SuzyPowell's Travel Journals

SuzyPowell

  • 48 years old
  • From Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Currently in Singapore City, Singapore

My Thai Adventures

To be unplugged or not, that is the question.

My Thai Adventure No. 4

Singapore Singapore City, Singapore  |  Apr 24, 2013
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"Same, same, but different" is a slogan printed on t-shirts sold in tourist shops all over Thailand' and it perfectly sums up the cultural differences between east and west.

Whilst Tesco Lotus, Starbucks and McDonalds abound, the plastic life-size Ronald McDonald standing outside the fast-food joint in Krabi has his hands in a traditional Wai - like he's praying.

On my arrival at the Surin Project (surinproject.org), Osha, one of the volunteer co-ordinators, ran through a few "no nos" for visitors to Thailand.

They are:

no pointing with your feet at anyone or any thing;

no stepping over people who are lying down reading, sleeping or generally lounging;

no touching monks if you're female;

no touching someone's head, seen as the most sacred part of a person;

and cover up shoulders and legs whilst visiting temples.

Despite all the rules, the Thai people are among the most welcoming I've ever met. Whilst out and about walking on Koh Jum, an island off the west coast, I was frequently offered lifts on the back of motorbikes. Perhaps they thought I was slightly demented to be out walking in 34 degrees with 40% plus humidity.

Another time, at the elephant village in the north-east, the volunteers were all invited to a wedding celebration of the son of one of the mahouts and the food - bits of crispy pork, spring rolls, rice and noodles - and drink - Hong Tong whisky and Chang beer - flowed.

About half-way through the evening, I realised we were sitting in a giant elephant shelter!

All over Thailand you see photographs of the King and Queen in shops, restaurants and shrines erected in the street and along out of town roads so revered is the long-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulya, or Rama IX. In fact, at 8am and 6pm the national anthem is piped out of sound systems at rail and bus stations and before every film shown in the cinema. Everybody stops what they are doing, stands up and dutifully sings the anthem. Can you imagine that in Scotland?

Customs around visiting temples naturally abound. You leave your shoes at the door - a tradition which extends to most public buildings and private homes - and sitting before the Buddha must be done with legs crossed or in another position which keeps the feet pointing away from the deity.

There is a Buddha for every day of the week, so I Googled my birth date to discover I was born on a Tuesday - represented by the reclining Buddha.

Other discoveries I made were that my brithstone is moonstone, flower is the rose, and I was born in the Chinese year of the Rooster. Oh, and that I am 301 in dog years!

One last, and pretty major difference between Thai and western culture is the calendar.  In Thailand it is currently 2056, which makes me a whopping 86.

Think I'll stick to my Western age...

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  • Technophobic

    January 05, 2013
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  • My Thai Adventure No. 4

    April 24, 2013
    No Photo | No Video