Fifteen Weeks, Episode 13
EPISODE THIRTEEN – LAST OF BANGKOK
Thais always remove shoes before entering a temple, house, office, sometimes restaurant or shop and step over the threshold rather than on it. This is an old custom that some say may be dying out with younger Thais, but erring on the side of conservatism is always a good idea. I certainly do it as a matter of course now and have not noticed any slackening of this unwritten rule yet. In fact Thais go barefoot outside the home as well which is understandable as mostly open shoes are worn in tropical climates. In time education may change this custom when Thais learn that because the feet are in direct contact with dirt they are more susceptible to infection from germs than any other part of the body. Until then I doubt the custom will disappear. Whilst I understand the risk I am now a fully-fledged conformist even though I have to smile when I am in a business meeting with a group of very smart businessmen dressed immaculately but with no shoes on!
Thais, just like most people in the world I suspect, prefer dealing with people they respect. Relationships usually develop slowly and do not flourish after one meeting. Thais believe you should always be respectful and courteous when dealing with others as this leads to the cordial relationships necessary within business or personal life. I can’t believe this is any different in other societies. But here is an interesting point of difference; Thais communication is more formal and non-verbal communication is often more important than verbal communication.
Rank is always respected regardless. The eldest person in a group is revered. It is difficult for most Thais to say no, so they must be cognisant of their non- verbal communication. Body language and facial expressions will be believed over words. This can be a great difficulty for Westerners who are used to far more straightforward communication of feelings. Getting a straight answer is virtually impossible most of the time so a lot of time is wasted. Thais are never more comfortable when ‘going round the houses’ and very often round the town.
Far from the madding crowd
I really have learned a lot these past two weeks and tomorrow I return to the south of Phuket where I need to plan ahead and recharge my batteries before my next visit to the big city.
I visited the offices of the Thai Gems and Jewellery Traders Association (TGJTA) again this morning to find out if they can allocate us a booth at the September Fair in Bangkok. They are guardedly confident that they can but won’t be able to confirm until later in the day. I discussed a plan forward with them which involves us applying for membership. Once that is approved we will look at ways in which we can promote the good work the Association is doing and hopefully we will get some form of endorsement from them. Later in the afternoon I learned in a phone call from Kiradit that we had been allocated a booth which was very encouraging indeed. The rest of my day was spent writing and responding to various emails, starting to pack up in readiness for the flight back to Phuket tomorrow and finalising my diary.
Many of us have fallen for Thailand’s charms on our very first trip because it has so much to offer. That is why more people re-visit the Country than any other tourist destination. It is without doubt one of the most exotic countries and is full of diverse, welcoming and enchanting places. The cost of living is relatively low compared to most countries with accommodation to suit all budgets depending on what you want or can afford. Thai food is inexpensive, healthy and delicious and it is often cheaper to eat out than in. Well off people have full time housekeepers which typically cost around THB6000 per month. Massage and beauty treatment is widely available and is very cheap if you don’t use the hotels. A very therapeutic traditional Thai massage will cost from THB100 in parts of Bangkok to THB700 in a hotel. Believe it or not the cheaper one will probably be better but not in such lush surroundings. THB250 is average for one hour in Bangkok and you will feel pretty good afterwards.
I’m not in the mood for wrestling traffic or elephants tonight and its seven thirty already. I’m going to relax in the hotel bar, listen to the resident band that has been playing the same songs, every night, for one year. They are mighty relieved that this is their final appearance and one or two others will, I’m sure, echo that sentiment; then I am going to have the very excellent evening buffet. Tomorrow I’m off to my island in the south again, far from the madding crowd.
TO BE CONTINUED