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  • Living in Thailand Blog February 2016

 

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Living In Thailand Blog

Sunday 28th February 2016

How long is a piece of string?

Both questions are impossible to answer but, nonetheless, the question about how much it costs to live in Thailand comes up often and it is a question I have been asked several times over the years.

I have just written another article on the subject trying to explain why it is an impossible question to answer. Can you close your eyes all day? Yes, you probably can, but it would be highly undesirable and you probably wouldn't want to even if you could.

Can you live in Thailand on a given amount of money for a month? The answer may be a theoretical yes, but, depending on the amount, it may be highly undesirable. In additional to lifestyle choices, the other important factor I have tried to cover is financial responsibilities.

 

You can rent a room with furniture in Thailand for about 45 USD per month

You can rent a room with furniture in Thailand for about 45 USD per month

 

Most tourists in Thailand probably have no financial responsibilities in Thailand and if they calculate how much it will cost to live in Thailand from that perspective it will probably seem quite cheap. The point I try to make is that once you actually live in Thailand it is very easy to keep acquiring more and more financial responsibilities.

Anyway, this is a first draft and I will probably make some additions and amendments later. With two young children at home I suffer from constant interruptions all day and this disturbs my train of thought when I am trying to write something. This article should have taken a few hours. Instead, it has taken me several days between interruptions.

How Much Does It Cost To Live In Thailand?

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Friday 26th February 2016

After yesterday's post, just a quick post to say that Cathay Guest House is open as usual. The shop where the fire started and a beauty salon next door were totally destroyed by the fire. It looks like Cathay Guest House (in the same building, but just around the corner) only suffered from some smoke, but there was no fire damage. Walking past there today, it was difficult to imagine how it looked yesterday.

 

Fire damaged beauty salon, Hat Yai, Thailand

Fire damaged beauty salon, Hat Yai, Thailand

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Thursday 25th February 2016

Some breaking news ...

After you have lived in Thailand for a few years you realise that the same news stories keep occurring time and time again, day-after-day, year-after-year. It feels like living in the movie Groundhog Day. The same things happen all the time. Serious road accidents, corruption, drugs, murders, rogue monks, illegal street racing, running street battles between rival technical college students, etc etc. Another example is big fires - and I mean BIG fires, which break out with alarming regularity. There have been a number of big fires where I live and there was another big one today.

After I dropped my daughter off at school this morning I drove to the train station to get breakfast at a place that serves quite a good Western breakfast. As I left to drive home, this was the scene that greeted me.

 

Fire at Cathay Guest House, Hat Yai, Thailand

Fire at Cathay Guest House, Hat Yai, Thailand

 

There was an intense fire raging in a small shop that offers travel services and Internet. Before long, several fire appliances, ambulances and police were at the scene.

 

Fire at Cathay Guest House, Hat Yai, Thailand

Fire at Cathay Guest House, Hat Yai, Thailand

 

There are reasons why fires tend to be so big in Thailand. Firstly, a lot of the older buildings are made of wood and after a few months of the dry season they become tinder boxes. Thais use gas from cylinders to cook and the standard of electrical wiring is often poor. When fires start they have a lot of fuel.

Another problem, like the one this morning, is that buildings tend to be very large and do not have fire walls. This building occupies a complete block and although there are many separate shops located within, it is just one building. Fires spread very quickly and very easily.

Urban areas of Thailand have many such, large buildings. There are normally shops and markets at street level and dwellings above. I can think of many guest houses and hotels located above shops and markets in large buildings.

Above this one is the most famous backpacker guest house in Hat Yai - Cathay Guest House. I don't like this type of place, but I have never been part of the backpacker sub-culture. Backpackers love it and as soon as they arrive in Hat Yai this is where many head to.

 

Firefighters with breathing apparatus checking for people inside, Hat Yai, Thailand

Firefighters with breathing apparatus checking for people inside, Hat Yai, Thailand

 

The fire started elsewhere in this large building, but the smoke soon reached Cathay and all the guests were evacuated. I spoke to one Thai man involved with the emergency services and he told me that everyone was safe. However, this has yet to be confirmed.

Outside Cathay were a number of foreigners who had been evacuated. I asked one backpacker if a fire alarm had been sounded, but he told me no. I find it quite concerning that large guest houses don't even have a proper fire alarm. Staff just knocked on doors to tell people to get out. If staying in cheap guest house accommodation you may want to check whether there are proper fire escapes or not.

 

Cathay Guest House, Hat Yai, Thailand

Cathay Guest House, Hat Yai, Thailand

 

I'm sure that current building regulations will cover this point, but older buildings may not have fire escapes. Also, it isn't impossible in Thailand that a building has been built illegally and thus won't adhere to any building regulations. Most Thais aren't very keen on rules, laws or regulations and in many cases just tend to ignore them or find ways to get around them.

The big fire in a Bangkok nightclub that killed lots of people some years ago was operating illegally and didn't have the necessary license. If it had been licensed properly it would have been subject to safety inspections. However, it wasn't inspected and when a big fire broke out the people inside couldn't get out.

A lot of water was hosed into Cathay Guest House and I assume it will be closed for a while. I don't know the extent of damage inside or when it will reopen. If you are planning a trip to Hat Yai any time soon there are lots of other cheap accommodation options and the town is very quiet at the moment so finding a place to stay won't be any problem at all.

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Wednesday 24th February 2016

Missing backpacker Grace Taylor found in Thailand

I was pleased to read this news. Since my own children arrived I have a lot more empathy for other parents when I hear stories like this.

The 'Gap Year' after university has long been a rite of passage of many young Brits, but it must cause a lot of anxiety with parents. Legally, people aged 21 are adults, but many are still very childlike.

Parents know their own children better than anyone else and need to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a trip to Southeast Asia is an advisable thing to do or not. In this age of gender equality I will be in trouble from the PC police if I suggest that it is different for males and females but I'm afraid there is a big difference. Foreign females need to take particular care in Thailand.

There are a lot of genuinely kind people in Thailand. Due to my personal circumstances and where I live (far away from any tourist activity) I meet them all the time. On the other hand, the well beaten tourist trail is very different.

The well known tourist resorts act like magnets for Thais with bad intentions. Thais think that all foreigners have endless reserves of money and because so many are like fish out of water in Thailand they make easy pickings. Thais and long term expats wouldn't fall for their scams, but tourists get taken in. Not only that, but there are also a lot of bad foreigners in Thailand who prey on tourists.

When I travel to tourist resorts I wear a hat to protect myself from the sun and I carry a camera because I like to take photos. Basically, I look no different to most tourists. As a result, I find myself being approached by people trying to take advantage of me.

The mere fact that I am approached on the street by people who I don't know immediate rings a warning bell. What then follows normally rings more warning bells. I am very familiar with normal Thai behaviour and anything that deviates from this causes me to be wary.

Sometimes it is innocent. Thais have approached me before with genuine offers of accommodation and the man I met in Mae Sot who offered to guide me around the refugee camps was genuine. However, I am familiar enough with the culture, people and language to know when someone is being genuine and someone is trying to scam me.

On a few visits to tourist resorts it feels like being in a pool of sharks. There are hungry sharks circling everywhere just waiting for a fish to show a sign of weakness. As soon as any sign of weakness is detected they will strike.

The girl who has just been found was described as being in a poor mental state when she went missing. This is not good in Thailand. With so many people looking for signs of weakness you need to be mentally alert and on your guard constantly.

It pays to be a little worldly-wise and it also pays to be cynical. Cynicism may not be a particularly attractive personal attribute, but in Thailand you need to be very careful who you trust. I never met Grace Taylor, but from what I have read she didn't sound ideally suited for a solo-trip to Thailand.

I do see female backpackers on their own in Thailand and most of them look as if they can take care of themselves. I also see groups of young girls travelling together. I wouldn't want to deter anyone travelling to Thailand because the experience is amamzing, but people - especially females - need to be aware of the potential hazards and if a girl doesn't feel confident enough to take care of herself she should consider travelling with friends.


I wrote previously that customer service tends not to be very good in Thailand. I also wrote that Thailand is a land of contrasts and contradictions and for any generalisation that is made there will be something to contradict it.

The tyre shop I have been using for a number of years is excellent. Their aftersales services includes fixing any puncture (no matter how it was caused) and rotating the tyres every 10,000kms.

 

Flat tyre

Flat tyre

 

My tyres kept making squealing noises a few years ago and they did a lot of work trying to fix it. The problem was actually a wheel bearing that was on the way out, however, I didn't realise this until the bearing died completely after driving through a flood. Despite it not being their fault, they didn't charge for any of the work.

Last week when I experienced a blowout they came out to rescue me so that I could drive to the shop and they then fitted new tyres. The service has been great and this also applies to my wife's car. When she needed new tyres last year I went to the same shop.

 

Fitting the spare tyre

Fitting the spare tyre

 

It's so easy just to gloss over the positives in Thailand and focus on the negatives, but there are lots of positives. The Ford dealer was helpful with a repair plan for my car, they gave me a loan car, and also a discount on the repairs.

One of the concrete fibre boards surrounding my fish pond cracked last week. I spoke to the construction people here and they found me a replacement. They also found me a painter who did a good job repainting the boards for a reasonable price.

During my career in the UK one manager told me that what I should constantly aim for is doing more of the stuff I wanted to do and less of the stuff I didn't want to do. I find it the same living in Thailand.

There is good and bad in Thailand. After a while you realise who are the good people and who are the bad ones. What you can then do is make a conscious decision to associate with good people and avoid associating with bad people. One very easy example is deciding where to live. Bad Thais are attracted to certain places in Thailand and simply by avoiding these places you avoid a lot of problems.

As is the case anywhere, life - to a certain extent - is decided by the decisions you make.


This is the cause of my tyre blowout. I'm probably being a bit paranoid, but it almost looks as if it was designed to cause tyres to blow out. One end has a sharp point and the way it is bent is perfect for sitting around the brake assembly waiting to cause a problem.

 

The cause of my blowout

The cause of my blowout

 

It had been sitting around the brake assembly before I had a problem. As I went round a left bend the weight of the car transferred to the right and that's when the tyre went. Did this piece of metal really find its way there by itself or was it put there? I don't know.

A little while ago I wrote about refusing to give money to two young girls who were asking for money as people passed by. When I returned to my car I found some new damage to the bodywork. A farang friend of mine glared at a kid on a motorbike who cut him up and later found plant pots smashed outside his home.

Thais are very easily slighted and many are extremely vindictive. There are times when you can upset a Thai and not even be aware of it. Did I use a parking space that someone else had his eye on? Did I do something else and not realise that I had upset someone?

If the cause of the puncture had been a nail or screw picked up from the road I wouldn't be suspicious, but when I pulled this item out from underneath my car it just made a me a little suspicious. I have to assume that it was just lying on the road and I was unlucky, but having heard so many stories about vindictive behaviour in Thailand it makes me wonder.

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Tuesday 23rd February 2016

Life has been a little challenging recently and I simply haven't had time to write anything here. Nothing that has happened has been any big deal but, as tends to happen in life, everything always arrives at once at a time when you could do without problems. I count myself extremely fortunate that I have the time to deal with life's challenges and also fortunate that I have the funds to do so. Many other people are a lot worse off than me.

Also, we all need to retain a sense of perspective when dealing with life's problems and challenges. This morning my wife told me about the young British girl who went missing in Thailand recently after calling her mother to say that she was in danger. This is a parent's worst nightmare, knowing that your child is alone and frightened thousands of miles from home and that you are powerless to do anything. Even worse now, no one knows where the girl is and whether she is OK or not. As I write, my wife and two kids are safe and sound downstairs and therefore any other issues I may have are insignificant.

My challenges started a few weeks ago when my daughter started to revise for the final paper of her six year medical degree. Well, actually, she's not five yet and she is just about to take her end of term exams for the second year of Kindergarten, but the stress levels are about the same. It's crazy. The Thai education system is completely broken and the problems start at Kindergarten level.

In the true Thai tradition of rote learning she has to memorise Thai and English vocabulary and also do some basic arithmetic. The emphasis is on her memorisation skills and her handwriting ability. A child who can write 'beautifully' is highly praised, yet real skills are ignored.

She can communicate in English and Thai, which is something that her classmates and teachers cannot do. This is a very real skill, but it does not feature in the Thai value system. Later on at school she will be expected to remember the technical details of English grammar and if she can regurgitate this information in an exam she will score high marks. Whether she can actually use the correct grammar tense will not be considered important.

I have met many Thai students who are considered to be advanced students of English because of their exam results, but they can't communicate in English. This, and the obsession with image over substance ('beautiful' handwriting, for example), is why Thailand lags a long way behind most other countries regarding use of the English language.

In other countries, children of her age wouldn't even have started school yet. The importance placed on tests means that she is under a lot of pressure (when she should be enjoying her childhood) and it causes parents to get very stressed out.

Last week at around 9pm after my daughter had eaten and gotten ready for bed, my wife made her start reading and writing when all the poor kid wanted to do was sleep. My daughter's refusal to do it resulted in a very ugly scene with my wife screaming at her and getting highly agitated.

It is best for me to remain neutral in these situations, but I was forced to intervene before the beatings started. I was immediately banished to the doghouse for intervening and as my wife retired to the guest room I was given instructions to do the school run the following day. As I said above, this started a few weeks ago and it won't finish until the last exam.

If she really was doing her final medical exams I could accept it, but the fact that she is only four years old and I am having to deal with this amount of stress in the household is beyond a joke.

The other effect this system of 'education' has on children is to turn them against any form of formal education. As Thai children grow older, the subject matter changes but the system of 'teaching' remains the same, to the detriment of the students.

On top of all this, both kids are unwell and after buying medicine and taking care of them at home we took both to see a doctor today. Also unwell is my old car. Last week I suffered a tyre blow out and the tyres on the car are now unavailable. The only safe option was to buy a complete set of new tyres for Bt19,000. The car is also suffering from some mechanical problems.

Ford has a policy of replacing complete assemblies instead of just the bits that are broken. I was quoted almost Bt50,000 for a new propeller shaft assembly in order to replace a broken rubber boot over a CV joint that is worth about five bucks. I spent quite a lot of time on-line looking for just the parts I need and ordered some from the States.

The parts are quite cheap, but shipping charges and import duties push the price up. Nonetheless, it is still a lot cheaper than Bt50,000. American and European cars are expensive to get repaired in Thailand. Japanese vehicles assembled in Thailand are the cheapest to maintain.

My car is still in the repair shop, but I managed to get a 15% discount and a loan car by talking directly with the manager. I've talked before about the way in which society and organisations in Thailand are structured in a hierarchical fashion. The people lower down cannot make decisions without approval from above and thus can't really help you. However, if you talk to the people at the top you can get a lot done.

Before all this began I had started to remodel the garden. I did the preparation myself and bought some tiles, which I wanted laid by someone who is good at laying tiles because I'm not. I asked a neighbour if he could recommend anyone and he pointed me at a guy who was working in a house nearby.

We chatted to the guy and he agreed to do it after he had finished his current job "in two or three days' time". After three days he didn't arrive and so I went to speak to him again. He told me he would come in another two days. That should have been last Saturday. He still hasn't arrived and I know that I won't see him again.

I have had this problem with many Thai tradesman. They may not be interested in a job, but Thais don't like telling people things they don't want to hear. Thais will always tell you what you want to hear, even if they have absolutely no intention of doing what they say.

At first I found this extremely annoying, but having experienced it so many times I now find it only mildly irritating. Also, I'm getting a lot better at working out when someone is telling me the truth and when someone is just telling me whatever it is that I want to hear.

When I first spoke to this particular tradesman he told me he would go to take a look, but didn't ask - and had no real interest - where I lived. How could he go to look if he didn't know where to go? This gave me a gut feeling that he wasn't going to show up and I was right.

This is a strange Thai cultural trait. When I was teaching some years ago and wanted to know whether my contract would be renewed or not they knew that it wouldn't, but they didn't want to tell me. If they had told me I could have started looking for another job. However, not telling me just wasted time when I could have been looking for work elsewhere.

If someone has some bad news for someone else the best thing to do is just to tell them. Not telling them things they don't want to hear doesn't help anyone. If the tradesman had told me he wasn't interested I could have asked someone else. Instead, I've been waiting around wasting my time when he never had any intention of doing the job in the first place.

Apart from that, it's the same old stuff in Thailand. Minivan drivers continue driving like maniacs and killing their passengers and tourists continue to go missing.

Myanmar worker killed, 15 hurt in van crash

Interpol alerted about missing British woman

Grace Taylor missing: Family of UK woman in Thailand appeal for help

Even the Thai authorities were getting concerned recently about the number of tourist deaths in Thailand. There is always concern in Thailand about anything that could possibly damage the country's image and thus have a detrimental effect on the highly lucrative tourist industry.

Thailand sees a worrying increase in tourist deaths

Statistically, Thailand is one of the most dangerous countries that British nationals visit.

According to this UK government document, in 2014/15 there were 721 deaths of British nationals in Spain, followed by 348 deaths in Thailand. However, the total number of visits to Spain by British nationals was 12,246,000 (one death for approximately every 17,000 visits), while the total number of visits to Thailand by British nationals was only 392,000 (one death for approximately every 1,126 visits). Proportionally, therefore, the death rate of British nationals visiting Thailand during 2014/15 was about fifteen times higher than those visiting Spain.

Without working out the figures for every country on the list, Thailand appears to have the highest death rate relative to the number of visits per year of any country that British nationals visit. I have previously read reports that British nationals in Thailand require more consular assistance than British nationals in any other country.

British more likely to need consular assistance in Thailand than anywhere else in the world

 

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

 

This is one of the fairy tales I read to my children at bedtime. A lot of tourist information and websites I read about Thailand, the sole purpose of which is to entice foreigners to visit Thailand or to sell something, read like fairy tales.

The image of Thailand and the famous 'Land of Smiles' slogan make Thailand out to be a tropical paradise that looks as perfect to naive foreigners as a house made of candy looks to a naive child. However, dangers lurk within. In Hansel and Gretel's case, a 500 year-old witch wants to roast the children and eat them with potatoes. In Thailand, the dangers are different but nonetheless they are very real.

No one understands the dangers in Thailand better than the Thais, who live on a daily diet of horrendous news stories about sinister events that take place in Thailand constantly. Most foreigners don't see this news and Thais don't say anything bad about their own country to foreigners because it is seen as being unpatriotic. However, if you do talk to Thais, especially Thai females, they can hardly believe how young foreign girls behave in Thailand and even the fact that they travel around Thailand alone, which is something a Thai girl would never dream of.

In the case of Hansel and Gretel, you can enjoy eating the sugar icing on the house provided that you avoid the wicked witch. But first, you need to know about the existence of the witch and this is where I believe a lot of foreigners visiting Thailand come unstuck. You can enjoy Thailand immensely, but you need to be aware of the dangers. Most tourists simply aren't aware of the dangers. They don't do their research and they get taken in by all the 'Tropical Paradise' and 'Land of Smiles' nonsense. This, plus the easy-going nature of many Thais, lulls them into a false sense of security and some end up in a lot of trouble.

In my normal life in Thailand I don't consider Thailand to be a particularly dangerous place, but after living in Thailand for many years I am highly aware of places, people and situations that are potentially very dangerous. My wife, being Thai, is aware too, and between us we keep out of trouble as best we can by avoiding certain places, people and situations. Of course, this isn't always possible. Roads are extremely dangerous in Thailand (the second most dangerous roads in the world) but, unfortunately, not driving anywhere is not an option. Even so, by understanding how many Thais drive it is possible to anticipate and avoid some serious accidents. The key thing is knowledge.

As a tourist, if you do the same thing you can have a great time in Thailand. If you don't, your venture to the Land of Smiles can go very wrong.

About two weeks ago I tried to sit down and write about the Thai cultural concept of sanook to follow the article I wrote about sabaay-sabaay. This was around the same time that the issues above started to appear and I just gave up. Hopefully, I will be able to do it soon and I also have plans to write about other aspects of Thai cultural behaviour.

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Thursday 11th February 2016

Why is the healthcare system so good in Thailand? Why is tourist hospitality so good? Why does your Thai girlfriend expect you to sleep at the hospital when she is the person admitted? Why do Thai students underachieve so much?

For the last 12+ years I have been observing Thai cultural behaviour and trying to find answers to questions that, initially, left me completely baffled. Thais would think and act in ways that I just couldn't understand. Over the years I've managed to find some explanations and these are all related to various aspects of cultural behaviour.

At times it has been a hard slog. Thais won't, or can't, explain their actions, and many resources purporting to describe Thai culture aren't very good. Books are written to be sold and websites are written to sell something. Negative imagery doesn't tend to sell very well and thus many of these resources end up being fairy tale accounts of Thai culture that sound as if they have been written by the Tourist Authority.

I thought it might be useful for those interested in Thailand to write about some Thai cultural traits and it would also give me an oppotunity to update my website. Beyond the pages of this blog lies quite a big section about Thailand, but most of it was written a long time ago and a major update is well overdue.

Please remember that this is all subjective opinion based on observation after living in Thailand for 12+ years. I'm not an Anthropology PhD, but neither am I a complete numpty regarding matters related to Thailand. I'm somewhere in the middle. I would guess that I have probably made more of an effort trying to understand Thai cultural behaviour and language than most expats living in Thailand.

 

Sleeping in Gim Yong market, Hat Yai, Thailand

Sleeping in Gim Yong market, Hat Yai, Thailand

 

The first article is about the Thai cultural concept of 'sabaay'. There are plenty of others: greng jai, mai bpen rai, sanook, kaorop, hierarchy, etc, and - provided I have the time - I will write about more of these later. It will give you a break from me going on about the horrendous driving standards in Thailand.

Here's my first draft about the cultural concept of 'sabaay'. I will, no doubt, amend it when I find errors and/or want to make additions (read more ...).

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Sunday 7th February 2016

I left the UK to start a new life in Southeast Asia in September 2003 and for the first few months spent quite a lot of time in Singapore. After getting settled in Thailand in November 2003 I was back in Singapore for Christmas and New Year. Decorations for Chinese New Year were already in place in Lee Kuan Yew Land and it was the year of the monkey. My memories of taking the following photo are quite clear. I can't remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember certain things from years ago.

 

Chinese New Year 2004, Singapore

Chinese New Year 2004, Singapore

 

The Chinese animal zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle and already it is the year of the monkey again. It's frightening how quickly the years pass once you get past a certain age. The moral? Don't keep putting things off until later because there may not be an opportunity later. Some of my old working colleagues had plans in mind for later, but they died before 'later' arrived.

It's irresponsible and reckless to live life as if there won't be a tomorrow, because there probably will, but there is a balance. Major changes to our lives are scary and take courage. The inertia that prevents people from changing their lives is extremely powerful and the easiest option is always not to change anything, regardless of how unsatisfactory life may be. Probably the most difficult period of my life was after I quite my job and then had major doubts whether I actually had the courage to go through with my plans. At that point it was impossible to go back to my old life and I didn't know if I could go forward with my new life.

Looking back now, I did exactly the right thing. There was a huge conflict between my head and my heart, but in such a situation always listen to your heart and gut feelings.

I have been at home all weekend, apart from a trip to HomePro to buy plumbing supplies. My house is only three years old, but it seems that I am constantly doing plumbing repairs. Two flexible water pipes have burst in the last three days and if the house had been empty there could have been a lot of flood damage. Other pipes have burst before and I have had several leaks caused by poor workmanship. I've been doing the repairs myself to ensure they get done properly and using parts made abroad that have 10 year guarantees. The Thai made stuff is cheap, but the quality isn't great.

It was a deliberate decision to stay at home. I hate crowds, traffic jams and firecrackers with a passion, and this is the worst time of year for crowds, traffic jams and firecrackers. I'm not Chinese, either. My wife isn't Chinese, but this doesn't stop her getting involved with the superstitious stuff. She's Thai and Thais can't resist any superstitious beliefs, regardless of where they come from.

 

My wife's CNY offerings to our Jao Tee in 2014

My wife's CNY offerings to our Jao Tee in 2014

 

Every year at CNY she cooks ducks and chickens and puts them on a table in front of the house along with other food. Once all the food is prepared, she pays respects to the spirit who takes care of our house (our jao tee). We also have a small shelf inside the house, called a hing pra for the same purpose. On my wife's insistence, the hing pra was the first item that went into the house after we took ownership, before any furniture or other items.

 

The 'Hing Pra' in our house

The 'Hing Pra' in our house

 

A lady arrives at the house with fresh cut flowers on every Buddhist observance day (wun pra). My wife removes the old flowers from vases on the hing pra, puts in the new ones, lights candles and goes through a little ceremony to pay respects to the jao tee. Each individual house has a jao tee and there is a more senior jao tee whose job it is to look after the entire housing development.

At the front of our housing development is a large spirit house (saan-pra-poom) on which offerings are placed for the jao tee who looks after the whole neighbourhood. If you don't look after your jao tee he won't look after you. I take it very seriously and get anxious if the flowers arrive and my wife then fails to wai the jao tee.

Most visitors to Thailand know that the predominant religion in the country is Buddhism and when they see this kind of ritual it is natural that they will think it has something to do with Buddhism. It has nothing to do with Buddhism, but everything to do with Animism.

I tend to focus on Thai belief systems, but at this time of year the Chinese belief system is very much in evidence. A lot of the Chinese belief system rituals go on behind closed doors, such as house cleaning, dining, and putting up decorations, etc. Out of doors there are firecrackers, fireworks, red paper lanterns, and lots of ancestor worship on display.

 

Red lanterns at Chinese New Year

Red lanterns at Chinese New Year

 

Fires can be seen on sidewalks everywhere and these act as celestial mail boxes between the physical and spiritual world. Objects made of paper and then set alight find their way to the person's deceased ancestors where they turn into the real thing. Where I live there are lots of shops selling items made out of paper for the purpose of ancestor worship. What kind of things?

You can buy paper houses with security guards, even though security guards shouldn't really be necessary in the afterlife. There are paper cars - top of the range Mercedes Benz models, of course - clothes, shoes, mobile phones, tablet computers, etc etc. Here is a special iPed 5 model for the afterlife.

 

The Apple iPed 5

The Apple iPed 5

 

Unfortunately, sending items to deceased ancestors can be just as problematic as buying Christmas presents for living relatives. Do they have one already? Will they like it? Should I buy an iPed 5 with 4G or just Wi-Fi? Do they need 128GB or will 32GB suffice? Fortunately, the same solution exists - just send money and then they can buy whatever they want. For this purpose, money issued by the Hell Bank Corporation can be sent in exactly the same manner.

 

Bank note from the Hell Bank Corporation

Bank note from the Hell Bank Corporation

 

It sounds like a perfectly appropriate place to send bankers, but the name of this bank may sound unusual. Apparently, when missionaries first went to China to convert the locals they told them they would go to hell if they didn't convert. The people being preached at simply thought that hell was where people went after they died and there weren't any negative connotations.

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Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.

If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.

I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand

 

 

Cities

Beaches

Mountains & Hilltribes

Islands

Interesting

 

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