After living in Bangkok for over a year I have learned many things about the Thai People that I wanted to share with other foreigners living or vacationing here should know. The first thing you have to accept is that eastern culture is different. The people in the east are less emotional and more polite and while they know westerners are different, they often are uncomfortable when we stray from their norms. The things I found to be important are listed below in order of importance:Be Polite – Thai people hold being polite above all else. Their very language has politeness built into it. If you follow what is considered “common courtesy” you will be fine.Thai King – The Thai People Love their King, King Rama IX. Never show any type of disrespect to him or the Royal family. The Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and the visitor should also show respect for the King and the Queen, and the Royal Children. When attending a public events where a member of the Royal Family is present, the best guide on how to behave is to watch the crowd and do as it does.Safety – Stealth crimes, such as pick pocketing, are the most common problem so it’s worth keeping a close eye on your belongings at all times and being aware of the people around you. Unprovoked violence against tourists are very rare, but it pays to exercise common sense.National Religion – Buddhism is Thailand’s national Religion with nearly 95% of Thailand’s population being Buddhist. All Buddha images are considered sacred and there are laws against removing these images for anything other that personal worship.Buddhist Monks – Buddhist Monks are recognized quickly by their shaved heads, bear feet and bright orange robes. It is forbidden for women to touch Buddhist Monks, this includes a woman handing something to a Monk, The items should be first given to a man, who hands the item to the monk. Also, western men should never attempt to shake hands with a monk.Buddhist Temple – Wearing shoes around a temple is acceptable but they should be removed when entering their church (the area where the Buddha image is kept).Be Quiet – Loud people are considered impolite. Speak softly and do not laugh loudly. Of course there are the common places such as bars, celebrations and parks that being loud is appropriate and expected.Greetings – Greetings in Thailand can be quite formal in appearance to the western eye. The basic gesture is to put hands together, fingers up, with a slight bow of the head. The words “saw dee (krup)” (or “kaw” for women) are spoken during fm bow. It is more complicated for Thai people, with three levels based on age and position but westerners attempting this greeting are not expected to understand. (levels: 1. Monk, thumbs touching forehead durin bow; 2. Same age or older, thumbs touching lips; and 3. Younger person, thumbs touching chin.)Food – Food in Thailand is customarily HOT, spicy HOT. Most westerners can not handle the amount of chili spice that Thai people enjoy. For the westerner visiting foreigner, the best tip i can give them is how to ask to make the food less spicy. There are two phrases to be used based on you preference: 1) “mai ped” – not spicy and 2) “ped nit noi” – a little bit spicy. The food is awesome in Thailand and this tip should help you enjoy it even more. In the near future I will be publishing a description of my favorite foods. Stay tuned.Street Food – There is an old Thai saying “a little bit of dirt makes the food a little bit more delicious (rough translation). For westerners, buying food on the street can impact your health with the possible contraction of various gastro digestive problems. While most street food vendors are clean, this only by local standards. I live by “rule of thumb” which has served well living in Bangkok. This rule is simple but you need to stick to it. It is “only eat from the street what is cooked in front of you”. This ensures that the food is fully cooked one more time before you eat it. Unfortunately, this eliminates a lot of food served on the street but better safe than sorry for week.Body Odor – Thai people almost never smell badly and they find it offensive if others do.Crowds – if you go to areas in Thailand during Thai holidays and celebrations, be prepared to encounter many people. To Western experience the volume of these areas can be incredible. Be prepared to be pushed and shoved and be aware that they mean no harm. There sence of personal space is quite different than westerners.Watch where you walk – The sidewalks in Bangkok are uneven and full of obstacles, pay attention. Oh, also, the streets have many stray dogs; the dogs are not aggressive but do leave landmines on the sidewalks.Taxi Drivers – Most taxi drivers are fine. Generally, it is always better to use the metered taxis. Tuktuks are always more expensive and with Bangkok traffic you could be breathing in a lot of smog on the way. If you are going a significant distance negotiate… Also, the Taxis marked “We love farang, we speak English”, well most of them do not. They do have a radio that has a person that knows a little English.Movie Theater – After the advertising and right before the movie a tribute to the Thai King Comes on and everyone stands in respect.Driving in Thailand – If you are a brave one and decide that you want drive yourself around Thailand, don’t be too worried, it really isn’t that bad. There are just several things to understand. Drivers use the left side instead of the right, like in the US, and the roads tend to be narrower than in the US. So driving next to a bus or a truck can be a little intimidating.Toilets – Eastern toilets can be quite intimidating to the western traveler as well. Be aware that eastern toilets are little more than holes in the ground surrounded by ceramic and involve water, not paper, for cleaning. To be honest, I still have not gotten used this type of facility to its full extent. Also, there are often women in the men’s room, stationed there for cleaning. It can be quite unnerving when you first experience this but they are not there for any more than cleaning.Following these tips will allow you to have better understanding of the Thai people and more fun in your stay in Bangkok, allowing the locals to be more comfortable with you and give you a better understanding of how things function in Thailand.
Staying healthy while traveling is a fairly simple task to accomplish. A few precautionary steps to take prior to departure and a few common sense tips to follow while traveling are the only requirements needed.Health Tips Prior To DepartureVisit your physician at least six weeks prior to departure. Some vaccinations may require the passage of a few weeks before they are fully effective.
Vaccinations to consider getting: Hepatitis A or B, Influenza, Typhoid Fever, Yellow Fever, Meningococcal meningitis, Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, and Varicella.
Booster vaccinations to consider getting: Tetanus, Measles-Mumps-Rubella, and Polio.
Have a complete physical to check the status of your health and any changes that may be needed to your current medications.
Consult your physician about possible complications that you might encounter due to health conditions such as respiratory problems, high blood pressure, or cardiac problems, particularly if you will be visiting locations with high altitudes or poor air quality.
Visit the dentist and complete any necessary dental work.
Refill any prescriptions that you will need to take with you on the trip. Plan to carry additional medicine in the event that you lose some of your medication while traveling. Be sure to carry your medication in the original containers. Many countries have very strict drug regulations. Original containers and identifying documentation will help to avoid any complications that may arise from your possession of medications.
Acquire and wear a medical alert bracelet for any life threatening diseases that you might have.
Prepare a card to carry that lists any pertinent medical information such as primary doctor, all current medication, etc. Remember to list any allergies that you might have, including food or insect allergies.
Prepare a small first aid kit that you can carry with you on the trip. The kit should include such things as prescriptions, pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, bug repellent, antacids, and sunscreen.
Update your eyewear if necessary. Plan to take a second pair if available.
Acquire medication that may be needed in the country that you are going to visit. For example, if there is a risk of malaria in that country, ask your physician for a prescription for preventative medicine.
Check into your medical insurance coverage and understand what procedures or policies you will need to follow should you need medical treatment while abroad.The types of vaccinations that you get will depend on two things. First, the physician will need to review your medical history. Second, the physician will take into consideration the country or countries that you will be traveling though on your trip.Health Tips While TravelingSelect your meals carefully while traveling.
Avoid food served by street vendors.
Choose heated, steaming meals as opposed to tepid food.
When eating raw fruits or vegetables, make the selection or peel the fruit yourself.
Avoid uncooked seafood.
Avoid dairy foods that have not been pasteurized.
Avoid beverages that contain ice cubes or crushed ice.
Select water packaged commercially in sealed bottles rather than fresh water from open containers.
Select carbonated beverages over water that has not been commercially packaged.
Remember to take any preventative medicine that your physician has prescribed for you.
Avoid swimming in bodies of fresh water such as lakes and streams, particularly in countries such as Africa.
Remember to use plenty of bug repellent if you are visiting a country or countries that have a high incidence of mosquito-borne diseases.
Use bed netting at night if you are visiting a country or countries that have a high incidence of mosquito-borne diseases.
Avoid overcrowded transportation. It is simply better to wait a short while for the nest vehicle.
Use seatbelts when possible and motorcycle helmets when riding a motorcycle.
Avoid driving in an unfamiliar area unless you have a local map available.
Avoid driving at night, especially if you have night vision.
Carry the phone number of the U. S. Embassy with you in the event that you need medical treatment while abroad. They will be able to provide you with contact information for local doctors, dentists, etc.Avoiding diarrhea is probably the most important facet of watching what you eat and drink while on vacation. Almost nothing can incapacitate someone quicker than a bad case of diarrhea that dehydrates and weakens the immune system quickly.Health Tips Upon Arrival HomeContinue to take any preventative medications that were prescribed for you for the entire recommended time.
Visit your physician immediately if you are experiencing any symptoms of disease or medical problems.Once you have arrived home, use your common sense to review your health status. If everything is normal, then, most likely, you have nothing to worry about. When in doubt, make that phone call to the physician and ask questions. A healthy trip is a happy trip. Plan ahead and have fun!Copyright © 2006, Ian White Access 2000 Pty Ltd