Friday, March 7, 2014

50 interesting things about Thailand...

1.       They absolutely love food here. Thais eat all day, every day. The day revolves around when you eat - and I love anyone who appreciates food.
2.      This truly is the land of smiles. Not all of the smiles may be genuine, but they will always rip you off with a smile on their face.
3.      The smog and humidity never goes away. You will always sweat and have a filmy layer of dirt on your skin.
4.      Public restrooms = squatter toilets. You flush by pouring more water into the bowl. I refuse to use.
5.      Plastic, plastic everywhere. If you buy anything, no matter what its size, you will be given a plastic bag, spoon, and straw.
6.      7-11s are on every corner. You may not be able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, but Thais have embraced the Western chain stores.
7.      Many things in Thailand are hypocrisies. You must cover your shoulders and knees; however, the attitude towards sex is very open: i.e. ping pong shows.
8.     Thais do not walk long distances. It is more efficient in their mind to get on a motorbike and ride 100 feet than walk it.
9.      Hording: buried alive. They keep everything and store it inside, outside, and under their house.
10.  Thais parents are wonderfully involved in their children’s lives.
11.   No helmet? No problem! It is very common for people on scooters and motorbikes to ride without a helmet, and 4 people deep.
12.  Women rule! Women are seen as superior to men in Thailand. Most of the women have jobs while the men stay at home.
13.  Thai spice is extremely different than Mexican spice. It takes time to build up your tolerance.
14.  Everything is a show. Any event is turned into a huge production – releasing doves, cutting ribbons, and all.
15.   Thais & Tiaras. Thailand has the ultimate pageant moms. If their child is in a show or performance, that child will be up at 5am to have their hair and makeup done and be stuffed into a dramatic costume. Expect glitter, eye liner, blush, and bouffants.
16.  Food is cheap. Pad Thai = 30 baht = 1 dollar
17.   Beer and whiskey flow freely. But wine and other hard liquors are harder to come by and much more expensive.
18.  Transportation is relatively cheap; however, it is a PROCESS. Expect double the time you think it will take you to get somewhere.
19.  Soi cats and dogs rule the streets. They do not believe in spaying or neutering their pets so there is an overpopulation of cats and dogs roaming the roads.
20. Trash cans are few and far between. Thus explaining why people keep atrocious amounts of garbage in and around their homes.
21.  Color Coordinating. Thais love to match outfits; there is even a dress code for the country! Mondays they wear yellow, Tuesdays pink, Wednesdays Hawaiian…
22. Water from the tap is not potable; however you can shower and brush your teeth with it. They are water refilling stations that let you fill up a 1 liter bottle for 1 baht.
23. Thailand loves their King. He is not just a ruling monarch; he is a father figure and guardian. He is also extremely old and was born in Boston!
24. The King’s Anthem plays across the country every day at 8 in the morning and 6 at night. Everyone stops in the streets and stands in silence to honor their King.
25.  Unwanted pets: Whether you choose to or not, you will have animals and critters in your house. Lizards will climbs the walls and ceilings, watching you sleep and playing hide and seek.
26. Bugs. Mosquitos are everywhere and I have embraced creepy and crawly insects in my life; however, Thailand’s bugs are another story. They come in waves. We will go weeks without bug bites or mosquito hunting sprees. Yet every once and a while a new wind will bring in swarms of mosquitos and moths.
27.  Feces Swamps. Perhaps because indoor plumbing is a few decades behind in this country, open rivers of putrid slime run behind buildings. The rancid smell can only be feces cooking in the sun.
28. White vans. Who would have thought that jumping into a white, unmarked van would be a common occurrence and “safe.” The best way to travel from city to city in Thailand is in by a van that does not follow traffic laws, speed limits, or a schedule.
29. Outdoor night markets. In every city there is a night market where you go to pick up produce or dinner. Food stalls and impromptu restaurants (i.e. plastic chairs and tables) are set up in an open area. Everyone roams the aisles collecting bags of fried fish, fresh fruit, and meat on a stick.
30. Fruit. Oranges are green, guava is white, and we eat mango when it’s not ripe. The fruit is exotic, flavorful, and abundant.
31.  Fruit Smoothies. 15 baht (50 cents) will get you the freshest and tastiest fruit smoothie of your life. Watch the smoothie lady throw fruit and ice in a blender and enjoy.  
32. No cooking! Most apartments and houses do not have a kitchen, thus cooking a meal is quite difficult. Everyone goes out for every meal – and it ends up being cheaper to buy dinner than it is to make it. You usually pick up bags of various dishes for dinner and either eat at the market or bring it back home.
33. “Winter.” Experiencing Thai winter was unbelievable. It would drop to low 70’s at night and reach the low 80’s during the day. These freezing temperatures required everyone to wear fur parkas, scarves, and gloves. They could never make it in New England.
34. Thai Time. A clock or schedule does not matter. Shops will open and close as they please. Buses and vans will depart once the driver is ready. Arrival times hold no truth. You are on the country’s clock, not your own.
35.  Ice, Ice, Baby. An iced coffee is 9/10th ice and 1/10th coffee. Also, a cold beer is served with ice rather than a frosted glass.
36. Living on the floor. Walking down a Thai street and peeking into a home gives you a clear view of how people live: on the floor. They eat, sleep, and lounge on it. Even the beds are made hard to resemble the firm floor.
37.  No knives. A place setting involves a soup spoon and fork. Most dishes are rice or noddle based so there is no need to cut anything. Knives become a distant memory.
38. The ever-changing smells. While walking down the road one minute you will be enjoying fragrant jasmine, the next smell will be a dish being seasoned with Thai spice, and then all of a sudden a foul smell of urine and rotting garbage will hit you like a brick wall.
39. Famous Farangs. Foreigners, or farangs, are celebrities. Walking down the street people will call out whatever English phrases they know to grab your attention. Strangers will ask to take pictures with you. You’ll be asked to sing Thailand’s National Anthem just being you are a farang. That is your identity, not your name.
40. White is right? The fairer the skin, the more beautiful you are in Thai eyes. Thailand is sadly behind in racial equality. They associate dark skin with the working class and will even bleach their own skin to keep it pale. They walk under umbrellas and cover their skins with layers of clothes to avoid getting tan.  The worst part is hearing 7 year olds follow this archaic way of thinking because they are raised in this ignorance.
41.   The masks. Whether you are sick or want to avoid getting sick you wear a doctor’s mask. Also to avoid inhaling the polluted air on a songtaew ride people cover their mouths with masks, clothing, or even citrus fruit.
42. The Wai. Everyone must wai their elder. This bow, along with ending every sentence with kah or krap (based on your gender), are signs of respect and honor.
43. No sense of space. I walk on the right, Thai’s walk on the left, thus collisions are bound to happen on the sidewalks. But factor in Thais walking 5 people across and having no shame about pushing you out of the way – walking on food stall and motorbike filled sidewalks is a whole new game.
44. No shoes indoors. Everyone must take off their shoes when you enter a home or even business. While indoors you should be barefoot or wear slippers. It is a sign of respect that is an actually common practice in many countries.
45.  Workout clothes. When running at the park you are surrounded by people working out in their school uniforms, leather spandex, flip-flops, or sweaters. How or why they do this?  I will never know.
46. Diarrhea is an accepted excuse. Food in Thailand may not always settle well in your stomach. It is just an accepted reality that you may be tied to the toilet for the day. Your boss will have no shame telling you that their bodily functions will keep them from work.
47.  No toilet paper. There is no TP in the bathrooms. You must bring your own, but don’t you dare flush it down the toilet. Also there is a hose you can spray yourself with – a flexible bidet perhaps? – that the locals use.
48. No car seats. Britney Spears would have never been attacked in Thailand for holding her child in the front seat. Here, infants are held on motorbikes and toddlers are piled into the front seat of a car – without a seatbelt of course.
49. The humidity. It may be 93 degrees outside with 81% humidity, a real-feel of 107 degrees, and cloudy skies – you expect it to rain but it never does. Every day it feels like the skies are going to open up and waves of water will pour down, but the humidity never breaks and air pressure is never released.

50. Many rules, no laws. There are many rules in Thailand – about how to act, what to wear, how to speak – yet there are very few clear laws. The rules and practices are not enforced. If you want to ride your motorbike down the sidewalk you can. If you want to run a restaurant without refrigeration or a bathroom, go for it. You simply just have to go for the ride in this lawless land. 

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