Thailand’s distinctive culture has influenced its arts and architecture, treasures that await discovery by visitors. Thousands of Thai monasteries, called wat in Thai, are scattered throughout the country. Symbolizing the social and spiritual center of the community, each temple is supported by the local people, who still practice the same rites and traditions that have existed for hundreds of years. One of the most prestigious temples is Wat Phra Kaeo, or the temple of Emerald Buddha. The Buddha statute housed in this royal temple is considered the most significant and revered holy image in the country. In addition to the country’s Buddhist temples and religious statuary, historical parks and museums also reflect the rich history and exotic culture of Thailand.
Thai arts and crafts are the pride of the Kingdom and have been practiced for centuries. Local craftspeople include weavers, potters, goldsmiths and jewelers of great skill. Each region of the country has its own unique arts. For instance, Phattalung Province in the South specializes in the creation of Nang Thalung, or shadow puppet plays. The puppets are made of hide that is covered with drawings and delicately craved and perforated.