Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

Thai Thoughts

Posted by Jerry on November 30, 2006

Never before had I found myself in a place totally foreign to me in practically every respect: the language, the religion, and the race.

 

Visiting Thailand, therefore, was an incredible cultural experience. As I think back upon it, I am amazed at how I managed to spend a week in a country with people that spoke practically no English at all! Of course, being that Bangkok is a world-class city, it had many tourist aids like maps and road signs in English. However, the local people of Bangkok barely spoke any English at all. While I was there, I got around miming and gesticulating to a great extent. Every time I tried communicating with a Thai person, there was much smiling, gesticulating, and pointing, accompanied by confused but amused looks on both our faces! 🙂

 

The Thais were wonderfully gracias, however, in their hospitality. Of course, as would be expected anywhere else too, I was occasionally accosted by some unwanted solicitors who probably were in the business of exploiting tourists on a regular basis. But this should hardly faze a tourist who keeps his smarts about himself.

 

Later, of course, after a long day of Thai-sightseeing, I quite relished with pleasure the opportunity to speak with my hostel mates in English. Over beers (Thai Singha beers taste awesome!), we discussed our day’s events, our lives back at home, etc. There was so much exchange among all of us–intellectual, personal, cultural–from such diverse backgrounds, which, in my opinion, is precisely the objective of international tourism.

 

You see, I’m not a “shoot-and-click” tourist. I could well forget my camera at home and travel the world and not have a qualm. No, I’m not denying that pictures (a thousand words, after all!) are not useful and valuable markers of one’s personal history. They have their place and importance. I am deriding the sort of behavior that I observe among many tourists with a camera slung around their necks: the kind of people who busy themselves more with capturing the next stunning panorama than actually enjoying it for themselves, who hold the idea that visiting a foreign place largely means checking out its monuments and museums and posing with a local for that “authentic touch.”

 

In Bangkok, I attempted to do at least some of the things that a Thai person would typically do while out in the city. I tasted the food from the stalls on the streets (didn’t like one particular dish I had, which I later realized was fish–and I hate eating fish!). I rode across various points in the city on local city buses that are quite obviously not “tourist-friendly” (no maps for bus routes, no signs in English in buses or on bus stops, etc.). At various times, I took the sky train and the underground subways to check out random places not explicitly identified on my map as “places of interest.” I visited bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, spas, banks, coffee houses, grocery stores, and even a Thai McDonald restaurant! At McThai’s, I ordered a fried chicken burger that, of course, came with a Thai twist: it had no buns; instead, it had a pair of sticky rice cakes that sandwiched the fried chicken and veggies. It was, as Innommable would say, Yum! 🙂 

 

On one of my Buddhist temple visits, I even tried tempting a monk into having the desire to be in a picture with me or having a picture of himself taken. Alas, the monk was firm in his faith and shook his bald head with a smile that told me he desired nothing!

 

Thai people are generally calm, quiet, and courteous, I observed–unless they were at out drinking at night! Rush-hour trains and buses, crowded and packed with school kids, professionals, and others, were fairly quiet. Clean streets gridlocked with vehicles that were lined obediently in their respective lanes were mostly calm, except for the sound of idle engines. All of this, to me, coming from a country of a NOISY BILLION, was simultaneously  curiously odd and immensely relaxing.

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3 Responses to “Thai Thoughts”

  1. Innommable said

    So awesome…

    I want to go to McThai’s! LOL!

    All of this sounds so interesting and cool… 🙂

  2. Jason said

    Sounds like you had a great time!

  3. Rubicund said

    Wow, I can’t imagine anyone finding Bangkok traffic calming, though I must admit it was somewhat orderly.

    Please tell me you did not miss out on the red bean or sweet corn pies at McD’s!

    Damn, now I want to go back…

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