|Date:||Wed, 23 Apr 2003 08:15:49 -0500|
I hope everyone had a nice Easter. And if you don’t celebrate it, I hope
you are having a nice Spring/Autumn (depending on your side of the equator).
I have been a bit out of commmunicado, but wanted to let everyone know I am
alive and well and trying to make the most of my time before immersing
myself back into the reality of the proverbial “rat race”.
Just in case you don’t know much about the Thai culture, here are a few
HAPPY NEW YEAR (Sawadee phi mai)
The Thai New Year or Songkran Festival happens every year in mid-April. I
was fortunate to find myself in the middle of Bangkok during the
festivities. During this time the locals and the farangs (foreigners)
alike, are sprinkled with water as a blessing. First, of course, Buddha
statues and elders are sprinkled, but then it moves into the streets. The
“sprinkling” has turned into a dousing over the years, as folks use buckets
of water, hoses and those commando super-soaker water guns. They also mix a
type of powder with water to make a paste that they rub on your face. At one
time I had three little boys eagerly covering my face, ears and hair with
the dreadful mixture. It is all in good fun and a great way to cool off
during the hottest month of the year. Did you know that Bangkok is listed
as the hottest city in the world?
Or at least that is what the guidebooks
tell you so you don’t get too upset when you and all of your belongings
return to the hotel dripping wet!
They call Thailand “The land of smiles” because the locals are amazingly
friendly. Those of you who have been there know what I am talking about. I
did talk to a bartender who told me that it is not all that it appears to
be. Like in many Asian cultures, Thais have a happy “public face”, but can
be quite different in the privacy of their own home. They also expect
foreigners to put on a face. It is a huge embarrassment for anyone to argue
in public in Thailand.
FOOD & EATING
The food is Thailand is some of the best in the world. They make great use
of their natural resources from the ocean and rice from the land and have
borrowed their version of curries from India and noodles and sauces from
China to make a unique fusion food. Thais do not eat with chopsticks.
Instead, they use a fork in the left hand and a spoon as a shovel in the
right hand to eat. You see Thai people on the street and at work eating all
the time. Lots of small portioned snacks out of little plastic bags from
street vendors. I have yet to see any natives overweight. I learned in my
cooking class in Ko Lanta that everything is very balanced in the
Meat vs. rice, sweet & sour vs. curry, chilies vs. coconut milk, and
lots of fruits instead of fattening desserts. They must be doing something
right with a nation full of healthy bodies.
(Don’t worry, this is not about MY personal habits!)
Most Thais to not have flush toilets, nor do many restaurants or public
The toilets are usually porcelain squatters with a hole in the
floor. There is not typically toilet paper, unless you are at a place
catering to westerners. There is usually a large container of water next to
the squatter. With a cup floating in the barrel of water, you rinse off
your private body part/s and then pour the water down the hole to “flush”.
It can be a bit of a challenge being a girl and wearing pants (or shorts)
and holding on to a beach bag since the floor is soaking wet. You get the
picture! Most Thais do not have hot water either. Of course, the weather
is so hot that it is not completely necessary. Many people still bathe in
rivers and canals.
No, I a not considering a new career. But I am currently reading a book
titled “Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia”. So much for looking
for a little “light” reading on the trip. Prostitution and sex
entertainment is BIG business in Thailand. You often hear of western men
coming to Bangkok or Phuket to buy “escorts”. These types of Go-Go Clubs
are very obvious and out in the open.
Interestingly, there are also very private or secret clubs that cater to
Asian men, particularly Japanese. The Asian sector has the most demand for
prostitution. In many Asian cultures, the girls are expected to be virgins
when they marry or not only do they shame the family they may never be able
to marry as they are labeled as “damaged goods”. With the lack of free sex
partners for Asian men, many turn to prostitutes for sex. It is quite
acceptable for married men as well. As you might expect, some of the true
life accounts in the book I am reading are pretty horrifying. Many young
girls are sold into brothels by their own families.
It is customary to remove your shoes before entering any palace, temple,
home, or even business. Most Thai people eat sitting on the floor.
Therefore, they find it disgusting when foreigners wear shoes through the
I have been respecting the culture, but have found the practice
rather time consuming since I have been wearing Tevas(a sports sandal with
velcro straps). I finally broke down and bought some flip-flops!
I could go on and on about this wonderful and strange new world, but I
imagine this is a long enough newsletter! It is an amazing country and a
place I would suggest as an exotic and VERY affordable holiday destination.
Take care of yourselves.