Thai art and architecture is evident in the wats (temples). The larger wats have sweeping multi-tiered roofs and contain gold statues of the Buddha. The decorations include murals, woodcarving, gilt, lacquer, stucco relief, glass mosaics, mother-of-pearl inlay and even precious jewels.

 Highly trained classical dancers perform the khon, a play based on events from the Ramakien, which is an epic story of the war between good and evil. Actors wear elaborate costumes and masks. The story is chanted by the members of a chorus, who stand at the side of the stage. They are accompanied by a classical phipat orchestra of gongs, drums and wind instruments.

Lakhon dance is used to dramatize a wide range of stories, including Buddhist Jataka tales. The movements and costumes are like the khon, but the performers do not wear masks. Likay dance is more light-hearted and includes comic interludes, bawdy jokes and singing. Costumes can be traditional or modern. Likay troupes travel around the country performing on makeshift outdoor stages.

 The 30,000-line poem Phra Aphaimani, composed by Sunthorn Phu in the late 18th century, is Thailand' s most famous literary work. It tells the story of an exiled prince who must complete a difficult journey before returning to his kingdom in victory. Contemporary Thai writers include Kukrit Pramoj, author of Four Reigns (about court life) and Red Bamboo (about the conflict between Buddhism and Communism), Suwanee Sukonta, author of A Man Called Karn (about a doctor's struggles against corruption), and Khamsing Srinawk, a popular short story writer.

 Thai folk music includes lam wong (an upbeat rhythmic style that encourages dancing), luk krung (slower ballads) and mo'lam (a style popular in the northeast, similar to rap). Thais also enjoy movies, especially comedies, musicals and action films. About 2,000 mobile film units travel from village to village, offering open-air screenings of popular films. Some films are made in Thailand, but Chinese action films and Hollywood movies are also popular.

  Did you know?
Thailand has recently revived the art of maleng thap. These are collages made by cutting and assembling the metallic, multi-coloured wings of wood-boring beetles.

  Did you know?
Nang talung (shadow plays) are believed to be the earliest dramas performed in Thailand, but are now rarely seen except in southern Thailand. Puppets made from water buffalo hide are used to enact scenes from popular dramas against a backlit screen, while the story is chanted.