Kinder and Gentler, continued

 

In Thailand, my sister and I saw many ambulant traders and peddlers – busy and happy selling their wares – inside the villages, in the markets, in commercial hubs and in the highways. Most of those business people use vans or small pick-up trucks or the usual Third World business vehicles – motorcycle or bicycle with an attached cab for carrying the goods. In the cities, many shops appear to be family-run affairs. An onlooker could easily spot several members setting up shop for the day – one member lifts up the shop’s railing, another checks the inventory and another attends to the costumers coming in. Such scenes seem to be common.

 

larawan ng isang pangkaraniwang kalsada sa Thailand

Stores, shops and even mobile peddlers abound in Thailand/ cringel.com

 

Those manning the stores have very similar features, they are kins, haha. Am guessing, most entrepreneurs probably consider it more expensive to hire extra hands, it is the family members that run the enterprises themselves. In the Philippines, it is mostly start-up businesses and young couples that adopt that kind of set-up. The moment a business gets going, hired helps are immediately taken in and the children are let free to concentrate on their studies and play. The trend here in the recent years seems to be in the direction of weaning the children away from the vagaries and the nitty-gritty of running a small and messy business. Business attitudes of entrepreneurs appear to be different in Thailand or at least, that is how they look to me.

 

larawan ng mga nagtitinda ng inihaw na karne sa kalye ng Thailand

Official statistics claim that less than one percent are unemployed in Thailand/ fotolibra.com

We did not see many beggars and hangers-on loitering in the city and making occupations out of just standing by. Many local folks appear to be busy, employed and yes, Thais help each other out, apparently. In the Philippines, particularly in the low-class districts of the urban areas, idlers abound – in front of sari-sari stores, by the lamp posts in side streets and just about everywhere in the metropolis. With more than 20% unemployment rate and also a high percentage of underemployed – Filipinos do hang around and idle by the bunch. People waiting around for odd jobs, for small opportunities to make a few pesos or for some rare chance of fate smiling luckily down upon – these happen to be typical scenes in our country. On the other hand, in the busy hubs and centers of Thailand, idling people turn out to be just resting or merely taking their customary breaks from their duties.

 

Inside the subdivisions in Thailand, drivers who have been greeted by passersby stop their vehicles and roll down their car windows to greet back the ones who greeted them or bowed to them. I found that rather peculiar. I commonly observe such scenes in provincial settings in my country. But there’s a difference, even… In the Philippines, the driver either just slows down the car and shouts a jolly greeting to the acquaintance in return. Or, he merely presses the horn and waves in recognition of the person on foot who greeted him and  drives merrily or nonchalantly on.

The greeted motorist and the greeter on foot in non-highway parts of Thailand chat awhile, for a minute or so. As though they both have time in their hands, as if such a simple gesture were important. As though, a fellow or an old acquaintance were of value. Really… There was one young lady driver who even motioned the walking woman and her kid to come over by the car’s window. She looked like an educated person. I saw her hold the hand of the older, listened very politely to the woman who appeared to be a manual worker and even held the arms of the woman’s child before she drove on to the direction of the highway. I was mystified. What was that? The incident piqued my interest keenly.

 

larawan ng isang taga-Thailand na babaeng tumutungo bilang paggalang

Thais bow very gently before their fellows/ virtualtourist.com

When greeting somebody, the Thais usually put their hands together in front of the face – but not touching the forehead, with fingers pointing upward – smile plaintively or gently and then they bow, very courteously. At times, their bows are quite low, almost like genuflects – as though fervently asking people their pardon – for the intrusion, for having disturbed, or, for having gotten in the other person’s way.  The greeted person, the one disturbed, acknowledges the bow or the greeting in the same respectful and courteous manner.  “Fare thee well, wherever it is you are going,”  seems to register in their facial expressions, in the joviality of their smiles and in the twinkle of their eyes. They mean you well, they seem to… And, it must be strange that I found that strange. Isn’t that how things are really meant to be between and among people? I don’t know…

 

Our second hotel is called Novotel Impact, a four-star hotel closer to Bangkok in the  Muang Thong Thani district. The hotel’s website says that the place has 380 rooms – that many. I did not loiter around that much to see how a place that has more than 300 rooms looks like, haha. We do not have that many rooms in the hotels in the Philippines, no. * But we have four-star and five-star hotels aplenty, chains and independent ones, and I have stayed in many of them, over the years. Some of them are really lavish, glossy and showy, especially the lobbies…

Novotel Impact appears new, clean and spacious. To me, it isn’t very grand in the way that some hotels in the Philippines are. But the sibling and I enjoyed our room, very much – better than a couple of five-star rooms in the Philippines that I’ve stayed in for conferences and seminars. There are less freebies and free items for occupants but anyhow, it is the kind of room one would stay in, rather than go out to wander, haha. Our hotel is huge, modern and right in the center. The members of the staff are alert, courteous and professional in their demeanor. They do speak and understand more English than the staff in our previous hotel, haha. What impressed us were the welcome drinks – very refreshing and served at the information desk as we were checking in – two small glasses of pandan-flavored tea. The tea and the gesture charmed us instantly, haha.

 

Our new temporary abode is no longer the private and quiet corner near the airport. This one’s tuned in to a more international set of clienteles and has a rather business-like atmosphere to it. Even the bellboys, the attendants and the porters carry themselves a bit more professionally, are more citified in their appearances and look as though they have been in the business of hospitality far longer. They seem to know how to be of service in a not in-your-face manner and do not appear to be expecting tips after every gesture they have done for a tourist. In the Philippines, I have encountered many such impolite hotel staffs.  I remember one exception, though, to this day – an encounter in the city of Bacolod, a couple of years ago. Hotel people there seemed to be truly welcoming, helpful and respectful.

The Impact area is probably similar to the Mall of Asia (MOA) complex in the Philippines, although the former seems to occupy wider grounds and appears to me as something that has been built more sensibly?  I really do not know but the Thailanders’ real estate valuation, their idea of urban spacing and their concept of livable lifestyles must be different from ours, Filipinos. In another perspective , the area is also similar to the PICC complex in the Philippines’ Roxas Boulevard area – the cultural and business convention complex built by our famous former First Lady. Impact has a more modern touch, perhaps. It offers plenty of conveniences to visitors, is people-friendly in design and feels inviting in many ways. It is not crowded and not intimidating at all.

 

larawan ng Impact complex sa Muang Thong Thani district sa Thailand

The Impact Complex is one of Thailand’s new tourist attractions/ tceb.or.th

 

The complex is composed of a series of huge buildings – a newly-built arena, a shopping complex, an exhibition and art center, a sports complex and several hotels and convention centers – in one area. They are built next to one another, a visitor could access them just by walking – if he is patient and so desires. One also has the option to take the shuttles plying the vicinity, for free. Things are actually convenient and tourists-friendly. Except, there they still do not have those “Look to your right” and “Look to your left” street signages that I so appreciate in Hongkong.

And sadly, the menus in the restaurants and fastfoods of Thailand do not have English translations. That, to my sister and me, appeared to be a problem as we usually did not know the recipes of the foods we were ordering. Most of the time, we just looked at the pictures in the menu and trusted our instincts, haha. And as we could read the prices – in baht terms –  and are assured that the prices are usually the same as in the Philippines, or even cheaper, we usually just ordered away and experimented, ahaha.

 

My sister and I agree that the Thais are not as prone to excesses as we, Filipinos, often are. Their food courts look almost the same as those found in the Philippines but theirs seem cleaner, more orderly and look just about right. The foods may not be as superbly or as elaborately prepared as in Hongkong’s special restaurants, maybe.  But the kitchens are not as untidy, either, haha. We also observed that the local folks do not order or stack food in their plates more than what they could eat at a time. Sadly, many Filipinos, here or abroad – whether in roadside eateries, classy restaurants or posh hotels – conduct themselves opposite.

Oftentimes, most of us, we get too much of everything – gravy, sauces or dips – as though we couldn’t have enough of them or the supply’s going to run out anytime.  At times, one would see a group of five (5) Filipinos at KFC – binging on two buckets of chicken, 10 cups of rice and several side dishes – mashed potatoes, corn and carrots and five (5) orders of spaghetti, haha. And it’s nobody’s birthday, see? We were not treated to such curious tendencies or coarseness in Thailand. Except for plus serving of chilis, the locals put in just enough sauces in their dishes, even if those extras were free and available in big bowls for everybody.

 

In the theaters, the Thais seem to observe the lines and patiently wait for their turns. People also crowd in near the entrances, but I guess that is to be expected anywhere. But we did not see any of them pushing or trying to pull an act to get ahead. This was in the Impact Arena, where they hold locally-sponsored international events. Perhaps this is the equivalent of MOA Arena in the Philippines.

While there, my sister and I got an up close look into Thai society’s folks from different walks of life – students and professionals, young and old, poor and rich. There also seem to be Western influences on the young, specifically the upper middle class urban youths, the preppies – in their clothes and sense of fashion, in their gadgets, etcetera. Again, we observed none as loud as Filipinos, ahaha – no excessive gloating or flaunting of wealth and tastes. Moderation and grace appear to be commonly observed…

 

larawan ng isang modelong babae sa Thailand

The Thai actors and models look too much like Filipinos/ flickr.com

The billboards in the highways we passed by surely got our attention. For one, Thai models and endorsers look like Filipinos, haha. Only, they are fairer in complexion, seem to have smoother skin than ours and some appear to have marked Chinese or Vietnamese features in them. But otherwise, their models and actors could be mistaken for ours, lol. There is one young model who is a spitting image of Philippines’ Rica Paralejo. My sister and I guffawed over that. Also, we had a good laugh over another who looks a tad too like our Sara Geronimo, haha. And we saw them not just in billboards above, but also in magazines and record stores, ahaha. Maybe, it is also worth mentioning that billboards in Thailand are much smaller, simpler and not too Western. Their advertisements are not too conspicuous, not interfering and not too hard sell, either…

 

The malls in Thailand are spacious, well-built and carry various products as well, but they look simple, functional, neighborly and useful as facilities. In short, very Asian… I did not see anything too grand or excessively, insanely beautiful. It seems that Thais do not build to bedazzle, or to lure or to fool people into coming in and spending this way and that, no. In the Philippines, one is not only treated to billboards bigger than buildings in the highways, but also to huge posters of Guess pants, Nike shoes and Technomarine watches inside our department stores, haha. 😉

 

* I was at the Diamond Hotel in the Manila Bay area very recently. Said hotel has around 500 rooms. I stand corrected about this piece of information – October 22, 2013.

 

Last part of the Kinder and Gentler post will  also be published immediately. It will include bit discussion on comparative economies, cultures and politics between Thailand and the Philippines. Thanks for reading. Happy weekend! ^_^

 

Advertisements

20 comments on “Kinder and Gentler, continued

  1. chilledhoney says:

    Wow!

    Seemed like I traveled with you 🙂

    Thank you for such vivid descriptions 🙂

    I went to Thailand without leaving the Philippines, yey!

    • hello, chilled honey! wow, you’re an early bird. many thanks for prompt visit, kapatid… ahaha, may kasama akong maganda at maliksi – aliw… ^^

      i usually tend to stare at corners, people watch and gawk, haha. my sister hates that – she says am too slow for a tourist, yes. and three clicks of the digicam is supposed to do the job, according to her, haha.

      Thailand is really like the Phils, as in… but it’s cleaner, I guess. pero sa Bangkok daw, like MM, typical metropolis with extreme poverty, dirt, crimes and glitter… i’ve seen several features about Bangkok on cable :c

      my pleasure to bring you with me. 😉 there’s part three pa, soon. thanks, chilled honey 🙂

      • chilledhoney says:

        “maganda at maliksi” hihihi…ALIW!

        I enjoyed reading your post, detailed and with humor… never bored all throughout and as if nga I was with you also…

        sobrang delighted to read and will wait for part 3…hihihi

        The only thing I was not able to do was to buy pasalubong hahahahah!

      • ahaha, but you seem to be like that in your pictures, honey… you look efficient and cheerful, I guess. ^^

        ah, thank you. it was fun taking you along, hehe. 🙂

        there’s plenty of pasalubong in Thailand – clothes and foods, a lot, as in…methinks most SEA countries are better and more serious than Filipinos when it comes to food manufacturing and preservation, haha. they have ways of processing and marketing their gingers, their santols (lolly fruit) and their papayas. Filipinos try that also but our purchasing power and marketing are limited, I guess… oh, well ^^ thanks, chilled h! 😉

      • chilledhoney says:

        Hmmmm…

        Naki-“silip” ka rin pala hehehe…

        Thanks for the compliment, made my smile very wide!

        Tsk, tsk, sometimes, being “efficient and cheerful” becomes a problem… work succeeds, relationship fails (bitter lang hihihi)

        I strongly believe that we can top that (purchasing power and marketing as you say), among SEA countries. Its just a matter of removing “red tapes” both in the government and the private sectors.

        Sigh, is it like me asking for the heavens to shower us with paper bills?

        Its impossible to remove from our system…but it is possible to taper the culture of corruption that has been embeded eversince people discovered that power, authority, and money are synonymous….

        Sigh 😦 and Hi 🙂

      • hello, ch.. i like how you put it – to taper corruption both in the government and in the private sector… however, allow me to disagree with you there, hehe.

        almost all countries pass through decades, even centuries of inefficient, inept and corrupt governance – even America, Japan and yes, Thailand have those episodes in their history. America has this period of “moneybag politicians,” if we will care to remember.

        the British were bad colony administrators for a long time, is why the secession of colonies and satellites became easy later on. such also paved the way for America’s historical “tea parties.” historically, they weren’t too good as governors and corrupt, yes.

        all am saying, corruption may be just one part of it. there is what policymakers call as “corruption that the system can hold,” within limits, ahaha, and will not offset the balance of things and way of life, so to speak…

        it is when things (corruption and rottenness) get so bad that it permeates all aspects of living of people that it becomes impossible to bear and to continue and thus, we say that the system has got its fill & has to go.

        am afraid, bringing trade and commerce to a higher, bigger and more sophisticated scale in the Phils. is more than just removing red tapes in permits and licensing, although it would help. it entails a lot – facilitating flow of capital within localities, putting in support system, encouraging private networks of support and marketing, insurance at ground levels, setting up infastructures, etc.

        and yes, education of amateur entrepreneurs by their more experienced and better schooled counterparts. it’s a package, i think, or a chain of hard work, ahaha… 😉 regards.

      • chilledhoney says:

        hihihi…

        Seemed you did not disagree, you just explained it better and in detail, with more info, than I would ever do hahahah…

        I do agree, punto por punto…

        I wont even dare say that “corruption only eats the Philippines”…Its because, its everywhere, whether you are fair, black or white… and yes, when it hits a dangerous level, it becomes a real destructive problem…It would destabilize a government and would affect greatly the people’s way of life…

        I also agree that its more than looking into the corruption part… its much much more…

        What I just understand is that everything boils down to the people factor… the systems are perfect, the people who are bound to implement may be imperfect…

        I just made my opinion based on my limited observations… I was not an outsider… I was an insider for a long time and I had to leave because the flaws and the twists are already getting to a level than I couldn’t handle….My sanity speaks….

        You have a wider perspective because your comparisons are based on your observations during travel and I do thank you for that very informative response…

        A cup of learning has been served in this page and I am just so glad to take a sip or two, heck.. I will just finish off the whole cup!!!! 🙂 Thanks! Its delicious!!!!

      • ah, it’s just that when some people talk (not you), they make it appear as if ours is the only and most corrupt government and society there is or has ever been. am just clarifying and i know you’ll agree with me – ours isn’t… other countries, other govts, other people have been there, too, once upon a time. they may look clean, prosperous, progressive and transparent now but their histories were once murky, too and their identities as peoples, also insecure and unstable, at some point.

        corruption is perhaps just one aspect that shows how inefficient, ineffective and unresponsive governance (in our country) is. how people in power or positions can use public logistics, bureaucracy and networks to advance their personal interests at the expense of social service and the welfare of the expectant public.

        ahaha, it’s hard to work for and in the government, yes. on top, there’s the head who’s always pressured to become some kind of a politician and not just an administrator. in the middle and below, there are the employees whose definition of service is “service to people they know and worth getting to know,” ahaha.
        most government offices are not the professional bureaucracies that they are supposed to be, not yet.

        am afraid that systems are perfect at conceptual planes but are imperfect at operational, organizational and logistical ends. people manning them are imperfect, of course, but as members of an org, they should strive towards minimizing errors, achieving efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness to those whom they are supposed to serve.

        hala, parang pati ako yata, na-nosebleed sa mga itinype ko, haha. thanks and pasensya na, ch… 😉

  2. renxkyoko says:

    We stayed in Novotel hotels in Europe. I guess that’s my tour company’s favorite hotel.

    You seem to like the thais more than the Filipinos, huh. o.O

    Although I do hear they really are gentle people, unlike Filipinos who are more aggressive and in your face. Guess we got that from our colonizers.

    Cheers !

    • ah, you did? ahaha, we’re Novotel kids – us two, whehe… btw, in Impact, they have a Thai woman who plays the traditional musical instrument in the hotel’s lobby at about 5pm and up – her playing is harmonious, not intrusive and very relaxing. glad that the mgmt. put in that “local touch.”

      oh, the Thais are more likeable than us, I suppose, ahaha. hindi sila kasimpapel, kasing- angas at kasing-dugas ng marami sa mga Pinoy. wari ko, feeling ko lang, hihi. ^^

      kapatid, studies say that Asians are really harmonious, peace-loving and geared towards cooperation. not tuned to conflict and out & out competition… yes, it’s likely from our colonizers that we got them, hoho… hello, Renx. miss you, kapatid. 😉

  3. nadia says:

    What a beautifully-written travel post! It’s official – you are my MOST favorite travel writer, so yeah, travel often so that we have good posts to read. Maybe you can tag along your sister wherever she travels next 🙂

    The Impact Complex looks very similar to Dubai’s newest airport. It’s nice to know how Thai’s are in general very polite and civilized.

    • wow, huge thanks! 😉 isn’t there a cert or a plaque that comes with the most fave tag? ahaha, i used to travel more a decade ago… am a little slower now and have to be forced, haha 😉 sister travels often – it’s hard to keep up. since the Thailand trip, she’s been to 4 or 5 SEA countries already… ^^

      it does, huh? In that photo, Impact looks glossy… Up close, it is huge, state of the art and cosmopolitan but not glossy & Hollywood-like. maybe, Dubai airport’s a bit more glossy, hmnn… btw, the old and new terminals are just a cab away from Impact, hehe…

      Thais are not civilized in the Western sense, am afraid. they’re really gentle by orientation? basta, parang gano’n… ^^

      thanks, Nadia, for the visit and the compliments. cheers, as always 🙂

  4. munchow says:

    The Thai people are indeed kind and gentle. And I really love Thailand. It such a beautiful country in all aspects. Thanks for sharing your experiences. It was really interesting to read.

    • hello, sir Munchow… true, they are a lovely people, indeed. and Thailand has such a beautiful and serene landscapes (and seascapes). what is interesting, their attempt to hold on and to grow without going against nature too much and the changes are phased in – not too drastic in the name of the so-called progress. 🙂

  5. ladyfi says:

    The Thai are lovely people. Sounds as if you and your sister had a great trip.

  6. Andy says:

    I disagree on Thais and Fillipinos look the same part. Actually IndoChina people look different than the Malay people (indonesians, malaysians, fillipino, brunei, etc!) There’s a reason why it’s label Indchina because the people their look chinese but practice indian culture!

    • Hello, Andy… Oh, am saying that Thais and Filipinos look the same from what I saw and experienced in Thailand (it was weird, actually). And of the more than a hundred Thais we talked with, all of them mistook us for Thais… ^^

      Anyway, if memory serves right, the Indochina is composed of Annam (Vietnam), Laos and Cambodia, a geo-political term coined to denote French rule (colonization) of that grouping from 1884 to 1954. True, people from that group look like Chinese and practice Buddhism and Indian culture.

      Thailand has not been part of Indochina and was never colonized (explained in the next post). The Indochinese influence among the Thais is more pronounced in the Thai language (Laotian in origin, sounds like the chirping of birds) and similarly, the predominant religion in Siam or Thailand is Buddhism… I hope this helps clarify… Thanks for dropping by and reading. 🙂

      • Andy says:

        What part of Thailand did you go? The south of Thailand looks more like fillipino and malay people. If you go north more next to Laos the people there looks more and more Chinese. I’m not Thai but a Cambodian who was born in America. I travel to Thailand sometimes when I visit Cambodia. Don’t get confuse between the Tais and the native people there. The Tais are an ethnic group from China the same as the people of Laos. The Tai people came and absorbed the Malay people and made them become part of their society. Later on they changed their name to Thai. Thai is just a nationality. As for Cambodian people we came from Tibet plateau with our Cousin the Mon people of Burma. Khmer-Mon people came to south east asia and kind of inter mix with the Malay people there that is why there are some cambodian that look like Fillipino, malay. The real cambodian people looks like the people from Burma. Our culture and dress is the same like the people of Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal. This is why the french call cambodia, laos, and vietnam part of Indochina. hope this helps!

  7. hello, again, Andy… thank you very much for your explanations about the Thai people and the Cambodians. happily, i took a subject about South East Asian ethnic conflicts, back in college (a good while ago). your arguments above took me back to the issues taken up in that subject, ahaha. ^^

    yes, the Burmese, the Tibetans, the Mons, the Bhutan people and the Nepalese folks came from one grouping ( at times called race) while the Malays, the Indons and the Austrasians (or Polynesians) are separate groupings and they all inhabited and intermarried through wars and peace times in Southeast Asia.

    oh, i grant that we did not see much of Thailand. we stayed at areas near Bangkok and only saw adjacent places in commercial districts where people look predominantly Malays, Indons and some who look like Vietnamese or Chinese-like (at least, from my end). this is the very reason why i said that Thais have better skin (yellow or Mongol-like) than Filipinos who are mostly brown-skinned or even dark browns, haha. but yes, in centers, there are more Filipino-looking Thais and Thais looking uncannily like Filipinos… ^^

    anyway, I do not want to go deeply into the subject of race as I know that it is subject to conflicts and extreme arguments, ahaha. apparently, Asians are so intermixed already, it is dangerous and hard to have a “purist” point of view on the matter. the Filipinos, for example, we’re a heady mix of Polynesian, Malay, Chinese, Spanish and American – that is why many foreigners find us “exotic.”

    anyway, as far as I know, the prevailing culture and politics of Thailand is controlled or led by the state that is not from the aboriginal or native inhabitants of Siam or Thailand. the original and “pure” inhabitants have been dominated by other ethnic groups (Malays?) who gradually took over the helm of power and imposed their culture and beliefs over the weaker ethnic groupings (Laotians or the yellow-skinned ones?). i think the story’s like that… ^^

    anyway, we have a similar problem in the Philippines. the original tribes or settlers are found mostly in the South and practiced Islam as a religion and observed Middle East and some Indian cultures about 450 years ago. when the Spanish came and took over, they chose the other tribes in the North as their local partners (lighter-skinned and less fierce, haha). these tribes are known as the Tagalogs.

    then after more than 300 years, the Spanish people passed the country on to the Americans (who also partnered with the Tagalogs for 50 years). when the Americans left, ruling was given over to the Tagalog ethnic group that by that time, has considerably increased in number, wealth and influence. thus, Tagalog became the official language of the Filipinos and Tagalog culture became dominant (unofficially). there are at least seven (7) other ethnic groups that questioned the adoption of Tagalog as official language for decades.

    most S.E. Asian nations have that problem, I suppose… thanks again, Andy. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s