I’m sitting here, in front of my computer, wondering at and about life – has it been indeed more than ten years that we have been living in this Kingdom of smiles, lotus flowers, and orange-clad monks walking barefoot in the mornings, holding pots of clay at their waists, ready to dispense merits and receive offerings of food from Thai residents who are kneeling in front of their homes by the road?
It seems like only yesterday that I had my first glimpses of this part of Buddhist cultural display in our mooban (village). Come to think of it, I haven’t seen those orange-clad monks for a long time now. Perhaps our mooban (village) has now become part of the vast metropolis called Bangkok that such practices have now become obsolete to the monks living near our wat (temple).
After all, the airport, which we all knew before as Don Muang, has now become Suvarnabhumi, and is now situated in the southern part of the city, instead of the north.
Sigh, so much has changed about Bangkok, and aboutThailandover the years. What used to be such a shock to know about, has now become just an ordinary, common part of day-to-day living. My daughter just a few days ago, was playing with some friends at our home. Not knowing she’s not supposed to do so, my daughter, who’s only five, touched her friends older brother’s head (who’s about 8). Good thing the boy goes to the same international school my daughter does, and so perhaps, is more tolerant of cultural differences such as that. Otherwise, it could have been such a big mistake. The boy simply reminded my daughter, “You’re not supposed to touch my head ‘coz I’m older than you.” To that, my daughter just smiled.
That, of course, is something old residents of Thailand no longer find as an amusing piece of information. But for those travelers who don’t wish to offend the Thais when you come visit, or when you come here to work, those are a few of the do’s and don’ts one must learn to respect about Thai culture.
Speaking of do’s and dont’s , I remember quite vividly one time when I made such a hilarious mistake when I was just new here in Thailand. This one involved a monk.
Bangkok is quite famous for all these one-day tours , where you go to a well-known tourist spot or two and all you will need to spend out of your holiday time is a single day. Well, there we were, with my boyfriend (now, my husband) and a few friends, feasting our eyes on some novelty items on sale in a small market. I was aware there were some monks, walking and looking at some of the items, just as we were doing.
Then I noticed some of our friends were laughing at me, and whispering to each other. I didn’t understand what it was they found so funny, so I just looked at them and then rolled my eyes. Perhaps the heat of Bangkok was getting into them, or something. Or perhaps it was the spice in the tom yum kung (a famous Thai soup with shrimp, akin to our “sinigang”) that we had for lunch that got into them.
It was only later that I knew that as I kept on moving towards my right, ogling the knick knacks in the market, the monk beside me was apparently having a hard time keeping his distance from me, and thus, also kept on moving to his right. My friends said it looked rather hilarious.
See, that’s another Thai custom one needs to pay particular attention to, most especially when you are a female. Women are supposed to stay at least three feet away from monks. On buses, the first row right at the door are reserved for them. And so women, do not go rushing to get that empty seat right next to a monk on the bus, on the rot fai fah (sky train) or on the rot tai din (subway train). That’s a major no-no.
It is rather amazing how the Thais have adapted to foreigners’ ways over the years. And another major change that has made the foreigner’s stay here in the Kingdom of Thailand much easier is the now more popular use of the English language in major areas throughout the country. Where before shop attendants would go running away right after you open your mouth and said the word, “How…”, now it’s a different story. But still, it would make your travel, or life here, so much easier if you learned some basic Thai before you make your travel plans.
When it comes to safety, I would say I actually feel so much safer along the streets of Bangkok at 10 in the evening, than I would in any part of Manila.
But of course, that’s probably because I’ve never lived in Manila. But generally speaking, as long as you stayed in the tourist areas in Bangkok, it would be quite easy to find or call the tourist police, if there is such a need.
But one thing everyone who plans to come here should be well aware of is the visa requirement that the Thai government has just recently amended, with particular emphasis on those who come to Thailand to travel at extended periods of time. Where before it is quite all right for foreigners to go out to the borders of Thailand every 30 days to have their passports stamped, that is no longer that simple nowadays. So to avoid inconveniences on your travel plans, it would be wise to pay a visit to our visa section to be informed, and thus, save yourself some hassles.
So for those of you out there who have plans to work and/or travel the Land of Smiles, we hope Siam Pinoy has been and will be a help to you. And in case you require travel agents or accommodation information, click here . It will take you to information on several travel agents and/or hotels in Thailand. Some of them do have branches or offices in the Philippines to help you out with your travel needs. And of course, who else could be of better help to you, than some kababayans, who know the ins and out of the very place you fancy to see or visit soon.