Before my first trip to Southeast Asia I had hardly any idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that the national food is noodles and rice and that this region has stunning beaches with crystal waters. After few months of living in Thailand and then travelling around Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia, I have learned much more.
white skin obsession
Thai people are obsessed with white skin. Unfortunatelly, they were born in a certain way so they are trying to bleach their skin with the help of various cosmetic products which they sell everywhere. For me, European girl it was a bit of a stuggle to find a shower gel or body cream which did not say Whitening. Maybe one out of ten different products didn´t have this label. Thai women also avoid sun as much as possible. Even when it´s super hot outside, they wear long trousers, jumpers and hats so their skin gets in a minimum contact with the sun. If you have white skin with blonde hair, then you are a superstar! It happened few times in Malaysia that people were taking pictures of me and my friend (also blonde) on the street.
you don´t need fancy restaurant go get tasty food
The food in Southeast Asia is amazing. The typical are noodles with chicken, beef, shrimps, egg, vegetable and rice with curry. You get different variations in each country but the base is the same everywhere. During my stay I have learned that I don´t have to be worried to eat at the street stalls or at the markets. The good sign is when you see the local people around the stall – then you know the food is fresh and good. I would say you get the same quality twice cheaper.
people are friendly
No matter how difficult their life is they always keep smile on their faces and always try to help even if they don´t know how. I have never seen a Thai person to argue or raise their voice. This is something you will hardly encounter in central Europe. I´ll never forget the faces of people I saw in a tram in Prague after I got back from my few month´s Asian adventure. I was still smiling but I was the only one! Everyone looked very depressed and suicidal.
PARADISE OF FAKES
Selling fake goods in Thailand is a big issue. Only in 2013 seized the Police and Customs Department more than 2.3 million items and arrested 9795 people. The Thai sellers don´t think it´s a problem because they don´t sell drugs and they don´t steal these items from anyone else. Once in a month or two they pay a “fee” to the local police so they let them be. Even many tourists don´t realize that buying fake Dior handbag is actually a crime. You can get anything you can think of in the markets or in MBK Centre in BKK: fake handbags, wallets, watches, clothes, shoes, cosmetics, parfumes….You can read more about this matter here.
elephant trekking is not cool
Probably the nr.1 attraction for all holidaymakers coming to Thailand. I believe most of them have no idea what torture these lovely animals had to undergo to be able to carry people on their back. This is not natural for them so if you still wanna meet elephants but in a more friendly way, then head to Chiang Mai and visit the Elephant Nature Park where you can feed them and wash in the river. You can read more about elephants in my previous post.
ladyboys are real
Ladyboy = men who dress and act like a women. Some of them just dress up and use make up but some of them also undergo a plastic surgeries and get fake boobs, lips and whatever else. I saw some really beautiful ladyboys and didn´t recognize on the first, second sight that it was not a woman! The typical attributes of ladyboys are: they are too tall, too feminine, have too big breasts, too much makeup, square elbows, they have Adam´s apple and masculine voice. They usually work in cabarets or dance in a clubs around the pole.
NEVER TOUCH ANYONE´S HEAD
In Thailand head is considered to be the holiest part of the body and should never be touched.
take your shoes off
I was born and raised in a country where we take our shoes off before entering our house/flat. This is not common in many other EU countries but it´s a must in Thailand! Not only they leave their shoes in front of their house (outside) but they take them off before entering temples, doctor´s office, classroom, massage salon and even some shops! I like the idea they wanna keep the inside clean but it´s a lot of work to clean your black dirty feet at the end of the day.
folding banknotes is not allowed
Thai´s are very fond of their king. You will see his portrait everywhere on the roads, in classrooms and on all the banknotes. That´s why you should never step on a banknote or fold it. This is something I found out quite late and now I feel quilty for paying with creased money in the supermarkets as I only had a very small purse.