Tag Archives: poverty

The ‘Squirrely’ Side of Thailand

I thought it only fair since I posted ‘Things to Love about Thailand’ that I should also have a little ranting page about things I find squirrely about the country as well.  Again, they are in no particular order 🙂

#1: Whitening
Ok, now I understand that this is 100% a culture thing.  Unlike many people in the Western world and many Europeans, Asians want white skin.  White skin is a sign of wealth.  For if you are wealthy, you spend most of your time indoors and don’t have to work or labor outdoors, hence you stay out of the sun, hence you have white skin.  On the flip side, having dark skin is a sign of poverty.  So ok, I get people here want white skin, but what I’m not a fan of is the whitening products and not having a real choice outside of it.  Deodorants, body washes, lotions, basically any product for your skin has chemical whitening agents in them.  As a falang who prefers a little color to my skin, and as a person who doesn’t want unnecessary chemicals put on my skin, it’s really, REALLY hard to find any skin products without whitening chemicals in them.  They are all “whitening”, “extra whitening”, “white and firm”, etc….  What’s worse to me is so-called skin care product experts like Nivea, Oil of Olay, Dove, and so on are on the whitening bandwagon.  They are just out to give what the culture wants despite what damage it may do.  All about the $$$$… Again, I get it’s a culture thing to want white skin, I just wish there were options that didn’t have the whitening chemicals in them, that’s all 🙂
#2: Electric Lines
I don’t know why it is exactly that electrical poles have what sometimes looks like hundreds of lines coming off of them stretching along every road and side road.  It’s as if they had poles with a few lines at first, then as demand for electricity increased they just added more and more and more.  It’s sometimes scary as when you walk by many of the poles you can hear them literally buzzing with electricity!  And between some of the poles the electrical lines stretch from the top of the pole to at least half-way down allowing the lines to sag almost to the ground.  Now, I’m not an expert in electricity by any means, so I may be way out of my depth here, but I would think there would be a “neater” or more organized way to get electricity where needed without just adding more and more to already congested poles… Hmmm…

#3: Sugar
I learned very quickly that sugar is super popular here in Thailand.  They put it in EVERYTHING!!  It’s even a condiment on the table for your meal!  They have the chili pepper powder, fish sauce, a vinegar sauce with sliced chili in it and sugar.  Nope, that’s NOT salt!  I’ve heard that Thailand is way up there for diabetes and obesity, though to be honest I haven’t noticed that many obese Thai’s, so while that part came as a surprise to me, after realizing and tasting that yes, everything does have a ton of sugar in it, it’s not so shocking after all.  Bread, coffee, “all natural juices”, potato chips, the list goes on!  If shopping on the street at the various vendors, if it looks like it may be tart or not have sugar in it, you really won’t know for sure until you take that first bite.  As someone who is trying to watch sugar intake for personal health benefits, I literally have to read every ingredient on what I pick up in the store to check for sugar.  I’ve done this action so often now, I even recognize the word in Thai (since the majority of ingredient lists are 100% in Thai).  Such a bummer!

#4: Visas
If you enter Thailand via air, you automatically will receive a tourist Visa for 30 days.  If you want to have a Visa for a longer period of time, you can apply before going to Thailand to the nearest Thai embassy for a 60 or even 90 day Visa.  It is possible to get a year Visa if you are doing some sort of education while in the country such as learning to speak Thai or Muay Thai training.  If you arrive in Thailand via land (bus or train) you get a 15 day Visa!!  Seriously???  What in the world would anyone actually be able to see of Thailand in 15 days!?!?!  I understand that there are many expats and travelers that get jobs while originally just visiting Thailand and aren’t being legal about it (paying the appropriate taxes and such) so the government is trying to limit the amount of time people stay in the country to make it harder for those who get jobs and aren’t legal about it.  I get that.  It’s just unfortunate from the perspective of regular travelers who just want to explore the country without having to leave every 30, 60 or 90 days (yes, even 90 days is a pain to have to do!!) especially with some borders being closed (well, you can leave, but you can’t come back).  I’m spending my saved earned money in this country… Wouldn’t they want me to be here for a longer period of time without having to leave?  Then again, maybe that’s part of it too… Paying for transport in and out of the country to be right by the Visa is also stimulating the economy… Hmmmm….  The rules do change quite often apparently and many expats who have been here legally for many years simply say that “that’s what happens when the government is ruled by the military”.  (Sigh)

#5: Thai’s Don’t Sweat!
Ok, this one is obviously just meant to be humorous… It simply astounds me how the Thai people never seem to actually sweat!!!  Seriously, if I’m sitting indoors without a fan directly on me I start to sweat profusely!  And even then, while the skin being hit by the fan is dry and cool, my backside is not!  Walking anywhere and well forget it, I’m drenched in sweat so often just walking about that my clothes change color from being sweat soaked.  I’m constantly peeling clothes off soaking wet clothes and setting them outside to dry after my walks and when they do dry they are streaked with white marks across them (from the salt in my sweat) so into the wash they have to go.  Yet watching Thai laborers in the sun constructing a new building, carrying materials and such, not a single drop of sweat anywhere!  Their skin isn’t glistening with any sign of stress!!  Ok, now of course this is a teeny bit of an exaggeration because of course they sweat, otherwise I’d think that was a major health issue, but seriously compared to how I and other falangs sweat, it’s night and day!  What is their secret???  I’m off for my third shower of the day now to rinse off the sweat from simply writing this post. 😉

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One Day in Bangkok

I didn’t know what to expect when first exploring Bangkok.  One thing for sure is that there are many different parts to explore.  I stayed in a hotel not far from the airport (Floral Shire Hotel) basically picking it because it was easily accessible from the airport AND they offered a free shuttle, so can’t go wrong there!  I stayed for two nights, which turned out to be a good call since I barely had any sleep on the flight over and was dead tired when I arrived.  So technically my first day there was spent catching up on sleep!

From the air Bangkok has the look of Houston (industrial and HUGE with lots of a large variety of buildings) yet as if it was set in southern Florida (tons of wet fields and watery canals/rivers giving the land a swampy look).  Upon landing, the air smelled like San Jose, Costa Rica (thick jungle air with the scent of a city nearby).  Honestly there were times I had to remind myself I was in Thailand and not back in Costa Rica as the plants and animals also reminded me of C.R. with loads of banana trees and geckos (love those little chirping buggers!!) crawling all around the walls and ceilings chasing after bugs.  Oh, and there was the veggie truck that came by each morning by the hotel advertising fruits and veggies for sale.  It brought a smile to my face once again being in place that felt easy going with simple living:)

Before going into my day there, I wanted to give my overall impressions.  Bangkok is an interesting mix of life.  There is obviously poverty there and it has a very dirty feel to it (literally dirty as you could feel the street on your skin after a few hours of walking around and at the end of the day my snot was black!   Too much info??  Lol!).  People are everywhere, all around working away or moving about, bumping into you (not rudely, just the nature of crowds) or simply minding their business with whatever task they are into.  Yet, for as sketchy as the surroundings looked and for the amount of people coming closely in contact, I felt safer there than anywhere I’ve been so far.  I can’t speak for all people who’ve traveled or will travel there, and I did get scammed a bit, but I never felt unsafe.  Strangely  there were times I wandered with my camera in hand (I NEVER do that!  It’s always packed unless in use) or walked through areas that at a glance you would think “don’t go there!!”.  But my senses never felt any danger or real threat, so I went where I wanted watching the life of Bangkok unfold.  That’s the feeling I came away with from Bangkok…  Before moving on I have to say I’m not at all a fan of the scent of Bangkok…  It’s fish mixed with dirt, car pollution, stale standing water, industrial oil and what smells like a toilet somewhere.  Not everything can be peaches! 🙂

Moving on to my day: as I’m not a huge fan of big cities, visiting downtown Bangkok took a bit of a kick in the rear.  I kinda dreaded having to navigate such a large place, especially given that the language was SO different than anything I’d been used to before.  As it turned out, one DAY in Bangkok was enough for me!

Before heading to town I did a bit of research on what to see/do and came across a website that outlined the top 9 things to do in Bangkok in one day… Perfect!  Sounds like a plan for me and it got me excited to head into the city!  So I jotted down all the necessary information (where and how to get there) and the next morning headed out.

That was about where everything went NOT according to plan… The first thing on the list was a floating market which thankfully also mentioned it’s only open on the weekends.  So #1 was off the list.  On to #2, the temple of dawn: Wat Arun.  I asked the receptionist to get a taxi so I could be taken to the Airport Rail station to head to town (as always I figured I would walk from there or get another cab if needed to where I wanted to go).  She however, suggested I just have the taxi take me into town (“much easier”).  Ok, fine.  Why not?  So I get into the cab and we start heading to town.  On the way he starts telling me about “boat”.  “Boat trip down river”.  I responded with “nice, ok” not realizing that he took “ok” literally and proceeded to take me to a boat tour place.  Once I figured out what was going on I insisted that no, I wanted to go to the Grand Palace (a teeny boat trip across the river from there would get me to Wat Arun).  He then said that wasn’t possible because the Grand Palace was closed to tourists due to the Kings Birthday being tomorrow (December, 5) which was actually true.  “Too much traffic there” is what he also stated.

We ended up at the Oriental Pier just north of the Taksin Bridge where they gave boat tours.  2000 baht for 1 hour… Which equates to almost $61… No thanks.  I would rather spend my time walking around than one hour on a boat taking typical tourist “picture, picture, picture” (how the tour lady explained the boat trip).  It also turned me off that she tried to negotiate the price with me.  To me, the original price is either worth it, or it isn’t.  I’m happy to pay the full price of something IF it’s worth it to me.  This wasn’t,  so I declined all the way.  15 minutes later after finally succeeding in explaining to my taxi driver that I wanted to pay him (375 baht in total damage) and just walk to town from there I headed out on foot.

I was definately NOT in the touristy part of town… I was in the Hangover Part II, back alley, so-many-car-fumes-in-the-air-you-could-barely-breathe part of town.  I was so off the map of where tourists “should” be that I never even ran into another gringo until I got to China Town.  It is amazing to see how people live.  Food markets and street food kiosks were everywhere lined right up along the edge of the sidewalks where cars and motorcycles (which by the way they also use sidewalks to drive on) zoomed past.  There wasn’t anywhere to be able to stop for a break unless you sat for food and bathrooms?  Hope you have a big bladder because you won’t find one for a while in that area!  But then again, as I said I was off the perhaps “normal” path for a bit.

I made it to China Town along Yaowarat Rd. where they were having some sort of itty bitty car show!  There were tons of people wearing yellow shirts that at first I thought were part of a tour of sorts but later realized yellow is the color of the King, so just about everyone was wearing a yellow shirt to honor his birthday:)  I ran into my first English speaker since leaving the hotel who confirmed I had been walking the right way for the Grand Palace (phew!!!).

Now, normally when navigating my way around places with a map and my feet I always think after the fact “gee, those distances were a lot shorter than I would have thought based on the map”… This is NOT so with the Bangkok map!  Everything is quite a bit further than the maps would lead you to believe…   One block on a map seemed to be 5 in reality, lol!  After about 4 hours of walking I was getting a bit tired.  According to the map I was ALMOST there so I kept trucking… And this is where the scam occurred…

Bangkok ‘Gangster’ Scams

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