I have now been in Thailand for 61 days (at time of writing), which I believe qualifies me to utter the following sentence at any future parties / social gatherings / job interviews / etc with total conviction: I once lived in Thailand. 61 days has seen me through two calender months, several full / half moons (as quantified by the infamous moon parties that have passed during my time here), two official seasons (we are now amidst the rainy one – it’s like being back in Scotland) and countless novel Thai experiences. It is with this knowledge tucked firmly into the waistline of my trusted harem pants that I feel I can begin my attempts at conveying to you, dear reader, about living life in the Thai way.
First, the Thais are really rather friendly. Suitably labelled “the land of the smiles,” its people are genuinely caring and eager to help the ‘farang‘ (the term used to label us foreigners). The moment you look remotely lost, dazed or confused – whether that be while standing in a train station queue, attempting to order from a delicious array of street food cuisine or merely resting your wearied feet atop the steps of a temple – you are bombarded by a handful of locals who, combined, use their few words of broken English to aid you on your way. Remaining true to the belief governed by the Buddhist lifestyle, the people live ‘cool heartedly’ (jai-yen), in stark comparison to the ‘warm-heartedly’ (jai-rawn) nature of western cultures. This means that they do not allow themselves to become overwhelmed or hot tempered when faced with challenging situations, and instead maintain an ever-calm and rational mind and heart.[pullquote] … the most distressing example of the complete lack of structure was the daily battle I had in hazarding a guess at what time my favourite coffee stall would be open …[/pullquote]
Schedule. A word that has been known to strike fear into the heart of any disorganised individual. Sadly, I suffer from a spectacular case of OWS (Organisational Withdrawal Syndrome); in other words, I get incredibly stressed and frustrated when living in world with no organisational structure. Thailand is such a place. Buses run when enough people fill the seats, hostel rooms can only be checked into when the maid has eventually made her rounds, and – despite having structured timetables! – children wander into their classroom lessons whenever the mood moves them. Having said that, the most distressing example of this complete lack of structure was the daily battle I had in hazarding a guess at what time my most favourite coffee stall would be open to provide me with my vital caffeine fix. I fear that some individuals can become so laid back that they expose themselves to the risk of becoming horizontal – pun very much intended, because Thai people sleep anywhere and everywhere (on street benches, upon train platforms, on temple stairs, in the back of moving tuk-tuks, under restaurant tables…).
Finally, Thais enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Of course, they are very much aware of the latest technology, fast motorbikes and changing fashion, but in addition there seems to be an appreciation for the less complex: good company, great food, and lively conversation. They are a sociable nation, they welcome you into their homes, they cook for you and they are happy to entertain with family stories that are inevitably lost in translation. We spent many evenings in our local town of Lat Ya, and were soon known as ‘Teacher!’ to the stall owners. Several people extended their homes (they all seemed to cook outside anyway), hurrying to tidy up a dining room table for us to perch around and cooking us what we wanted on demand. So long as it was either chicken or pork with rice or noodles!
The bottom line is that life in Thailand is wonderful. It’s friendly, it’s laid-back and it’s simple. The perfect concoction for a graduate traveller.