At the moment I am sitting in the lounge of some vegetarian guesthouse in the Old Town of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I am writing up my CV using an old stationary PC and MS Word is in Thai. I am not sure how to change the language, but it’s okay – it’s fun this way. I’ve only been here a few months, but I can’t help but think how the little day-to-day experiences have made the bigger experience memorable.
1. It has become normal to live with various types of insects.
You can’t leave food openly anywhere at home – the tiny little ants get in and walk all over your food. Yesterday I left a bag of watermelon on the table and carried on with work on my laptop. Ten minutes later I had this sudden realisation and thought “S#*t! Bye-bye juicy watermelon!” On the way back home at night you see loads of chunky cockroaches running around the rubbish on the street – just try not to step on them. Or you‘re doing your work and you see a random praying mantis gluing itself to the balcony window trying to hypnotise you with its swaying little head – look away, look away now…
- Being unable to communicate the simplest things.
Here’s a riddle: If a Thai street vendor answered “yes” to “can I have a Pad Thai with NO meat?(clear hand gestures)”, what type of meat would they put in my Pad Thai?
- Big changes in money value.
Currently I am paying in Thai baht, but when I shop I convert it to British pounds, use US dollars in neighbouring countries, and have savings in a Lithuanian currency that won’t even exist when I go back home! (Introducing Euros) At one point in Cambodia I was converting the Riel into USD into GBP and into Thai baht just to see if it was value for money!
- My definition of a ‘restaurant’ has changed pretty much into a new definition.
If you travel in Europe, you distinguish a restaurant by its exterior, and if you like it – you walk in. You take a seat, listen to the music while browsing the menu, maybe go to the toilet, wash your hands, come back to your table. You play around with the shiny knives and forks, maybe the napkins, then your drink arrives, followed by your meal. There are plenty of these type of restaurants in Thailand, but if you’re frugal with your baht, you go to different places, especially in the islands. Now for me a restaurant is any place that has tables and chairs. Literally. If it has plastic plates and brown drinking water – it’s a restaurant. If it is a garage with two tired-looking dogs, four children in their underwear, a lady with a wok and a picture of a King above a table and two chairs – it’s a restaurant.
- And finally, the traffic.
Not comparing driving in Thailand to England, in general people drive quite safely – sound the horn to show presence, slow down at turns, and stop when needed. Sometimes, though, you can see funny things. Last night I saw a girl on a motorbike: it was a one way street, she was driving against traffic, indicating a right turn, and whilst taking a left turn. Or you can see a random motorbike speeding on the pavement. The saying goes look both sides when crossing the street, but I learned to look both ways before crossing, and then twice more after crossing!
There are many, many many more exciting things to be shared: anything from train travel tips and job hunting in Chiang Mai to Thai vegetarian food being meatier than actual meat, so stay tuned!