Traveling to Thailand

27 Dec
Flag of thailand

Flag of thailand

I have been to Thailand before (in 2003), so I kept my Thailand guidebooks till the end – hoping that it will be somehow the same (I don’t even recognize my village anymore, so probably a rapidly developing country will have developed in 5 years…

)

  • Anyway, if you have been there recently and have some suggestions do add them in the comments below!
  • I am spending one night in Bangkok on 29 December before flying on to Phnom Penh. It’s only after Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos that I’ll be back in Thailand (March/April) going over the symbolic Lao-Thai friendship bridge– and then take it as a base to move around the area eg Malaysia.

Timing is running out before my departure Sunday 28 Dec 08 (am typing this in the train back from christmas in the countryside as we speak) so I’ll only have time to give some bullet points from the Guidebook. Many of the South East Asian cultural elements also come back in Thailand:

  • We have churches, they have temples...

    We have churches, they have temples...

    Land of the smiles (a smile can have different meanings: being friendly, thank you, to excuse yourself, to show embarrassment,…) and smiling just makes you more beautiful – so I’ll come back with a smile till behind my ears ;-)

  • The head is the sacred part of the body (never pat it or ruffle someone’s hair) and the feet are the lowest (so never point your feet to someone)
  • Harmony is important (so what went wrong during the airport occupations??), respect of the social status, reverence to the elderly, absolute respect of monks and the king
  • Face’ (self-respect, dignity) is very important and central concept in Thai society. Don’t embarrass people, don’t get angry in public, no loosing temper, avoid direct criticism but ask indirect questions (I’ll try)
  • Punctuality is not so important, except when marrying etc For special occasions you check which time and dates are auspicious – and be on time to collect all the luck & happiness
  • Giving & getting presents (but not opening them in front of others) and doing favours to your loved ones is normal. It shows your prestige and ‘buys you merit’ (so giving presents is actually a selfish act?)
  • You take your shoes off when going inside someone’s house and in temples, and you step over the threshold rather than on it. You burn incense or offer flowers in the temples (which I will do for Davide).
  • There are little contacts across the gender divide (so I’ll stick to the men ;-) and showing public affection is frowned upon (how sad).
  • Besides believing in Buddhism, most of the Thai also take care of other spirits. Most of the houses have a Spirit House and make regular offerings there.
  • Thai people, as in the other SEAsian countries are more collectivist. Family is super important, and being in the company of the people you are collected with. Eating is rarely done alone… So I just have to get myself invited then?
Thai food, yummy but spicy...

Thai food, yummy but spicy...

But there are some things that are characteristic for the Thai (if I remember correctly)

  • Thailand is the country of sarongs, especially in the country-side, so I should get some new ones.
  • Even though most Thai are Buddhist, they take Buddhism with a grain of salt. They do eat meat, would drink alcohol.
  • The Thai word for ‘work’ Ngan is the same as ‘party’, not that they don’t distinguish between work and party – but they will try to combine work with fun where possible e.g. bus drivers racing each other through the city ;-)
  • I guess the Thai are sort of the ‘party people’ of South East Asia, making most of life, having fun – or they are competing with the Pinoy
  • Kathoeys (the third sex) are the feminine boys (often cross dressing) and they are widely accepted, even small villages have a few Kathoey living there.
  • Gays seem quite tolerated (compared to neighbouring countries), even if not always accepted by the family. The Thai are good at ‘not seeing things’ when they are not blatantly obvious. So as long as there’s not to much show of gay interaction, people don’t mind.
  • Quite down to Earth, non-complicated, just as I love ;-)

I was planning on doing work camps in Thailand, like I did 5 years ago, but I am not sure if I want to be filling my travel with activities activities and more activities. I was going to take time for myself, wasn’t I…

But I need to be somewhere in Thailand, no? Last time I traveled from the North (Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai to Bangkok) but I did not go to the East of the country yet. So that would a possibility for this trip. And instead of ‘terrible’ Pattaya, I could try out ‘horrible’ Phuket?

  • Yummy Thai food...

    Yummy Thai food...

    Also a friend from Brussels is (hopefully) joining me for a week or two, so surely he will have some discovery-needs. So I’ll go with the flow.

  • I want to brush up on my Thai massage skills (I did a course in 2003) – or maybe I’ll just be lazy and have it done to me instead ;-)
  • Another friend sent me different pictures of foodstalls with an explanation of them (in Thai) so I can indulge in nice (and cheap) food from the stalls in the streets. Yummy yummy.
  • Other friends recommended me to get clothes in Batuna in BKK (well, actually underwear, hehe).

Any other suggestions? Add them to the comments below!

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One Response to “Traveling to Thailand”

  1. andre carens 29 December 2008 at 18:41 #

    hey tony,
    Via firefox werkt de blog wel .. amai ge hebt er werk van gemaakt .. ben wel efkes zoet . Goede vlucht gehad en op een goei plekske ? Hier momenteel in Antwerpen -6 C° en in lange onderbroek en damart hemdjes brrgrr .. Jij waarschijnlijk al in string en marcelleke …gnif gnif .. ciao
    André

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