The Ramakien portrays the monkey as being helpful, clever and brave and this may explain why their image adorns temples, paintings, carvings, ceremonial barges and even helps to support traffic signals.

Hanuman’s living relatives can also be found all over Thailand. They live freely in the jungles and on beaches, but they can also be found in towns, temples and parks. Lopburi in central Thailand is famous for having many more monkey residents than it does human.

The wilder monkeys found in the forests aren’t used to people and so can be aggressive if approached, but those found in temples and parks will not be scared and will cheekily grab food from you (if you let them!)

Chang, the Elephant

The elephant has been held in high regard by the Thais ever since the eve of the Buddha’s birth, when his mother dreamed that a white elephant gave her a lotus blossom (the symbol of purity and wisdom). Even today, a white elephant is seen as a symbol of good luck, and for a Thai king, it is believed that owning a white elephant will bless the Kingdom with peace and prosperity. However, if you are not a Thai king, receiving a gift of a white elephant could be a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal is an honored gift, and a curse because being unable to put it to work, it would be a pretty expensive animal to keep.

Traditionally, the greyer cousins of the white elephant were employed as beasts of burden; hauling logs and clearing forests, but they were also extensively used as machines of war. At one time, Thailand boasted a 20,000-strong army of war elephants, and ancient records detail great battles fought from the back of these mighty beasts.

Today, with less work in the forests the elephants are now mainly employed in ‘Jumbo tourism’, giving tourists rides, posing for photos and even painting pictures.

The elephant appears in many Thai proverbs and is used as an emblem on regalia such as flags, coins and royal insignias, but most importantly, the elephant is the national symbol of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Source: By: Christine Oatley

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