Monday, 18 February 2008

Thailand - A fabled Country

Thailand - A fabled Country

The school boy knowledge that I possessed about Thailand was, that Siam, as it was known in ancient times, in the Indian Ocean, was a fabled country, rich in culture, polite people, unending rice paddies. That the people were Budhists, that centuries ago, Hindu culture and religion were popular in the country. My hobby was to collect postage stamps and among Thai collection, I had many stamps with the picture of the king and many scenes of temples.

Later in life I saw the motion picture titled Anna and the King and although I was unimpressed by the scenes of romance lurking beneath the outward courtesy and court manners, I enjoyed the movie nevertheless. It reminded me of Shangrila and the forbidden city of Llahsa in Tibet and the kingdom of Sikkim. Places where adventure was, legends about mysterious monks who lived in mountain-top monasteries and in freezing weather, could survive for forty days without any food, which the villagers could not bring to them because of heavy snow and inaccessable mountain tracks.

The modern history of Thailand shows that the country was ruled by many monarchs and kings during 13th & 14th century, and despite political upheavals and military coups, the country, unlike its neighbours Malaya and Singapore, IndoChina, Indonesia and parts of China, it thwarted attempts by western powers to become their colony.
So Thai people have no hang ups from any colonial masters. No shriveled Brit sitting in his bungalow in Simla or darjeeling (India), no White Rajah reminiscing about his exploits in the jungles of Sarawak over his Gin and Tonic at six o’clock in the evening.

However, the political situation in Thailand has always been unstable as was demonstrated by the recent military take over of government ruled by Thaksin Shinawatra, and his party’s very recent win in national elections. It is the deep reverence of the King by his people that has kept the country united and there is no visible tension of political unstability in the country. But the political situation could again end up in a turmoil. I sincerely hope not, I like Thailand and Thais very much.

In the early 70s, in London, I used to frequent a dilapidated Thai restaurant which had two tables, four chairs and a small counter behind which an old woman did the cooking, assisted by another young woman, when not attending the few customers. There was a permanent presence of steam and wet linoleum.

In South East Asia, Thailand attracts the highest number of western tourists, and although the country was devastated by a powerful earthquake and a tsunami in 2004, which destroyed many islands and tourist resorts, it seems to have somewhat recovered from the enormous disaster. And the tourists have flocked back to this beautiful country. I think everybody loves Thailand and its people.

Thais like to talk and are curious people. Every body wants to know where you come from, if you are married and how many children you have. They are also very polite and helpful although sometimes we found them ubrupt in their response. It was my impression that the moment a taxi driver, a boatman or a shop assistant saw you hesitating over something, he lost interest in you.

Thais can not get visas to european countries unless some one acts as responsor. They can travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and singapore without any visa, but there is a shortage of work in these countries. And Thai are poor people. We met a young thai girl in Hua Hin, who had come from Bangkok with the idea of working there but was going back, because there was no work in Hua Hin. Another girl who had started work behind the bar only a few days before our arrival, had come from Phuket as there was no work there. All young people want to go to U.K or europe and work for five years to save Ten Thousand Pounds or Euros and come back and buy a house. On the other hand, we met many europeans who had come to Thailand for a visit and have stayed on. They are treated well, properties are comparatively cheap and so is the food.
Posted by Island Hopper at 06:33

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