We ended up spending seven months in Thailand. We didn’t plan to stay so long but Thailand has a way of sucking you in with its gentle Buddhist ways, the fiery cuisine, and an style of living that’s both easy for a foreigner to adapt to but exotic enough to keep things interesting. It’s the quirky details of daily life that we loved the most.
1) It’s actually the year 2555 in Thailand, which uses the Buddhist calendar.
2) Thailand generally feels very safe. Simon accidentally left the keys in our motorbike at least 10 times and it was never stolen.
3) Thais worship their King and there are giant billboards with his photo on everywhere.
4) Before a film at the cinema everyone stands up for the national anthem accompanied by a video of the King. EDIT: Aaron commented and let us know it’s not actually the National Anthem but a song called “San Sern Pra Baramee”, which translates as “Bless the King.”
5) In fact, the national anthem is played in public twice a day and everyone stops and stands in silence for it – which can be bizarre in a crowded train station or market.
6) The cinemas are among the best value in the world – modern, comfortable, and cheap – especially in Bangkok.
7) Motorbikes (scooters) are the most common form of transport. Whole families, dogs, ladders, and even bicycles are carried on them. Often driven by ten year olds.
8 ) Motorbikes can serve many purposes – and can be transformed to kebab or ice cream vans or, by adding a sidecar, taxis.
9) Petrol in rural areas is often sold by the side of the road in old whiskey bottles.
10) Monks from young to old are everywhere in bright orange robes.
12) Monks have right of way when crossing the street – we learnt the hard way when Simon nearly ran one over!
13) Women shouldn’t touch monks.
14) There are ATMs in some temples.
15) Many temple gardens have inspiring and motivational signs hung from the trees.
17) Feet are considered unclean – which means no pointing them at anyone or putting them up on a chair. Shoes should always be removed when entering temples, homes, and some shops and businesses. (When in doubt, look for the pile outside).
18) Shoes are also to be removed at public toilets and rubber sandals are provided which are inevitably too small for Simon’s honking great clown feet.
19) Heads are considered sacred and touching other people’s is frowned upon. Touching your own seems to be OK.
20) When speaking Thai add ka (for women) or krap (for men) at the end of everything to be polite.
21) The wai is the common way to greet or thank someone and is made by holding your hands to your chest as if in prayer.
22) Food is everywhere – street stalls sell pre cut pineapple and watermelon, meat on sticks, piles of chillies and shredded payapa for som tam salad, as well as full meals.
23) Thais like their food spicy – there’s a difference between farang (foreigner) spicy and Thai spicy. Real men eat Thai spicy.
24) Three types of chilli are often added to noodle dishes – dried chilli flakes, fresh cut chillies in vinegar, and chillies in fish sauce.
25) Sugar is added to many dishes, especially noodle dishes.
26) There are no set meal times – Thais like to snack throughout the day which suits Simon just fine.
27) Food is eaten with a spoon in the right hand and a fork in the left to push food onto it. Chopsticks are used for noodles.
28) I love coconut ice cream served from street stalls for 10 baht ($0.30) but I skip the white bread Thais eat it in (they take ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ very literally). I also skip the weird toppings – peanuts, condensed milk, kidney beans and sweetcorn are common.
30) First names are usually used rather than surnames with the honorific Khun added before the name for both men and women.
31) There are a disturbing number of old white men with young Thai women, although we’re sure they’re together for love.
32) Thais love to release lanterns on special occasions, especially for the Yee Peng Festival. As you release the lantern into the sky you release your troubles—especially if you tie him to it.
33) There’s less concern for health and safety here. We usually like that things are more relaxed but we were terrified for a guy gardening on the edge of the 6th floor roof.
34) Young Thais are ultra cool.
Just a tip, if you are planning to go to the Yee Peng Festival book a hotel in Chiang Mai in advance, as the city tends to be full at this time of the year. Other than that, you can plan your trip as your go— the whole country has a lot to offer from the islands in the south to the temples and mountains in the north.
Have you been to Thailand? Leave a comment and tell us your observations.