Kinder and Gentler

 

My sister and I went to Thailand recently, a first time for the both of us. For her, it was to attend an activity. For me, it was to see if the Thailand folks really do look like us, Filipinos and vice-versa, and, if their cities look just like ours, ahaha. Thing is, I have a friend who used to live in Thailand as an expat. For three years, she provided me with stories of how the country looks, how the people live and how foreigners like her can’t seem to master the language, haha.  So, I went there finally, with the sister, to have a first-hand view and feel of the country. We never got the time to go to Bangkok, unfortunately. But that could probably wait. In the meantime, we saw enough to make our first impression of the people and the place. I hope…

 

imahe ng palapagan ng Suvarnabhumi, kuha mula sa himpapawid

This city typifies urban planning with an Asian touch/ tothailand.com

 

First off, the landing. The aerial view is better, comparably speaking, haha. At the risk of sounding like I’ve tossed my nationalism or what would pass off as some such sentiment, allow me to say that the view from above Suvarnabhumi sky looks better than what greets the eyes upon taking a peek at Philippine soil. This airport in Bang Phli district, Samut Prakan Province, is Thailand’s  new international airport, about 25 km. east of Bangkok.  A visitor could not help but notice that Suvarnabhumi or Golden Land has been planned – there are patterns in the structures and highways built and being constructed,  the buildings of the locality do not crowd out each other and hey, the panorama does not look crazy and confusing from high above.

 

larawan ng palapagan ng Suvarnabhumi sa Thailand

This airport has the tallest control tower in the world and ranks as the third largest single- building airport terminal/ eglobaltravelmedia.com.au

 

Apparently, this Asian urban center is not too busy, too frenetic and too highly-industrialized. The traffic of the people and the vehicles,  not at the dizzying level yet. There’s still plenty of room to move, or so it seems… Visibly, there are constructions going on – high rise buildings, condominiums, supplemental roads, etc. The proverbial cranes and lorries can be seen from 200 feet above. As a city, it looks more like the moving kind, but not in a way that is hurried. There’s development, but perhaps not the kind that is based on ruthless efficiency and mad rush for glamour and glitter. At least, that’s my impression of the surroundings…

 

Suddenly, plainly, I missed the roofs of the buildings and houses in Paranaque (the immediate vicinity of our metro’s airport), full of used tires and whatnots, waving to visitors upon landing (I hope the Philippine tourism authorities  do not sue me or put me in their hunt list, lol). No, it wasn’t envy I felt at that time, just simple acceptance, maybe, of our Third World standing as a country, the laggard of Southeast Asia. We  still have a long way to go towards mustering a good and decent front for the travelers, from near or far…  When I was a freshman in college, the raging discussions in the social science arena was development – missing the take-off, leapfrogging it (’twas a cool term, back then) or remaining in the so-called periphery. That was more than 20 years, by the way. Oh, well…

 

 

In Suvarnabhumi, we stayed at an airport hotel called The Cottage. Yes, there’s a service van to pick visitors up from the airport. The staff are friendly and polite. The ambience of the place is private and quiet. The elevators work wonderfully well, there’s a small pool with lounging chairs and plenty of bean bags around, yehey! But what I appreciate most about the place is the hotel’s patio or veranda. It’s a thin strip actually, just outside the hotel cafe. But the atmosphere in that corner is such that it brings a lounger peace and quiet. There’s a soft piped-in music that plays in the background and a kind wind that blows from above. If anybody would ask me what I want to take back to the Philippines from Thailand, I’d say it’s the loving and generous wind from the patio of The Cottage.

 

First morning, I took a walk in the street of the village where our hotel was located. It looks to me just like any subdivision in an urban center in the Philippines. The houses look curiously the same as those that can be found in my country – the apartments look the same and even the house fronts do not look any different. I observed (I observe a lot, so other people notice, lol) same house plants, same fruit-bearing trees (I even stole two tamarind fruits from the wayside, there’s just too many of them) and same breeds of house dogs, true . Except, the Thais usually have this small worship corner in front of the yard that looks Buddhist to me. In the Philippines, we also have one such corner with the statue of the Virgin Mary instead. We call it grotto – a patent reminder of our Catholic faith and three hundred years of Spanish influence.

 

And yes, same look of people, indeed. The Thailanders look very much like us, Filipinos or we, Filipinos look a tad just too like them, haha. Except, they speak less English… Most people who saw me walking greeted me – either with a smile, a bow or a Good Morning in Thailand language. Whenever I muttered good morning in return, they would tell me, “Speak Thai?” And when I’d say “No,” there’s a pitiful but kind expression that runs in the face of the one who put the question. It’s like saying, “Oh, but we could engage in a longer conversation if you do. But then, go ahead wherever it is you are going.” They’re amiable and polite – our Malayan cousins in the old country of Siam.

 

On the streets in the village, I saw a lot of vendors – on foot and on vehicles.  Some sell street foods like dumplings or rice cakes, some sell trinkets and souvenirs and some sell fruits. Entrepreneurship is all around, one could see and sense it. Plenty of homes have two cars in their garage – a pick-up for the small business and a car for the family. Some yards are steeped with products to sell or what remain of their inventories. The residences do not  come as your  typical middle-class households settled in their statuses. At least, they appear to me to be still up and working on it. Houses seem to be peopled by folks still building up their middle-class arsenals – busy as bees with loans and mortgages and tuition to pay perhaps, but ready and willing to face the challenges. I saw several family-type businesses – single proprietorships with a dash of help from what? Office-based professions, probably.

 

larawan ng bungang prutas na lansones, marami sa Pilipinas

Philippine variety has thinner skin and could be sweet or sour, a matter of luck/ http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Lansium_domesticum

There’s a small pick-up truck that passed me by, selling fruit common in the Philippines in the months of August and September – lansones. I went closer to the vehicle as it stopped for a man in front of his house. The woman at the back of the pick-up scooped the fruits very fast and weighed them – one kilo for 20 baht. The driver, probably her husband, was looking at her from the vehicle’s mirror. Marveling at the price, I decided to buy a kilo of the produce myself. At the exchange rate of 1:1.5, what I bought approximately cost 30 pesos. In the Philippines, lansones usually sells for 70 or 80 pesos. When I examined and tasted my purchase, I found out that it’s a variety slightly different from what we have here – theirs has thicker skin but yes, sweet. It’s a rather good purchase, actually. And the fruit’s called longkong in Thailand, a man in another house front would explain to me, later.

 

 

The streets, yes, the streets in Thailand… They look pretty much like the streets of Metro Manila, minus the mind-boggling traffic that we have, haha. The one that first-time visiting foreigners usually describe as “crazy,” haha. Yes, that one…  But then, we discovered (much to our chagrin) that Thailand is another right-hand drive country. Gee whiz, I miss the  “Look to your right,” and “Look to your left,”  notices painted on the street grounds in Hongkong, for pedestrian visitors unfamiliar with the place. There are no such helpful signs in Thailand, for tourists from the boondocks like us. Also, it appears to me that their sidewalks are not so wide. Or, they’re not wide enough in busy, commercial centers that we visited.

So it happened in our adventure that we were about to cross, looking to our left side of the road when cars sped us by from the right. Another time,  we were looking to the right, when we nearly got sideswiped by cars coming from the left. Shocks, those were close! And we were not particularly absent-minded, awed or touristy at those times. Just used to the left-hand drive country that we come from, haha.

 

The motorists or the drivers in Thailand do not appear to me as snobbish, as rude or as smug as my countrymen, though. Pardon me, but generally that is how I would describe many, if not most, of vehicle-owning Filipinos. They dash on the streets in their cars, jeepneys, buses, vans etcetera,  in an almost unforgiving way, as though pedestrians were nuisance on the streets. The Filipino pedestrians, on the other hand, have found ways to get back, haha – either walking very slowly like strolling in the park,  or crossing without signalling even in non-pedestrian parts of the roads, or, being just that – nuisance. Hey, am not trying to sell my countrymen cheap, I’m just saying that we manage to display our spite for one another in ways that are very creative, haha. In the parts of Thailand that I saw, both the drivers and the pedestrians give courtesies to one another. Did I say that they bow a lot? Oh, yes, they do.

 

larawan ng mga taxi na kulay rosas sa bansang Thailand

In the old times, cabs were yellow. But now, they’re happily pink. At least, in these parts./www.flickr.com/photos/ livingamongstthecrowd/

And the pink taxis, I love them. So pretty, one could indulge one’s love for pink past her childhood and teenage years. Of course, there are also yellow cabs, yellow with green stripe ones and the bubble blue taxis – the latter there to match the ubiquitous pink, I suppose… For some reason, those pink locomotives do not hurt the eyes of the beholder. It probably helps that most of them are Japanese brands, recent models, and they come as, yes – uniform and standard. Happily, the fare isn’t very prohibitive, in my estimation. The roads of the places we visited look just like what we have in Metro Manila, only cleaner, I guess, haha.

 

I did not see dilapidated buildings as old, as ill-maintained or as decrepit as we have in the Philippines, lol, just the old temples and places of worship – very ornate in design, quite historical and much revered among the local folks. What strike me are the similarities in the two countries’ physical environment. I did not really feel like I was in a different country while I was in Thailand. Aside from the people there looking uncannily like us, dressing like us and smiling a lot like we do, I observed that there aren’t too many high-rise structures. Medium-rise buildings are more prevalent in commercial hubs and in less dense areas, low-rise structures. And there are still plenty of houses built on the ground, with fences and gardens, as in the Philippines. I mean, compared to Hongkong and Singapore where city dwelling normally means living in a building, Thailand’s real estate situation (in non-Bangkok parts) seems to proclaim that such scenario is still for the future.

 

larawan ng isang mangkok ng sopas na Tom Yam sa Thailand

Literally hot, little chance that a diner won’t get scalded/ templeofthai.com

Even the roadside restaurants and eateries look the same here and there. But Thailand’s highway eateries usually occupy bigger spaces, about 200 to 300 square meters on the average, designed like almost sprawled to the ground. Oh, yes, the ones we tried look like the classic eateries  – with 10 to 15 tables, with the old Coke posters hanging side by side with the Buddhist icons and, there is always a small fountain by the entrance, cool. I mean, literally and otherwise… Need I say that their Tom Yam soups are chili galore? No, I guess, there’s no need for that, haha. They use at least four(4) varieties of chili in their dishes and they even serve extras in a small bowl or saucer. Talk about spicing up your life, haha. The food servers are usually gays, like in the Philippines,  although they seem to me, less loud and a bit more courteous. 🙂

 

To be continued…

 

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24 comments on “Kinder and Gentler

  1. nadia says:

    Wait…their airport has the tallest control tower in the world, you say? How could that be possible?! Only WE have all the biggest and tallest and weirdest things here in the UAE. I’ll need to let the Dubai Airport guys know that they must increase the height of their control tower 😉

    Jokes aside, I really love the way you put your travel experiences into words. The description is so vivid that you do not even need those few pictures that you put up there to take us to Thailand!

    How come you’re traveling all the time now? You’re making me jealous with your travel posts 😀

    We also have pink taxis here, which are exclusively for ladies, driven by ladies 🙂

    I know what you mean by the confusion on roads with right hand vs left hand driving. Why can’t all the places in the world follow just one direction?

    Can’t wait to read about part 2 of your Thai adventure. Did you not take any pictures? Not that you need them to describe something (like some people who rely heavily on pictures to compensate for their lack of writing skills) hehe 😀

    • Hello, Nadia dear… I missed you and your chatter… It’s been a long time… 🙂

      Yeah, you better do that, alert them about the tower, haha. Ah, the Thais also happen to have kings, princes and the whole elaborate pecking order that old civilizations usually have. You know, kings? They want to build for eternity, aside from winning the loyalty and affection of the people, of course… ^^

      That airport was commissioned to be built by the royal family, is why… But thankfully, that one isn’t very grand or lavish like the traditional infrastructures that commemorate a royal family’s legacy. It looks more like a well-built, well-maintained and sensible terminal to me, haha.

      Thanks! That’s probably among the things I miss, your kind words… 🙂 And hey, being vivid requires a lot of work, haha. Took me three sittings to jot down notes and five sittings to edit. Would have liked to tell you I didn’t sweat it. But yeah, I did… ^^

      Travelling all the time? Weh? I wish that were true… I don’t get to wander as often as you do. You MUST bring me along in your trips, please?

      Aha, I’d love to try your pink taxis… Just for ladies? That must feel special…

      Good idea – ISO standard of traffic, hmnn… (You think it’ll make more sense for the G8 or the world’s big men to prioritize talks on traffic say, over tariff reduction or currency stabilization? hahaha)

      Oh, the Thailand pics will be transferred to the PC by the sister say, three months from now, haha.

      Regards to you and Masood… Tag-ulan na rito! 😉

      • nadia says:

        “…three sittings to jot down notes and five sittings to edit.” Oh wow. THAT is serious, hard work! I should definitely learn from and be inspired by you.

        If you call driving to and from the office travelling, then yeah, I travel frequently 😀

        Three months to upload pictures?! LOL. I really hope it doesn’t take that long 😉

      • the other posts, take much shorter time. it’s travel posts that don’t come easy, lols, so many details… and am OC, want to get them right, haha.

        nah, i want to come along your journeys, you go to India quite often, don’t deny that 🙂

        oh, the sister uploads pics every time she buys new memory cards, haha, that’s every quarter, on the average. 😉

  2. bagotilyo says:

    wow eh di ikaw na nakapunta ng thailand ..hehe

    ang lagay ba eh ganun ganun na lang. nasan ang pasalubong ko?? :p

    kahit lansones na lang kunwari galing din ng thailand.

    or kahit yung pink na taxi na lang para mas astig.

    Cheers 🙂

    • hello, bagotilyo! i would have gone there a long time ago, twice na sana… medyo tinamad nang maglalayas – alam mo naman ang mga tumatanda, haha, nababawasan na ang hilig sa gala? 😉 buti natuloy ‘to…

      ay, andito pa ang dalawang sampalok na ninakaw ko sa village, hihi. walang nagka-interes – kamukhang-kamukha lang ng sa atin, as in… paano ko ibibigay sa ‘yo? hahaha. ^^

      ‘yong pink taxis, di kumasya sa bags kasi… btw, alam mo ang isa pang kahawig? ‘yong sando bags na plastic – kapareho rin… di lang kasing-nipis ng sa ‘tin. haha, ang trivial lang… kumusta ka na? 😉

  3. sorrygnat says:

    nice writing, enchanting article, clear, user friendly, delightful pictures; just plain good;

    • wow, thank you very much for swinging by and for the array of kind words… coming from you, Ms. Esther, that’s a lot! i think maybe, i should call it a day, haha. 😉 warm regards

  4. ladyfi says:

    Sounds like fun. Love those pink taxis – such a boost for the spirit!

  5. Twas, Lady Fi. Yes, their taxis are new and fare costs maybe, one tenth of cab fare in Hongkong, haha. And HK’s cabs are red and the models are circa 60s, I think? haha. Yes, Ma’am, we had fun in Thailand – a breeze… 🙂

  6. munchow says:

    Thailand is a lovely country – at least I have always enjoyed visiting it. People are indeed very accommodating and generally nice. Thanks for sharing your experience and for the comparison between Thailand and the Philippines. I still haven’t been to the Philippines, but I certainly would like one day. (And by the way sorry for having been absent lately, I just haven’t had time to comment the last couple of weeks).

    • Hello, sir Munchow… glad to see you again, pay no mind to the last couple of weeks, haha. Yes, Thailand is enjoyable and the people are hospitable and polite. We intend to come back… And, yes, do come to the Philippines one day. It’s a little like Thailand although a bit more exciting, lols… 😉

  7. petriesan says:

    love the pics, especially the airport one

  8. mabukach says:

    Well, this is amazing. Great piece! Thailand is definitely on my list

  9. Lovely write up dear!!

    such a nice trip I went on!

    will be reading this series!

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