Tuesday, December 3rd – Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I’ve scheduled this to post while we are in the air on our way home.
Traveling opens the senses, introduces us to new cultures, food, sights, sounds and smells. It is an opportunity to learn a different way of life and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Thailand is colorful, ancient, peaceful and filled with kind people. Everywhere we went we were greeted with a smile and given a respectful bow of the head as they palmed their hands in front of their face. The history is deep and rich. The land populated with far too many temples to count.
Here are some of the interesting bits and pieces I learned about Thailand along our journey:
1. The Thai language is complex. The names are long, and the same word can be pronounced with five different intonations, each with a different meaning. The alphabet is make up of 44 consonants and 32 vowels.
2. The longest place-name in the world is the full name of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate”.
3. When children are young, the sayings they are taught if they need to use the toilet – girls go “pick a flower” and boys go “shoot a rabbit”.
4. The respect for the royal family, especially the King is one of complete reverence. His picture is prominent all over the country. It is illegal to speak ill of the King and one can be harshly punished if showing disrespect toward him. Even taking care not to wrinkle Thai Baht (money) is important since each bill has a picture of the King on it.
5. Most small apartments and many homes do not have a kitchen. Street food is plentiful and quite reasonably priced. It takes hours of preparation to cook. Those homes that do have a kitchen it is usually detached or open air.
6. Each day of the week is represented by a different color. Thai people often choose which color shirt, top etc. to wear based on the day. Each person also has their own color based on what day of the week they were born on. Tim and I were both born on a Saturday and our color is purple.
Monday = Yellow
Tuesday = Pink
Wednesday = Green
Thursday = Orange
Friday = Blue
Saturday = Purple
Sunday = Red
The Thai King was born on a Monday and to show respect, many of the Thai people who don’t otherwise follow this tradition will still do so on Monday.
If you don’t know what day of the week you were born, you can click here to find out.
7. Approximately 95% of the Thai people are Buddhist.
8. Prior to the name Thailand, the area was called Siam. Siamese cats originated here as well as the term Siamese twins.
9. It is common for the men of Thailand to spend a few months as a monk during their life. It is a time of spiritual growth. It is also a challenging time. The monks eat only what is provided to them through donation (alms) each morning. They eat early and then again around 11:00 in the morning. No food is consumed after 12 noon until the next morning.
10. A monk is not allowed to touch a woman and visa/versa.
11. Although picking one’s nose in public is somewhat acceptable here, picking your teeth in public is a big no-no and considered extremely rude.
12. Thailand (Prathet Thai) means “land of the free”. They have never been colonized by another country.
13. Thailand is just slightly larger than the state of Wyoming.
14. There are Asian style toilets and Western style toilets. Asian style are most common in most non-tourist locations. Basically a porcelain bowl on the floor with a place to put your feet and squat over. Next to the bowl is normally a water trough with a ladle or container to scoop water and pour it into the porcelain bowl after using it. It is a self flushing process. There is a narrow indention in the floor just in front of the “toilet” where the waste water flows through and out of the room. Toilet tissue is not usually provided so “bring your own” was needed. Also most toilets will not handle flushing tissues, so it is disposed of in a waste basket provided in each stall.
15. Thai people have very long names. Lucky for us, they usually select a short nickname. For example our tour guide went by “Nu” and our bus boy used “Beer” (pronounced Bee ah).
16. Common phrase here “Mai pen rai” which roughly translates to “no problem”. Even if your request is an inconvenience, you will still hear a very courteous “Mai pen rai”.
17. Every house and building has its own spirit house. This mini building is placed in a prominent position often on the edge of the property. An offering is placed their daily which may include water, fresh flowers, a food item, candle and incense. It is intended to appease spirits so that they will not cause problems.
18. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body and the feet the most offensive. One must never touch the head of another person and it would be extremely impolite to pat a child on the head. Feet must not be used for pointing as that would be considered offensive. When kneeling down at a temple, feet must not be pointed toward the Buddha, monk or other people. They should be tucked up under you.
19. Shoes are removed before entering any religious structure and most homes. Also shorts, sleeveless tops or revealing attire is not allowed in some of the temples.
20. There are King Cobra snakes here that can get up to 18 feet in length. Their venom is so toxic that one bite can kill an elephant.
21. The movie “The King and I” is banned from Thailand. They feel that it showed the king in a poor light and was disrespectful so it is not allowed to be shown here. The same for the newer version with Jodie Foster, “Anna and the King”.
So, what do you think of Thailand? I would love to hear from you.