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Striking Similarities Between Greece & Thailand

Despite the distance between these two countries, there are some unique similarities they both share. Read more about the unique traits of this Asian-European fusion.

Kosta and I had the incredible opportunity to visit Thailand in the spring of 2023. The welcoming nature of the Thai people, incredible food, and vibrant culture were just some of the highlights of our trip, which was our first time venturing into Asia. Even though Greece is primarily Greek Orthodox (Christian) and Thailand is heavily Buddhist, we could not help but notice some of the similarities between Greece and Thailand!

The 'Land of Smiles' meets the 'Birthplace of Democracy.'

Roadside places of reverence

Anyone who visits Thailand is sure to visit at least one of their beautiful temple structures. However, there are often smaller temples known 'spirit houses' (San Phra Phum in Thai) located outside of restaurants and buildings which serve as a place of reverence for people to pay their respects and worship.

A spirit house outside of our hotel in Bangkok.

They are set up in the form of a small roofed structure mounted on top of a pillar or base. The spirit houses are usually built with concrete and metal or wood, but they are all beautifully and intricately decorated and include an image of one of the gods inside. People often come by and leave gifts such as flowers, plants, food/drink, as an offering.

These structures reminded me so much of the kandylakia in Greece, which are similar roadside structures often made of wood, concrete, or stone. Often modelled after the shape of a church, they look like miniature churches on the sides of the roads. Throughout Greece, these can be found most commonly as roadside tributes to those who have passed away (often in car accidents) or in honor of a promise made or as a gesture of gratefulness to a Saint or a Patron Saint. They are not always representative of lives lost; in fact, if someone survives a particularly dangerous car accident he or she may return to the scene of the accident and erect a kandylaki in honor of his or her Patron Saint as a token of thanks. You will see old ones that have clearly been around for a long time as well as modern ones that appear to be more intricately designed.

Both the spirit houses and the kandylakia have pictures inside - the spirit houses hold photos of the god or spirit the house was built to honor and the kandylakia have icons inside which are often icons of saints. In the same way that Thai people leave tokens of appreciation and reverence, Greek people will also leave candles, a floating wick oil lamp, flowers, or personal items behind as a sign of remembrance. There may also be messages written on or near these structures identifying a significant date or name.

The location of many of the kandylakia in Greece is significant as they are often placed in dangerous areas with rough terrain and sharp turns, so when they are seen while traveling, their presence may give the person travelling a sense of caution or serve as a warning sign for rough roads ahead. They often serve as a reminder to be careful and as an opportunity to be grateful for your own safety while traveling down that path. As we did not get to travel into any remote roads in Thailand, I am unsure of whether the Thai people also have spirit houses located in more rural areas similar to the kandylakia. Nonetheless, both structures serve as similar signs of reverence for local people divided among two strikingly different religions.


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