- Lady-boys- I love lady-boys, they fascinate me. There was a group of them sitting having dinner and drinks in On Nut night market in Bangkok on the first night I arrived back. I have been out with a few and they are so much fun although they can be bitchy and some of them you just cannot tell that they used to be female- some of them are absolutely stunning but some of them have sorry tales to tell- when sometimes their family disown them because of who they want to be. It’s very sad. I watched a DVD- Beautiful Boxer- about a Thai boy, Nong Toom, who did Muay Thai boxing to pay for his operations to become female, he was accused of defiling the masculinity of Thai kick-boxing but persevered in following his dreams and now she is a successful business woman, running a boxing camp in Pranburi, Thailand and teaching Muay Thai and aerobics to children.
2. Street Dogs- Oh my god they are such a pain in the ass. Most of these dogs are owned by families who let them out at night, and they go around in packs and it is sometimes very intimidating when they won’t let you pass. I remember once I was walking back to the house I was staying, and after some little yappy pup tried snapping at my heels, he watched until I got back to the house and no longer on his territory. When I first moved into my house, in Surin, the dogs would bark and bark because they did not know me but after a while they got used to my smell and left me alone. For this reason they are actually quite good guard dogs because they bark if they don’t know someone walking around near your home.
3. Don’t “wai” kids when they “wai” you- In Thailand the accustomed greeting (if you enter a home or work or even a restaurant, is for people to “wai”; which is when both palms are pressed together, as in a prayer fashion, and the head is bowed slightly. There are rules though and most Thai people forgive Westerners the fact that we do not know what these rules are. If you “wai” your parents, grandparents, or a monk the tips of the fingers should be touching between your eyes; a friend you would have your fingertips at the tip of the nose; if someone younger “wais” an older person then the older person does not return the gesture. When I got back to Surin we went to a local bar for a beer and said hello to the owner who had a child in the back. As the child should have she greeted me in the traditional way and I returned it- I just got carried away because I was all excited at being back in Surin.
4. Staring- Oh how Thais love to stare, especially when you are in a non-touristy place, such as Surin, where I am based for a few weeks. They don’t mean anything by it, they are genuinely interested in seeing a foreign woman in their midst. I remember living here and was doing my weekly shop and this whole family spotted me and stared and I thought “for God’s sake what are you lot staring at now?” So I waved and was treated to the most wonderful smiles and enthusiastic waving. It made me laugh and really made my day.
5. Wonderful Smiles- Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles and believe me it is true (apart from the moody immigration officers at the airport). Everywhere you go if you smile you get the most wonderful smiles back and if you ingratiate yourself into their culture a little by speaking to them and making friends, you will be rewarded with ever-lasting memories. I have so many friends here- people in bars and restaurants, people in schools, people that I have met once or twice- when I lived in Surin I went to a restaurant only once in a three year period, and on arrival back here, some two years later, the lady remembered me. It is such a nice feeling.
6. Friendly People- As no.5 but everywhere you go you will find Thais a friendly bunch of people. You only have to walk down the street and say “sawadee ka” (Hello) and they will say it back to you. On my daily run around the park they say “hi” and engage me in conversation about where I’m from, what I’m doing here, what my name is. It’s so easy to talk to them and become friends with some of them.
7. Chicken Balls (on sticks) – Any market has these and they are delicious. You can get chicken, pork, beef and prawns and these are skewered onto a stick which are then deep fried so they cook and served in a plastic bag with a little bag of chilli sauce. Delicious and so cheap, about 10 BHT each (around 1p).
8. Ants- Ants are everywhere, in the kitchen, in your bed, in your cup of tea, in your food. Tiny ones that don’t bite- they are so small they won’t do you any harm but they do get everywhere but after a while you just tend to ignore them even when you see hundreds of them marching in a line towards a piece of food that you have maybe left out after lunch. They love sweet things, so things like sugar have to be kept in the fridge because, even if the sugar is in a sealed container, the little rascals still find a way in. Then there are the large red ants that also march around outside on their daily business but these ones are aggressive and if you annoy them they will give you a nasty bite.
9. XL clothes- Being someone who likes to keep fit and (tries) to watch what I am eating and drinking I still have a few unwanted pounds here and there but it pains me to buy XL clothes when I am normally around a 12/14 but living in an Asian country one has to put up with certain things, and as Thais are generally smaller the clothes are made smaller. So XL it is then!
10. Taking alcohol into bars/clubs-This I love. Certain clubs and bars, especially in places like Surin, will allow you to bring your own bottle of vodka, whiskey or whatever you want (sometimes you have to pay a corkage fee), so you only pay for whatever mixers you have- which makes for a cheaper night out if you are on a budget. I found out the other day that at a couple of regular hangout places, here in Surin, the staff will let you keep a bottle behind the bar (even putting your name on it), so that every time you go there you only have to buy the mixers.