Oh, the beautiful Thailand. Everything is breathtaking. Every moment spent in this beautiful, invigorating country is a moment spent with happiness, overpowering excitement, and education. I couldn’t miss that last part out.
Thailand offered me so much to see and so much to learn. Every single step I took on the streets was a new venture, with new things to learn and enjoy. Even the street food and festivities are a joy! I did expect a few things, and of course, some particular feelings to manifest before I got to Thailand, but those expectations paled in comparison to what I experienced when I got there.
The smell of curry and spices everywhere was a treat to my nose and to a tongue that was willing to try anything at all. My mouth watered once the street vendors started their fires to cook their delicacies. And the rich, rich culture makes Thailand a not-to-miss country.
But let’s do this step by step, shall we? I’m getting way ahead of myself.
So, what did I do to survive the bustling streets of the historical Thailand? How did I deal with the friendliest people around?
The First Step of Survival- Learning a Bit about the Language
There’s so much to learn once you make it to Thailand, yes. But there are things that you should learn before getting there. Being in the streets of a new place requires a challenge. It’s like in the song: if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. This may not be New York, but that maxim holds truth that cannot be limited to the Big Apple alone.
The Basics of Thai Language
I did not bring with me a dictionary. I was complacent, of course, with Thailand as the land of many smiles, you know you’re up for a treat. So, I’ve written a few of their greetings, and these are the only weapons I’ve had that time. Just several translations, but it did me a lot of good.
Get a load of these:
Hello is Sawasdee krab (for men), Sawasdee Ka (for women).
Thank you is Kob Khun Ka (When spoken by a woman), and Kob Khun Krap (When spoken by a man, there’s only one word different from the greeting)
“How are you?” is “Khun sabai di mai?”
I am fine, thank you is Pom sabai di krap (when spoken by a man), and Chan sabai di ka (when spoken by a woman).
How are you is SabaiDee Rue Krab (for males), Sabaidee Rue Ka (for females)
Just take note of the difference regarding the gender. You’ll be fine.
Better yet, you can purchase a dictionary (and be wiser than I was) and learn a few more words. But if you don’t want to get a headache, learn these first.
Avoid Rude Things- at Least, Things Rude According to That Culture
Just like any other places in the world, there are practices that we consider rude. These are practices or acts that defy culture. However, because the world has took its turn to modernization and simply gotten rid of things old (not all though, some parts of the world are still strict about old customs and beliefs), people forget basic practices and sometimes even cross boundaries. However, Thailand is a country that still manages to keep in touch with its traditions, cultures, and even basic etiquette. Even calling for a waiter has its ways not to be rude. Good thing I play on the safe side. Keep a list of these. You need them:
- Treat monks with reverence.
- Pay the highest respect to the Royal family. No mockery. No caricatures about them.
- Remove your footwear and hat before entering somebody’s house and most especially temples.
- Lower your body slightly when you’re passing between people.
- Dress properly when you plan to visit temples.
- And when you get to the temple, don’t sit with your feet pointing toward Buddha.
- Never snap your fingers, whistle, or clap your hands when calling a waiter (this was mentioned earlier)
- Hail a cab with your fingers down; not up.
- SMILE! Give out positive energy. This one will help you with wrinkles, too.
- Keep calm all the time. Do not raise your voice. (This is considered rude almost anywhere).
Most of All, Remember these Don’ts:
- Showing disrespect toward the Royal Family.
- Touch a woman without consent.
- Raise your voice, especially in public. (and don’t do these when they can’t understand your English. You’re in Thailand, remember that)
- Avoid too much PDA (public display of affection). Holding hands can be tolerated, but making out can still be considered extreme. Careful.
- Small talks are big in Thailand. While in different countries, age, marital status, job, income, and family are considered a No-No for small talks, they can be asked of you in Thailand. Nobody knows you there anyway. Answer away!
If we sum it up, it’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Respect! If you have that, you’ll be fine wherever you go, whomever you’re dealing with.
Okay, you’re set, but you can learn a few more things along the way. But remember all of these. Some of these matter a lot for your survival in Thailand… At least for safe passage.
How to treat people always matters the most. Everything else, then, follows. Make a list. Go forward!
The Food… Eat on the Busy Streets!
Let’s not be squeamish! You’re in a different country. Try whatever it is that it can offer to you, and that includes street food! There may be a lot of street food in our own places, but the ones that you can find in Thailand can be a little different from what we’re accustomed to. That makes it more worthy to try! Take a leap. If you’re picky, take a big leap! The street food will surprise you!
Yes, there are restaurants, but it’s possible that you can find the specialties of these restaurants in other countries with restaurants that serve Thai food. So, try something new. Food is always great in Thailand, even the ones you can find cooked in different stalls settled on the sunny side of the streets!
Are you more than willing and ready to try a new flavour of barbecue? This is a new excitement for your tongue. Imagine chunks of pork or liver skewed on thin bamboo sticks, but before the skewing part, which you can actually witness, the meat is marinated in sweet coconut cream and other spices the sellers won’t tell you, of course. After that, meat is skewed, grilled, and dipped in peanut sauce. How does that sound? It’s new, but it’s all worth a try!
Noodles are big in Thailand. They have what they call Sukhothai noodles, which can literally make your mouth water. Imagine this: thin rice noodles swimming in a broth with sweet palm sugar. This is mixed with flavours of pork slices, tamarind, peanuts, and green beans. Spicy, but not too spicy. If you have a certain special place of noodles in your heart and in your taste buds, you’ve got try this! It did certainly make me sweat, but it’s all worth it.
An Ice- Sweet Mania
Up for sweets? Try this: a combination of multi-coloured beans, water chestnuts, ginko beans, shaved ice, garnished with salty-sweet coconut cream on the top. This is love under the sun! People were actually falling in line for this. They are placed inside a bowl, and many people mixed and ate them as fast as they could. I was so amazed. This is fast-paced eating. Brace yourselves!
Porridge, Oh, Porridge. The Chinese People did This.
The congee is also worth trying. If you’re in for porridge, this is the best street food for you! This is a mixture of stewed rice with a soupy texture, pork bone soup, raw egg, minced pork balls, and bits of fried dough on top. One of the biggest hit on the streets!
Enjoying street foods while people are passing by, voices here and there, horns honking, and breeze blowing in your face is just one of the must-dos when you visit Thailand. It’s never a complete experience if you don’t bother immersing yourself in it. This made my trip a blast!
The smell of spices, the bustling streets, the oriental architecture influenced by customs and religion, the carts, and even the restaurants all contribute to the best experience in Thailand. And don’t forget, click! Click! Click!
There are just so much to do in Thailand, including visits at temples, museums, and other trademarks. The side trips, like street food tripping, just made my whole trip complete.
Remember these things:
- Learn basic greetings
- Respect people and their customs, and
- Go street food tripping
And most of all: have fun! Life is short. Live it well! And am I backpacking my way back to Thailand anytime soon? YES!
Have a fun visit!
Date: 19 May-2014
Impression & Feelings: The smell of spices, the bustling streets, the oriental architecture influenced by customs and religion, the carts, and even the restaurants all contribute to the best experience in Thailand.