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Discovering Bangkok – The colours of Thailand

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From the orange robes of Buddhist monks to the brightly coloured market stalls colour has been an important part of Thai culture for centuries. Discovering Bangkok through colour may not be that obvious, for both visitors and sadly the younger Thai generation, but luckily on a Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tour we come across many opportunities that demonstrate the importance and influence of colour in daily life in Thailand.

“Hello again, as you know by now my name is Ar and I’m a tour guide at Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours. Today, we are in a small alley that is just over five minutes cycling from our Clubhouse, as we walk through I will point out and explain some interesting facts and beliefs about colours in Thailand.”

The first thing to note is that Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and throughout the country the royal family is greatly admired, particularly the King for his six decades of public service. The King’s image can be seen almost everywhere, in homes, places of work and in public areas you will see many pictures of him as this is a sign of respect.

It is extremely important to remember that you should never criticise or talk badly about the King or any member of the royal family. In Thailand it is a crime to violate the King and the laws are very strict and often punishable by a jail term!

In Thai culture, a particular auspicious colour is associated with each day of the week, these are believed to have hidden meanings and are based on the colour of the celestial bodies, or planets, that protect the days. Many Thais, particularly the older generation, believe that colour influences both their feelings and perceptions. The following colours are associated with the days of the week as follows:

• Monday – Yellow
• Tuesday – Pink
• Wednesday – Green
• Thursday – Orange
• Friday – Blue
• Saturday – Purple
• Sunday – Red

It is believed that if you were born on a Monday your birth colour would be yellow. As the present King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, was born on a Monday his birth colour is therefore yellow and to represent this the King’s flag is yellow. On Monday, and particularly on the King’s birthday, Bangkok is a sea of yellow shades, as almost everyone will wear yellow as an expression of his or her love and respect for the King.

The King’s yellow flag can be seen flying outside many houses and in most public areas. It is often found along side the Queen’s flag that is blue, as she was born on Friday, and again Thais often wear blue on Friday.

This brings us onto another important flag, the national flag of Thailand. The colours of this flag represent the three most important parts of Thai culture, the nation (red), religion (white) and royalty (blue). Red represents the blood of life for the land and it’s people, white represents purity and is the colour for Theravada Buddhism, the main religion in Thailand, and blue is the national colour of Thailand. You may wonder why royalty is represented by blue and not yellow, the answer is simple. The middle colour used to be red but in 1917 it was changed to dark blue, similar in tone with indigo which was the auspicious colour for the reigning of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) who was born on Saturday, and the flag has remained the same ever since.

On you journey through Thailand you will quickly notice that Buddhist monks wear orange robes, do you think that they were all born on Thursday?

Well of course this is not true. Saffron is a better way to describe the colour of the robes and centuries ago the colour was simply dictated by the natural colour produced from the roots or trees used in the making of the dye. It is now traditional for Theravada Buddhist monks to wear saffron coloured robes that symbolize simplicity and detachment of materialism and with modern dyes the colour is now a more vivid orange.

We hope that you now have a basic understanding of the importance of colour in Thailand. There are obviously many more examples, such as red symbolizing wealth in Chinese culture, and many of these will be explained in our future posts. In the meantime if you have any questions, or suggestions for topics that we can cover during our Discovering Bangkok journey please let us know.

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