Travel

31 Observations on Thai Society and Culture

Birth Aging Death Thai artist installation at MOCA museum of contemporary arts
Birth. Aging. Death.

It has been a while since I last posted in my blog, I can seem to keep up or allot time for it. It has been a tough year so far, I switched jobs recently and I hope it will bring so much more time for me to focus on things I like pursuing. Before I started this new job, I went to Bangkok recently for the third time just because I love the city, the vibe, the energy and the food.

Bangkok is the first city I went abroad after I was earning my own money, it has always been one of those cities that did not disappoint when I visited. And in this trip, it will be quite special since I am coming from Kuala Lumpur, this means I will get to enjoy Thai food (very spicy ones) without the “Oh, it’s so spicy! I can’t eat it” dialogue since I’ve been living for 16 months already in KL, my taste buds are already used to it. Moving along, Bangkok had always been a charm, if I can call it home someday, I don’t mind.

The first I visited Bangkok, it was with my friends Gladys & Jahdi, the second time was with my IBM Colleagues, this time around I am traveling solo. It has been a hobby of mine since, it is really addictive because solo traveling actually lets you be more independent, more observant and in a way, let you think on your feet when something ends up wrongly. The list I have here are some of the observations I have about Bangkok, which does not in any way generalize the whole of Thailand, but in a way it can conclude where the Thai society is moving towards:

1. People give seats to women and the elderly.

I rode the bus for the first time from Don Meung Airport and one thing I’ve noticed are the Thais’ politeness with women and the elderly. In the Manila, this still happens but in KL, not a chance.

2. The land of smiles. They have the best smiles, indeed!

Aaah! So many good looking people, research shows that the more you show your smile, the more you appear easier on someone’s eyes. This is the beauty of Thailand, their people!

3. In terms of table etiquette, they are like Pinoys (wait for you to leave to clean the place).

Sorry, I can’t help but compare, in Malaysia, after you finish a meal, the bus boys or girls would ask you about your plate for them to clean it. In the Philippines, it is a big NO since this act shows that you are arrogant and you want that person to get out of your restaurant or place fast. Of which, I think is the case here in Malaysia.

4. More beggars in Bangkok compared two years ago.

For those who don’t agree, I was staying near the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, it’s the business district and huge shopping malls. I think any developing nation has this problem, I hope this will be fixed soon.

5. The fare in the trains in BKK is not subsidized. Filipinos, and or Malaysians alike should be thankful for their government.

Seriously, no more complaining guys!

6. BTS is more expensive than MRT.

I don’t know what’s up there, but damn, it’s more expensive for short distances in BTS especially when you change lines. So if you are living or visiting, it is better for you to live in an area where BTS and MRT are practically walking distance, that is, if your budget can handle it.

7. There’s a couple dry humping in front of me. TMI, I know.

There are so many tourists in Bangkok, and these couple are tourist. I don’t like people minding my own business, but as a traveler, a responsible one, I need to tone down whatever I have in my country and respect the country that I am visiting. It’s called courtesy, so please don’t do it. You are not welcome to do so.

8. There are so many Japanese tourists.

Well, I don’t know probably because of #9.

9. The influence of the Japanese culture is so strong, all the restaurants are either Japanese or western.

I have not read any history books about it, maybe some of my Thai friends can explain. One fact, a mall opposite of Siam Paragon has a whole floor with just Japanese food, I can’t recall the name. I do not hate, ok? 😉

10. Best tamarinds ever.

I always buy these babies whenever I go to Bangkok, I just love ’em. They’re salty, sweet and spicy. And I am salivating by just thinking of them.

11. Not all Thai foods are spicy. They actually have sweet (too sweet!) Dishes.

My friend took me to this local place where we can have a selection of all Thai dishes, he said that Thai food is not really spicy, that’s a stereotype. Thais do love spicy, but it’s not like they eat it everyday. He actually thinks that Indonesians enjoy spicier food than Thais. To me, this is like, “I was betrayed” moment because all along I was stereotyping. My fault, probably yours too.

12. Thais put fish sauce everywhere.

They just love ’em fish sauce!

13. Thais are crazy about advertisement. You can see posters from malls to the train, to a messaging app.

Oh yeah, Bangkok is full of it. Trains have ’em, in print and digital. Flyers and what not. You may also think that this blog post is an advertisement.

14. The fascination of fairer skin is stronger compared to Philippines and Malaysia.

Well, curse you guys! Love your own skin, ’nuff said.

15. They love entertainment, much like Pinoys.

Karaoke is a staple, as well as dancing. People actually love watching the videos they too have YouTube stars that were from a suburban area, she is Sexy Pancake, here is her Facebook page. She’s awesome!

16. So many Pinoy teachers.

English teachers, well Filipinos are great users of the English language, so it is normal. It is the same case in Vietnam.

17. They don’t have a lot of Thai restaurants. Mainly because they can prepare the food at home.

Apparently, the Thai restaurants in Thailand are just becoming popular because of the nation’s development. Of course, if you are working hard, you can’t cook your own meal and you just want to eat something that reminds you of your mom or dad’s cooking, thus it is becoming more popular. But in general, you will see Japanese or western food.

18. The brand Comme Des Garçon is worn by almost everyone.

Again, Japanese influence. But I do agree, those prints are awesome.

19. Shopping is super pimped. You just have to buy something.

I’m not a big fan of shopping but when you are there where almost any block tries to sell you something in the four days you were there, you just got to buy something even if you don’t plan on spending anything. Tip: When in Bangkok for a vacation, try bringing a spare $50 (RM 180) for shopping, trust me this would save you from having regrets later on.

20. Short shorts for guys, high waisted skirt or pants for ladies. Almost everyone has the same style.

Hello homogeneous style! Thais are fashionable, but all of them carry the same style.

21. Clear soup is the deadliest and spiciest dish ever.

It burned my throat, but the soup was awesome. I don’t have a picture! (O.O)

22. Thai artists make it big if they consider Buddhism in their work. Is this valid?

Religion plays an important role in their society, even when they express art and in politics.

23. High schoolers can wear blonde hair. So cool!

How come?! I want blonde hair when I was 13!

24. They are thin (cries).

Must be all the vegetables they eat, need to start working out!

25. White is a staple office wear.

Just an observation, probably I saw kids in their universities.

26. Girls have a really good sense of style.

Contrary to what I said above, the girls are stylish comparing to other countries I’ve been to.

27. Most Thai exchange students go to the US because of their strong connections from the past?

Thailand and the US have strong ties during World War 2, Thailand at that time had to choose between the US or Japan? I’m not so sure, I just read this in one of the museums I visited. I have at least three Thai friends that I know who went either to live or study in the US.

28. Bangkok is well connected in the internet. I bought a 50 baht sim  card that I wasn’t able to use, but since I only need it to connect to the internet, it’s enough (the SIM card in turn gives me 10 hrs of free internet anywhere there is an AIS wifi coverage in BKK).

If you love free WiFi or on a budget, Bangkok is well connected and you can just simply get a SIM and register that seem to get free WiFi for 10 hours, more than enough for a short stay, this would keep you from spending 300 baht for data. But if you need to call someone, you can top-up for 50 baht.

29. The streets of Bangkok are similar to the streets of Manila, they are dirty.

Well, at least the food is good. They are dirty, but it brings the character of that city. And if you may ask me what character? Yeah, they are dirty. (laughs)

30. I did feel safe traveling there even at 1am alone in an alley.

Not ever in KL. Okay!

31. The heat in a way is unbearable in the afternoon. I must have been well pampered by the ACs in KL.

I sometimes feel my life is just so easy lately, especially on Sundays, too much to say about ACs, right. But what can I do? It’s the way I feel about stuff. Haha!

I will try to blog more. Bye for now!

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