia has the largest ‘young’ population in the world with 165 million people under the age of 30, whereas only
8% of the population is aged over 60 years
6. Indonesia has the second longest coastline in the world (over 54,000km), after Canada (CIA World Factbook).

7. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world.

8. Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world with more than 18,000 islands.

9. Indonesia was once home to ‘Dolly’, the largest red-light district in Southeast Asia, housing up to 2,000 sex workers in
one centralised location. It was shut down in June 2014.

10. Indonesia is the 4th largest country in the world, with a population of around 250 million (World Bank, 2013).

11. The Grasberg mine, located near Puncak Jaya, is the largest gold mine and the third largest copper mine in the world.

12. Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. The lake’s supervolcanic eruption that occurred 70,000 years ago

was the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years.

13. Borobudur temple in Central Java is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, decorated with 2,672 relief panels and

504 Buddha statues.

14. The second, third, and sixth largest Islands in the world consist of parts of Indonesia. Guinea (the entire island,

including West Papua and Papua New guinea) is the second largest. Borneo, (across the island, including Brunei and
Malaysia Sarawak) is the third largest. The island of Sumatra is the sixth largest and is located entirely in Indonesia.

15. The most odorous flower on Earth, Amorphophallus titanum, is found in Indonesia and can grow to an average

height of two meters. When it blooms, it releases a foul odour comparable to rotten meat, which can be smelled from
half a mile away. Also known as the “devil’s tongue”, it was originally discovered in 1878 in the rainforest of central

Sumatra island, by the Italian botanist and explorer Dr Oroardo Beccari.

16. One of the longest snakes ever found was discovered in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 1912. According to the Guinness

World Records, the snake had a length of 10 meters (or about 32 ft 9.5 in).

17, Jakarta is the 13th largest city in the world with a population of around 11.3 million people

18. That the highest number of deaths as a result of a natural disaster was the December 2004 Tsunami which

predominantly affected Aceh, Indonesia. The total death toll was estimated at 230,000 people.

19. Indonesia, under the name Dutch East Indies, was the first Asian team to participate in the FIFA World Cup. They

qualified in 1938, but lost 6-0 against Hungary, in Reims, France.

20. Indonesia and Monaco have the same flag but Indonesia’s is slightly wider.

21. Java is the world’s most populous island, with a 2014 population of around 139 million people.
22. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa was one of the deadliest and most destructive volcanic events in recorded history,

with 36,417 deaths being attributed to the eruption itself and the tsunamis it created. Significant additional effects were

also felt around the world.

23. In 2005, Indomie broke the Guinness Book of World Records category for “The Largest Packet of Instant Noodles”,

creating a packet that was 3.4m x 2.355m x 0.47m, with a net weight of 664.938 kg, which is about 8,000 times the
weight of a regular pack of instant noodles. It was made using the same ingredients as a regular pack of instant noodle

and was certified fit for human consumption.

24. After first launching ‘Palapa’ in July 1976, Indonesia became the first developing country to operate their own

domestic satellite system.

25. After first launching ‘Palapa’ in July 1976, Indonesia became the first developing country to operate their own

domestic satellite system.



In most countries, cars and public transportation is the most common way to get around, but not here.

There are more than 45 million registered motorbikes in the country, which means that almost half of the population
own their own motorbike!

That’s also one of the reasons for the slightly “chaotic” traffic, which isn’t so chaotic once you get a hang of it.

The roads are filled with motorbikes, which can be intimidating when you try to cross the road. But Vietnamese traffic
etiquette is that you just walk, and the vehicles will move to the side.


Also known as “Great Uncle Ho”, Ho Chi Minh is the founding father of modern Vietnam. He is the symbol of liberation
after the War. His remains are mummified and guarded in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi.


This traditional Vietnamese costume is known as Ao Dai, and you can see local women wearing it on special occasions,
such as weddings or celebrations. The Ao Dai used to be worn by both sexes, but nowadays, it’s mostly women wearing
the Ao Dai.


Just like in many other Asian countries, the thought of white skin as pure and beautiful is something that lies deep within
the Vietnamese beauty standards.

Women and men try to avoid the sun if possible in order to avoid being tan. Today, many beauty products also have a
whitening effect.


You might have tried Pho already if you’ve ever been to a Vietnamese restaurant. It’s basically a noodle soup and you
will find this everywhere in the country.
Almost every Vietnamese restaurant will serve this traditional dish, no matter if it’s a street vendor or a fine-dining


Also known as Tet, the Lunar New Year marks the new year for Vietnamese people, and it’s the most important event of
the year.

It’s widely celebrated throughout the country and in the streets of the cities, you will find many people celebrating.


Ever heard of Snake Wine or Snake Liquor? It’s not uncommon in Southeast Asia, and while it definitely sounds a bit
creepy, it’s believed to enhance vitality, life, and other health benefits.

If this is ethical or not, I leave for you to decide, but it’s definitely one of the most unusual Vietnam facts.


About 2 million civilians and 1.3 million soldiers were killed or died during the war. One of the world’s longest conflicts,
and still today it’s quite controversial.

Did you know that the Vietnam War is known here as the “American War”?


Vietnamese coffee is delicious, and traditionally it’s served and made as in the picture below.

Did you know that Vietnam is the second largest coffee producing nation? Only Brazil produces more coffee annually!


Vietnam has been in the shadows of Thailand for many years, and finally, more and more people seem to discover the
Vietnamese beauty and charm.

It has a lot of beautiful places, interesting heritage, architecture, culture, delicious food, paradise beaches and much
more. After my visit, I’m surprised that not more tourists find their way here since it’s amazing!


Some of the most famous Vietnamese animals are Great Hornbills, Indian Elephants, Sun bears, Pygmy Slow Loris, Asian
Water Monitor, Water Buffaloes, Burmese Pythons, Tigers, Dolphins and many other species.

Definitely one of the most interesting facts about Vietnam if you like animals!


More and more Vietnamese people become middle or upper-class families, and it is now considered to be a developing
country. Some regions and areas are still very poor, but it’s getting better and better for many.


Water puppet shows are very popular among tourists, especially in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However, the art form
of water puppetry is ancient and has been going on for a long time here.

It’s a part of the Vietnamese culture and heritage, and it’s something that you shouldn’t miss experiencing!


Like many other countries in Asia, rice is very common. A lot of Vietnamese dishes comes with rice, and it’s definitely a
staple food in the country. Even more so in the countryside or valleys such as Sa Pa.
Rice is cultivated in many places around the country, and it’s one of the country’s biggest exports.


If you like to explore caves, you’ll be thrilled to know that Hang Son Doong Cave is the world’s largest natural cave!


 You can drink egg coffee, especially in Hanoi

 The Vietnamese currency is called Dong
 According to ancient Vietnamese folklore, Vietnamese people are descendants of dragons
 There is a local fruit known as “the breast milk fruit”
 In a survey, 80% of the people who answered said that they would rather watch the Fifa World Cup instead of
going to work

 Nguyen is the most common family name

 Vietnamese uses the traditional Latin alphabet
 Football is the most popular sport
 The water buffalo is the national animal of Vietnam
 Potbelly Pigs are being kept as pets


Facts about religion, history, brutal killings

1. Theravada (pronounced — more or less — “terra-VAH-dah”) Buddhism, which is practiced by approximately 95

percent of the population, is the official religion of Cambodia. The religion is also practiced in Sri Lanka, Burma
(Myanmar), Thailand and Laos.

2. This branch of Buddhism (Theravada Buddhism) follows the teachings of the Tipitaka or Pali Canon, which is a
collection of the oldest recorded texts of Buddha’s teachings. There are more than 100 million Theravada Buddhists

3. Evidence from carbon dating suggests that Cambodia was inhabited as early as 4000 B.C.

4. Did you know that recently, multiple cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, some
of which rival the size of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, were revealed by the cutting-edge airborne laser scanning

5. Archeologists say that there is also a massive city beneath Mount Kulen.

6. In Cambodia, millions of land mines were planted during the war years. There is a land mine removal trust in
Cambodia that is operational today, which assists in the removal of the mines, making the country safer.

7. Cambodia has the largest population of amputees in the world caused by landmines. Over 64,000 casualties related to
landmines have been recorded since 1979. Almost half of the landmines are yet to be removed.
8. A Pepsi bottling plant in Battambang, which began its operations in the 1960s, was forcefully shut down in 1975
during the Khmer Rouge’s control of the country. Today, the building is no longer standing.

9. Until 1953, Cambodia was a protectorate (a state that is controlled and protected by another) of France.

10. In Cambodia, genocide (the systematic killing of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political opinion,
social status, etc.) was carried out by the Khmer Rouge (KR) regime between 1975 and 1979, killing at least one and a
half to three million people. The genocide came to an end when Vietnam invaded Cambodia.

11. The bodies of the people that were killed in the genocide were buried in the “Killing Fields.” The term Killing
Fields was coined by the Cambodian journalist – Dith Pran – after he escaped from the regime that led to the killings of
so many Cambodians.

12. Cambodia is also home to the first of its kind – “the Killing Cave” of Phnom Sampeau. The cave has the bones of the
doctors, teachers, men, women, and children killed by the Khmer Rouge.

13. There is a small carving of a dinosaur on the walls of a temple at Ta Prohm. The carving might be an indication that
dinosaurs lived on much later than originally thought. However, there is no concrete evidence for this assumption.

14. There is a “blind clinic” in Cambodia where you can receive massages from blind people. These people are trained in
the art of massage so that they can make their living.

15. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. also bombed Cambodia from 1963 until 1973.

Facts about Cambodia’s economy, political leaders, and government

16. Cambodia is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia with an average growth rate of more than 6% in the last
ten years.

17. The name “Kampuchea” is more widely used in the East for “Cambodia.”

18. Kids take note that apart from Afghanistan’s national flag, the national flag of Cambodia is the only other
national flag in the world to incorporate an actual building on it.

19. Despite Cambodia being one of the poorest countries in Asia, it received a whopping 5 million visitors during 2016,
bringing in about $3 billion in revenue. Clearly, tourism is playing a vital role in helping the economic growth of the

20. The garment and footwear sector in Cambodia is also among the top sectors that support the nation’s economy.
More than 600,000 Cambodians are employed in these two sectors, the majority of whom are women. Learn more…

21. Rice is considered to be the first crop that was grown on Cambodian soil since before the first century, AD.
22. The present king of Cambodia, His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni, is a bachelor and does not have children. Thus
there is no direct successor to the king in case one is required to be crowned as the next king of Cambodia. On October
14, 2004, Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni was elected unanimously by the members of the throne council as King of
Cambodia. He was born on Thursday, May 14, 1953, in Phnom Penh.

23. The Tonle Sap (Great Lake) in Cambodia measures about 2,590 square kilometers in the dry season and expands to
about 24,605 kilometers during the rainy season. This is an unusual annual inundation (flooding) of the region. It is also
densely populated and is devoted to wet rice cultivation. The region is also referred as “the heartland of Cambodia.”

24. The Tonle Sap is also the largest salt water lake in Southeast Asia.

25. Cambodia is losing forests very fast. The rate of deforestation in Cambodia is one of the highest in the world, third
only to Nigeria and Vietnam. Between 2001 and 2014, the annual forest loss rate in Cambodia increased by 14.4
percent. The main reason behind this heavy deforestation is the illegal cutting of the forest by smugglers for monetary
gains from the valuable timber.

26. Hun Sen, Cambodia’s present Prime Minister became the world’s youngest head of the state when he was 32 years
and 162 days old.

27. He has ruled Cambodia for more than 25 years and vows to continue his regime as the Prime Minister until he is 74.
However, the ruler is said to have maintained his position in the government by oppression and violence.

28. In 2011 Hun said that if anyone tried to hold a demonstration against his rule “I will beat all those dogs and put them
in a cage.”

29. It is a harsh fact about Cambodia that more than two and a half million people in the country live on less than $1.20
per day.

30. China and the U.K are the largest foreign investors in Cambodia.

31. Khmer Rouge can be defined as a communist guerrilla organization. It opposed the Cambodian government in the
1960s and waged a civil war from 1970, taking power in 1975 (

32. The Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), also known as the Khmer Rouge, gained control of Cambodia on April 17,
1975. However, the party’s existence was kept a secret until 1977.

33. Pol Pot (real name – Saloth Sar), also touted as one of the world’s most infamous dictators, was appointed as the
party’s secretary and leader in 1963.

34. The aim of the party (Khmer Rouge) was to establish a classless state with a rural agrarian economy.

35. During the party’s rule, human life was disregarded; and repression and massacre prevailed on a massive
scale. Nearly two million people died during the period between 1975 and 1979.
36. Vietnam supported the Khmer Rouge only to withdraw from Cambodia by the end of 1972. Now, the major
responsibilities of the war rested on the shoulders of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge.)

37. As many as 300,000 people in Cambodia were killed as a result of the bombing, which the Khmer Republic
government did with assistance from the U.S. Many people who suffered from the bombing joined the Khmer Rouge.

38. In an attempt to transform Cambodia into a rural, classless society, public schools, pagodas, mosques, churches,
universities, shops and government buildings were shut or turned into prisons, stables, re-education camps and
granaries. There was no public or private transportation, no private property, and no non-revolutionary entertainment.
Public gatherings and discussions were banned during the period.

39. The KCP, soon after getting hold of the country, arrested and killed thousands of soldiers, military officers and civil
servants from the Khmer Republic regime led by Marshal Lon Nol.

40. Known as S-21, the most important prison in Cambodia held almost 14,000 prisoners, only 12 of
whom survived. The Khmer Rouge was responsible for the detention, interrogation, and execution of these many

41. In what is believed to have been the most brutal rule in the history of the world, Cambodians at that time
were forced to grow at least three tons of rice per hectare throughout the country. The consequence of this torturous
punishment was that the civilians had to work (forcefully) more than 12 hours a day throughout these years without
adequate food and rest.

42. Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious monument, covering an area of 162.6 hectares.

43. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century.

44. The temple was initially a Hindu temple. However, gradually it got transformed into a Buddhist temple by the end of
the 12th century.

45. Angkor Wat means “Temple City” or “City of Temples” in Khmer.

46. A Portuguese monk – António da Madalena – one of the first Western visitors to the temple, said that it “is of such
extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen.

47. Almost half of the international tourists coming to Cambodia come to visit the Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat ticket sales
generated $20 million in revenue during the first three months of 2016.

48. The temple, unlike various other temples in its vicinity, faces the west – a direction that is associated with death. The
norm at the time was to build temples pointing east.

49. The exact reason for such orientation by the builders of the temple is yet unknown. However, generally, the
structure is regarded as a funerary temple.
50. The region of Angkor has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992. There are a total of three such
sites, the other two are:

 Temple of Preah Vihear (2008)

 Temple Zone of Sambor Prei Kuk, Archaeological Site of Ancient Ishanapura (2017)

51. The temple is undergoing restoration work. Most of the restoration work is sponsored through foreign aid. And only
about 28% of the revenue generated from the sale of tickets to visitors is spent on the temple’s restoration work.

52. The temple also featured in the movie “Tomb Raider.” The movie’s production house was charged $10,000 per day
for seven days of filming there.

53. There are 1.3 million mopeds in Cambodia for a population of over 1.5 million people. Thus, you can find mopeds
almost everywhere you find people in the country.

54. KFC, the American fast food giant is losing money in Cambodia, which is the only country where they are not
profitable. There are only 6 of these fast food centers in Cambodia. Surprised? Cambodia also does not have
McDonalds (nor does Ghana and Yemen).

55. An estimated four million landmines are still to be cleared from Cambodia.

56. Cambodians do not celebrate their birthdays. Many older people do not even know how old they are.

57. Cambodia has a young population. Most of its population is under 20 years of age.

58. Funerals are quite expensive in Cambodia, and one may cost an average of $9,000. The procedure typically lasts
more than 49 days, and the body is preserved for the first seven.


Fact #1 – No ocean, but thousands of islands

Laos may be landlocked – or ‘landlinked’, if you prefer – but that doesn’t mean a beach holiday is completely off the
cards. If you head to Si Phan Don (literally “4,000 islands”) in Southern Laos, you’ll find serene sandy shores – and
adventure – aplenty.

Fact #2 – It’s home to a mysterious pottery site

Venture to the Xiangkhoang Plateau and you’ll see a curious sight: thousands of stone ‘jars’ strewn across the landscape.
No one is quite sure what they are, but they date to the Iron Age (500 BC – AD 500) and were probably part of local
burial rituals.
Fact #3 – Laos and Thailand speak the same language
If you speak some Thai, then you also speak some Lao.
The Thai and Lao languages are very closely related, so much so that Laos speakers can understand Thai and vice-versa.
Only a little more than 50% of the Lao population can speak Lao, however – in more rural areas, people mainly speak
their ethnic language.
Fact #4 – They also eat the same foods
Like Thai food like som tam (papaya salad), larb and kao niaw (sticky rice)?
Then actually, you like Lao food, since these northeastern Thai (Isan) restaurants are in fact traditionally Laos dishes,
given a Thai twist.
Fact #5 – The capital also has French infusions
The capital, Vientiane, has an unmistakably French influence. Wide boulevards, colonial architecture, flaky baguettes,
wine and coffee are just some French legacies ubiquitous in Vientiane.

Fact #6 – There’s a ‘magical’ crater lake

Nong Fa Lake – a crater lake high in the mountains of southeastern Laos – is feared and respected by locals, who refuse
to swim in it.
Legend has it, a man-eating monster lives at the bottom.
Nong Fa (which translates to ‘blue lake’ or ‘sky lake’) is quite remote, and can be reached by only the most intrepid
Fact #7 – Laos is a treasure trove
The mountains of Laos are mineral rich, and the country has been mined for its resources since the 11th century. Gold,
sapphire, amethyst, aquamarine, marble, slate, rock salt and granite are just some of the treasures to be found.
Fact #8 – Laos celebrates a splashing New Year
Laos, like Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, celebrates the New Year with a big splash. PiMai (new year)
celebrations happen from April 13-15 and involve making merit, spending time with loved ones and water blessings that
take the form of large-scale water fights.
Fact #9 – To kip or not to kip?
If you’re visiting Vientiane from Thailand, there’s no need to exchange your baht to kip, the local currency, unless you
want a keepsake of your travels.
While kip are dispensed from ATMs, most shops will take Thai baht, or even US dollars. If you do withdraw kip, be aware
that it’s virtually impossible to change it back to any other currency once you have left the country.
Fact #10 – The mother of all waterfalls
The 4,000 islands are where the Mekong rushes across the border into Cambodia in the largest series of falls and rapids
in Southeast Asia. The Khone Phapheng falls stretch nearly 10 kilometers along the river, and make traveling upstream
from Cambodia impossible (the French tried and failed). You can visit the falls on a kayak tour from Don Det or Don Khon

Fact #11 – ‘Smiling’ Irrawaddy dolphins

Their rounded noses and upturned mouths give them a cartoonish adorableness – the Irrawaddy dolphin is a rare but
spectacular sight. Only 60 are thought to remain in the Mekong, with pollution and illegal electrofishing their biggest
threats. Conservation initiatives are currently underway to help villagers save their local dolphin population.
Fact #12 – A really old human fossil
Tam Pa Ling (Cave of the Monkeys) in northeastern Laos was the site of some important discoveries. In 2009, the cave
turned up an ancient skull before offering an even older jaw bone (the oldest to be found in Southeast Asia) the
following year. The jawbone, which is at least 46,000 years old, proves early hominids didn’t just migrate from Africa
along coastlines, they followed inland rivers as well.
Fact #13 – A booming economy
While Laos is famous for its sleepy, laidback ambience, this quiet achiever has been steadily growing for the last decade.
One of East Asia’s fastest growing economies, its annual GDP grows on average 7% each year.
Fact #14 – Made by hand
Lao silk stands apart from that of neighboring countries in that is it 100% hand woven. The exact weaving process differs
from family to family as do the patterns, making them truly unique. The average rate of production is around a meter a
day – or a few centimeters for an elaborate weave. Handwoven silk has a more ‘natural’, unrefined texture than silk
produced on an industrial loom.

Fact #15 – Caves of wonder

Hidden deep in lush jungles and limestone hills, the must-see Vieng Xai Caves once concealed an entire city. The former
secret hideout of the communist Pathet Lao, this network of more than 450 limestone caves housed more than 20
thousand people, with homes, markets, schools, barracks and even hospitals within.

Fact #16 – Stuck on you

If you like sticky rice, you’ll love Laos. The dish – kao niaow – is a national treasure, served with every meal in a little
bamboo basket. To eat it, grab a small piece off with your right-hand fingers, roll it into a ball and dip it into the nearest
available sauce. Extra fun fact: sticky rice is gluten free.

Fact #17 – Unmistakable Laos style

Visit Laos and you’ll notice that all women wear the traditional a long skirt that reaches down to their ankles. Worn on a
day-to-day basis, the sinh is made of silk and embroidered with intricate patterns, especially around the hem. You can
pick up your own sinh at the local markets.
Fact #18 – Gibbons, tigers and bears (and more)
The jungles of Laos are home to an abundance of wildlife. The biodiverse Nam Et-Phou Louey National Biodiversity
Conservation Area (NBCA) is where you’ll find tigers (the only ones in Indochina) and other wild creatures, such as white-
cheeked gibbons, sambar deer, leopards, leopard cats, Asian black bears, sun bears and dhole (Asiatic wild dog). A night
safari through the park might turn up civets, slow lorises and deer, though tigers are usually too secretive to spot.
Fact #19 – The Thakhek Loop
If you’re a motor scooter enthusiast, the Thakhek Loop takes you through Thalang and Kong Lor Cave in a stunning 440-
kilometer journey. The four-day trip takes you through some truly incredible scenery: towering karst mountains, rice
paddies, villagers, waterfalls, with plenty of things to marvel at along the way.

Fact #20 – …including Kong Lor Caves

While you’re on the Thakhek Loop, you should by Kong Lor Caves. This cave system conceals a 7.5-kilometer
subterranean river that you can completely traverse in a small wooden sampan, driven by a local boatman familiar with
the river’s twists and turns. Kong Lor itself is a beautiful part of Laos worthy of a stopover. You don’t have to do the loop
to see the caves, a can also take a leisurely road trip from Vientiane to see them.

Fact #21 – …and waterfalls and coffee

Farms, coffee, waterfalls and jungle-clad mountains characterize this lush elevated region on the Thakhek Loop. A world-
famous site for growing Arabica beans, the cooler climes of the Bolaven Plateau, as it is called, are also perfect for
escaping the heat of the lowlands. It’s where you can catch a glimpse of rural village life and see traditional silk and
textile weaving in practice.

Fact #22 – An farflung Khmer site

Out in the verdant plains of Champasak near the Cambodian border, the ancient Vat Phou ruins mark what was once a
majestic Khmer temple complex. Like Angkor Wat, the site dates back to the 11th-13th centuries, has an easterly
orientation and comprises several different structures. Intriguing extra fact: A crocodile-shaped carved stone is
suspected to be (and claimed by an ancient Chinese text) the site of human sacrifices.

Fact #23 – A true ethnic melting pot

While Laos is more than 50% populated by ethnic Lao (Lao Lum), there are more than 60 – some say more than 100 –
different ethnic groups living within its borders. Lao’s people are categorised by altitude: 50 percent are lowland
peoples, living around the Mekong; 20 percent live in the midlands and highlands; and 15 percent live above 1,000
meters. The remaining 15 percent are Thai.

Fact #24 – Creating a scene

If you’re a cinema buff, you’ll be delighted to learn that Vientiane hosts an international film festival every two years.
The event features workshops, a short film competition and, of course, movie screenings.
Fact #25 – Have you seen The Rocket?
If you’d like to see Laos in pictures, the award-winning Australian film The Rocket showcases the country’s pristine
northern mountains, as well as local language and customs. The story addresses challenges faced by traditional rural
communities and features the Boun Bang Fai rocket festival.
Fact #26 – All knees and elbows
Laos’ form of boxing is called muay Lao. It is similar to Thailand’s muay Thai, Malaysia’s tomoi and gun Khmer from
Cambodia – which is actually where boxing in Southeast Asia originated (not Thailand, as many believe).
Fact #27 – Luang Prabang is a true Laos must-see
The ancient, UNESCO-protected city was the royal capital of the Kingdom of Laos until 1975, when Pathet Lao party took
over after the civil war. The city features beautifully preserved old temples and palaces, and has retained its provincial
serenity. Tour the old city, wander the markets, visit the National Museum and spend time just soaking up the charming
ambience of this beautiful town.

Fact #28 – It is small but perfectly formed

While you’re there, make sure you see Kuang Si Falls, Tat Sae Waterfalls and Pak Ou Caves. And for the best views, climb
Mount Phousi in time to watch the sun set over the Mekong.

Fact #29 – Visiting rights

Visas for Laos are not required by passport holders from Japan, Luxembourg, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei or Myanmar. Western
travelers can get a visa on arrival at the border or airport, valid for 30 days.
Fact #30 – Carless islands let you truly escape the hustle
Si Phan Don, the 4,000 islands are car free. The main ways to get around are walking and cycling. They are also ATM-
free, so stop in Ban Nakasang on the way to withdraw enough cash.
Fact #31 – A good-value tipple
The local brew is called lao-Lao (‘alcohol’ plus ‘Laos’ – emphasis on the second syllable). It is a ubiquitous rice whiskey
produced locally and inexpensively. There is a ‘Whiskey Village’ in Luang Prabang where you can see myriad different
permutations of the drink, though it can be found in any market or mom-and-pop store across the country.
Fact #32 – A quirky side-trip from Vientiane
Buddha Park is a curious attraction on the outskirts of Vientiane. Locally known as Xieng Khuan, the park, built by local
mystic and sculptor Bounleua Suliat, features more than 200 stone Buddhist and Hindu statues. Designed in the style of
traditional religious artworks of the region, the park’s concrete sculptures are different in that many of them tower high
over visitors. After the communist Pathet Lao took over, Bounleua moved across the Mekong to the Thai side, where he
built a second Buddha Park in Nong Khai.

Fact #33 – A wartime legacy

Laos is said to be the most bombed country in the world (an estimated 260 million sub-munitions from cluster bombs
were dropped over the country between 1964 and 1973), and many lie undetonated in rural areas. The COPE Museum
in Vientiane draws attention to the plight of victims of unexploded ordnance, educating visitors through documentaries
and exhibits. You can also leave a donation that goes towards food, rehabilitation or prosthetics.
Fact #34 – The majestic ‘Victory Gate’
For a bird’s-eye view of Vientiane, head to Patuxai in the center. Walk up seven floors to the open-air platforms at the
top. Enjoy the views over Lang Xang Avenue and the park, and maybe even enjoy a cooling breeze.

Fact #35 – There are infinite ways to enjoy the Mekong

Aside from crossing it via the Friendship Bridge or the old French narrow-gauge railway bridge in Don Det or the bamboo
bridge in Luang Prabang, you can cruise down it on a luxurious sunset trip. Choose one that lets you enjoy traditional Lao
dance performances as you float downstream past stunning scenery.

Fact #36 – The ‘Land of a Million Elephants’

Laos was once known as the Land of a Million Elephants, though today their numbers have dwindled to between 400
and 600, with more elephants used in logging industry than found in the wild. Sanctuaries such as the Elephant
Conservation Centre in Sainyabuli Province give you a chance to spend time with them, learning to ride, bathe and feed
them in an ethical manner.

Fact #37 – A Laos way of sending well wishes

There are many religious rites in Laos, and baci or su khwan -‘calling of the soul’ – is one of the most important. Involving
prayer, offerings, dance, chants,a feast, wine and the tying of a white string around the wrist it is a ceremony that can
mark any significant occasion – weddings, births, entering monkhood, and even farewells.
Fact #38 – Take time to smell the orchids
Botanists estimate Laos has up to 900 endemic species of orchids – they’re found right across the country, from
lowlands to jungles to high mountain passes. If you’re in Vientiane, Phou Khao Khouay National Park, 40 kilometers from
the capital, is one place where you will find the bloom in the wild. Extra helpful fact: The most accessible sight here is
Tad Leuk waterfall, most majestic during rainy season.
Fact #39 – A penchant for petanque
This laidback lawn sport is surprisingly popular in Laos. Brought to Laos by the French, it’s still a common sight in parks.
In 2013, Laos won the medal tally for petanque in the Southeast Asian Games.

Fact #40 – The best time to visit is always

There’s never a bad time to visit Laos. Generally speaking, the monsoon season lasts from mid-May to October; the dry,
cool season from October to March; and the hot, dry season from April to early May. Each season has its own benefits
and affects each region differently, so before you set off, decide what you want from your Laos trip so you know the
best time of year to go for you. See our blog for a quick rundown of the seasons.


1. The name Brunei Darussalam means "abode of peace" which is mostly true given the country's higher standard of living
and longer life expectancy (average is 77.4 years as of 2019) than many of their neighbors in Southeast Asia.
2. In 2015, Brunei ranked higher on the Human Development Index (31st overall in the index) than all other countries in
Southeast Asia aside from Singapore.
3. Brunei is considered to be the most observant Islamic nation in Southeast Asia. Beautiful mosques dot the country.
Visitors are welcome inside of mosques outside of prayer times and with proper dress. Read more about etiquette for
visiting mosques.

1. Much of Shell oil comes from offshore drilling platforms in Brunei.

2. The 2015 per-capita GDP (PPP) in Brunei was US $79,000 -- ranking them in the top 10 in the world. The U.S. GDP in
2014 was US $59,900.
3. Citizens in Brunei receive free education and medical services from the government.
4. Brunei has one of the highest rates of obesity in Southeast Asia. An estimated 51% of schoolchildren are overweight or
5. The literacy rate in Brunei is estimated at 92.7% of the population.
6. Brunei passed a law in 2014 making homosexuality a crime punishable by ten years in prison. In 2019, it was
announced that the penalty would be death by stoning.

1. Caning is still a method of punishment for crimes in Brunei.

2. Brunei is just a little smaller than the U.S. state of Delaware.
3. The sale and public consumption of alcohol is illegal in Brunei, although non-Muslims are allowed to bring up to two
liters into the country.
4. Eight days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese attacked and occupied Brunei to secure a source of oil.
5. Brunei has one of the highest car-ownership rates (roughly one car per every 1.5 people in 2017) in the world.
6. Although the Federation of Malaysia -- which includes Brunei's neighbors of Sarawak and Sabah -- was formed in 1963,
Brunei did not gain their independence from Great Britain until 1984.

1. The Sultan of Brunei holds an honorary commission in the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.
2. The Sultan also serves as Defense Minister, Prime Minister, Finance Minister, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
of Brunei.

The Sultan's Controversial Love Life

1. The Sultan married his first cousin, Princess Saleha.

2. The Sultan's second wife was a flight attendant for Royal Brunei Airlines.
3. He divorced his second wife in 2003 and removed her of all royal statuses.
4. Two years later, the Sultan married a TV show host 33 years younger than himself.
5. In 2010, the Sultan divorced the TV host and even took away her monthly allowance.
6. In 1997, the royal family hired former Miss USA Shannon Marketic and a handful of other beauty queens to come model
and entertain at parties. The women were allegedly forced into prostitution to entertain royal guests for 32 days.

Islam is the official religion in Brunei. Muslim: 79%; Christian: 9%; Buddhist: 8%; Other: < 5%

1. The name Brunei Darussalam means "abode of peace" which is mostly true given the country's higher standard of
living and longer life expectancy (average is 79.05 years in 2015) than many other countries.

2. The Sultan of Brunei holds an honorary commission in the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy.

3. In 2015, Brunei ranked higher on the Human Development Index (31st overall in the index) than all other countries in
Southeast Asia aside from Singapore.

4. Brunei is considered to be the most observant Islamic nation in Southeast Asia. Beautiful mosques dot the country.
Visitors are welcome inside of mosques outside of prayer times and with proper dress

5. Whenever Bruneians enter someone else’s house, they always take off their shoes.

6. Brunei has one of the highest car-ownership rates (roughly one car per every two people) in the world.

7. When Brunei first participated at the 1988 Olympic Games, its delegation was composed of a single official and no

8. Islam is the official religion in Brunei. Muslim: 67%; Buddhist: 13%; Christian: 10%; Other: 10%
9. The Belalong Tree Frog is a rare species of frog which is only found in Brunei.

10. There are about 35 species of plants that come only from Brunei. Some of these are the orchid Coelogyne
bruneiensis, the palms Calamus maiadum and Livistona exigua, and the bamboo Temburongia simplex.

1. Singapore is conquering Asia sand by sand….literally. Singapore has been accused of buying too much sand from
Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. It led to several protests and blockades on sand trade after countries found chunks of
their land being shipped off to Singapore.

2. Singapore is very passionate about toilets. The Singapore government tabled a UN resolution to designate 19th
November as the World Toilet Day. It not only got the support of 122 other countries but the World Toilet Organization
was formed on 19th November 2001, in Singapore.

3. Singapore can teach the world some lessons in honesty. The tiny city-state is the least corrupt in Asia and the 5th
least corrupt country in the world.

4. In Singapore, parents teach their kids good manners while the government teaches the parents some. Singapore
actually had a government-backed National Courtesy Campaign, since 1979, where Singaporeans were taught ethics
and mannerisms. However, in 2001, it changed to the Singapore Kindness Movement.

5. Singapore has its national tree planting day on 7th November every year. Everyone from the Prime Minister to foreign
diplomats to ordinary citizens’ plant trees on this day. Singaporeans even adopt and name trees for their children as
birthday gifts or wedding presents.

6. But when Singapore plants trees, it plants them in style. The government opened up a series of manmade solar-
powered trees, up to 50 meters high, in the ‘Gardens at the Bay’ project. It is now a cultural symbol and a tourist

7. More than 80% of Singapore’s population lives in government-subsidized houses while the home ownership rate in
Singapore is a staggering 92% (The highest in the world).

8. Usain Bolt may be the fastest sprinter in the world, but Singaporeans are collectively the fastest pedestrians on the

9. In Singapore, stop chewing your gum if you see the police. Or simply don’t carry one. Currently, it is banned except
without medical prescription.

10. Caning is actually still a legal form of punishment in Singapore. If you are caught vandalizing the tropical paradise,
you won’t be able to sit properly for a few weeks.

11. Car lovers are almost broke in Singapore. Car use is heavily discouraged by the government and car owners have to
pay additional 1.5 times the car price to get their car certified.

12. Catch 30 male giraffes and stack them on top of each other. Climb onto the top giraffe to get a wonderful view of
Singapore. Alternatively, just take a ride in the world’s second highest observation wheel, The Singapore Wheel. At 165
m, it missed the first place by just 2 meters.

13. Dream high but build low. Singapore has a limit on the height of its buildings- a fair 280 m. There are three buildings
in Singapore exactly 280 m in length.
14. If you are born a man in Singapore, you have to handle the big guns once you reach 18. Singapore has compulsory
military conscription of 1-2 years.

15. Elevators in Singapore have Urine Detection Device, and if it detects the smell of kidney filtered water, it locks the
doors until the police arrive. Singapore has passed a very specific law which prohibits urinating in the elevators.

16. Singapore punches well above its weight. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIRP),
it’s the world’s 5th largest arms importer.

17. The Reporters without Borders, an agency that evaluates press freedom across nations, had a hard time reporting
from Singapore. They ended up placing the island nation at 153 among 180 nations.

18. It’s a crime to not flush the public toilet after use in Singapore.

19. The Hort Park in Singapore is the first Park dedicated to exclusive gardening niche and is a gardening lifestyle hub in

20. Though Singapore is a city state, it consists of 63 smaller islands.

21. The five stars in the national flag of Singapore represents the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and
equality. The color red signifies brotherhood while white represents purity.

22. The Singapore Grand Prix Racing Circuit is not only Asia’s first one but also held the first ever F1 night-race in its 2008
inaugural race.

23. Singaporean kids are smarter than the rest. They collectively topped the global math-and-science-education ranking,
by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

24. Children and plants are the heart and soul of Singapore. The first garden in Asia, dedicated to children, is the Jacob
ballas children’s garden.

25. Legend has it that Pulau Ubin, an island of Singapore, was formed when a pig, an elephant, and a frog had the
challenge to see who would reach the shore of Johor first. All of them failed and were turned into rock, which is today
the island.

26. The Singapore zoo is a tropical paradise, filled with animals from all over the equatorial belt. It is named the best zoo
in Asia and the third best in the world, by TripAdvisor.

27. Singapore government had a mascot, Singa the Lion, to promote kindness among Singaporeans. Unfortunately, he
had to resign with a heavy heart. He also wrote and signed a heartwarming resignation letter.

28. Ainan Celeste Cawley, of Singapore, is a record holder for being the youngest child ever to pass O-level chemistry, at
7 years old. At 9 years he cracked the Physics “O level certificate”, too.
29. You have heard about the legendary mermaid but did you know that the national icon of Singapore is The Merlion, a
creature that is half lion and half fish.

30. Every school kid in Singapore knows the legend of Sang Nila Utama, the prince who founded the Kingdom of
Singapura, in 1299. In an almost similar ending to Hollywood flick, “Life of Pie”, the prince braved stormy sea to reach
the island, where he had a vision of a lion.

31. Singapore has an amazing thrill ride called the Megazip or the Flying bat, of Sentosa Islands. It lets people experience
life through the eyes of a flying bat.

32. Singapore’s National Stadium, has the world’s largest retractable dome, at 312m in diameter. The huge canopy can
shelter 55 thousand fans from rain and the sun alike.

33. Singapore has two days dedicated to its children. While 1st October is celebrated for children below 12 years, the
Youth Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of every July, for teenagers.

53. Singapore has invented food courts before it was cool. The hawker chefs of Singapore are notoriously famous for
churning out world-class cuisines. They all converge on few spots which have become food hubs.

54. Singapore was long ago attacked by hordes of swordfish. A young boy worked out a brilliant plan to trap them but
was killed by the king who feared his intelligence. Legend has it that the red color of the region’s soil is due to the young
boy’s blood.

55. Singapore loves to enjoy good food. Every day two new restaurants are opened in Singapore. A rare feat, given its

56. Just the name “Garden City” didn’t satisfy Singapore’s high ambitions. The government plans to transform Singapore
into a “City in a Garden”.

57. The cosmopolitan nature of Singapore can be understood by the name of its national flower; Vanda Miss Joaquim,
an orchid named after an Armenian horticulturalists.

58. If you want to give a speech in Singapore learn the countries OB markers first. Singapore decides what topics are
“Out of Bounds” for public discussion and debate. Incidentally, direct criticism of the government is not allowed.

59. Singapore has its own definition of success. The five C’s of Singapore: Car, cash, credit card, condominium, and
country club are the five king makers in the island state.

60. The Sultanate of Malacca was founded by a Hindu king from Sumatra, Parameshwara who later converted to Islam.

61. The largest tropical orchid garden in the world can be found in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

62. The diversity of Singapore made Singlish, a colloquial Singaporean English, the de-facto language of the state.

Fact 1 – In Myanmar, you can eat tea

Why limit this lovely leaf to beverages? In Myanmar, tea leaves, lahpet, are fermented and eaten in the nation’s most
beloved dish, lahpet thohk – tea leaf salad.
There’s even a local expression about tea leaves: “Of all the fruit, the mango’s the best; of all the meat, the pork’s the
best; and of all the leaves, lahpet‘s the best.”

Fact 2 – Shwedagon Pagoda holds a bit of the Buddha

This most sacred of sites is believed to hold, among other relics, eight strands of Gautama Buddha’s hair.
According to legend, two merchants met the Buddha (who lived around 2,500 years ago) on their travels and returned
to Burma with the strands of hair, which were placed in the temple with the other relics.

Fact 3 – Bark paste protects the face

Those chalky swirls you see on the cheeks of women and children is thanaka – a cosmetic paste made from the bark of
selected trees.
The wearing of thanaka has been happening for at least 2,000 years; it is said to keep skin smooth and protect against
sun damage.

Fact 4 – At one point, Myanmar ran out of Burmese cats

Purebred Burmese cats were once kept as royal pets; King Thibaw had 40 of them in the palace when the British took
control of the country.
With no one protecting their bloodline, purebred Burmese had disappeared by the 1930s.
They were only recently reintroduced from the US, and now their numbers are slowly increasing, thanks to a breeding
program by Inthar Heritage House on Inle Lake.
Fact 5 – Sea gypsies inhabit the islands
The Moken ‘sea gypsies’ are one of Myanmar’s diverse array of ethnic groups, inhabiting the spectacular Mergui
Archipelago off the Andaman Coastline.
They traditionally live a nomadic lifestyle, spending most of their time at sea and setting up on land only during
Their knowledge of the ocean is said to have alerted them to the 2004 tsunami, enabling them to move out of harm’s

Fact 6 -Fortunes are serious business

Astrology is taken very seriously in Myanmar. The Burmese zodiac comprises the 12 signs of the Western zodiac, plus 27
lunar mansions and 8 weekday signs.
E Thi, a blind, deaf-mute Myanmar soothsayer is one of the country’s most famous astrologers.
Her high-profile clients include exiled Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra and ex-junta leader General Than Shwe.
Fact 7 – Driving is chaotic (for good reason)
While the rule of the road in Myanmar was originally to keep to the left, the country switched sides overnight in 1970.
Unfortunately, trade sanctions banned the import of cars from countries who make left-hand-drive vehicles.
Thus, the mix of cars currently on the roads includes extremely vintage left-hand-drive vehicles and newer right-hand-
drive cars imported from Japan.
This is why we recommend a driver!

Fact 8 – Shwedagon Pagoda is encrusted with diamonds

This shimmering gold temple is not only entirely covered in gold leaf, its very top is covered in more than 4,500
diamonds. The largest, right at the top, is 72 carats.

Fact 9 – Birds like Myanmar

The country is home to more than 1,000 species of birds, of which six are endemic and 51 are endangered.
If you fancy a spot of bird-watching, Bagan and Mt Victoria are two places where you’ll see lots of feathered friends, as
well as the wetlands of the Ayeyarwady delta region.
Fact 10 – New Year starts with a splash
Myanmar begins the Buddhist New Year (around April 14-16) with Thingyan, a multi-day celebration of prayers,
offerings, traditional dance, parties and water fights.
The sprinkling of water over one’s head is a metaphoric washing away of past evils – a custom that has evolved into full-
fledged water fights with cannons, pistols and buckets.
Fact 11 – You can visit the Himalayas
Up in the far north of Myanmar you’ll find the township of Putao, Kachin State, in the foothills of the Himalayas.
From Putao, it’s possible to trek up Mount Phongun Razi, with an elevation of nearly 3,635 meters (12,000 feet).
Thanks to its relative inaccessibility, this region is remarkably pristine, and you’re likely to spot endemic wildlife and rare
orchid species.

Fact 12 – Myanmar is more diverse than the USA

Roughly 135 ethnic groups make up the people of Myanmar and it’s ranked 75 most culturally and ethnically diverse
country in the world.
The government groups these into eight main ‘races’: Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Bamar (the
dominant group, who make up nearly 70% of the population).
The collective number of languages spoken by these diverse peoples is upwards of 60.

Fact 13 – Myanmar has its own measurements

Myanmar is one of only three countries in the world not to use the metric system.
The country still uses its own units of measurement, though you’ll find gas measured in gallons and distances in miles.
Weight is a big trickier, with 1 viss (peittha) equal to 1.68 kilograms (3.5 pounds). Confused?
Fact 14 – You can use two different currencies in Myanmar
The local currency is called kyat (MMK), but you can also use US dollars when you’re traveling through Myanmar.
One USD is roughly 1,360 MMK – if you want to easily pay for things in local shops you should break larger notes and
keep 1,000 and 500 kyat notes handy (a bowl of noodles is around 500 kyat).
Many places will only accept US currency that is nigh-perfect (uncrumpled, unfolded), so keep your bills pristine!
Fact 15 – It’s not a sarong, it’s a longyi
In Myanmar, you’ll see men and women wearing a longyi – a cylindrical piece of cloth worn around the waist, down to
the feet.
Coming in all colors, patterns and fabrics (in particula silk), they keep the wearer cool in the summer, allowing air to
circulate and protecting from sun.
Men’s (called paso) are usually plaid, striped or plain, while the women’s (a htamein) are more brightly hued.

Fact 16 – Magic can prevent misfortune

Yadaya is a form of ‘magic’ that enables a person to avoid misfortune if they fulfill a prescribed ritual.
Noteworthy instances of yadaya include, Myanmar’s first prime minister, U Nu, ordering the construction of 60,000
pagodas across the country to ward off evil and protect the state.
Also the aforementioned switch from left-hand driving to right-hand driving as ordered by General Ne Win, was on
advice from the general’s wife’s fortune teller.
Fact 17 – There is a pagoda on top of a golden rock
If you are in Mon state, you’ll likely get to see Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, the well-known Buddhist pilgrimage site. It’s only small
(around 7 meters), but it’s perched on top of a huge boulder that’s been covered in gold leaf.
The rock itself looks precariously balanced on the edge of a cliff. During peak pilgrimage season, chants float through the
air day and night.

Fact 18 – Yangon is not the capital

Around 320 kilometers from Yangon lies Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s shiny new capital.
Construction of this planned city began in 2002 in the middle of empty countryside, and it was announced the new
capital, taking the title from Yangon, in 2006.
The name literally translates to ‘abode of the king’, and is used as a suffix for royal capitals.
Fact 19 – Myanmar and Thailand have history
And like most neighbouring countries, that history was not always pleasant. During the Burmese-Siamese wars, the great
armies of both kingdoms clashed multiple times, with Burma defeating Siam on most occasions.
In the sixth attack on Ayutthaya, the city finally fell to the Burmese army, moving the Thai capital downriver to Bangkok.
A couple hundred years later Siam then kicked Burma out of the Lanna Kingdom, to claim Chiang Mai as its own.
Fact 20 – Chinlone – part-sport, part-dance, part-martial art
The national sport of Myanmar is chinlone, a non-competitive game where a cane ball is kept aloft by a team of 6
players through a series of creative foot juggling.
The ball is passed back and forth between players who exhibit an acrobatic level of ball juggling.
The sport started as a form of entertainment in the royal courts 1,500 years ago.
Fact 21 – The thing everyone is chewing is betel leaf
Specifically, kwunya: betel leaves wrapped around areca nut with tobacco and cloves.
Chewed for its stimulant properties it stains the mouth red and can lead to tooth decay and oral cancer.
The practice of betel-chewing in Myanmar predates recorded history
Fact 22 – Myanmar has the world’s finest rubies
Untreated rubies from Mogok in the Mandalay Region and Mong Hsu in Shan State are high in chromium and low in
iron, giving them high fluorescence and that coveted ‘pigeon’s blood’ hue.
The most famous of them all, the ‘Graff Ruby’ ring, fetched USD 8.6M at a Sotheby’s auction in 2015, setting a new
world record.
Lifted sanctions make them available again in the US for the first time in years.
Fact 23 – It also has wine
The mountains of Myanmar offer a favourable climate for grape growing, and a couple of vineyards have opened up,
producing their own wines.
Both Aythaya Red Wine and Red Mountain offer wine tasting, so you can sample a local drop after taking a tour of the
Fact 24 – And lots of wildlife
The thick, unspoiled jungles of Myanmar are home to lots of cool animals: elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinoceros to
name a few, as well as 28 species of turtles and tortoises.
Seven of these species are endemic, including the Burmese roofed turtle, which was thought to be extinct until 2002.
Happily, a conservation project has brought numbers up into the hundreds.

Fact 25 – There might even be unicorns

Marco Polo was so rapt by the jungles and plains of Burma that he wrote of them in his own 13th-century travel diary.
He spoke of hills full of gold and incredible animals – even unicorns (he was likely talking about rhinoceros). About Bagan
he wrote: “The towers are built of fine stone, and one has been covered with gold a finger thick, so that the tower
appears to be of solid gold. Another is covered with silver in a similar manner and appears to be made of solid
silver….They make one of the finest sights in the world, being exquisitely finished, splendid and costly. When illuminated
by the sun they are especially brilliant and can be seen from the great distance.” Sounds pretty magical, huh?


e of Malaysia’s oldest names, Aurea Chersonesus, means “peninsula of gold.” It was given by Greco-Roman
geographer Ptolemy in his book Geographia, written about A.D. 150. Malaysia is actually more famous as the world’s
second largest producer of refined tin.[13]
The name Malaysia may derive from the word Melayu, or Malay, that could come from the Sungai Melayu (Melayu
River) in Sumatra. The river’s name is derived from the Dravidian (Tamil) word malai, or “hill.”[14]
Malaysia is the only country that includes territory both on the mainland of Southeast Asia and in the islands that
stretch between the Asian continental mass and Oceania.[2]
Borneo is the third largest island in the world, after Greenland and New Guinea. Three countries share the island: the
Independent Sultanate of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia.[12]
Malaysia’s Kuala Kangsar district office is the home of the last surviving rubber tree from the original batch brought by
Englishman H.N. Ridley from London’s Kew Gardens in 1877.[9]
Local time has been adjusted in peninsular Malaysia a total of eight times. The last adjustment happened on January
1, 1982, when Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, then prime minister, decided that the entire country would follow the time
in Sabah and Sarawak. Before that, both islands were 30 minutes ahead of peninsular Malaysia.[14]
Malaysia's total highway length is longer than the Earth's circumference
Malaysia has 40,934 miles (65,877 km) of highway. This is more than Earth’s circumference of 24,901 miles (40,075
The biggest roundabout in the world is located at Putrajaya in Malaysia. It is 2.2 miles (3.5 km) in diameter.[7]
Tongkat Ali—a small tree with thick, deep, and straight roots and very common in the forest hills of Malaysia—is
called Malay Viagra because it has shown to have a testosterone-like effect on mice. Extracts of tongkat ali are being
used in “power drinks” combined with coffee and ginseng.[6]
The largest undivided leaf in the world, Alocasia macrorrhiza, comes from the Malaysian state of Sabah. A specimen
found in 1966 measured 9.9 feet (3.02 m) long by 6.3 (1.92 m) wide.[3]
The Japanese invaded Malaysia on December 6, 1941, the same day they bombed Pearl Harbor. They landed at Khota
Baru and stole bicycles in every town they took on their way to Singapore, making the trip in 45 days.[4]
Before the 19th century, the sultans of the Malay Peninsula would order some executions to be carried out using the
kris, a ceremonial dagger. The executioner would stand with a long kris behind the condemned man. A small piece of
cotton was placed on the shoulder of the condemned man to stop the bleeding. The execution would hold the blade of
the kris perpendicularly and then drive it down through the collarbone into the condemned man’s heart. Death was
almost instantaneous. The cotton wool was held in place as the blade was withdrawn.[4]
Found in 1991, Perak Man is the oldest (about 11,000 years old) and the only complete human skeleton to be found in
Peninsular Malaysia.[1]
Malaysia’s currency is called the ringgit, which means “jagged” in Malay, and originally referred to the separated
edges of Spanish silver dollars widely circulated in the region.[4]
Seventeen-year-old Kok Shoo Yin became the first Malaysia citizen certificate holder when he received his official
documentation on November 14, 1957.[15]
Among the Iban community on Malaysia’s Sarawak province, before a newborn baby is named, they are affectionately
called ulat (“worm”), irrespective of their gender. When the baby is named, they must be named after a deceased
relative, for fear that using a living relative’s name might shorten the baby’s life. When the parents have chosen a few
names, rice balls are made, each representing a name. The first rice ball pecked at by a manok tawai (fighting cock)
determines the child’s name.[3]
Grapefruit is a cross between a pomelo and an orange
One of the indigenous fruits found in Malaysia is the pomelo (Citrus maxima), which is the largest citrus fruit in the
world. It can reach the size of a small football and weighs from 2.2–6.7 lbs. (1–3 kg).[13]
Malaysia is reported to have more than 1,000 species of plants that have medicinal properties that are used for
treating ailments from headaches to malaria and cholera. The Bintangor trees (Callophylum lanigerum var.
austrocoriaceum), found only on Sarawak, are believed to have properties that could help cure the HIV virus, which
causes AIDS.[12]
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, has recorded 200 rainy days in a year. The city of Kuching in Sarawak holds the unenviable
record of rainy days in a year with 253.[8]
In August 1997, a model of the Malaysian flag was completed out of 10,430 floppy disks.[8]
Caning is a common punishment under Malaysian law. The maximum number of strokes that can be ordered is 24.
Women can never be caned, nor can boys under the age of 10 or men over 50, except for rape.[8]
The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were the world’s tallest buildings from 1998–2004. They are still
regarded as the world’s tallest “twin” buildings. The two buildings are joined by a sky bridge at levels 41 and 41, which
are 558 feet (170 m) off the ground.[9]
What is known as the “Sidek serve” in badminton was invented by the Malaysian Sidek brothers in the early 1980s. It
caused the shuttle to move in a deceptively, erratic manner, and which confused both opponents and officials. It was
later banned by the International Badminton Association.[3]
Malaysia’s national dish is Nasi lemak, a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk, often served wrapped in a banana
leaf, and usually eaten for breakfast.[9]
Malaysia is the only place in the world where the war against Communism was won. The 12-year guerrilla warfare
conducted by Communist forces was finally put down in 1960. This period was known as the Malayan Emergency.[9]
According to a survey in 2010, Malaysians had the highest number of Facebook friends, with an average of 233. The
Japanese were the pickiest with only 29 friends.[7]
Petronas is the only Malaysian company in the Fortune Global 500. One of the most profitable companies in the
world, it accounted for about a third of the Malaysian government’s estimated RM 183 billion (US$55 billion) revenue in
The largest cave chamber in the world by area is the Sarawak Chamber in Gunung Mulu National Park in Malaysia’s
Sarawak. It is often claimed that the corridor of Deer Cave, a 1-mile-/1.6-km-long passage of the caves, could house five
rows of eight Boeing 747 jetliners parked nose to tail.[10]
Malaysia boasts some of the largest and longest caves in the world
The Sultanate of Kedah on the Malay Peninsula is one of the oldest in the world, established in A.D. 1136.[13]
Some buildings in Malaysia do not have a fourth floor. They are replaced by “3A” as the sound of four (sì) is similar to
the sound of death in Chinese (sĭ ).[7]
Malaysia has nine distinct royal families, or hereditary state rulers, the highest number in the world. The Malaysian
king (Yang di-Pertuan Agong) is elected from these for a 5-year term as ceremonial head of state.[13]
Bario, in Sarawak’s Kelabit Highlands, is the most isolated settlement in Malaysia, There are no roads available in this
remote corner and everything has to be transported by airplane.[7]
Covering only 27 acres (11 ha), Bukit Nanas, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, is among the smallest patches of rainforest
in the world. It is Malaysia’s oldest nature reserve.[4]
In Malaysia, a heart bypass surgery can be done for approximately US$9,000. The same operation costs around
$130,000 in the U.S.[7]
Malaysia’s Kinabalu National Park is home to the parasitic Rafflesia arnoldii, or corpse flower. It totally embeds itself
into the host plant and the only part that is visible is the flower. Its bloom can be up to 3-feet (1-m) wide and weigh 15
lbs. (6.8 kg).[13]
Malaysia’s Taman Negara (literally, “national park”) is one of the oldest rainforests on Earth. At 130,000 million years,
it is older than the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and the Congo Basins. It supports more than 10,000 species of
plants, 1,000 types of butterflies, 140 types of animals, 350 bird species, 100 kinds of snakes, and 150,000 kinds of
The diversity of trees is higher than almost any other site in the world
According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), Malaysia has developed into the ninth most visited country in
the world, with 23.6 million visitors in 2009.[13]
Malaysia is the world’s third largest natural rubber producer. In 2011, the country produced 996,673 metric tons of
rubber. It is also famous for being the world’s largest supplier of rubber gloves.[13]
Malaysia boasts being the home of the world’s tallest tropical tree, the Tualang, which has a base diameter of over 10
feet (3 m) and reaches heights of around 262 feet (80 m).[13]
Orangutan, or “man of the forest” in Malay, is humans’ closest relative and Asia’s only great ape. Orangutans can be
found only in the wild in Borneo and Sumatra.[13]
Malay Muslim children traditionally kiss their parents’ hands and beg their forgiveness for any offences the previous
year on Hari Raya Puasa, which is the celebration at the end of Ramadan (Muslim fasting month). This practice is
called salam.[13]
Traditionally, pregnant Malaysian women may not kill, tie, or mangle anything, for this may result in birth marks or a
deformed baby. They also may not carry fire or water behind their backs or look at anything ugly or frightening.[13]
Malay brides wear their engagement rings on the fourth finger of their right hand. The ring is placed there by a senior
female relative of the groom, instead of the groom himself.[13]
The Malay Chinese often follow the Chinese lunar calendar. They celebrate the beginning of the new moon by lighting
incense sticks (joss sticks) or burning “hell money” in big-bellied incinerators. Hell money is the term for banknotes of
huge denominations (not real), sold for a few dollars per bundle, that humans use to pay Celestial debts.[13]
A bomoh is a shaman in Malaysia, known for his healing powers, protective magic, and knowledge of medicinal herbs.
Many kampong sports teams employ magic to help them win. A bomoh blows holy smoke over the team’s soccer boots
or equips them with amulets. If he can get to the field before the match, he may also plant a little charm near the
Malaysians keep careful watch over a body before it is buried because it is believed that if a cat happens to jump over
the coffin, the corpse will come back as a ghoul. Chinese Malays are also known to visit graveyards in the dead of night
bearing offerings in the hope of receiving lucky lottery numbers from dead relatives.[13]
Muslims make up 61.3% of the Malaysian population
Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, mainly practiced by the Malays. Non-Malays mainly follow the religions of
Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism.[13]
Bahasa Malay, the official language of Malaysia, has no written script of its own. Islamic missionaries brought with
them the Koran and a system of writing that could be used to transcribe Malay quite accurately. This script is known as
jawi and is still used for some religious and formal purposes.[13]
In Malaysia, it is generally considered rude to point at people or things with the index finger. A bent index finger or
thumb is used to point—or, rather, to knuckle—in the right direction.[13]
A traditional form of Malaysian entertainment is the pantun, where men compose humorous quatrains to challenge
the women. One of the women answers, usually with a stinging response. Another man then speaks up, and another
women rebuts. This merry exchange goes on until dawn and is enjoyed by Malaysians both young and old.[13]
The history of Malaysia has been recorded in Seharah Melayu (The Malay Annals). It begins with Alexander the Great,
who is said to be the ancestor of Malay royalty.[13]
The Malaysian sport sepak takraw (“hit the ball”) resembles volleyball. Originating in the courts of Siam (Thailand) and
Melaka, it used to involve two or more players who formed a circle and kicked, shouldered, and headed a hollow rattan
ball to one another. The object was to keep the ball from touching the ground. Players can use everything but their
hands to keep the ball in the air. Exact rules were drawn up and the game was formally introduced in the Southeast Asia
Games in 1965.[13]
Malaysians consider themselves either Bumiputra or non-Bumiputra. Bumiputra means “son of the soil.” Indian
Muslims are Bumiputra, but Malaysians with ancestors from other places such as China are not.[9]
During the Hindu festival of Deepavali (Festival of Light) in Malaysia, some devotees impose various forms of self-
torture upon themselves by passing a Vel Kavadi, or piercing, through their cheeks and mouths. Amazingly, the Kavadi
bearers claim to be in a trance and do not bleed or feel any pain.[9]
The largest insect egg in Malaysia comes from the 6-inch (15-cm) Malaysian Stick Insect (Heteopteryx dilitata), which
lays eggs that measure 0.5 inch (1.3 cm), making them larger than a peanut.[2]
The fish spas found in Malaysia bring a new meaning to the phrase “feeding the fishes.” Customers immerse their feet
into a tank filled with small Garra rufa and Cyprinion macrostomus, also known as Doctor Fish, which gently nibble away
at the dead skin on their feet.[9]
Malaysia has one of Asia's largest populations of King Cobras
Malaysia is home to one of the world’s largest populations of king cobras (Ophiophagus Hannah). They are the world’s
longest venomous snakes with lengths up to 18.8 feet (5.7 m). The longest known king cobra was kept captive at the
London Zoo and grew to around 18.8 feet before being put down at the outbreak of World War II.[16]
The Gomantong Caves are Sabah’s most famous source of the swiftlet nest, used for the rarest, most revered, and
‘strength-inducing” of Chinese dishes, Birds’ Nest Soup. Swiftlets make their nests out of their own dried spit, which is
the main ingredient in the soup. When added to the broth, the swiftlet spit dissolves and becomes gelatinous. There are
two types of swiftlet nests, black and white. White are more valuable because they are made entirely of spit. A kilogram
of white swiftlet spit can bring in over US $4,000.[9]
The English word “ketchup” is thought to be derived from the Hokkien word ke-tsiap, which describes a fermented
dish sauce brought by Chinese traders to Melaka, Malaysia, where it was first encountered by Europeans.[9]
The Malay word laksa is thought to derive from the Persian word for noodle, lakhsha (slippery). The Oxford
Companion to Food speculates that pasta was introduced to Indonesia and then Malaysia by Arab traders or Indian
Muslims in the 13th century.[9]
Betel nuts, the dried seed of the Areca or Pinang palm tree, are prized for their mildly narcotic and supposedly
aphrodisiac qualities. Chewing it is said to freshen the breath, relax the mind, and stimulate passion. The ritual chewing
of this nut used to be common across Malaysia, but is mainly confined to rural areas today. In the past, brides would
chew betel nut to blacken their teeth, considered an attractive sign of status. Today, betel nut decorations are still
presented at weddings and festivals as a gift.[4]
Malaysia’s national drink is teh tarik (“pulled tea”), which is tea that is thrown across a distance of about 3 feet (1 m)
by Mamak men, from one cup to another, with no spillages. The idea is to let it cool down for customers, but it has
become a Malaysian art form.[5]
The ultimate sunken treasure trove lies in what remains of the Flor de la Mar at the bottom of Malaysia’s Strait of
Melaka. The Portuguese vessel, captained by Admiral Alfonso d’Albuquerque, is thought to be the richest ship ever lost.
In July 1511, the ship capsized in a storm off the northeastern coast of Sumatra, along with its spoils taken from Malacca
over a course of eight years. The wreck was discovered in 1989 by an Italian specialist in underwater wrecks and an
Australian marine historian. Sotheby’s of London valued the treasure recovered from the Flor de la Mar at US$9 billion.[5]
Sarawak’s capital is the city of Kuching, which means “cat” in Malay. Local legend has it that James Brooke, the first of
the White Rajahs, pointed toward the settlement across the river and asked what it was called. Whoever he asked
mistakenly thought Brooke was pointing to a passing cat. Or, Kuching may have been named after the wild cats (kucing
hutan) that were commonly seen along the banks of the Sarawak River in the 19th century. Most likely, the town may
have been originally known as Cochin (“port”), a common word used across India and Indochina.[5]
Known as “condominiums of the jungle,” the average Malaysian longhouse may have 20 to 25 doors, and some have
as many as 60. Each door represents one family, and many families may share one longhouse.[5]
The states of Sabah and Sarawak have their own immigration laws, so a passport is required for all Malaysians when
travelling between East and Peninsular Malaysia.[13]
In Malaysia, there is no funny business while watching a movie
In 1997 , the Malaysian state of Kelantan decreed that the lights would be kept on in all movie cinemas in order to
deter people from kissing and cuddling.[8]
Although headhunting has been largely stamped out in Borneo, there is still the odd reported case once every few
years. Up until the 20th century, headhunting was commonplace among the many Dayak tribes of Malaysia, and the
Iban were the most fearsome of all. The skulls they took were considered trophies of manhood. Many Dayak tribes
continue to celebrate their headhunting ceremonially. For example, the Adat Ngayau ceremony uses coconut shells
wrapped in leaves as substitute for freshly cut heads.[5]
One of the more exotic Malaysian features of upriver sexuality on Borneo is the palang (“penis pin”). The men
entertain their women by drilling a hole in their organs, into which they insert a range of items, aimed at attracting and
satisfying their partners. Objects ranging from pigs’ bristles and bamboo shavings to pieces of metal, seeds, and broken
glass have been used. It is said many Dayak men even have the tattoo man drill a hole through their penises.[5]

Jimmy Choo, the world-renowned shoe designer, was born in Penang, Malaysia, in 1961. His creations were a favorite
of the late Princess Diana. He was awarded an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.[14]