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Old 02-04-2012, 04:07 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Apparently Thailand, Laos and Cambodia are part of the 'Indosphere' - the zone of Indian cultural influence, of which the core nations of course India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and to an extent Nepal. Thailand seem like a mix of Sino-Indian cultural influences, but I can't really say which one has been more influential as their influences are different. Here's my 'breakdown' though:

Genetically/ethnically: The Tai people are believed to have originated from present day Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, in China. Even today the Tai people are a minority group in Southern China. While distinct from the Han Chinese, which themselves are a hybrid group with origins in Central Northern China, most specifically the North China Plain, their recent genetic origin is Sinitic. Of course they are part of the greater 'Mongoloid' grouping so in this sense the majority of Thai people are more Chinese.

Also there has been a large migration of Chinese after the original Tai migration in the 12-13th centuries AD (remarkably late really) to Thailand, centered on their capital on the Chao Phraya River. These have intermixed with the location population. 10% of Thailand's population are listed as ethnic Chinese, with an estimated 30-40% having some Chinese ancestry. Ultimately, though, it seems most Thai people trace their recent ancestry back to Southern China.

There has been little in-migration from South Asia to Thailand, in contrast to Burma, although it seems the Khmer may have had some intermixing with Indian peoples. Thais do look similar to the Khmers of Cambodia, and they seem like related peoples, although the Khmers are a mix of Southern Chinese Mongoloids, Malayan-type peoples and some Indian.

Language: Thai isn't in the same family as any of the Indian languages or Sino-Tibetan. It seems to show characteristic of both, though, largely it seems through loan words. Some Thai loan words seem distinctly Chinese, like 'Chiang', and there are many similarities with say Cantonese, but othe words sound more Indian, like place names, e.g. Sukhumvit. The Thai script is Khmer, not similar to the Brahmic script of India. The actual sound of Thai and the other languages of Southeast Asia sounds closer to me to the dialects of Southern China than it does India.

Social structure: I'm not an expert on Thai culture. Like most Asian cultures there is an emphasis on group loyalty and rigid social classes, although that's pretty common in most world cultures. Perhaps someone else with some knowledge of Thai culture would be able to fill in the blanks here.

Cuisine:

Things which are more similar to China:

The of sweet, pungent sauces
Heavy use of noodles (noodle soup, pad thai) - I know noodles are a feature of some Indian cuisines but they don't feature as heavily in India. In most of SE Asia and Southern China rice is still by far the staple.

The use of vegetables such as lemongrass, bok choy etc.

The use of chopsticks, while most Indians prefer to use their hands

Things which are more similar to India:

Curries, of course, although Thai curries differ a lot from Indian curries. A lot of food is spicy, although this is also characteristic of many Chinese cuisines.

The heavy use of spices, rice and herbs seems pretty ubiquitous in Asia. Overall, however, Thai to me seems closer to Southern Chinese cuisines although it's pretty distinct.

Religion: 96% of Thais are Buddhists of the Theravada school, considered the 'purer' form. Of course Buddhism was originally from India, but is no more associated with other parts of China. Thai temples are clearly not of the type found in China, Korea or Vietnam, and are similar to temples found in Burma. Historically the Khmer practised Hinduism, and there is still Hindu influence on the culture of Thailand. So even though Buddhism is rare in India today and more associated with China, Thailand seems more influenced by India in terms of religion. Buddhist missionaries came from both places, and Mahayana Buddhism was in the past more prominent, but the overall picture points to a more Indian cultural influence.

History: Historically, Thailand was never directly tied to South Asia, but through the indirect influence of Khmer rule, and also Indian mariners. The Chinese influence was also prominent. In recent history, I would say the Chinese influence has been the more prominent of the two, while in the early period maybe the Indian was more influential.

Culture - Arts, Music etc:

Thai art seems more influenced by India, and many of the Indian epics are known in Thailand. Not sure about Chinese. Thai music does sound like a mix of Indian and Chinese.

Today, the feel of the place:

Thailand really seems like neither, but the look of the streets actually does look sort of Indian. It probably depends on the region here. Phuket probably looks more Indian, while Chiang Mai looks a bit more Chinese. Thailand, Laos and Cambodia all seem more their 'own creature' than Vietnam, which feels a lot like China, or Burma, which feels a lot like India.

In contrast, I think it's not that accurate to class Thailand as part of the 'Indosphere' or the 'Sinosphere.' I think SE Asia is it's own cultural sphere, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. The 'Islamic World' is classified according to religion, but aside from religion Indonesia has little in common with the Middle East.

So my conclusion is it's impossible to say which one has influenced Thailand more.
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Old 02-04-2012, 09:10 PM
 
Location: Native Floridian, USA
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thai crusine was heavily influenced by the French.

I did not think the Thai people resembled the typical Cambodian that much. Cambodians are somewhat dark complexioned and we were told when we were there that that was the result of intermarriage with Indians back in the 12-13 centuries....

To me, Thai food is heavier than Vietnamese food. I don't remember a whole lot of distinction in Cambodian food. I love Cambodia and would not mind living there.
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:13 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnieA View Post
thai crusine was heavily influenced by the French.

I did not think the Thai people resembled the typical Cambodian that much. Cambodians are somewhat dark complexioned and we were told when we were there that that was the result of intermarriage with Indians back in the 12-13 centuries....

To me, Thai food is heavier than Vietnamese food. I don't remember a whole lot of distinction in Cambodian food. I love Cambodia and would not mind living there.
French? I'd be interested to know in what ways. I don't think the French even influenced Vietnamese cuisine much aside from baguettes, so I'd think Thailand even less so but I'd be interested to know.
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Old 02-05-2012, 07:18 AM
 
Location: In the heights
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trimac20 View Post
French? I'd be interested to know in what ways. I don't think the French even influenced Vietnamese cuisine much aside from baguettes, so I'd think Thailand even less so but I'd be interested to know.
The French had a significant effect on Vietnamese cuisine outside of baguettes though. There's the introduction by the French of a lot of different ingredients (onions, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, etc.) as well as various dishes (pates, salads, flan, etc.) plus a coffee culture of sorts.
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Old 02-05-2012, 07:44 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OyCrumbler View Post
The French had a significant effect on Vietnamese cuisine outside of baguettes though. There's the introduction by the French of a lot of different ingredients (onions, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, etc.) as well as various dishes (pates, salads, flan, etc.) plus a coffee culture of sorts.
Onions are used in most Asian cuisines, potatoes are common not only in India but also Malaysia, parts of China and even Korea and Japan I think. Lettuce and carrots too are found in various other Asian cuisines. Are they all due to French influence?

Vietnamese do have their own salad but they tend to just add fresh vegetables to hot dishes. Most Vietnamese have fruit for dessert, but coffee is big. Coffee is pretty big throughout much of Asia though.

I spent one month in Vietnam trying out as much local food as possible.
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:16 AM
 
Location: Earth
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I think that Thailand is more Thai than anything else.
I just spent a month there and found influences from throughout SE Asia.

There are Chinese and Indian communities in the country.


This is as silly as asking if the US is more native american or polish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnieA View Post
thai crusine was heavily influenced by the French.
Can you please explain the french influence as you see it.
I might be missing something, but I don't see it at all. Perhaps in Lao and Vietnam, but I don't see it in Thailand.

Last edited by chielgirl; 02-05-2012 at 08:46 AM..
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:49 AM
 
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Having been there many times. Thailand is Thai first, with a strong Chinese influence.
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:51 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnnieA View Post
thai crusine was heavily influenced by the French.

I did not think the Thai people resembled the typical Cambodian that much. Cambodians are somewhat dark complexioned and we were told when we were there that that was the result of intermarriage with Indians back in the 12-13 centuries....

To me, Thai food is heavier than Vietnamese food. I don't remember a whole lot of distinction in Cambodian food. I love Cambodia and would not mind living there.
You do know that Thailand is the one Asian country that was never colonized by a western power? The french were next door in French Indochina. So there is NO French influence in Thai food.. I've never seen baquettes or dishes with heavy sauces in Thailand.
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Old 02-05-2012, 09:31 AM
 
Location: Perth, Western Australia
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The region lives up to its name of Indochina... I also get the impression that there is a strong historical legacy of a predominantly Indian-influenced past, but that in the last few hundred years Chinese migration has been considerable, so that's had an effect as well. Overall I see India as having a more intellectual, prestigious influence with China having more filial ties. Hard to say which one is more influential.

As for the Thai language it sounds similar to Cantonese/Teochew particularly numbers 1-10 whilst Vietnamese doesn't, presumably this would be due to migration from such areas. Also like the Chinese varieties its a tonal language. The written alphabet apparently comes from a Tamil-like southern Indian script via the Khmer, so mostly Indian influence here it seems. Also Thai personal names sound more Indian like Bhumibol Adulyadej (Aka King Rama IX). Their names also follow the Indian practice of having one's family name last.
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Old 02-05-2012, 11:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minibrings View Post
You do know that Thailand is the one Asian country that was never colonized by a western power? The french were next door in French Indochina. So there is NO French influence in Thai food.. I've never seen baquettes or dishes with heavy sauces in Thailand.
Gaeng karee dishes, which includes a pretty heavy yellow curry sauce, is very common in Thailand. I think it originated from India. I've never seen any French influence in Thai food either. There might be a few things, but I'd say it's not common enough to describe as an influence on Thai foods.

Any baquettes in Thailand would be found mostly at specialty food shops/restaurants in the urban international districts that generally cater to foreign diners or at larger supermarkets. It's just not something you'll find at the local talats or food stalls, or that the average Thai is going to commonly go out and buy.
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