Life, Uncategorized

Faith

I once, not too long ago, lost something precious to me. Something of value that cannot be measured. An unequivocal belief. An unquestioning faith. I raged against God, pleaded with him.

Awash with guilt and shame, I wondered how I could go from having faith in God to not having any. It was one of my darker phases of my life. I doubted his existence. When too many sad things happens in ones life all at once it does not always mean that it will bring you closer to Him. In fact in can pull you further away.

But for a while now and even more so now since moving to Thailand though I have become more serious and constant in my prayers and this has brought me immense comfort and peace of mind. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t need to control every minute of my life. I now know and believe without a shadow of doubt that he has been watching over me all this time, waiting to welcome me back into his arms.

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travel

Thai Culture and what I have learnt

The first thing you learn about Thailand is that it is the ‘land of smiles’. Thai people are extremely friendly and helpful and honest. Yes there will be the occasion where a tuk-tuk driver will try to get more money out of you but on the whole you will more than likely experience an entire nation who wants to welcome you into their country. Even something as simple as a greeting is beautiful. Thai people respect their elders so always be deferential to older people. When greeting a Thai person especially if they are older than you, it is respectful to wai them which entails placing the palms of your hands together, bowing your head saying sawadeeka if you’re female and sawadeekhap if you’re male. Do not wai someone on a motorcycle or someone carrying heavy bags in both hands as they will feel compelled to wai you back which might be a bit awkward for them.

The second thing you learn about Thailand is their love for their King. He is seen as part of the family for every single Thai person and criticising him would be like criticising someones mother. There is even a law called Les Majesté against criticising the King so always be mindful to be respectful. In fact steer clear from any topics about the King and the royal family in order to avoid offending anyone or landing yourself in trouble.

The third thing you learn which you would probably only find out about if you are staying here long-term is a concept called Kreng Jai. Kreng Jai is about suppressing your own needs and self interests for someone else’s benefit. Kreng Jai is about doing something even if it bothers you to give an advantage to the other person or to allow them to save face. Thai people do not like losing face and this makes it harder to judge what they are thinking or feeling. So they might say everything is fine even when offended therefore non-verbal cues are very important as they don’t always say what they mean.

There is a fourth thing you might learn about Thais and their obsession with skin colour. I was initially hestiant about writing about this but I believe in always speaking the truth. Lighter skinned Thais are seen as being wealthier whereas darker skinned Thais are seen as poor. The misconception is that farm labourers  in the rice fields or street vendors have darker skin because they spend more time in the sun. Thai people do not want to be mistaken for poor farm labourers or street vendors. What this has created is a market for beauty products that include skin whitening or skin bleach. Switch on the TV in Thailand and you will most likely only see light-skinned/white Thais. Go to the beach, you will only find Thais under umbrellas, swimming in shorts and t-shirt or only coming to the beach closer to sunset. White skin is seen as superior and darker skin as inferior. Speaking from personal experience I am struggling to get placed in a school as an English teacher because Thais do not believe that anyone who is non-European or not ‘white’ can be a native English speaker. This discovery saddened me as I come from a country of where a government imposed apartheid laws, where we are still recovering from oppression and racial segregation. I hope that one day soon these misconceptions about the rest of the world and skin colour can be laid to rest and everyone can be treated equally.

Thailand is a beautiful country and I would still tell people to come visit as we all have so much to learn from one another. There are also so many other wonderful aspects of Thai culture that I have come to love.

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Food, travel

Cost of living Thailand

In the past year there has been an increased number of South Africans dashing off to Thailand for a holiday. Maybe I only seemed to notice this because I chose Thailand as my destination to teach English. You know when you decide to buy/have recently bought a particular car then it seems as if it is the only type of car on the road. The reason why people flock here is droves other that the culture and climate is because it is affordable. Cheaper than say a holiday to a European country.

I chose Thailand not just because it’s an awesome destination but because things are cheaper here – some things even much cheaper. It’s crazy sometimes how relatively inexpensive certain things can be here. Most websites gives cost of living is dollars or euros but I’m going to give you guys an idea of what things cost in South African Rands, yeah baby, ZAR.

Rent per month – R1500

Taxi ride – R2.50

Bottle of 600ml water – R1.25

2 pieces of fried chicken (better than KFC of even yo momma’s cooking) – R10

340ml tin of coke – R3.75

Bag of bananas – R10

Quarter sliced pineapple – R2.50

500ml strawberry and yogurt smoothie – R6.25

Bag of sugar-coated mini ring doughnuts (dare i say better than Woolies mini glazed doughnuts) – R6.25

Awesome spicy noodles in a cup – R2.50

Butter chicken and yellow rice at S&S Indian Restaurant in Soi 94 Hua Hin – R28

There are so many other things that are cheap I cannot remember it all. Dairy products are mad expensive though but I have become fond (read addicted) to Philadelphia cream cheese. I have yet to price or try the fried grasshoppers, beetles or maggots but I think I’ll give it a pass for now.

 

 

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adventures, travel

Day one: Hua Hin, Thailand

I was not bowled over by most of what I saw in Bangkok so was more than ready to head off to Hua Hin, a beach resort town. After a very bumpy 3 hours later I was ready to pack my bags and go home. Arriving in Hua Hin things did not look too promising but after checking in and being taken to the mall I started to feel better. A mall of all places seemed to provide me with a sense of familiarity. I hate malls. Yet here I am comforted by its cool interior. A quick trip to the bank and Tesco store which is like a Pick n Pay and I was all set with renewed vigour. This was not to be the highlight of my day though.

Upon arriving at The Centennial, where I will be staying this month whilst doing my TEFL course, I got to speaking to the some of the girls from the November class and they gave the December class (my class) some helpful tips on what to expect. They also agreed to take us out the evening as one of the girls boyfriend is lead singer in a blues band and she also sings occasionally. It was eventually nine of us in total who first went for supper at this amazing Indian restaurant called S&S Indian Restaurant in 94 Soi, Hua Hin, Thailand. As I am still missing home I opted for the butter chicken which was just what I needed. After that we headed downtown to a place called Cantaloupe Island, a restaurant/bar/jazz, blues and late night music venue. The band was excellent, the company great and this was a great introduction to nightlife in Hua Hin.

I think I am going to like my month in Hua Hin, every moment of the day seems to be filled with something. Tomorrow I’ve got a Muay Thai session to look forward to as well as celebrating the Kings birthday a national holiday.

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adventures, travel

Bangkok: First impressions

I did not have any expectations for Bangkok as I have never travelled to South East Asia before. The only thing that I knew I had to expect was humidity which is the first thing you feel when you exit Bangkok International Airport. It takes a couple of minutes to adjust to the intensity of if but luckily most places have aircon.

Bangkok is a cacophony of sounds. A place where all senses are engaged simultaneously. Even for a born city dweller it can be overwhelming. Here urban and rural, modern and ancient, old and new all live seamlessly side by side, perfectly juxtaposed.

If you are on a motorbike or scooter you own the road. Red lights mean nothing. Then there are the tuk-tuks (3-wheeled taxis) – watch out for these guys. They do not always take you where you want them to. Already fell for the ‘temple is closed scam and gem shop scam’. Basically they tell you the temple is closed but will take you to another temple instead. Once inside they take you to gem shops and suite making shop in the hopes that you’ll buy something and earn them a lovely commission. I am not a shopper nor rich so all he really did was waste petrol. I did get to go to monk village though and got to see a giant standing golden Buddha so all was not lost. I also did manage to go the Grand Palace the following day which unfortunately was hot and full but I managed to get a few decent pictures.

The street food all look great but for a Muslim person this does not mean much if it is not halaal. Finding a place that serves halaal food is not easy, not impossible either. If you find a mosque then there will surely be Muslim people making halaal food. So do not despair. Fresh fruit already peeled and sliced can be bought ready-made – served in a small plastic bag and with a kebab skewer.

Walking around at night is safe even for females. Not once did I feel unsafe even though some roads were quite dark with very few street lights. There are so many massage places that I am surprised that I have not yet had one. One hour Thai massages are 350 Baht (ZAR 100) so it is on my to do list.

My time is Bangkok was too short so I should give it another chance. My first impression is that it is too loud, smelly, busy but I didn’t get to see all of it so I will have to go back.

I will do a Bangkok in pictures post during the week once I have had time to go through all my photos.

 

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