Most religions have their exoteric versions for the common man and their esoteric versions for their initiates, and there are reasons for it. Often things are said said using analogies so that two people at different levels will see a different meaning. Thailand has its own version of Buddhism and as most know it also involves animism and other modifications.
It is indeed ironic watching those praying at temples for material acquisition, something completely contrary to Buddhism. Even in Tibet there are many sects and views, in fact sexual tantras are often practiced, and endorsed by surprising people, hardly something most would associate with pure Buddhism. The ideas behind Buddhism have been around for a long time, even before Gautama Buddha.
Regardless, Thais at least are closer to the truth than those that practice many other religions. Nirvana of course is not an easy path, however each positive step we take in any life moves us closer to that ideal. Nirvana is not necessarily the end end of the journey, some do choose to renounce it for later.