Koh Lanta Diving : Liveaboards, Accommodation & Travel Guide

Population - Customs & Traditions of Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta Diving : Liveaboards, Accommodation & Travel Guide
Koh Lanta Activities on Koh Lanta Islands Around Koh Lanta Population of Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta Diving : Liveaboards, Accommodation & Travel Guide
 

Population

Koh Lanta is populated by 20,000 inhabitants, the majority of whom are Muslim. These people originated from Malaysia, initially attracted by the rubber tree plantations. There are also many Chinese who were drawn by the tin mining, and finally a small contingency of “Sea Gypsies”, or Chao Nam as they are called in Thai, who are the oldest inhabitants of the island – having lived here for over a thousand years.

The population of Koh Lanta is mainly composed of these three ethnic groups. In spite of their differences, these peoples have succeeded in living peacefully side by side for several centuries. In the past few years, the population has grown solidly as a result of the development of tourism on the island.

The steady growth of the tourist industry has also encouraged more and more Thai from other regions in the Kingdom to make Koh Lanta their home. The Muslim population remains the majority, but there is also a strong Buddhist presence on the island.

Today, the inhabitants of Koh Lanta Noi (the administrative center of the archipelago) and Koh Lanta Yai are a real example of a ‘melting pot’ - an extraordinary mixture of culture and ethnicities. The "Sea Gypsies" have always relied on fishing for their livelihood; other industries on the island providing income to the residents include the production of rubber and the coconut plantations. The new generations long for new jobs, linked to the steady influx of tourists to the island. The seasonal workers are expatriates, mainly Europeans who spend six months of the year on Koh Lanta developing small businesses - hotels, restaurants, bars, and dive shops.

Koh Lanta Diving : Liveaboards, Accommodation & Travel Guide

Customs and Traditions

Thailand is understandably famous for its tolerance and for the sense of hospitality felt by every visitor. However, in order to feel completely at ease within the country, it is helpful to have an idea of the local customs. Firstly, the Thai people feel a deep reverence for the Royal family. It is considered to be in poor taste to joke about the Royal family or to in any way show a lack of respect for the King. Similarly, serious religious offences are punishable by law. Take care when greeting the Thai people. It is considered impolite to gesture using your feet, as this part of the body is thought to be impure. Accordingly, the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body, and therefore it is important to remember never to touch anyone on the head – for example, ruffling the hair of children.

But keep in mind, the Thai people are accustomed to visitors to their country, and are tolerant of our cultural differences. Small mistakes made during friendly conversation will not cause offence and the interaction will generally end with a smile.
The Thai are a very welcoming people. Don't hesitate to start a conversation with them! Although there are many people on Koh Lanta who do not speak English, they will nonetheless be delighted to speak with you by other means: gestures and smiles work well, and knowing a few words in Thai will go a long way (consult our Thai lexicon!)!! You would have to be extremely unlucky to meet someone in a bad mood; the residents of Koh Lanta are generally very patient and thoughtful, and always eager to help you. The smile is a big part of their lifestyle. The Thai are always very happy (either that or they hide their depression very well). Their broad smiles and good humour don’t often slip, even while labouring under a crushing heat. It’s infectious - their children rarely cry, and even you, the tourist, will not be immune!

Here are a few "rules" to keep in mind 

• If you are invited into someone’s home, remove your shoes before entering.
• Never prop your feet up on the table, it is considered highly disrespectful. Make sure your feet are not pointed towards someone else as this would cause offence as well.
• The Thai consider the head the most noble part of the body, therefore avoid touching or tapping anyone else on the head – even as a friendly gesture. This applies to touching children on the head, too!
• It is counter-productive to lose patience, show exasperation, or get angry when faced with a misunderstanding or conflict. According to the Thai, "Jai yen", or "cool heart", will solve all problems.
• As Southern Thailand is quite Muslim, show respect by never sunbathing topless or strolling the streets shirtless.
• Never criticize or insult the Royal family or Buddha – these offences carry serious consequences.
• Never raise your voice to anyone and maintain that smile!!
• Remove your shoes before entering a temple. If you wish to kneel before Buddha, make sure your feet are tucked behind you as they are considered impure.
• Never point at someone else using either your finger or your foot – instead, motion using your head.

Koh Lanta Diving : Liveaboards, Accommodation & Travel Guide
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Koh Lanta Diving : Liveaboards, Accommodation & Travel Guide