In the early days of A Little Adrift I used to have a page on the site completely dedicated to the fun facts and tidbits I discovered in each new country. I called the page “Strangeness” (why I ever thought that was a good idea, I’ll never know) and it had some of the raw, unfiltered and seemingly meaningless quirky facts that rarely make it into my travel stories. I was new to travel and everything around me was a surprise so I filled the Australia page with things like: Note to self, brekkie=breakfast and thongs=sandals not ladies underwear. Incredibly useful, I know ;-)
Well, good news, I’m reviving that series! Yipee! I plan on occasionally sharing a compendium of weird and fun facts and observations for each country I visit (or have visited)…and since I’m a geek at heart you can bet on some of the local history I’ve found intriguing (sort of like the Twenty Questions post on Jordan earlier this year).
So, enough with the blathering on my end, and on with the Thailand style fun facts!
Before I travel through any new place I like to read up on the history…though far from scholarly, Wikipedia is my go-to source, and Thailand’s Wikipedia entry gives a really great overview of each facet of Thai history, geography, economy, etc. Also, I actively veer away from stereotypes and gross generalizations about a country, but that being said, take this as a fun and not-authoritative-at-all list. :)
Wait, Before we Get Started, Where is Thailand?
For a quick geography lesson, Thailand is smack dab in the middle of Southeast Asia and bordered by four countries: Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. And because of its location, Thailand’s culture and history are heavily influenced from India and China.
A Spoon and a Fork Please!
Thais eat most dishes with a spoon in their dominant hand and forks easily leverage food onto the spoon. This comes in handy because Thai food is so tasty and when I’m using a spoon it’s a lot easier to shovel food into my mouth! Of note is the fact that chopsticks are really only used for eating soups, otherwise you can mostly expect your dish served with a spoon and/or fork.
It Goes Together Like Ice Cream and Bread
Desserts are of a different ilk here, and one of the more popular desserts is ice cream sandwiched between a piece (or two) of white bread. They don’t traditionally eat bread with meals (that’s what the rice is for), and bread is most often served sweet. Yum! Seriously, don’t knock bread and ice cream ‘til you’ve tried it…I found it odd, have never craved it again, but am glad I sampled it once!
When in Doubt, Add Condensed Milk
Condensed milk is a staple here so it seems, it’s sold on the shelf of every 7-11 and Tesco Lotus and the syrupy sweet flavor compliments both drinks and desserts. Thai food often has a sweet component to it (they sugar their food with table sugar!) and the near obsession here with condensed milk is another facet of that sweet tooth!
The Land of Smiles Delivers
Thailand’s tourism pushes the image that the country is the “land of smiles” and this is mostly true. Thais generally prefer harmony over open social conflict so it’s rare to get into altercations on the streets and I find the vendors and locals regularly offer up warm smiles and greetings. It’s also worth noting though, that smiling is the default reaction for Thais in a range of situations very different from the West. For example, a smile from a Thai person can show their personal embarrassment, or they smile to relieve your personal embarrassment, smiles come out of fear, remorse, and even tension. It varies – so yes, everyone is smiling, but it not always because they’re happy! :)
The Wai, and Thai Social Protocol
Many Asian cultures have a different social hierarchy in place and Thailand is no exception. The hierarchy is present within families, friendships, and nearly all social situations. The most pronounced manifestation of this is the wai, a gesture of raised, clasped hands in front of your body…depending on the person, age, and “status” for lack of a better word defines how low you bow your head in greeting and thanks.
When I looked around me over the past week (eek! It’s been a full week here!!) these are some of the fun and random things I have found along the way and that have jogged my memories from past travels. It’s far from comprehensive, and Ana has been the one to point out several of the oddities to me now that she’s here (she likes the tiny dogs in particular), but it’s always something new and intriguing here on a daily, if not hourly basis :)
Traveled in Thailand or dreaming of traveling there? What fascinates you most about Thailand?
This post was last modified on November 1, 2011, 8:31 am