Market people watching in the mornings, I occasional hang out at Nu Nu Nini’s Coffee Time a corner cafe opposite the outside market of the famous daily Chiang Mai Market by the south gate of the moat at Chiang Mai Gate. The outside morning market selling clothes is all packed up before the day starts to get really hot and humid. So by 10.30am it’s empty. So I sit there and just watch people getting on with life. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it’s sunny but mainly it’s overcast.
I’m a foreigner in the land of smiles, Thailand, and white caucasians are given the nickname Farang though you might hear Falang as Thais struggle with the ‘r’s. It’s not meant to be derogatory, though this can depend on the context as the older white haired men hanging around the bars have discovered. Actually the Thais cannot pronounce foreigner, as some English pronunciations are extremely difficult for them, (likewise for us with some of the Thai sounds) so over many years it come out as Farang. For more information on Farang press here
Elephant Parade Chiang Mai 2016 in the jewel of Northern Thailand, is part of an international social enterprise running the largest art exhibition, which has moved around 19 cities worldwide since 2007, including London in 2010 and a UK National Tour in 2014. Life size decorated baby elephant statues are exhibited in international cities to raise awareness for the need of elephant conservation.
Colourful, lively, friendly, food everywhere, safe and easy to walk around, pollution, smog, fumes, health and safety – what’s that, abrupt songthaew (shared taxi) drivers who sometimes try to rip you off, white wrinkly male German and Aussie OAPs wearing socks with sandles with Thai women/lady boys, young enough to be their granddaughter/son or younger.
I’m confused about my thoughts of Chiang Mai. I want to like it. I do like it. I’ve been comfortable here and made some really lovely Thai friends. There’s nothing not to like. It’s an easy place to live in. It’s not expensive. The sun shines every day. All the female expats I speak to have lived here for years or return every year for months at a time. They are passionate about their lives here. Most circulate in close circles of their own nationality and do mix with open minded, forward thinking Thais.
It’s difficult being friendly with most Thais. Mainly I meet them in the tourist areas and they are making a living from tourist money. Rarely do they speak good English and it would be offensive to them if you try to help with their pronunciation. They sometimes appear to be rude though it might not be their intention because this would go against their Karma and that would be pay back time sometime later in this life or the next. However they have been exposed to farangs who get irrate and angry because the Thais don’t respond in the way they are expected to.
Outside of the tourist areas Thais rarely meet white face people so are afraid to speak in case they ‘lose face’ by making a mistake when speaking. How many times in SE Asia have I come across this ‘saving face’ mindset. It’s so suppressing to a Western mind. They appear to lack curiosity and have not been exposed to having an open mind. They don’t question anything. Everything seems to be this is how we do it and have always and we’re told to. From my previous visit to Thailand I was left with a lasting impression that Thai people were humble and happy. I’m not entirely sure they are any more which is probably why they have repeated military/government coups. Recently the latest Hunger Games film was released and this resulted in students being arrested using the three finger salute. It would appear the people in charge felt this was threatening as it could be have been interpreted, as in the film, a rebellion against a ruthless regime. Some of today’s students are starting to wake up. The film has since been withdrawn.
There is a restriction of freedom. The internet is censored. Newspapers are censored, but the public are told not to believe everything they read in the papers! I cannot access some English newspapers and a number of web sites come up with a censorship page. It’s an offence to say anything against the Kinggg and if you do say anything negative you’ll end up in prison. People are not equal here. I see Thais shuffling behind other Thais stooping as a sign of ‘respect’. Is that respect returned?
The education system doesn’t help. It’s very poor. Whilst education is free to all in government schools the system doesn’t allow for curiosity and develop enquiring minds. Nothing can be questioned and to be fair the Thais wouldn’t know what to question. I had it first hand from a male teacher that a 14 year old female student offered him sex to ensure she got her grades. Grades are all that count and students will do almost anything to ensure they receive them except maybe study. It’s fairly suppressive and dictatorial. The kids are taught to memorise by repeatedly writing and rewriting words, phrases or grammar. They are not really taught to speak and if they do, again they’re frightened to make a mistake so keep quiet. Their system doesn’t developed their young minds to be curious or proactive. There’s little ambition here and kids tend to do what their parents want them to do without question. They don’t live their lives but the lives of their elders. It’s like they are robots, or maybe this was England in times gone by.
Some do have different attitudes though this seems to be rare. It’s not often you find a Thai who has lived abroad and has had their view on the world opened. When I think back the only Thai people I’ve met outside of Thailand have been in Thai restaurants and they seem uncomfortable outside of their home environment.
The local expat web sites seem to be a breeding ground for negatives. Infact I wonder why some of them are still living in Thailand. They complain about the visa system, about women using the men as ATM machines and anything else they feel is substandard to their western ways. So why do they stay? Because they can live likes kings here, can have sex at anytime of the day and have their egos stroked when ever they wish. Why sit in a pub in back home if you can do the same here and have your ego inflated by a bar girl/lady boy looking for a ‘wealthy’ sugar daddy. A pension back home might mean you’re living a very frugal life. Here you’re god.