Thursday, July 28, 2016

Observations from an Alien Anthropologist

Let me just begin by saying that I absolutely love Thailand.  And when I say that, mostly what I'm talking about is the people of Thailand.  I love their nature: sweet, modest, calm, respectful, honest.
I love the fact that I'm not the only one around here who feels the same way, either.  All the expats that I've met here, or who have ever traveled here, have said much the same thing about this glorious country.  I think if you have the slightest curiosity about Thailand, the most minute desire to travel here, maybe due to the otherworldly images of the beaches here, or the idea of going out nights in Bangkok shopping and carousing with the international set, you should revise your idea.  Instead, come here for the people.  Come here to connect with someone who will make you feel good about the people of the world in general.  And those folks are everywhere here.  

Now that I've said that, I'd like to post some observations from an outsider who does not understand everything he see around him.  Some of these sights simply raised an eyebrow, while others crossed my eyes.  I make these observations with an open and fully accepting mind, but with, like I said, not much in the way of understanding.  

First, the most obvious to anyone who's ever been to Southeast Asia, is the disregard for personal safety. To illustrate, I submit as evidence, exhibit A: An entire family riding on a motorbike with nary a helmet in sight, with the father controlling the handlebars not with both hands, No!  With one hand because he's holding an umbrella over everyone's head with the other.  Now I applaud his chivalrous intention, make no mistake.  And I completely understand the benefits of the motorbike over the car. But why not put a helmet on junior or the missus or yourself?  I also know it's hot outside and you like the wind whipping through your hair as you weave in and out of traffic at high speed.  But think of the children...
 Exhibit B: again with the motorbikes!  While I'm driving as attentively as I can, It's still impossible for me to be aware of every motorbike around me when  these guys and gals are passing me on both sides of the car.  It's literally unsafe for me to turn either direction or to brake suddenly because there are motorbikes around me like a swarm of busy bees.  Why?!  If you won't "think of the children", then maybe think of the poor chap behind the wheel of that rickety old Soluna whose trying his best but isn't from around these parts, so probably won't do what you expect him to do.  Besides, his guts are twisting as he drives and his knuckles are turning white on the wheel.  Pity me!

Second is the menu translations.  Most of what I've seen on the menu in Chiang Rai is written Thai, which makes sense.  It's Thailand.  But occasionally a restaurant will scratch out a couple English words underneath the Thai.  This is a great help to ignorant travelers like myself; however there are occasions when I wish they either would  pay a professional to do it, or just leave it in Thai.  As support for this, I offer you the following, seen on a menu a few days ago:  Serpent head with sour and sweet sauce.  That's it.  No description.  No identification of the type of serpent, or how much of the neck comes with it.  How can I make an informed choice?  I guess I'll just have the curry.  Again.  Another menu just yesterday stated, "Rice with fried vegetables and pig offal."  Come to think of it, I don't know how to say pig offal in English and make it sound appealing.  Maybe just leave that one in Thai....

Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm complaining, because I'm not, except about those damned motorbikes swarming me!  Maybe I'm just making a mental list of things I hope to understand before I leave.  Remind me to tell you about The Night Gnarket.......

Right now the monsoon rains are falling again and I have to drive (have mercy) downtown to do some shopping for the new house that we move into tomorrow morning.  Super psyched to have more than one cell bedroom for us and the kids.  Life here is about to improve 100 fold.  


  1. Happy you'll be settling in thus weekend! Good luck with the food.....and driving! Love you guys and all your posts!

  2. Love the way you write although I may be dreaming about a serpent head on a bun with Jersey tomato and mayo tonight ��

  3. Love the way you write although I may be dreaming about a serpent head on a bun with Jersey tomato and mayo tonight ��

  4. Hoping you have umbrellas for the monsoons, but kind of hard to carry anything beside umbrellas as you move. Stay dry or if all else fails use soap and shower outside. It saves drinking water. Happy new home!

  5. OMG Matt - One of the best entries yet! As one who can completely appreciate the "how many family members can you get on a scooter", your wonderful description was quite a visual memory.... LOL. Well done. And the menu's will continue to just get better and better I am sure.... One of my favorites activities in China is to capture the hysterical signs that are posted "in English" -- some real classics along the way. Good luck with the driving -- guessing closing your eyes might help? Glad to hear you guys are closer to a few extra rooms in the house -- it's only going to get better from here,