Tag Archive: Southeast Asia

ไทยแลนด์ (Thailand)

I’ve written about my experiences in Egypt, now, on to Thailand, the Land of Smiles! While we were still in Egypt, my parents went over on a look-see to find out where we’d be living and even if we really wanted to move there. My mom brought me back Bubble Yum bubble gum, and that was all I needed to know I’d love it over there! My dad’s company also sent them to Sao Paulo, Brazil, after this trip, and after being told of the crimes (usually aimed at ex-pats) and living behind bars on windows and doors, my parents quickly made up their minds!

In August of 1997, we arrived at the Bangkok International Airport, it was around midnight, and we were exhausted after 20 hours of travel! When you get off the plane, one of the first things you see is a banner that displays “Welcome to the Land of Smiles” and you see all the cute little Thais. We still had a two hour drive still ahead of us, just to get to the hotel where we’d be staying, what a LONG day that was!

We drove to Pattaya, which is south of Bangkok, the nearest city to where we’d be living. The hotel we stayed at was called the Royal Garden, and it had a MALL attached to it! I had never seen such a thing, and thought it was SO cool! As a 14 year-old girl, I was in heaven! The hotel was GORGEOUS, and the next day, I went to check out the mall, with no money of course, I forgot to ask for some Baht (Thai currency). I found this one store that, apparently, is big over in the UK, Boots, an odd name for a drugstore type of store, but they had a lot of American and British beauty products (although you’d pay the price for ’em), which was great! The mall also had a Benihana’s, so it was a MAJOR improvement from Cairo.

When we went to see our new home, we were in disbelief that it was as beautiful as it was. We lived ON a golf course, so my parents and brother were ecstatic, HOWEVER, I tried taking golf lessons in Egypt, and decided I could care less. The 2nd mode of transportation was a golf cart, everyone had at least one.

I can’t tell you how SPOILED ROTTEN we were over there, it’s so cheap to live there, we are fortunate enough to afford a maid and a driver!!! Our maid and driver were married, and the lived with us, in the outside quarters. They really became part of our family, they had a beautiful little girl whose nickname was Ploy, which means pearl in Thai, isn’t that sweet? To give you an idea of how cheap it is, we paid the maid the equivalent to $200, and she was one of the highest paid maids in the area! She felt so blessed we were able to give her a job, she gave up beef in return, completely on her own, and stuck to it!!! The Thais are willing to bend over backwards to please, and they really LOVE to smile, which makes me miss Thailand.

Because the primary religion is Buddhism, they have a different new year, their version is known as Songkran, which is celebrated April 13th – 15th, and it’s just a big HUMONGOUS water fight! They do have a white powder they mix with water, and that is supposed to ward off evil, and they will nail you with that, as well, and can sting your eyes. If you think you can go out, and still stay dry, FORGET IT!!!!! Watch the clip below and see it’s all in good fun:

School was different, we had uniforms, and I was not happy with that in the beginning. I’d never been to a school with uniforms, and the thought of wearing the same thing day in and day out was appalling! The school, the International School of the Eastern Seaboard (ISE) was SO small, even compared to my old school, CAC, there were less than 20 kids in the WHOLE 9th grade! We all had the same classes together, and there weren’t choices in what you could take, except you had the option of learning French of Spanish. I couldn’t even learn Thai in school, because there supposedly wasn’t enough interest to have a class, the majority of the students were Thai. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to learn it, besides the basic 1-10 and hello, good-bye, thank you, etc… In the 10th grade, we went on a Biology trip, we called the “Barge Trip” where we were on a boat, and went around to different sights, and had a good time. I remember feeling tired throughout that trip, just the fresh air and the heat got to me, and maybe just gross from the fact we literally had timed showers, you had 3 minutes once you got in the bathroom area, to jump in and out, and get dressed again…that was rough! I do remember everyone taking turns in groups cooking, and that was fun! That was my first experience with okra, turned out I kinda liked it.

Here’s a picture of the high school, that was newly built when I was there. If you can see the stairs have a covering, it’s because there’s no roof over the center of the building. One teeny tiny tidbit they may have overlooked, during the design process, was that there’s monsoon season!

This is the high school, and there were coverings over the stairwells because there was no roof over the center of the buiding, of which I don't think they took monsoon season into account during the design process

the inside of the high school

The good thing I learned is, when it’s a small school, you get a chance to get to know everyone there, and I appreciated that, we had people from all corners of the world, and I can’t tell you how NEAT it is to interact with people from such different backgrounds! I feel so blessed to have met EVERYONE there, the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s interesting how you look back, and you realize the ways people shaped your life.

This is my good friends, Guillermo.  Isn't he GORGEOUS???

My good friend, Guillermo & I

In Thailand, drinking was legal, so long as you paid, and the same went with prostitution. The typical stereotype if you saw a foreigner with a Thai girl, usually much younger, is she was getting paid for her company, and that was something you saw EVERYDAY! Even the next door neighbor would have parties with a few Thai women when his wife left. Everyone knew everyone else’s business, MUCH more so than should’ve. I guess that’s what happens when wives (of ex-pats) can’t work (weren’t allowed work permits), and have nothing better to do.  Anytime one of the their kids screwed up, and we ALL did, EVERYONE knew about it, and that was really annoying. My bad experience was with our golf cart. One day, I was screwing around on the golf cart paths, going up and down the hills for cheap thrills, and missed a turn,  I tried to compensate by turning sharply, which resulted in me falling out, and the cart kept going…right into the pond!!!!!! I was so upset, one of the neighbors happened to be driving by, and they gave me a lift back home. All I remember was I was grounded after that, and told I could NEVER drive it again! I was able to drive it again, they trusted me, and that was the last time I went up and down hills for excitement! I think it was about $100 or so just to dry it out. My mom jokingly told me to tell people I went looking for my dad’s old golf balls, sadly, that excuse didn’t fly!


My golf cart fared a little better than this one, but not by much

Thailand has some Amazing beaches, in Pattaya, Phuket, and the small islands. Our family traveled to Phuket a few times, and stayed at Le Meridian Resort, which was recked in the tsunami, but has since been restored. We LOVED that place, there was always something to do, and everyday, they had this fantastic mongolian barbecue (I’m such a foodie), definitely one of the things I looked forward to. The only thing i hated was the pain from my “pasty-white-girl-tan”, otherwise known as a sunburn, from being in the sun all day. Another place we visited was Chiang Mai, and on that trip, this Aussie boyband, Human Nature, performed in the lobby lounge of the hotel, and I remember thinking they were some FINE lookin’ men LOL, but my tastes have changed since then, but a couple of them are still cute LOL. They ended up having some songs on the Asian and Aussie music charts, but nothing too big. What can I say, I was a sucker for any cute boy!!!!

Earlier, I mentioned how I’m kind of a foodie, and I love Thai food. I’m not one for a lot of spice, like most of their dishes, but it’s worth the sacrifice, and if you think you’re eating Thai food, but your nose isn’t running, and eyes aren’t watering, then it may not be authentic. I did learn how to make Thai fried rice, from our maid, sesame beef. I do have a recipe for chicken cashew, just have never made it myself, but it’s awesome! Chicken satay and pad thai are my favorites!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Durians are a fruit that is native to southeast Asia, and you would KNOW if you were ever within a half a mile of one, the smell is unforgettable, to say the least! Remember how I said the high school was all open-aired??? Well, one day, someone brought 2 durians to school, and left them at the bottom of the stairs, and the smell was just AWFUL!!! One writer describes it as “overripe cheese. Rotting fish. Unwashed socks. A city dump on a hot summer’s day”, and I couldn’t agree more!! Apparently, the public buses, which are all open-aired as well, wouldn’t allow anyone with one of these supposedly tasty fruits on board due to the pungent odor. I never tried it, the smell was enough to turn me off. Pomelo was another fruit that is native to SE Asia, and it is SO good! It tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit.



See this picture…

Gorgeous, huh??? Well, these are what the Thais refer to as Katoys, which means “ladyboys”, and they have Mr. Miss beauty pageants!! So, if you go there, you may not always get what you see, As you can see, many of them are more beautiful than real women! My parents took us to a cabaret show when we were on vacation, and later, we met some of the stars of the show, and my mother broke it to us that they were men, I just couldn’t believe it, they were SO beautiful, but then I noticed the adam’s apple!

While I was in Thailand, I had the opportunity to travel Vietnam, Bali and Australia. I think we loved Phuket so much, we didn’t do as much traveling to other places, but I really don’t have any places on my must see list, that I haven’t already seen. I really loved the people, the culture, and the land, I would move back there in a heartbeat, if given the opportunity! There is a woman’s blog I’ve been reading, who just moved there, and it brings back memories to read about her daily life, although, she lives in a different part of the country. I’m sure I missed things, but this gives you an insight into my life, as well as the things the average tourist might not experience.

Blank Stares

So, the olympics are about to kick off here in a few weeks, in Beijing, and the country’s thrilled, HOWEVER, the Chinese have been instructed on how to interact with foreigners, which I find a little crazy! Now, I used to live over in Southeast Asia, and they were strict in Thailand, about not saying anything negative toward the king, but listen to this list of things that can’t be asked:

  1. income/expenses
  2. age
  3. love life/marriage
  4. health
  5. home/address
  6. personal experiences
  7. religious beliefs/political views
  8. what they do for a living

They even have restrictions for dealing with handicapped athletes:

  1. Use polite and standard forms of address for handicapped athletes.
  2. Try to keep as light as you can with handicapped overtones.
  3. Pay attention to how you congratulate handicapped athletes. (this one I don’t get, how can you overcongratulate anyone?)

They have advised the natives to greet foreigners with a smile, saying it’s the best business card, which is good, but with these restrictions, I’d be afraid to talk to anyone, and that could come off as arrogance, which isn’t good either. All foreigners will get from the Chinese are blank stares or a lot of questions about the weather!

So, as many of you know, I work in a call center working for an online travel site (won’t say which one, but it’s not hard to figure out).  I must say I never realized how dumb people really can be until I started here!!!  I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve had that people misspell their own names on airline tickets!!!  One man, in particular called in to get his money back because the airline wouldn’t allow him to board the plane, but he entered the passenger name as “Rrrr T Nnnn”!!!!!  His name was Waled something or another, certainly not all consenants!  I basically had to tell him he can call the a/l, but when they couldn’t help, he was SOL.  What a dummy! I had one kid call saying he booked a ticket for his mother, but didn’t put in her legal name, he said he put in her nickname, and wanted to know if that would be a problem, and of course it was if it wasn’t on her license!! DUH!!!!  My favorite, however, is when people think they’re just looking at prices for tickets or hotel rooms AFTER they enter in the credit card information!!!!!  Even I, and I’m not the sharpest at times, know you don’t have to enter in the credit card information to price shop.

Now, when you name your own price on a hotel, you don’t get the option to select your hotel, you just put in the criteria (area, dates, star level) and it selects a hotel for you.  I literally had one woman call because she had said she read bad reviews for her hotel, which happened to be a one-star!!! She must not have realized that you’re lucky if you get clean sheets w/ that star level!!!!  And one thing I can’t get over is when people use name your own price (NYOP) for their honeymoons!!!  Now, I’m all about getting the best rate, but would you really wanna take a chance on such an occasion????  I’ve had people call me upset that the hotel they got for their anniversaries are in bad parts of town, or just downright nasty, again, why would you book a 2-star for an anniversary???  I, personally, would rather stay home!

Last night, I had, by far, the strangest call I’ve ever had.  A woman called (she had an accent, I could tell she was Asian), and was so upset that the hotel she received on NYOP (looked like a beautiful 4-star hotel) only had their standard rooms facing a cemetery!  I advised she close the blinds, but she said it was a psychological issue!!  Her husband then got on the line, and he then decided to tell me that her not wanting to be near a cemetery is a cultural difference.  I did later look it up, and in some cultures, it is an issue, but the hotel was in Hong Kong!!!! Now, the hotel did offer her an opportunity to upgrade her room so she would be on another side of the building, but she didn’t feel she should be expected to pay more.  Let’s just say we didn’t exactly see eye to eye!  Anyhoo, the reservations are oh so restricted, and unless it’s pretty much life or death, we can’t cancel or change the reservation, of which customers think they can argue their way out of the contracts, and they really can’t!!!!  I have only been called a dumbass and a bitch once, but I’ve heard agents get verbally abused, and it just makes you wonder who these people think they are!!!  I would much rather deal with people on a face-to-face basis because people feel they are still fairly anonymous over the phone, and I know people wouldn’t act in that manner if they were in front of you!!!  Lately, I’ve been getting the customers asking how it is that I sleep at night working for such a lousy company, and I have been dying to say “just fine, I roll right over” and to be honest, I don’t think about this job whatsoever when I walk out the door!  When I went to the doctor, I was so suprised my blood pressure was normal, because there are some customers that get to me, and then a few minutes later, I’m fine, but this job has worn me down, I think I’ve become less sympathetic toward people, and that’s not a good thing, but as soon as I find another job where people aren’t so rude and blame me for their errors, I think I’ll be back to my normal, nice self….pray I find that job REAL SOON!!!!

I, honestly do think the NYOP option is great, as long as you don’t make any errors (they can be quite costly), and are EXTREMELY FLEXIBLE as to when you can travel, or where you stay!!!!  I’m actually going to try to get my dad a hotel using it when he comes into town, and if I end up not liking where he ends up, I can find a way out of it lol.