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Thailand Hot & Not List

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 24 April 2010 | Views [627]

THUMBS UP!

1. Every set of traffic lights in Thailand have a countdown screen attached to them. This lets you know exactly how many seconds you have until the light changes from amber to red (no more guessing if you'll make it through the red light.) It also has the effect of when there is about ten seconds left before the change from red to green, all the motorists start revving their engines lke it's the start of the Grand Prix. (This can be a thumbs down if you are out in front on your bicycle, as it's highly intimidating!)

2. Central World, a shopping complex in Siam Square in Bangkok City has 10 (yes, 10!) levels of stores. Not small levels either. You could probably fit in maybe ten or so Garden City's into this place - it's gigantic! Shopping centres don't much for me, but this one gets a thumbs up because as of a few weeks from now, an ice-skating rink is going to be opened. Damn cool (literally.)

3. Tuk-tuk drivers in the city are sponsored by stores that are off the main tourist trails and don't get much traffic. This is a thumbs down for some people who would rather pay a full fare and not have to visit a gem shop/tailor/rug store etc. But for Dan and I, we don't mind getting a free or ridiculously cheap ride and having to spend ten minutes inside someone's shop. We never buy anything, have fun chatting with the storepeople, and the tuktuk driver gets a 5L coupon for fuel. (This can also be a thumbs down, as after you've done this a few times, the drivers remember your face and harrass you abit more vigorously than other people.)

4. At the cinema, before the screening of the film, everyone stands and sings the local national anthemn. And they sing it loudly and proudly, not like we do back home in Australia, where we kind of mouth the words, mumble, while looking at our feet.

5. Catching the ferry down the river, instead of always walking or taking rides. Dan and I hopped on a local ferry one afternoon when we were exhausted from walking around Chinatown. It cost us about $2 to get back to Khao San Road, and provided a new perspective of Bangkok.

6. Hunting out the smaller stores for bargains. Ok, so almost everything in Bangkok is a bargain compared to Australian prices, but if you get away from Khao San Road and visit the shops with less traffic, not only do they start bartering at lower prices, but they are keener for a sale. This time around, lots of the men and women at stores along Khao San Road gave us astronomical first prices, couldn't be bothered bartering to a decent price, or were outright rude to us. (Example: I lost my sunglasses and found a replacement pair I liked along the main street. I inquired how much, the woman told me 450B. I had bought the exact same pair for 100B and had since seen them on sale further down the road for 69B. I attempted to goodnaturedly barter her down to a reasonable price but she would only go down to 400B. I thanked her, saying I might come back later, to which she replied with a raised voice, in no uncertain terms, that if I came back later she would remember my face and charge me 500B!

7. Vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Thai usually has alot of vegetarian options (although "vegetable with oyster sauce" is the most common...I wonder what they think an oyster is?) but I found a backstreet with a row of little restaurants that are strictly vegetarian, mostly vegan. May Kaidees has been cranking out all you can eat buffets (99B pp), cooking classes, cookbooks and traditional thai dancing (free entertainment while you eat) since 1988. Along the same street, a few shops down on the right hand side is another place called Ethos. Also mainly vegan, some vegetarian, this place has a more varied menu than MKs - including Indian and Western dishes, instead of just Thai. Small tables and cushions on the floor and a great bookshelf.

 

8. Bicycle shops. Head to Chinatown for any parts you need for next to nothing. Go to Velo Bicycle (88 Samsen Sio 2, near Phra Athit Road) for specific parts, and night-time bicycle tours. Pricey but the same brands and quality you get in Australia.

9. Making light (and laughter) of everything. In most 'Western' countries it's considered rude to laugh at someone, however, in Thai culture they don't mean it in a belittling way, only to jest. Examples of this include if you fall over, if you accidently drop your food in the street, and so on. At first it takes some getting used to, but once you realise they are just laughing at life, not you, you start to laugh along too.

10. Hose and squat toilets. I never thought I would say it, but I have learned to appreciate, if not love, them. Squatting not only strengthens and tones those leg muscles, but discourages the bad habit some people have of lingering in there, occupying themselves with reading or playing on their phone. Yuk. As well as the style, I have become a fan of the method as well - without getting too graphic let's just say I'd prefer to wash that area than smear it. Extra thumbs up for saving the paper, and hence, trees!

THUMBS DOWN!

1. Security at shopping centers. I'm not sure whether the highly increased security is because of the recent political protest but when I visited Central World, Dan and I were bag searched at the main gate, then made to walk through a metal detector, then swiped down with a hand-held metal detector, then had our bags thoroughly searched. Only then were we allowed to enter.

2. Books are relatively expensive (though this isn't recent, prices have risen only marginally since I was here in 2007.) English books average about 300B each ($10.) A lot of these are photocopies, so be sure you ask them to take the book out of the plastic they have covered it in, so you can check. If the book you want is popular, or a recent edition of a guide, expect to pay even more. A thumbs up of this is that at least if you leave the price tag on, you can return to the same store and get a credit against your next purchase to the amount of half of the full price you originally paid.

3. Spitting. Just like in India, in Thailand spitting isn't considered anti-social or even gross. I have seen the tiniest Thai woman, looking like prim dolls, hock up a gooby in the road. Not only does the sound make me retch, but you have to be alert to dodge these missiles while you walk.

4. 7/11. I don't know whether I will ever get the high-pitched sound of the automatic doors sliding open out of my mind. In places where none existed four years ago, there is now more than ten! It seems everywhere you go in Thailand, even small towns, have this franchise store every few meters. And not only are the stores in your face, but there is the merchandise also. 7/11 T-shirts are plentiful on the shirts of locals and foreigners alike, why is a mystery to me! A constant reminder that big corporations dominate the globe. Yuk!

5. Condensed milk. You can't get away from it, they put it on or in everything.

Tags: cinema, corporations, food, humour, reading., shopping, toilets, traffic

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