Ancient temples, paradise islands and vodka buckets: Thailand is many things, but it is never boring. In 2017 alone, the country made legendary headlines with tales of plastic surgery, sneaky toilet snakes, and a record-breaking royal funeral. Here we present the biggest stories to come out of The Land of Smiles this year.
Bangkok retained its crown as world’s most visited city for a second year in a row, beating the likes of London, Paris and Dubai. The Thai capital drew in a whopping 20 million tourists in 2017, who spent a total of $14.1 billion during their stay. It bears little surprise; enchanting culture, explosive nightlife, and unbeatable shopping make Bangkok a deserving winner. It may not be paved with gold, but in this city you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
Thailand’s medical tourism industry is booming, bringing in well over US$7.5 billion in revenue every year. Thanks to tight government price controls, travellers can get everything from tummy tucks to lip reductions for a fraction of the price back home. In 2017, Thailand introduced the world to the 3D vagina surgery phenomenon. By injecting fat into patient’s mon pubis, women can enjoy “fuller”, younger-looking privates. Think about that next time you hear someone say you look great for your age.
In April 2017, the world held its breath as Bangkok announced plans to ban street food from some of the city’s most popular areas. Vendors are one of Thailand’s biggest tourism draws, and also an integral part of local livelihoods – some 40% of Bangkok’s citizens rely on street stalls as their main source of food. Officials insisted the only vendors shutting down are those who fail to meet hygienic standards, while those who pass would be rehoused in spiffy little street food ‘zones’ by the end of the year. However, a walk around Bangkok’s bustling streets indicate these plans are far from coming to fruition.
Thai blockbuster Bad Genius cashed in over US$42 million worldwide (with US$40 million from China alone) – making it Thailand’s highest grossing movie of 2017. The film follows a group of savvy high school students who turn cheating exams into serious coin. The movie thrilled audiences with its excellent heist premise, yet also makes pointed commentary about Asia’s obsession with good grades (and the systems that govern people’s futures). Whoever said cheating doesn’t pay clearly didn’t have the answers.
After four years of repairs, Thailand’s world-famous Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) looked much whiter than normal. In 2013 officials decided the 17th-century temple desperately needed restoration to its stupa, replacing over 40 percent of its decorative designs. When the scaffolding came off in August, what was once a brilliant technicolour display was now a disappointing shade of wallpaper magnolia. Social media went into uproar, lamenting that the country’s biggest tourist attraction had lost its ‘sacred charm’. Some even accused the Fine Arts Department of reselling the original tiles for profit.
Thai citizens can no longer poop in peace thanks to an unusually high number of snakes found in toilets. Bangkok’s Fire and Rescue Department reported 31,801 calls for snake removal in 2017 – a 300 percent increase in the past five years. These strange events have resulted in horrific stories; one poor fellow almost lost his penis after wrestling with a 10ft python that slithered up a squat toilet. People are citing both deforestation and an exceptionally wet rainy season as causes for these intimate encounters.
On October 26 2017, Thailand came to a standstill. Exactly one year after his death, the late King Rama IX was cremated as part of a five-day, US$90m funeral. The streets of Bangkok turned black as Thais flooded local temples and televised public screenings to pay their respects. Lovingly nicknamed the ‘father of all Thais’ during his 60-year reign, King Rama IX was the longest-serving monarch in Thai history. His son prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will be crowned this month, leading Thailand into a completely new era.