As part of our trip we have already visited 6 different countries. Each of those countries had something very specific that we noticed about them (I am mainly referring to culture, people) and Thailand is no exception. In Singapore it was the multiculturality of the country and peoples’ ability to just get along disregarding their differences, in India it was the chaos you are met with in streets and in Thailand we have observed that, to put it nicely, attention to detail and getting things right is not necessarily at the top of everyones’ priority list. People here are just too chilled out and relaxed about everything. It seems for Thai people there is not a problem that can’t be dealt with slowly.
Eating Out in Thailand
The ultimate proof of this for us was eating out. In Europe, for example eating out is a very organized and relaxing activity. Only very infrequently your order gets mixed up or your bill is incorrect. It happens, but it is an exception rather than the norm. Meanwhile in Thailand, you really need to keep an eye on things such as:
- Waiters’ facial expressions. Due to language barrier customers are misunderstood a lot and you can really tell when someone’s lost you. In several places I noticed waiters are checking which picture the number of the meal corresponds to on the menu to actually know what is that you are ordering. We’ve stopped asking questions about the meals after a couple of days as this just seems to make things more complicated. Just pick a meal and point at it.
- What you are served. I think it’s absent-mindedness more than the language barrier for this one. Just yesterday Kristina asked for a watermelon shake and was given a pineapple one. You could tell the guy in the kiosk realized it was the wrong one as he was handing it over to Kristina. On another occasion we ordered chicken stir fry with cashew nuts at a restaurant which was really delicious. We decided to go for it again and again the next couple of days but each time we were served a completely different meal (ingredients, how it looked and tasted!). My favourite was when I ordered a beer – the waiter picked it up from the fridge, showed it to me but got distracted for a moment. She put the beer back in the fridge and I never saw it again.
- Making sure your bill is accurate. Funny enough, we found this to work in customers’ favour most of the time apart from one occasion. If you order something mid-way through the meal you are very unlikely to be asked to pay for it because your old school paper-tab can be anywhere at any point in time and finding it is additional work for waiters. Hence, such add-ons are almost never captured. By the time you ask for the bill everyone has forgotten about it. Sometimes the bill disappears completely and you are simply shown a number on a calculator. Good luck working our how much that Pad Thai should have cost you in the first place!
Also, we found it typical to Thailand to never be served meals at the same time. Maybe it was the restaurants (usually quite small, family-run types of places) that we picked, but I don’t thing we have ever eaten together at the same time. One meal is prepared and served, then it’s the next one and so on.
Getting around in Thailand
Getting around in motorbikes is one of the cheapest and most convenient options in Thailand, especially if you stay in islands. Something that has left a mark in my memory was motorbike rental procedure. It goes something like this: You ask for a bike, you fill out a short form which asks for your name and your passport number (you might be asked to surrender your passport as a deposit for the duration of the rental if you are unlucky), you are given the keys and waved goodbye. There was never a reference made to the drivers licence or questions asked about my ability to drive one. It is generally accepted that if you ask for one you know how to use and drive it. Thai people tend to not trouble themselves with thoughts about accidents or breakdowns.
We had to take boats a couple of times as well for getting from one island to the other, but it was never a complicated procedure. The only difference we observed is that in Thailand (or at least in the places that we visited) the tickets are usually bought in tourist offices or directly from your accommodation at least one day before the journey. Airport is the only exception – you get the ticket once you arrive.
In most cases this is convenient as you are picked up from your hotel and sometimes even dropped off at your new place after the boat ride. I found a website called 12go (https://12go.asia/en) where tickets can be bought online but on all occasions we have been able to find better deals on the street or from the place we stayed at.
The only thing that we were slightly shocked by was the cost of private taxis (or Grab). We tried avoiding those if possible as ride fares are somewhat similar if not higher than in the UK.
Relax it is Thailand
In a way, I think that such low-paced, casual behaviour and even absent-mindedness of people can be explained. Thailand is really beautiful – it’s green, the yellow sandy beaches are amazing and it is warm and sunny for the good part of the year. You have to take your time to enjoy it!
As we have been told by a Thai lady in one of the tourist offices “the van will arrive at 9am, Asian time. Be ready at 8:30 but don’t worry if it’s not there by 9:30”.