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Day 3: Thailand

Public transport, hair dye and all things food

semi-overcast 34 °C

Public Transport

After travelling to a wholesale shopping centre near my host family's home (where I purchased Ray Ban sunglasses with prescription lenses for $150 less than in Australia), Kao and I traveled by public bus to the large shopping centre where we were to meet Nicole and Tang Tang. The bus, among other aspects foreign to me, had a plastic bag filled with Thai literature hanging from each pair of seats. The notion that a public bus system would provide reading materials for passengers perplexed me. With bus tickets so inexpensive (approximately 10 Thai Baht = 30 Australian cents), why would the bus pay for reading materials? Why provide a means for passengers to not be bored on their trip? Is this another example of Thai hospitality going above and beyond the expectations of people from other countries?

Shopping Centre and Hairdressers

The highlight of my festivities at the shopping centre was the food. From sweet wrapped crepe-like items filled with syrup, ice cream and fruit, to delicious passionfruit juices and a main lunch meal of traditional Thai food for less than AUS$3. The inexpensive nature of the food in comparison to in Australia was a pleasant surprise to my wallet, but not to my waistline!


Nicole and I decided that Thailand was the perfect time and place to get our hair dyed...despite not being able to communicate with the hairdressers except through gestures! Despite having my hair thinned without my permission, the result of the experience was my hair about two inches shorter, thinner and a beautiful, bright red colour. :) My previous experience with hair dye had never produced such a nice red result, so despite my apprehension during the process (and the strange order of events - wash, dry, cut, dye, wash, dry, fix up the trim!)


Amusingly, Nicole and Tang Tang (the two other students in the program, plus Kao and myself), seemed to keep disappearing while we were shopping! Kao and I found ourselves calling Tang Tang to find out where they had disappeared to. In the end it became amusing, as Kao and I would look at each other, say 'not again' and laugh!


It is popular in Australia to refer to Asian drivers as being dangerous on the roads. Coming to Thailand (or China, for that matter), it becomes immediately clear that driving revolves around a different set of norms and involves a completely different style of driving. The differences that I notice most often are: the lack of seatbelt wearing (and sometimes the lack of option to do so), riding in the back of vehicles, ignoring lanes/speed limits/indicating, rarely doing head checks and tailgating...just to name a few! :P

Asian driving may appear dangerous in Australia, but similarly, my driving would likely be dangerous in Asia! My driving style matches with that of Australia, not that of Thailand, where is appears that everyone is 'on the same page' regarding driving customs and this allows for the driving system to function. Despite this, Kao did mention that there are very frequently minor crashes on Thai roads and most cars display scratches and dents bearing witness to this.

'Man power'

The minimum wage in Thailand, at least 10x less than in Australia, results in a different perspective determining the 'best' way for things to be done. For example, rather than having a machine to provide tickets on the bus, or for the bus driver to do this, a person has the job of collecting money and distributing tickets. Similarly, in central Bangkok, 'sky train' stations have a booth where a person exchanges your money (that's in the form of notes) for coins. Of course, such a thing could easily be done by a machine, but where the cost of labour is cheaper than the cost of a machine, situations are handled very differently.


I have learnt how to say hello (sa-wat-dii khâ) and thank you (khop khun khâ), in conjuction with the 'wai'. The wai is the Thai greeting which consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. I have found the level of respect conveyed within Thai culture to be very interesting, with such a polite and formal greeting used in a wide variety of situations. Such occasions include: to elders, to shop keepers and to people that they are meeting for the first time. This seems like a very high level of respect for other people, especially in comparison to that shown in Australia. Prior to my experiences in Bangkok I would have thought that I would not enjoy such formalities, but I have surprised myself, with the set greeting providing comfort in situations where it may have been unclear what the appropriate greeting would have been in Australia. This traditional custom appears to have continued within Thai popular culture. This is suggested by the consistent use of the wai by youth, by television presenters on popular programs and by actors within Thai films. Popular culture appears to have supported the continuation of the wai through integrating it into modern Thai life.

Posted by ruth'stravels 08:40 Archived in Thailand Tagged food shopping public_transport buses hair shopping_centre dye hairdresser ray_bans Comments (0)

Day 5: Thailand

Cabaret, Korean Make-Up, Japanese Buffet and Safety

rain 34 °C


It seems that, in general, comfort and fun are prioritised higher than safety. This seems to be the case when discussing and observing the choice to rarely wear a seatbelt, helmets, protective gear and riding in the back of a vehicle! Personally I have found this decision to take quite some getting used to. I am making a conscious effort to wear a seatbelt whenever possible, but, in line with Thai priorities, they are frequently unavailable. For example, in my host family's car, one of the back seats has had its seatbelt clip replaced with a DRINK BOTTLE HOLDER! Fun and convenience over safety? Is popular culture supporting the notion that everything needs to be fun and that safety should take the 'back seat'? Despite the lower safety standards that I've noticed, within the Nonthaburi suburbs there is an abundance of speed bumps, which keeps the traffic from driving above safe speeds in these areas.


Continuing Thai hospitality, today Kao's mother gave me a necklace. This gift surprised me, as I'd never expect someone to give me a gift when staying in their home...in fact, I'd expect it to be the other way around!

Central/Downtown Bangkok

Today's festivities included a visit to the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center, getting my make-up and curls done in a Korean style and my continued failure to find a leather case for my camera. The Bangkok Art and Cultural Center is best described by photographs, though I will say that I much preferred the art in the section that His Majesty the King of Thailand had chosen, than the art I have seen in exhibitions in Australia. I think the style of art that I prefer must be more popular in Thailand, as that entire exhibition had absolutely amazing pieces of art. The interactive nature of the other exhibitions within the center appear to be influenced by the global trend for artwork to move away from the traditional and to instead encompass interactive modes. It was interesting to see the choices made by the artists in creating their artwork, as I found it difficult in the interactive sections to note the specific popular cultures that would have influenced each. I suspect that this is due to a lack of knowledge of the very specific influences, rather than a lack of influences. Contrarily, in the section chosen by the King, the vast majority contained images of the King himself. This shows that Thai popular culture and art is still thoroughly interested in the monarchy and the King's role within contemporary Thai society.

In Paragon Shopping Center in central Bangkok, I had the opportunity to have my make-up done by the Korean brand 'Skin Food'. This experience showed the way that popular culture has shaped the view of beauty in Korea and throughout Asia to preference pale skin and large eyes. Following this experience, I had my hair curled at a nearby hair salon. I noticed quite a difference between hair curling in Australia and in Thailand. It seems, based on how they did mine and the style that I have seen in the streets, that the hair is curled from approximately mid-way down the hair. This is quite different to in Australia, where the hair would be curled from much higher. It seems that the way that it's done in Australia attempts to convey that the hair is naturally curly, whereas the way it is done in Asia appears to disregard the fact that it will look unnatural. This notion seems to extend to appearance in regards to plastic surgery, where this has negative connotations in Australia because it is not natural, but is more acceptable in Asia, where it is okay to look 'natural' through having plastic surgery and other 'fake' things done.

Calypso Cabaret

Tonight's festivities included interviewing two Calypso Cabaret dancers, followed by watching the Calypso Cabaret performance.

Kao, Tang Tang, Nicole and I had the opportunity to interview two of the dancers and their creative manager, Hans. Hans was quite a character, interrupting the interview, speaking in a condescending manner, lecturing us regarding his assumptions of our views and contradicting himself. For example, after lecturing us on the innappropriate nature of the term 'ladyboy', he then continued to use the term to refer to the women that we were interviewing. A further example of contradiction: he lectured on his hatred of the assumptions of the 'majorities' (e.g. heterosexuals) regarding the transgender dancers...but then he condemned me for being 'white, female and heterosexual' - oh, the assumptions! His tone of voice was incredibly frustrating, as we were given no opportunity to convey acceptance of the transgender people, nor to correct his rude assumptions about us. In summary? Hans was quite a harsh, overpowering man, who would not pause for breath during his tyrades.

Despite the incredibly harsh and rude nature of Hans' lectures throughout the interview, he did reiterate some points made by the women during the interview. Such key points made by the women during the interview included, that they do not need others to fight for their rights for them, that they wish to be viewed as people rather than pidgon-holed and stereotyped through the use of labels (such as 'ladyboy' or 'ka-theouy') and that both of them have or are studying at university (that is, being in cabaret is just a side-job for many of the dancers). I found it very sad when they spoke of each of them being discriminated against and jested during cabaret performances, as well as everyday life.


Posted by ruth'stravels 09:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged food bangkok japanese korea thai hair curls calypso cabaret make-up lady_boys Comments (0)

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