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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.
11) They are often found on mobile phones, listening to iPods, and taking photos.
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.
16) Colourful spirit houses are found everywhere and Thais give offerings to the spirits to keep them happy. Apparently, the spirits’ favourite beverage is ‘Unknown Bright Red Fizzy Liquid Inna Bag’.
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.
29) Thais love coffee. There are trendy cafes serving cappuccinos in the most unlikely settings.
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.
35) Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles for a reason. Be sure to join in.
I’m doing a high school exchange in Thailand for 8 months and some things I’ve noticed is that the students have t have tutor sessions after school to have a chance of getting into uni, Thai people are very open and accepting of homosexuality, there are heaps of lady boys (boys who want to be girls), kah and kup are also signs of femininity and masculinity… There are plastic surgery clinics everywhere as well as true cafes (in Bangkok)
All the Thai women hold hands everywhere yet it is unnaceptable for a teen to hold hands with the opposite sex in public.
There are different levels of the wai. For a monk you must have the bottom of your palms on the tip of your nose, for an elder your palms must be close to your chin and to reply to a younger persons wai you hands can be below your chin
I only spent a few days in Bangkok last time but plan on spending a lot longer next time around so it was good to see your double visa comment, noted that one down straight away. Any idea if you can do the same with other countries nearby..?
The spicy food comment was funny, I ordered Thai spicy and always had a laugh as they would often hang around for a minute to see my reaction but I love spicy food and just carried on unsure whether I had disappointed them or impressed them.>!
Also, although I was told not to do this I wandered around a lot of back streets and found some great wee food places, shops and even to my delight a couple of fire and acrobatic displays that very few foreigners appeared to be at which was good for me as I could see over everybody :-D
Helpful tips. Thanks.
What about the amazing and ubiquitous Thai massage! I had at least two a week while visiting the small islands around the beautiful larger island of koh Samui. Great way to chillax. Great blog BTW.
You are very observant! I am Thai and I really enjoyed reading your list.
The photos in no. 8 and no. 9 made me laugh. But, you did not mention “Tuk Tuk” in the transport section. Have you seen or rided a “Tuk Tuk”?
No.14 is very new for me. I’ve never seen ATMs in temple before!
I’m Thai, so sorry if my english isn’t as good.
I love how you explain Thai things in the way I don’t normally hear. You are welcome to visit our country all the time. : )
The red liquid you see is called ‘Nam Daeng'(or hale’s blue boy) literally means red liquid. It tastes like syrup and we do drink them sometimes but normally it’s for young children.
I don’t know why people think the spirits like it, or maybe the spirits are children?
Ps. I’ve never seen ATM in a temple too. I don’t know why people would need it.
Thank Erin for the great list. Will check in my trip next year
Great list, all very true! I’d like to add that Thai people are always looking to make a joke, they call it “sanuk.”
I like your information for me a guide to Thailand. Awesome list and gorgeous photos. I particularly love your coconut ice cream. Thailand is amazing!
Awesome post. I am landing in Thailand in a month and I should be there for quite a while. I actually land on my birthday, and I am hoping to go to the Lantern festival while there on the 16th!
Thailand – is a great, fantastic country! I like this country from beginning to the end. It was my best first travel impressions, when I visited this country for a first time. Every time, when I read any review about Thailand, I can’t stop reading. It always something new you can find in each post about this country. Thank for your review!