So we have finally arrived in Thailand! The plane rides here were quite a pain but it was definitely worth it. The temperature here is probably the hardest thing to adapt to but otherwise things have been very flexible and easy going! We are spending our first week here in a hotel called “Eco Resort” in Chiang Mai Thailand. We were transported here from the airport in rod daeng (red trucks) with two benches inside. You can take them all around the city for less than a dollar a person (20 baht). We have been taking them pretty much everywhere.
Upon arrival we were all sweating like crazy and were ecstatic to find out that the resort has its own pool and nice western style bathrooms (aside from the moths and occasional gecko that will chill with you mid-shower).
Our first real Thai meal was at a small restaurant right in front of our hotel, most people played it safe the first night and ordered Pad Thai with chicken. Right after the meal the jet lag hit hard; that in conjunction with the heat made it hard to pass up our air-conditioned sleeping quarters. To beat jet-lag we all decided to keep each other up and play cards until dinner. However immediately after dinner everyone passed out. Luckily our second day in Chiang Mai was not packed with activities giving us some time to recover. Today we had our first official Thai culture class with two teachers from ISDSI. Here are a few things that we learned:
- Take your shoes off when entering most homes, classrooms and stores
- Do not touch people’s heads (that is where their soul is located)
- Girls cannot touch or hand things to the Buddhist monks.
- Never point
- Tone it down like 10 notches (Thai people are very quiet and non-confrontational)
- Address people who are older than you with a P sound before their name and address teachers with the word Ajaan before their name.
- When eating transfer all of your food from your fork to your spoon and eat it with your spoon
- Most bathrooms do not have toilet paper, you must bring your own or use your left hand and the water provided in the stall to take care of your business. Also, bathrooms don’t have soap so bring hand sanitizer most places.
- Tank tops are considered inappropriate for girls.
- The national anthem is played in public places at 8:00 am and 6:00 pm so you must stop what you’re doing to honor it.
- Les majestes: never talk bad about the royal family (or at all about them really because anything foreigners say can be easily misinterpreted)
- People will openly ask/talk about your weight so do not be offended.
- Having white skin is considered the ideal beauty in Thailand, most of their sunscreen has whitening agents in it
And that’s about all for the time being. We will be continuing our Thai language and culture courses throughout this upcoming week with the teachers from ISDSI. Tonight we plan to check out the night market that is only on Sunday evenings starting at 17h00 (I am crossing my fingers that a sudden bout of rain won’t stop us from going!).Day 2
Aand the Sunday night market was a success! The market is on walking street in Chiang Mai, which is right in the center of downtown Chiang Mai. It was an incredible market with something new to be found around every corner. We walked into the market hoping to expertly barter and find some Durian. However, given our typical Farang (tourist) nature both tasks proved to be somewhat unsuccessful (I mean we found Durian but no one was brave enough to buy any). Although, sticking with the stereotype, almost all of us bought a pair of Farang pants (decorative ballooning pants with elephants or some mandala-esque pattern on them). Long pants and skirts are seen to be the most socially acceptable attire in Northern Thailand, but the heat makes jeans seem very impractical. The pants were our only option (or at least that’s our excuse, they are so comfortable!).
Today Anthony bought us an assortment of fruits including mangosteen (left), rambutan (middle and right), mango, lychee and durian. Lychee was my personal favorite (although I had previously acquired a taste for it in the US) and rambutan was probably the prettiest of the fruits (check out the picture to see why). Durian, however, did live up to its horrendous expectations. Ajaan Jon first described it to us as a stringy chewy yellow fruit that externally resembles a pancreas but tastes like a garlicy banana (of sorts) and smells awful. All of which proved to be true; I was hardly able to nibble on a portion of it. It is also one of the more expensive fruits in Thailand (hence, the hesitation at the market earlier).
Also, today was our first real full day of class. We had Thai language from 10-12, lunch from 12-13h00 and then Thai politics from 13h00 to 15h00. Thai language was really challenging but it was still my favorite part of the day. Our instructor taught by miming words and in doing so, contextualizing the phrases he was saying. To learn how to communicate we would copy his phrases given the context. The teaching of Thai politics was also executed in a unique fashion. Given the sensitive political situation Thailand is in right now our teacher was unable to say much in regards to the politics of today. However, he taught a bit of Thailand’s philosophy in regards to politics through “theories” and opinions of other intellectuals. In doing so he had us draw out our own interpretations of what the actual politics are given each story he told.
Given that classes finished at 3:30 (ish) we decided to go grab some Thai food at one of the restaurants on the Ping river in Chiang Mai. We ended up going to a sports bar/restaurant called “The Good View” which just so happened to have a great view of the river (who woulda known). We ended up spending more than usual but it was worth it. One of the dishes my friend and I ordered was stir fried rice in a pineapple with prawns. The small bowl on the garnish plate in the picture was extremely hot sauce (which we discovered after dumping the entire thing over the pineapple dish).