Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ten things you need to know about Thailand

  1. There are no roundabouts in Thailand. No roundabouts. None. If you want to turn right off the highway you have to drive past your turning to a U-turn point and then drive back down to take your turning. My route to school crosses a highway. The road was obviously there before the highway was, because our exit is directly opposite where we join, but we have to go right down the way to make a U-turn in order to rejoin the road.
  2. Thailand has never been conquered by a Western power. You will be told this a lot. Especially if you meet Smile.
  3. There are huge double standards in Thailand for Thais vs Farangs. Foreigners have to pay 200 baht to get into the Grand Palace, but it's free for Thais. Tuk-tuks immediately raise their prices for Farangs. Westerners in shorts and vest tops are frowned upon, but Thai girls in short shorts and low-cut tops are apparently socially acceptable.
  4. Beds here are not made of... bed. I don't know how else to explain it.
  5. There is no concept of co-ordinating an order at a restaurant. Food arrives as it's cooked. And there's nothing you can do about it.
  6. Tuk-tuks are the most expensive way to travel. Taxis and motorcycles are generally cheaper. Don't bother taking a tuk-tuk anywhere. But if you get a taxi, make sure they switch on the meter (they may try to tell you it's broken. Insist on using the meter). And don't try and get a pink taxi anywhere – no matter where we ask to go they always refuse and we've not worked out why.
  7. They love their King. And I mean LOVE him. They wear yellow T-shirts with his crest and “Long Live the King” or “love Dad” (because “his Majesty King is father to the Thai people”). I do find it just-ever-so-slightly scary in a tiny-bit-reminiscent-of-dictator-worship kind of way, but at least he's a good guy. He has all sorts of rural development projects going on – for irrigation, and talking the hill-tribes out of growing opium poppies... that sort of thing.
  8. Takeaway food comes in bags – cellophane bags sealed with nothing more than an elastic band (tied the Thai way – loop around and pull through like you're tying a tag, then bind it around a few times and finally pull it over the top of the bag. This description probably makes absolutely no sense unless you've seen it done). Everything, from fried rice to fruit to fish soup to fanta. I even saw sunflower oil in cellophane bags today. The drink-in-a-bag (shovel ice into a bag, pour in drink, stick in a straw) is the one that's most diverting to westerners seeing it for the first time.
  9. The greeting, “hey you!” isn't intended to be as rude as it sounds the first time you hear it shouted at you in the market. It's a direct translation of the polite form of address “khun”, meaning “you”.
  10. There are elephants. What more do you need?


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