Things that remind you that you’re a foreigner in Tha.iland

This has nothing no do with baby making or IVF but it’s a long wait until my next treatment step so I’m trying to distract myself.

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1. Riding past a 4 foot by 2 foot sheet of corrugated metal in the back of your school playground where someone had placed several kilos of raw, uncovered meat to sun dry.

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photo credit: http://www.123rf.com

2. Rain. Now, you might think hailing from a country known mostly for its horrible weather, haggis, men in skirts and the invention of the ‘deep fried mars bar’, that I’d be used to rain. What I didn’t know before is the dreekit, dour drizzle we call rain at home is nothing. NOTHING. Rain is when you run from a taxi to a bus shelter it’s parked next to and in that 2.5 seconds achieve an unprecedented level of wet. A wet in which you have to wring out your underwear when you get home. That, my Scottish friends, is rain.

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photocredit: tastythailand.com

3. Street food. One of my favorite things about Tha.iland is the food, and the street food in particular. It is delicious and there’s loads of variety. If you are leaving a city center back home you really have to plan meals and take things with you. Don’t even think about trying to find something to eat on a Sunday, or an afternoon or a bank holiday or anywhere near nature. Here, however there are no set meals times per-say and food is everywhere. Even out here in suburbia you can grab a bowl of noodles at 4am if you so desire. And it’s cheap. We frequently refuse to go to restaurants/vendors because we think they’re over charging (1 pound 50 for a main course and rice?! Daylight robbery!). I have never been sick after eating street food. I think freshness and hygiene are kept in check because the Tha.is will not stand for bad food.

That said I am European and I do, at times have to control my worries. I am concerned that the meat vendor is keeping the flies away from the unrefrigerated, raw chicken and pork using a stick with a plastic bag tied to the end. I’m concerned about the fried chicken that has been in the cart for an unknown length of time, uncovered, unheated and not cooled in the 30 C+ heat. I worry when I have to squeeze past an enormous wok, balanced precariously on a lit gas tank, on an all ready badly maintained and crowded pavement. I closely inspect all the items in a dish I am unfamiliar with because sometimes things are not what they seem (eg: meat kebabs- chicken hearts, sweet and sour soup- blood soup, fried chicken wings- fried chicken feet, nuts- fried bugs etc). Regardless I eat it all anyway. Aroi maak! 🙂

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photo credit: garyinasia.com

4. Pavements. They’re are not always present. They are usually full of very slow pedestrians, street food vendors/mini kitchens/street side restaurants, critters of varying sizes, beggars with small children/disfigurements/missing limbs, people riding motorbikes and very big holes which people not watching their feet can easily fall into. Someone somewhere had the great idea to build footbridges periodically to help people avoid taking their lives into their hands trying to cross the infamous Ba.ngkok roads. Great idea, not so wonderfully executed. Often these bridges mean you have to slide sideways through a 20cm gap left to continue along the pavement.

Tuk_Tuk_vegetables

photo credit: safety.worldnomads.com

5. Public transport

  • 70,000 taxis in Ban.gkok, but none when it’s raining. The meter starts at 70 pence and can cost about 5 pounds for over an hours drive. This has actively contributed to my increased laziness.
  • Canal boats which are about 40 pence for long distances and add a little adrenaline to your commute as they often only pause at stops, leaving people to leap on and off, not always making it. I think if you fell into the Bangkok canals there is a fair chance you would wake up with inexplicable super powers the next day.
  • Buses of which some are free if you’re willing to sacrifice the air conditioning  and still pretty darn affordable even if you’re not a cheapskate.
  • Motorbike taxis for the thrill seeker in you. Cling on for dear life as they zip in and out of those crazy traffic jams. Do not follow the local example and sit sidesaddle on the back texting or reading a book, you will die.
  • The air conditioned cleanliness of the airport link train, sky train and the underground where you will be smushed up against someone to the point where you are more intimate with them than most of your family members but that’s OK! Everyone is very polite, quiet and practice good personal hygiene. If I see another white person getting on, especially a white person with a backpack I move as far away as is possible for my nasal health. There are also almost no crazies which is a bonus.
  • Tuk Tuks. Cute glorified motorbikes which inevitably will cost more than a metered taxis, are not air conditioned, leave you marinating in smog in traffic jams and will fold like an accordion if hit by anything of significance.

Where I come from you can stand shivering in the cold (pretty much no matter the ‘season’) for hours waiting for a bus and then play omnibus roulette trying to decide who is the safest person to sit next to. Or you can take out a small mortgage to pay for a lovely train which now have wifi and ladies with plastic wine glasses with screw on stems rather then NEDs* with bottles of ‘bucky’**

flood crocs

photo credit: thelede.blogs.nytimes.com

6. Safety. Safety helmets are mandatory for drivers of motorbikes but not passengers. Not even if you are riding with 3+ passengers and some of them are too young to walk (or hold on tight). Electrical wires look like games of cats cradle and often hang low enough to garrotte unsuspecting, passing pedestrians. There is no hot water taps of the kitchen sink in most homes. I asked an estate agent about this once and was informed ‘Bangkok’s quite hot anyway.’ OKaaay. Floods which lead to the escape of crocodiles and snakes from nearby farms. Government funded infomercials which advise using a big stick to ward off said crocodiles and snakes. No seat-belts in any publicly used vehicles anywhere. No warning of slippery floors, tree branches being cut, roads with potholes like the Grand Canyon- to name a few.

speak thai meme

photo credit: memegenerator.net

7. Learning the language. Thai is a tonal language. WW can say the same word in 5 different ways and her friends hear 5 different meanings. I pretty much hear the same word being repeated a bunch of times. It’s also the first language I’ve tried to learn which doesn’t use the same alphabet as English. Plus it just feels darn confusing. Moo means pork- not beef. Pu means crab which is often misspelled as crap on menus, further adding to the confusion. There are some letter sounds which seem interchangeable and some which I can almost say if I make my face look like I’m having a stroke.

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8. The wildlife I share my home with. Have you ever opened the cupboard under the sink and found empty egg shell  then spend the next few days fretting about what  might have hatched out of them? Have you ever grabbed a roll of toilet paper, dislodged a gecko from inside and screamed wondering what was scampering, gleefully up your leg? Have you ever started to clean the shower and seen a sandwich-plate-sized spider casually emerge from under and upturned bucket? Have you ever swatted 11 flies in one day or been bitten 5 times on the knuckles by a mosquito? Have you ever stood on a dead cockroach at 5.30am on a gloomy morning? Welcome to my zoo house. Funny how we haven’t had many visitors….

All joking aside it’s a great country and a great home and I hope to stay for a long time….if I don’t melt during the next hot season 😀

*NEDs, or Non-educated Delinquent, a species commonly found roaming the streets of Scotland wearing designer sports brands and baseball caps with the peak pointing skywards. An unpredictable group with whom it is best to avoid eye contact or physical proximity.

** ‘bucky’ or ‘Ah’ll hae a bo’ul o bucky’ a tonic wine with a warming bouquet of cough medicine and light hints of cigarette butts which is the ‘street corner’ best seller.

buckfast

photo credit: troll.me

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