Reminiscences Part 2
Travelling to foreign countries & behavioural principles
Well, when I travel abroad I always consider myself as a guest of a foreign country, where I am surely welcome but expected to behave and integrate as good as possible. Knowing that Asian cultures have a different understanding of what is acceptable and what not I informed myself before. Today I would like to point out that it was well worth it, because I never ever had any kind of problem when interacting with the Thais so far. Neither with any bargirl nor with any member of my today's girlfriend's family. Therefore I came to the conclusion that of course you once can have bad luck and run into the wrong guys/girls. Yet this can generally be avoided if one is just a bit cautious and tries to be minimally emphatic towards cultures one doesn't know yet.
The stories I sometimes read on Stickman's site make me frown and shake my head in disbelief. I can just say those bad things (like from being cheated in every way or to get stripped off nearly all your money to being threatened with a knife) are presumably in most of the cases a result of their one's own false behaviour.
My advice for first-time visitor's to Thailand would therefore be:
Encounter the Thais with an open mind, be friendly, learn at least some snippets of Thai so that you can say the most basically things (like hello or thank you), show good manners and dress neatly. But be balanced when it comes to extroversion and rather be a bit reserved than too outgoing. Try to sense-out when you ask something that unintentionally is embarrassing for somebody you meet. If so, rather draw back and say "mai bpen rai" and drop the subject than go on picking.
Nevertheless Thais are very open-hearted and you can nearly speak about every subject with them. Again be sensitive with subjects about the king, politics, the lord Buddha and sexual things (don't make dirty jokes) or kissing your girlfriend in the street for example is uncommon (especially outside of BKK). Later subjects (sexual) always require that you already know the person you are talking to and it's up to you to find the right measure or situation to bring it up.
What do I say here ? It's actually nothing but common sense and not so much different from the west. Only that some individuals think when they go abroad they can allow themselves to drop all the manners and behave like complete jerks, right ? (can be seen in many bars every day). For those experiencing bad encounters in such cases I feel no pity at all…
Even if you are in a situation where you want to get angry, try to stay cool. If you can't explain yourself what you need, try to get help from a Thai who speaks English well enough. (Maybe somebody who works at the reception of your hotel) They are very willing and generally happy to help you, believe me. It's up to you to reward such favours with a tip which will always be appreciated and even replied with a high wai.
Other things to see and do in BKK
On other days when on tour on my own I visited the zoo and the national museum (something I always do in every country if available). I also went for extended shopping tours through Pratunam-center, MBK and on Sukhumvit. I like to buy jeans, shirts and the likes abroad as it is more likely you have a piece which is not worn by everybody at home and often you get nice stuff for a good price. On another day I visited Wat Arun on my own which as well was worth the visit and gave me another chance to make a ride on the river. If you go there in the morning it's not so strongly frequented by tourists and more peaceful.
I would also recommend to visit the Golden Mount (Wat Srakes Rajavaramahavihara). It's quite a walk up the stairs but rewards you with a nice view over the city. To me this was a very serene place with a nice fresh wind and the lovely soothing sound of those little bells, which are often seen in wats. I surely stayed for more than one hour just watched, sat and drank a bottle of their own mineral-water. I enjoyed myself very much sucking in the atmosphere of this temple and felt very calm-minded after the visit. This wat is a nice haven to escape from the city's stress !
Of course if you want the absolute view over BKK, then you might want to go to the Baiyoke-Tower which is surely worth a visit but quite costly. The elevator-ticket is not among the cheapest fares in town… An alternative for a good view over the Chao Phraya river is to visit the Scirocco-bar on top of the State Tower down on Silom-street. Be prepared to pay around 1000 baht for two drinks, but this noble hangout is quite flashy and the view is great if not dizzying. The railing around the round-shaped bar is made of Plexiglas. So you have a great view for sure. N only over the roofs of BKK but also down into the streets. If you go, go with long trousers, shirt and closed shoes otherwise they will not let you in.
Ayutthaya & becoming a Buddhist
At the weekend we made a trip to Ayutthaya. J took her car to bring us there and I enjoyed this trip very much as I could for the first time see the typical Thai countryside with the rice-paddies and small villages. Of course the road was lined-up with all kind of stalls selling fruit and also lotus buds. We made stops because they wanted me to taste and I even tried the "well-feared" durian which I agree has a strong smell but tastes actually quite good and is very filling. Eat one slice and you're full-up for some hours.
Before arriving in Ayutthaya we visited a cultural heritage center which was interesting to see. It was very tourist-style but as a start for somebody new to Thailand it made a nice impression of how traditional houses were built. You can see a lot of handicraft and Thai-instruments there. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of it.
When we arrived in Ayutthaya we first visited Wat Phanan Choeng which is the home of a really big golden Buddha and is very well visited not only by tourists but also by Thais. Impressing, really. We did some tam boon and even got the blessings by a monk and I liked this very much. This was actually my first contact with Buddhist-ceremonies and it felt good to me. Having read some books about Buddhism this experience made me feel sure that becoming a Buddhist would be what I want. It was somehow enlightening…
From that point on I considered myself a Buddhist. I left the Christian church already many years ago. What I heard there never convinced, neither helped me a bit concerning the questions about life and it's sense. I experienced the people in this wat very welcoming and I had the impression the Thais were quite pleased to see me taking my first lessons from R on what exactly has to be done. Today I still find it quite difficult to hold the incense-sticks, flowers and candles in both folded hands to offer them to Buddha. Not to speak from lighting them up and placing them on the wooden bar so they don't drop on the side.
In the beginning of my being a Buddhist I was always a bit shy/unsure about everything and didn't exactly know what to do in a wat, but thanks to my friends and my family's help and the many visits in their home-village's wat, I got a lot more practice by now. Thai monks / ajarns are very friendly and open towards everybody who pays respect to Buddha. They often chat with the visitor's and even make fun and everybody has a good laugh.
How refreshing this is compared to our churches where everybody bows his head in shame and awareness of the everlasting sinners we are… Don't get me wrong here, I would never become kind of a fundamentalist in any religion. As Buddhism is more of a school for life and Buddha considered himself not a god but a teacher, I feel very comfortable with my beliefs but would never ever try to convert somebody else into it by pushy behaviour.
The next visit was to Wat Yai Chai Mongkon. This is a wat of ancient times with a reclining Buddha located outside in the surrounding gardens. There are also many sitting Buddha's in rows around the garden in white color which are all wrapped in orange monks robes. This place is also well worth a visit and strongly frequented by Thais and tourists. It's interesting to see how ancient wats were built differently from the ones built today.
After that we made a boat-trip around the channel of the ancient part of the city. It was quite relaxing there and cool soda pop was available from the boatman together with some more sights of ancient buildings and traditional Thai housing on the waterfront. On some occasions you can even have a glance into the houses and get an impression on how people live in houses put on stakes.
In the evening we visited J's and R's brother who has his business near Ayutthaya and went for another great dinner in a typical Lao-food-only-restaurant. We had some coke and whisky and lots of food. This was indeed enjoyable and I sat there quite red-faced as the sun did her job a bit too well that day. Maybe the drinks helped too, hehehe ! I am not a big drinker so two whisky-cokes already fix me up quite fine. We returned to BKK at a late hour. As everybody was tired we went home early for some good, refreshing sleep. It was surely a long day !
Thanks to J and R I had a great chance to get to know people on a personal basis and discuss with Thais from the very beginning of my travelling in the LOS. They both were very helpful and willing to answer all my many questions on their culture and how Thais think. When discussing with J a lot of subjects came up were we both exchanged our opinions and stand-points. Of course we also discussed relationships and the matters of love and J. confirmed a lot to me what I already read about earlier on-line.
We were never short of subjects and never bored and that's what I really like. Having friends who you have a good understanding and common sense with is something very valuable and very instructive. J even once took me to her apartment which she shared with her sister and her cousin. She said before I entered: " Don't be shocked it's just a small place and maybe different from what you are used to." Well, it wasn't that small and actually sufficient for three girls to live, sleep and watch TV in. So I wasn't surprised at all and felt comfortable at once. We got down to the next seven, bought some drinks and food and had an enjoyable break before we went out dancing in the Q Club. When my holiday was about to come to an end we promised each other to stay in touch and until today we have remained good friends.
You may wonder that we never got more close than friends. Let me tell you why… I think it was simply no subject as we both expressed clearly what we expected from this relationship from the very beginning. So I never really considered in trying to attract J. Not even by the fact that I actually thought J is an attractive and good looking woman who even was around my age and would actually have fitted well into my criteria of interesting women. Plus… I don't consider myself as overly good-looking. So I am a realist and know to Stick to what I am without false surmises.
Maybe sometimes I am too modest; still I think there's another reason why. From our discussions I found out that she has no problems with the imagination of having a farang boyfriend and would have been open to that experience. Due to hints of my today's girlfriend, I think I was simply not wealthy enough for her lifestyle. From what I have observed over past times I tend to believe in my girlfriend's opinion.
There are a lot of nice girls in BKK which you pay for a nice time and most of all for the fact that they leave you after two hours. Afterwards you can do as you like and go where you want. No sleeping in my bed until the next morning, no shopping and no dramas. I always kept it like that with the "available girls for the night" and therefore would like to confirm this valuable piece of advice already given by so many writers on Stickmanbangkok.com
Cheers… until the next time, Khun Tik