The Thai have always been an agricultural people of the lowland valleys and intermontane basins, where they cultivated wet rice with the use of water buffalo and harvested a wide range of fish and shellfish from the rivers and the sea. These occupations were often supplemented, especially in the north and northeast, by the collection of forest products, ranging from timber, such as teak and bamboo, to foods stored for consumption during the dry season. In the northern mountain valleys, Tai-speaking peoples developed an intricate system of small-scale irrigation, called muang fai.
The eventual move to the great central plain necessitated the development of canals for transportation and, from the late-19th century onwards, of much larger irrigation and flood-control systems. Small nuclear families occupied villages, comprising a wat and wooden houses on stilts. The pattern of life was governed above all by the seasonal rhythm of the monsoons and by a series of important religious festivals. Many of these festivals were closely associated with fertility and the arrival and ending of the rains. The Thai are now an increasingly urbanized people, with a strong interest in shopping and trade. Thai cookery is considered one of the world’s great cuisines, known for its range of subtle spices and sauces.
Favorite Thai foods include salads of meat, fish, and vegetables; soups; curries (stews flavored with a blend of ground spices); and tropical fruits.
Thailand faces a number of social problems. Corruption affects government, business, and even the Buddhist monkhood (known as the sangha), and the press frequently reports scandals. Drugs and drug trafficking are ongoing concerns. In rural areas, many tropical diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, and cholera, remain a threat. Wide social gaps—between rich and poor, city and countryside—compound these problems. "Thailand" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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