I have wanted to post something more substantial but the last week has been a whirl wind and utter exhaustion has gotten in the way. So instead, I would like to highlight some of the most interesting things I have learned while here before I forget them all. I hope you find these as surprising/fascinating/curious as me, being that I had absolutely no exposure to Thai culture or history prior to landing in BKK (Bangkok). Please ignore the politically incorrectness of these facts and just humor me.
- 95% of the country is Buddhist. Or over 95%. The rest are Hindu. They believe Karma is a real bitch. That’s why they are so nice. I don’t get off for Christmas. Not cool.
- The King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, or Rama IX, is extremely well liked. He is also the longest reigning King in the world (66 years). He is 84 years old I think, I’ve gotten mixed answers on that one. He has done some amazing things for the Thai people and worked hard to improve their agriculture systems and sustainability over the years. He was born at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge which probably one of the reasons he is such a good egg. And last but not least, I get off for his birthday (King’s Day) on December 5th. Woohoo!
- Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia to have never fallen under French or English or whoever’s rule. Their lack of English fluency could be a result of having never been colonized. Thailand is also known as the “Land of the Free” because of this.
- This is a lawless land. No traffic laws are enforced, no health regulations in “restaurants” (aka stands on the side of the road), your child doesn’t have to wear a helmet while they ride on the front of your motorbike with your family, etc.
- The heat is a nonissue. I am about two seconds away from stripping off all of my clothing and running around the streets buck naked while my fellow Thai neighbors wear pants and jackets.
- Wai is the way. Pronounced “Why”, Thai’s do this instead of shaking hands. There are 3 types of Wai. The lowest Wai starts with your hands together as if you are praying at your chest and you bow your head. The second is with your hands higher and your thumbs at your nose and you bow your head. The highest, and most respectful, your hands and thumbs are at about your forehead. The highest Wai is reserved for Monks and dignitaries, I believe. I would do a middle Wai to my elders and a lower Wai to my fellow teachers and equals. I think.
- Dairy Queen is king, scratch that, it’s 7-11. Thailand’s most popular chains are the most random American ones. KFC, Dairy Queen, and there are more 7-11’s than you can shake a stick at. Its amazing. I really don’t have anything to compare the amount of 7-11’s here to something in America. Maybe Starbucks in Manhattan? Literally on every corner. 7-11 is where you “top up” your cell phone minutes, get water, get booze, get crackers, get Lays America Cheesy Paprika chips, get yogurt. Its pretty awesome. It’s every Thai’s saving grace. And an expats for sure.
- Everyone here thinks they can hoodwink me because I am a farang (foreigner). Up until the past 24 hours we were doing pretty good. But then yesterday left and right people thought they could do what they wanted to us. Charge an extra 15 baht (50 cents) for a Song tao ride, short change us for lunch, etc. I am going to start laying down the law soon. They can’t fool this farang.
- I am running out of content but I hear that 9 is a lucky number here so I wanted a 9th fact. So thats the fact. 9 is a lucky number here. And it’s my lucky number. So 9 for the win. Sawadee! (hello/goodbye/everything)
- Wait I thought of something else. The King and I is based on the Rama the 4th in Thailand. When Thailand was Siam. And his son in the movie, the prince (Rama the 5th), was the other most liked king of Thailand. He abolished slavery like Abe Lincoln when he grew up. And he didn’t start a Civil War when he did. Smarty pants.
Crash course complete.