As usual, it has been a roller coaster! Although not as challenging as settling in Moshi turned out to be, settling in Bangkok is proving to have its challenges. We have certainly gone from a society of little to one of excess. Well, I say excess in terms of shops, malls, stuff to buy, buy, buy but poverty all around too. I find it hard to be surrounded by such excess of consumerism when there are people living in shacks outside the gates of our cosy compound. I guess it is the same in the UK but unlike here or in Africa, poverty is not on show.
So, what are the challenges? The language has to be number one! It is incredibly difficult to learn, to understand, to speak, and writing or reading is impossible. English is not widely spoken so we really have to learn it to get on with life. We have group lessons which inevitable turn to hysterical laughter halfway through due to the crazy sounds and tones we have to make.
Getting around is not hard although the road system makes no sense to us and the roads are always busy. Driving is fun and fast, overtaking can be done in any lane so easy peasy. My revelation has been riding a scooter. So, I am 50 years old and have now discovered that I love riding about, why did I not try this before? I like going through the clogged up traffic thinking “so long suckers” the best!
Food can be interesting. As we all know, Thai food is delicious and yummy and can be bloody hot. Well, it can also be hard to identify what it is we are actually eating so a degree of curiosity and lack of fussiness is required. I like to touch everything I see which as we know can lead to certain injuries. With the food, I am tempted to try everything although I was pleased I passed when Geoff inadvertently ate a frog!!
As usual, we have been exploring as much as we can and as much as the moaning from the kids allow. If it is not far, we leave them here. Further afield they come with us moaning and complaining and making our life a misery (well, most of the time). We love them really but this teenage business is rather tiresome.
One day we went off to Ayutthaya which was the capital of Thailand for over 400 years from 1350 until 1767. Sadly the Burmese ransacked the place and today it comprises mainly ruined temples spread over a large area. It is a really beautiful place to wander about for the day and explore the ruins and the area.
Our next stop was a weekend away in Hua Hin where we went to a water park which the kids actually enjoyed and wandered about the local beaches and markets. Geoff managed to crack a rib and I went on two slides which is a record for me!
The following weekend we took part in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. A good event but sadly we were not allowed to march outside the park. We are all probably on some Thai list of trouble makers! Out of focus but here is the Sparkling Elephant from Tanzania!
Time flies as usual. My course has started and am enjoying studying again, I think I will become one of those eternal students… The flat feels very homely and cosy and purely by accident we have acquired two cats. I think it is my animal magnetism that draws them to me! One needed a home so I offered and the other was a foster placement but he is too cute to give back.
So, this is now going on a bit and there is much more I want to say so bear with me. Marianne entered her first Thai horse show and she had lots of fun. Here she is working towards her dream of becoming an Olympian show jumper.
I shall end with a few things I have learnt since being in Bangkok. Thai culture can certainly seem strange to us, “farangs” and it takes some getting used to. Thais believe in ghosts and historically, overnight visitors to a Thai home were requested to ask permission from the phra phum (spirit ghost of the land) to stay in the house. The visitor would then be asked to thank the ghost when they left. This custom still exists in some rural areas of the country. Raising you voice is unacceptable in Thailand, and considered an act of losing control. Remain calm at all times!!
Don’t touch anyone on the head unless you want trouble. This is hard for me as I enjoy playing with small children and got a very angry look when I tapped a child on the head the other day. The head is considered the sacred part of the body and not to be touched without permission. Don’t point at monks or pictures of any of the Royal Family, ever!!
I am scared of this: lèse majesté in Thailand which makes it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent since 1908. The punishment is three to fifteen years of imprisonment per count. There is no legal definition, however, of what actions constitute a defamation, insult or threat against the monarchy, and there is plenty of room for interpretation. Be careful with what you say…
Until next time…