Tag Archives: Buddhism

Three boys in Tamsui

What I noticed about the small island of Taiwan compared to other Asian countries

Taiwan’s population is a mixture of the island’s original inhabitants, the indigenous people, descendants of Han Chinese settlers, nationalist Chinese who arrived after the Chinese civil war in 1949,  Japanese from the colonial era, and SE Asia culture all blended together making a very interesting combination. The Taiwanese curiously are little like the mainland Chinese, though my opinion of the Chinese can only be based on those loud, culture lacking, swarming tourists I’ve met on my travels. The Taiwanese are kind, generous, thoughtful,  unassuming, unpretentious, quiet, almost introverted, though of course they can’t all be.
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Monks Blessing

These photos are of the blessing ceremony we had recently at Honour Village.

Everyone was blessed for Long Life.  Even the Grandmothers and Village Elders from the local village came along for the blessing and helped  in the preparations.  They make the decorations from locally sourced “ingredients” and lead the chanting, which the children all seemed to know by heart.

The Monks and everyone enjoyed a hot meal and a gift of a can of soft drink and cigarettes (!) before they left to go home.

The teachers and children took part in presenting of the food and drink gifts.

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Cultural day out in Chiang Mai

We had a welcome day out of the classroom and SEE TEFL took us around Chiang Mai to help us ‘acclimatise’. Our visit to the Foreigners Cemetery is a little of British soil in this multi cultural city.  The land was originally placed into the care of the resident British Consul in 1898 by King Rama V, but he attached two conditions: it cannot be sold and only foreigners (non Thai) can be buried there. It continues to be overseen by the resident British Consul.

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Then onto a Wat (temple) to be blessed by a Buddhist monk.  We’ve been shown the different types of ‘wee’ the putting of the hands together and bowing as a sign of respect. The most respectful is the hands together held up to the forehead and the thumbs resting between the eye brows and a very low submissive bow.  This is how to be infront of a monk or a Phu Yai.  When sitting in a Wat it’s always with the feet pointing back away and away from the body.  When approaching a monk it’s a shuffle up to him.  A gift purchased at the entrance of the Wat is then presented and the monk makes a blessing.  Whilst he’s doing that the ‘blessed’ are pouring blessed water into a brass bowl which is then returned to the earth outside. The monk ties a braided piece of cotton around  wrist of the ‘blessed’ and then off you shuffle taking care never to point your feet at the monk.  Outside the water is poured back onto the soil.

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Superstition plays an important role in the Thai culture and by paying some money to release a bird animal or fish by water, can bring health, wealth and happinesss. There are over 300 Wats in Chiang Mai and this one is along side the River Ping, a perfect place to release and give freedom to these animals. So we paid our money then all bizarrely marched down to the river and released them. You can see by the number of empty buckets we weren’t the only ones.

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Next stop was the Lanna Cultural Museum.  This was hilarious bearing in mind we’re all study at a language school to help Thais improve their English.  Our guide hadn’t been taught how to pronounce English words. Very little of what she said made any sense. She’d clearly learnt the spiel parrot fashion and probably had no idea what she was saying which became obvious when we asked questions as she just looked at us with a blank vacant expression.

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Understanding Thailand better

You’re a foreigner in this land and so called a ‘Farang’.  It’s not derogatory, it’s just a general name given to all Western people. Actually they cannot pronounce foreigner . Some of our letters are extremely difficult for them so over many years it come out as Farang.

We have been conditioned in our way of life so when we look at a Thai person we expect them to be the same, to know our ways, how we think, our rules, about Western society and our habits. This is not so and can lead to frustrations of the Farang causing friction and emotion. Tempers are lost, voices raised, emotions fire up, hands waved and all this is considered bad manners, a sign of immaturity and rude.  The reaction from the Thai will be to smile. Smiles have very different meanings and if you’ve made an enemy you won’t know as no Thai will ever confront you.  They would rather walk away and keep good Karma. This is probably why nothing gets done here.

Boasting, a regular Western trait, is not viewed positively especially if  it’s used to negatively to compare Thailand to your own country. Criticism should be avoided. a Thai person will never openly make a negative comment or let you know they are unhappy with you.  They will avoid any discussions of contentious subjects as it may lead to conflict, so it’s best to agree with everything or say nothing.  Affection is public is frowned upon.

Thai people of extremely respectful and this appears in all sorts of guises. Feet are the lowest point of the body and therefore the dirtiest. When entering a temple or a Thai home and also some shops, shoes should be removed and not raised to unnecessary heights. Never point with your feet. Heads are the seat of the soul,  so shouldn’t be touched. Children are the exception. Lowering of your body as you walk in front of someone indicates respect towards the other person. Often students  will do this as they walk across the path of their teacher.

Monks represent Buddhism and are treated with an enormous amount of respect.  Touching a monk  by a woman is strictly off limits. Legs should never be crossed in front of a monks.

There is a hierarchy of Phu Yai (superior/important person) and Phu Noi (little person). Nearly all Thai social interaction will take account of this relationship.  So if you’re eating out a Thai and no clear invitation is obvious then the Phu Yai pays. If a Western man is looking for a Thai relationship he would be considered a Phu Yai a superior person and would be expected to be generous, a quality expected of important people. So there’s no point in thinking that the Thai’s are just after money and see you as an ATM this is just their culture.

Thais love to have fun and be flattered, who doesn’t?  Discretion is admired as maturity. Astrology influences many decisions made by Thais and many will consult an astrologer before making an important one. Ceremonies are open to everyone and there are many. How you dress indicates your status.  Thais like to be smart as it shows respect. They believe in ghosts, superstition, black magic and protect themselves with amulets.  You’ll often see a neck adorned and weighed down with numerous amulets.

We have things to learn from their attitude towards ‘sabai’ an adjective used to describe the state of being relaxed.  This is very positive and they are very calm about things which in the West  can be the cause for contention resulting in people getting judgemental and opinionated. Here it’s live and let live as long as you have a smile, dress smartly and are respectful, you’ll get along just fine. Only make no comments and take no responsibility.