TiT – This is Thailand

Over many years of traveling and living in Thailand, I have encountered peculiar quirks, rules, or events time and again. Sometimes amusing, sometimes incomprehensible, sometimes exotic. Just typical Thai.

Confusing the spirits

Thai cars often have a sticker with a phrase like this: “This car is red” (rod khan nii sii däng)

Imagine you always have accidents with black cars. But now you don’t have the money to repaint the car, let alone buy a new one in a different color. So you look for ways to distract the culprits.

My question about whether spirits could read better than see was dismissed with ‘that’s a matter of belief’. So far removed from any logic. Ah, I see. Alright then.

Thai soccer and a very special heraldic animal.

Chiang Rai United Football Club, champions of the first division in 2019, has a very special heraldic animal: a kind of rhinoceros beetle – true fighters indeed..

I explain why they are real fighters and why so many Brazilians play for the club in my article about CRUTD. (will be published in English soon – keep updated and subscribe the newsletter beside or below the post)

Thai is quite a difficult language – even for Thais

Of course there are also quiz shows in Thailand. I saw one on TV that dealt with a specialty of the Thai language, namely counting units. In English we say “I met 50 Chinese people today”. In Thai, the sentence structure is “Today I meet 50 Chinese people (that’s the counting unit) already”. The special thing about this is that there are over 100 different counting units. The presenter read out the words for different objects one after the other and the candidates simply had to know the right counting word in 10 seconds. Well, this seems to be so difficult even for “real” Thais who make it onto a quiz show that not all of them answered correctly. A challenge for anyone who wants to learn Thai properly. Fortunately, there is a ‘universal’ classifier ‘an’ that we Farangs (foreigners) always use, or Thais can use in an emergency.

But I also always have fun knowing the correct counting words. That really impresses Thais.

Thai-lernen.net from Silko and Sara

Thaikurs für Anfänger - Thailernen.net


Online Thai by Ruedi Seiler

Party atmosphere on the train to Bangkok

Thailand’s government will soon face elections again. In my early years in Thailand, I was told that in the past, votes were bought during such occasions. I could never understand how this kind of influence was supposed to work. Until I experienced it first hand.

It was January 2014 and I was sitting on the train from Hua Hin to Bangkok. All around me were hundreds of happy Thais. Once again, it was quite hot, but the open windows let in enough fresh air so as not to suffer too much from the odors. The cheap plastic of the seats stuck to my legs.

I wanted to continue north to Mae Sai, where I would later work as a volunteer in a children’s home. The people around me wanted to join the already large crowds around Suthep Thaugsuban. There were peaceful protests in Bangkok. The famous Bangkok Shutdown was imminent.

Bangkok Shutdown

Just a brief explanation for those who don’t remember: the Yellow Shirts (Thai people loyal to the monarchy, mainly around Bangkok and in the south) no longer wanted to be ruled by the democratically elected Red Shirt government (the opposite pole, mainly farmers in the north and north-east of the country) led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck. So the influential politician Suthep, who had just resigned, decided to paralyze Bangkok until the government resigned. The shutdown was ended at the end of February.

If you want to read more about it and are interested in what happened next, you should read the Wikipedia article Political crisis 2013/2014. An English-language article from the Bangkok Post.

Back to the scene on the train: I quickly learned that my fellow travelers would be split up into different camps. The ladies next to me were expected in Lumphini Park and would sleep in tents provided there. Later in Bangkok, I would see how well organized it was back then.

My questions were readily answered. Yes, friends or relatives would continue to run the store at home or look after the children. Even the husbands left behind were happy about the time without their wives. They might stay in Bangkok for a week or two. They didn’t yet know exactly what would happen there. Mai pen rai.

Also, my question about why was quickly explained. They were proud Thais, loved the king, but not Yingluck at all. In addition, everyone would receive 500 Baht per day, train ticket, and food. You have to know that the legally prescribed minimum wage per day at the time was 300 baht, but this was not always adhered to.

Now I was no longer surprised at the exuberant atmosphere on the train. A happily accepted opportunity to take a trip to the capital together, where we earned even more money than at home. Thais love a change from everyday life. Sanuk (fun) is a very important factor in Thai well-being.

Later in Chiang Mai, my curiosity about the process was satisfied. Someone who had lived in Thailand for over 35 years described how it used to be. In each neighborhood there was a representative of the respective party (there were actually only two) who offered 1500 baht. So a family of three could easily earn 4500 baht.

My naive assumption “Great, then everyone can get paid and still vote how they want” was thrown back onto the hard ground of facts. It was noted exactly how much money was spent in each district. If not enough votes had been obtained in the election, the party representative would have been in serious trouble with his physical integrity. Of course, none of the recipients wanted to take responsibility for this.

Solar – no power

The Mamas Resort on the small island of Koh Chang successfully uses solar panels to generate the electricity that is otherwise only available in the evenings from a generator. Now the neighbors at their new restaurant building also wanted to generate electricity using solar energy, because then they would no longer have to buy petrol for the generator. However, they didn’t really get on well with the neighbors. It was an old family dispute that allowed them to have a chat, but not to ask for advice under any circumstances.

So the system was installed and the results were eagerly awaited. How disappointing that only 30% of the possible yield was displayed every day. We stood in front of the building, looked at the roof, looked around the garden and finally asked the owner where the solar panels were. His answer left us perplexed: “Well, on the back of the roof, facing the forest on the hill. Otherwise the panels would spoil the view of the beautiful blue roof.

An American in Thailand

An American, married to a lovely Thai woman, asked to have a special window installed in his bathroom in his new house. His new bathroom had a wonderful Jacuzzi. The window overlooking the garden was to have a clear view, but be opaque from the outside. Unfortunately, the couple were in California during the installation, so they couldn’t enjoy the new window until they returned.

Unfortunately, it had been installed the wrong way round: it was not possible to look out into the garden, but the view from the garden was clear and beautiful of the new jacuzzi. Our American didn’t particularly like this, and the installer of the window had to come over immediately to install the window the other way round. His Thai wife did not agree at all. The installer would lose face. No way … Another master of his trade was hired to solve this problem …

Many thanks to Rainer for this anecdote

Lucky numbers

Every now and then I’m asked what my number is on my motorcycle license plate. “854.” I then reply. At first I was proud because I had memorized the number so that I could distinguish my bike from the hundreds of others like it, and I thought that was the point.

But that’s not the point at all. It’s about the lucky numbers in the lottery. “A farang who has lived here for a year and is still shopping with me? That must be good luck.” That’s probably what the people who ask me think. The lottery is a big thing in Thailand. Just like in Germany, actually. Lottery sellers walk or drive a long way to sell their tickets with certain number combinations that are supposed to bring luck – sometimes at significantly higher prices. I always look for 3322, do you want to know why?

Toilet rules – “bidet shower”

“How can you tell you’re in Thailand?” I recently found this funny question on a website for young foreigners on the Internet. One of the answers made me smile: when the toilet paper rolls are on the table instead of in the toilet.

Yes, that really is the case. Paper is used as napkins at meals and there is usually none in the toilet. And if it is there, there are signs telling you not to flush the used paper but to throw it in the garbage can, which irritates most foreigners. In most cases, the pipes are not designed for larger lumps and clog easily.

Yes, and how do I do that after the big business when there’s no toilet paper? An essential question for clean people. Personally, I have come to appreciate the spray showers (or butt showers) that you often find (disadvantage: a wet butt). Sometimes you can still find the very old version from the time before running water was installed: a basin with water and a bowl. Then you have to use your left hand, which is why people used to only eat with their right hand …

Thumbs up for a modified Kawasaki at the police station.

I had been dreaming of a small motorcycle for a while. That’s why I rented a D-Tracker for a day. It’s a 250cc Kawasaki that looks like an enduro but is equipped with road tires – perfect for jetting up the bends to Doi Tung or Doi Chang. (See also tourist destinations in Chiang Rai)

Now this little motorcycle was equipped with a very loud exhaust. I like the throaty sound, but it was too loud even for me. But I was in Thailand and people don’t mind if something is loud. So I dared to drive around with it. It was really cool.

Then I came to the police checkpoint at Baan Tham (monkey temple). Now I felt a bit queasy. But what happened? A policeman even gave me the “thumbs up” instead of stopping me because I was riding a hellishly loud motorcycle.

Right of way rules in Thailand

When I wanted to renew my Thai driver’s license, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to know a few Thai traffic rules. So I asked my colleague who had right of way at an intersection. Those on the main road have right of way. Mmmmh. My next question, how would I recognize a main road, only earned me a pitying look.

So I tried with “if two country roads are the same size…” “Samjääk or Sijääk?” i.e. T-junction or 4-way junction came back a question. Of course I wanted to know both. “Well, I don’t know either.” In situations like this in Thailand, it’s extremely important to just smile.

While searching the internet for German-language traffic rules for Thailand, I came across a few portals that talked about how bad the traffic was and listed everything that was being done wrong. However, I found few concrete rules – but a few nice contradictions regarding the speed limits. Finally, I found a description in Thai with pictures.

I think it was a good thing for me not to know the rules before, because it made me drive more carefully. If you rely on the rules here, you can then say “I had right of way” in the event of an accident. It’s just no use, because nobody will pay for the damage anyway.

By the way, it’s left before right. This is actually logical when driving on the left.

A monkey business in Lopburi

I had already seen them on videos: Monkey gangs fighting each other at crossroads in the middle of the city. Just as you would imagine street fights between rival youth gangs. When I got lost on the way home from Don Muang airport in Bangkok, I suddenly found myself in the middle of it. It was late at night and I had a long way to go. Torn between curiosity and respect for the long drive through the night, I decided to come back later.

That hasn’t worked out yet. But luckily, Thailand expert Andreas has provided me with a guest article about his experiences in Lopburi. (will be published in English soon – keep updated and subscribe the newsletter beside or below the post)

Valentine’s Day headlines

“Dangers on Valentine’s Day – Like every year, the Thai authorities have mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day because young people could get too close to each other on this day … The police urged parents to inform their children about the “dangers” that Valentine’s Day entails.”

“No sex on Valentine’s Day – The Ministry of Interior has called on the Bangkok city administration and provincial governors to keep an eye on so-called love motels on Valentine’s Day, February 14. … According to the authorities, this is the first day in Thailand on which pupils and students consent to sex. Because they have neither a room nor the back seat of a car at their disposal, teenagers seek out love hotels.”

Inspired by true events

My short story from Thailand begins like this:

Although the sun had only risen over the mountain an hour earlier, the heat in the open square was steadily increasing. The cool breeze from the sea provided little relief. Most of the Thais huddled together in the little shade offered by the few casuarina trees. The pale Scotsman with the nice freckles had opened his umbrella. There was a strange smell in the air. Cold ash and freshly cut wood mingled with camphor and herbs.

The most striking thing, however, was the awkward silence among the guests at the crematorium on Koh Jum. Everyone stared at Papa Holland’s pale feet sticking out of the oven.

(will be published in English soon)

You might also be interested in:

MyDroneThailand – Drone registration service


My tips for you: trips in Chiang Rai province

Comparison of Bangkok Airport Hotels

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