I have arrived in Thailand, known as Prathet Thai to its people.
As I visited this country and its capital Bangkok (Krung Thep) in January of 2003, it has got quite a familiar feel about it. The non-western script of the language, the police officers in their ultra-tight uniforms, the perfume of incense in the little alleys off the main roads, the little ghosthouses where a woman carefully places some rice and other offerings, the polluting tuk-tuk tricycle taxis crisscrossing through the busy traffic. A lot has changed, too. Some parts of the long Sukhumvit Road I barely recognise, with a lot of new office buildings and luxury shopping malls that have been built within the past two years, and much to my surprise, Bangkok now has a brand new, Singaporean style underground metro system, the MRT. Opened only four months ago, it is very useful to get around town as Bangkok’s traffic tends to be quite congested. Unfortunately, after a couple of days using the MRT, I found myself watching the news one morning, images of a now familiar underground station (Thailand Cultural Centre, just north of the city center), where wounded were being carried out on stretchers. Two trains had collided, 200 people were hurt of which 24 seriously and the MRT was now closed for several weeks for the investigation, clean-up and repairs. So now I am zooming around the city on Bangkok’s other efficient mass transportation system, the BTS skytrain, which runs mostly along the Sukhumvit road.
Legislative elections will be held in Thailand on 6 February 2005 with 500 seats at stake in the House of Representatives (Sapha Poothaen Rassadorn). There are posters with the pictures of candidates displayed everywhere in Bangkok, including the clear favourite Thais Love Thais Party (Phak Thai Rak Thai) of Chiang-Mai born Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, looking statesmanly in his elegant suit. Criticised for the deaths of Muslim protesters in southern Thailand and the handling of the bird flu outbreak, this billionaire Prime Minister has regained support, mainly due to his government’s response to the tsunami disaster and its aftermath. But inevitably, there are also posters for the protest party, the candidate displayed holding a sledgehammer.
The two most important things for the Thai people seem to be the monarchy and the Buddhist religion. Everywhere in the city, large posters of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and before a movie starts in any cinema, you are requested to pay your respects to the King by standing up, as the national anthem is played, and a collage of many different photos of the King is displayed on the screen. On the streets, in the parks, people stand up and stop what they’re doing at 8 am and 6 pm, when the national anthem can be heard everywhere. Regarding the Buddhist religion, you’ll find a wat (temple) everywhere, or people on the streets selling flower offerings. When you walk past one of the many Buddha statues, it’s customary to show your respect to Buddha by making a wai, a respectful greeting with the palms of your hands pressed together, bowing your head slightly, which is also used by many Thais instead of a handshake.
The Thai food - I had forgotten how delicious the Thai food is. My favourite being Tom Yam, a soup with shrimp, sometimes chicken, mushrooms, and flavoured with lemon grass, ginger, coriander, basil, chillies and fish sauce, absolutely delicious. Then there are the dozens, no hundreds of different kinds of Thai curry. Ranging from pleasantly mild to unbelievably spicy, they have the flavours you wouldn’t find in any of our Western countries, every single one so distinctly different from the other, every taste making you want to be able to replicate it once back at home (I’ve tried, but never got it quite right).
All these things make me feel almost at home here, and I cannot wait to explore the rest of the country again, visiting sites I have been before, exploring new places, sampling more of the delicious food, and feeling welcomed by the very friendly Thai people.
The URI to TrackBack this entry is: http://blog.fmkworld.org/wp-trackback.php/40
No comments yet.
Leave a comment
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.