The countries of Southeast Asia are renowned as hotbeds of diversity, where different cultures, cuisines, ethnic groups and faiths intermingle. Its tropical climate, sandy beaches, rainforests, hospitable locals and affordable prices attract millions of tourists each year, with continental Thailand and the Philippine islands being among the most frequented destinations.
How is Thailand different from the Philippines?
The main difference between Thailand and the Philippines can be most keenly felt in their predominant religion. The Philippines, as a whole, deeply values its status as the only mainly Christian country in Southeast Asia, while Thailand is a hotspot for Buddhism, which is its official religion. One may also note that Thailand is connected to mainland Asia, while the Philippines is an archipelago.
Read on to learn more about how these two countries stand apart!
What is Thailand like?
The Kingdom of Thailand is located at the center of Mainland Southeast Asia (also known as Indochina).
The country has a tropical climate; lush rainforests cover its northern hills, the fertile plains in its heartland grow much of the country’s rice and other crops, and large rock formations and excellent beaches line its southern coast.
Most Thais live in its rural, rice-farming regions, with roughly 45% residing in the urban areas around Bangkok. An estimated 94% of Thais follow Theravada Buddhism, with Islam as its largest minority.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. Its head of state is King Vajiralongkorn, who mainly acts in a ceremonial capacity, while the head of government is currently Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Among Thailand’s most famous attractions are its rich, flavorful cuisine that heavily uses herbs such as lemongrass and basil, its classical theatre and dance scene, riding elephants, and landmarks like Wat Arun in Bangkok.
What is the Philippines like?
The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago situated in the Western Pacific Ocean consisting of an estimated 7,640 islands.
It has a humid tropical maritime climate, with hot and dry summers in March-May, a rainy season starting in June until November, and cool weather throughout the rest of the year.
Geographically, the country is mainly divided into the large northern island of Luzon, the Visayan archipelago in the center, and Mindanao to the south.
Filipinos are comprised of diverse ethnicities, with the largest being the Tagalogs in Luzon, and the Cebuanos, Hiligaynons and Bisaya in Visayas and Mindanao. While Tagalog is the primary native language, ethnicities have their own dialects that are mutually intelligible to varying degrees.
About 80% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, with a sizable Protestant minority. Islam, the largest minority, is concentrated in Mindanao.
The Philippines is democratic. The head of its state and government is the President, elected to a single six-year term.
Some of the country’s biggest attractions include its abundance of white sand beaches, thousands of annual local festivals, backpacking routes, forest and ocean biodiversity, and bustling urban nightlife.
Differences Between Thailand and the Philippines
The biggest geographical distinction between Thailand and the Philippines is that the former is connected to Mainland Southeast Asia as part of Indochina, while the Philippines, as an archipelago, is a maritime nation.
Thailand is much larger than the Philippines, with an area size of 513,120 km2 against the archipelago’s 300,000 km2 total area.
While the two countries are geographically diverse, the Philippines’ 36,289 km coastline is the world’s fifth largest, while Thailand has a far smaller 3,219 km coast.
Both countries are classified under the Köppen scheme as having tropical rainforest, tropical savannah, and tropical monsoon climates.
High humidity and abundant rainfall in the wet seasons are hallmarks of both countries.
The most prevalent subtype is the tropical rainforest climate in the Philippines, and tropical savannah in Thailand.
Thailand is a unitary state, ruled by a king. As a constitutional monarchy, however, the duties of Thailand’s king are largely ceremonial, with the Prime Minister overseeing the government in practice. The Thai PM is elected to a four-year term that may be renewed consecutively only one time.
The Philippines, in contrast, is a unitary republic, with its people democratically represented by the President working within a single six-year term.
The Philippines is home to 182 ethnolinguistically distinct groups. The largest groups, including the Tagalog, Kapampangan, Bicolano, Ilonggo, Waray, Moro and Cebuanos, encompass over a million individuals each.
The country’s indigenous peoples reside in the nation’s highlands and other rural areas. Some of these indigents, including the dark-skinned Aeta/Ati, are believed to predate the arrival of the Austronesian peoples from whom many groups today are descended.
The overwhelming majority of modern Thais claim their heritage from the Tai peoples, comprising 24 ethnolinguistic groups. The country also hosts 22 ethnic groups of Austroasiatic origin, 11 Sino-Tibetan groups commonly called as the hill tribes, 3 Austronesian groups and the two Hmong-Mien-speaking ethnic groups.
Thailand’s official language is Central Thai, also known as Siamese or simply Thai, with 20 million speakers. Overall, there are 71 languages in the country.
Other national languages include a local evolution of the official language from neighboring Laos called Isan, with 15 million speakers; Northern Thai (Kam Mueang), and Southern Thai (Pak Tai).
The Philippines is estimated to have as many as 187 languages. Its official languages are Filipino (26 million native speakers) and English (14 million fluent speakers), with much of the population capable of conversing in both as well as their own local dialect.
Filipino, a standardized form of Tagalog, serves as the country’s lingua franca, although Cebuano (21 million), Ilocano (7.7 million) and Hiligaynon (7 million) can have the same role in their regional sphere of influence.
The Philippines prizes its distinction as SE Asia’s only Christian-majority country; indeed, roughly 83% of Filipinos identify as Roman Catholic, with an additional 9% being the Protestant minority and 3% from other Christian denominations.
Approximately 5-6% of Filipinos are Muslim. A very small portion of the population practice tribal religions, or are atheist.
Thailand, as with many of its neighbors, predominantly follows Theravada Buddhism. About 93% of Thais are Buddhists, with the Islamic faith as the largest minority at 5%.
A little over 1% of its citizens are Christians, with the rest following other faiths, or none at all.
Thai food relies on herbs and fresh ingredients. Its cuisine has been described as much spicier than its Filipino counterpart, and many dishes include a balanced mix of sour, sweet, spicy, salty and umami.
Some of Thailand’s world-renowned dishes include Pad Thai stir-fried noodles, Tom Yum Goong spicy sour shrimp soup, and Pad Kra Pao basil stir-fry. Beloved street food options are Som Tam green papaya salad and Khao Man Gai chicken rice. Thais are also bigger consumers of fresh, raw seafood.
Filipino cuisine is a rich blend of cuisines across the world, with significant Spanish, Chinese and American influences. Food is prepared to be hearty and filling, with vinegar, soy sauce, chilis, and hot spices being core ingredients. While sour and salty flavors are popular, Filipinos have a much sweeter flavor palette.
Mainstay Filipino foods are lechon crispy roast pig, adobo pork and chicken stew, and pancit stir-fried noodles. Among the Philippines’ host of desserts are halo-halo ice cream and shaved ice, turon deep fried banana roll, and silvana cream-filled frozen pastries.
Bangkok, locally known as Krung Thep, is Thailand’s capital city. Its territory is situated at the Chao Phraya river delta. Some of its famous sights are the Wat Arun Buddhist temple and the Hindu-origin Erawan Shrine. Over 10 million citizens live in Bangkok, which is currently the world’s top tourist destination.
The Philippine capital is Manila, a bayside city in the major northern island of Luzon. Its landmarks include the Walled City of Intramuros, Rizal Park and the Manila Cathedral. It has around 1.8 million residents, and is the world’s most densely-populated city.
The Philippine Peso (₱ or PHP), locally known as the piso, is the country’s official currency. One peso can be further broken down into 100 sentimos (centavos).
Thailand’s official currency is the baht (฿ or THB). The same term is used for singular and plural forms. One baht is divided into 100 subunits known as satang. Four baht is called a tamlueng; 80 a chang; and 4,000 baht is a hap.
Thailand’s Grand Palace and other Buddhist landmarks, dazzling Chatuchak night market, Haad Rin’s Full Moon Party, trekking options from the northern hills to the beaches in the South, excellent choices for being pampered (i.e. massages and spas), and deliciously spiced cuisine are among its greatest draws.
Likewise, the Philippines’ appealing features include picturesque Spanish-era Catholic churches, white sand beaches like Boracay, ample spots for scuba and shipwreck diving, island hopping trips, and the plethora of festivals such as the Dinagsa Paint Party of Cadiz and Cebu’s grandiose Sinulog Festival.
Thailand’s national symbols include the Thai elephant, the bright Golden shower flower, Siamese fireback and the Sala Thai open pavilion design.
Compare that to some Philippine national symbols: the carabao water buffalo, the sampaguita jasmine, monkey-eating eagle and the stick-fighting martial art of arnis.
Comparison Chart: Thailand Vs The Philippines
|Geography||Part of Mainland SE Asia (Indochina); larger land size: 513,120 km2||Archipelago; longer coastline: 36,289 km|
|Climate||Tropical savannah||Tropical rainforest|
|Government||Constitutional monarchy||Democratic republic|
|Ethnic Groups||52; mostly Tai peoples||182, including Tagalog, Cebuano, and indigenous groups|
|Official Languages||Central Thai||Filipino, English|
|Dominant Religion||Theravada Buddhism||Roman Catholicism|
|Cuisine||Spicier, with balanced flavors. More emphasis on raw seafood||Heartier, with a sweeter flavor palette|
|Currency||Baht (฿ or THB)||Philippine peso (₱ or PHP)|
|Tourist Attractions||Buddhist temples, top-notch spas, hiking routes and spiced cuisine||White sand beaches, scuba diving, street festivals, and island hopping|
|National Symbols||Thai elephant, golden shower flower, Siamese fireback, Sala Thai||Carabao, sampaguita, monkey-eating eagle and Arnis|
How are Thailand and the Philippines similar?
Thailand and the Philippines are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and share similarities in many fields, including their strong agricultural and tourism sectors, low cost of living, and hospitable residents.
Both countries are hot and humid, and experience two monsoons over the year that bring heavy rainfall. Flooding is common.
While the use of spices, condiments and ingredients differ, both cuisines’ flavor profiles are comparable. Eating fresh raw seafood is familiar to most residents. Food is often further flavoured at the table with citrus fruits or vinegar, and coconut milk is a component to many beloved dishes.
What is Thailand’s national dish?
Thailand’s most treasured dish is something that’s familiar to many restaurants around the globe: its famous Pad Thai stir-fry noodles. This dish is prepared with chewy rice noodles, shrimp/chicken or tofu, crunchy chopped peanuts, bean sprouts and a sweet-salty tamarind sauce.
Pad Thai found its way to the kitchens of many Thai families during World War II, when the Thai government encouraged its citizens to eat noodles as a substitute for a shortage of rice. Noodle dishes continue to be comfort food in Thailand, and Thai inventiveness has brought many tasty variations to the basic Pad Thai.
Why do Filipinos eat with their hands?
The custom of eating with one’s hands – or kamayan – is regularly observed in Filipino casual dining and at home.
True to the Filipinos’ disdain for pretentious complexity, kamayan is seen as a more intuitive way to enjoy food, especially meat dishes and seafood. Rice, an essential part of a Pinoy meal, is scooped up by squeezing a small portion in one’s fingers.
Filipinos value kamayan as a tool for bonding among all social classes, and a livelier means to enjoy a meal with one’s companions.
The Kingdom of Thailand and the Republic of the Philippines are two of Southeast Asia’s sterling tourist destinations and cultural hotbeds.
The key differences between Thailand and the Philippines are visible in their geography, climate, government, dominant religion, and other areas.
Thailand, a part of mainland SE Asia, has a larger land size. It possesses a somewhat drier tropical savannah climate. The country is a constitutional monarchy; its predominantly Theravada Buddhist populace is ruled by a king and headed by a Prime Minister.
The Philippines, an archipelago, boasts a much longer coastline and a wetter tropical rainforest climate. It is a republic, governed by a President, and consisting of many ethnic groups with a sizable Roman Catholic majority.