You Just Gotta Love Thailand

December 9, 2002

Thailand recently finished celebrating Loy Kratong. People floated beautiful floral wreathes in rivers and lakes hoping that last year’s bad luck would float away with them, lit many a firecracker in the street and celebrated in every conceivable fashion over a three-day period. Beauty pageants, muay Thai boxing matches, concerts and fairs were all part of the fun. And so were parades. Lots of them!

One parade highlight consisted of a pick-up truck driver whose truck was pulling a float while he drank Singha beer at an alarming rate. In fact, his entire dashboard was filled with empty beer cans. Another pick-up truck worth noting might not have even been intended to be in the parade in the first place. It was battered and had a huge generator and amplifier system in the back brought into use by a driver who sang karaoke into a microphone while steering.

But even the pick-up trucks pulling floats and blasting music could not compete with the military parade.091202k1.jpg First lines of neatly dressed and pressed soldiers carrying flags, banners and weapons marched by in perfect order. Then came yet another pick-up truck blasting music followed closely by many more soldiers who were all ‘ramwonging’ and disco-ducking with wild abandon. You couldn’t have asked for more juxtaposition!

And what celebration in Thailand would be complete without a beauty contest? Competitions for titles the likes of Miss Big Angel and Miss Elephant feature very large competitors, while other competitions offer the name of the town, village or local fruit to the winner. These are held frequently throughout the country. When they are not happening, local shopping centres or festivals host a beauty contest of their own. Very young girls can be seen wearing bright red lipstick and the shortest of mini-skirts while trying to walk in platform shoes, while the older ones might sometimes choose to wear more traditional outfits.

When not gazing at parades or091202k2.jpg taking in beauty contests, the author has recently been looking around for some ultimate Thailand souvenirs to take with her when she leaves the country at the end of this year. (Surprise!) Imagine her delight when she spotted miniature red Thai postal boxes for sale at a local post office in Chiang Mai. A one-of-a-kind find, never before spotted at any other post office in the nation. Five models available, all for the very low price 120 baht (US$3.00) each. One even had the author’s very own Bangkok postcode written on the side! Sold! The postal workers were very pleased at making perhaps the first sale ever of these doo-dads and obviously hadn’t sold any of the things in a very long time as every employee was called into action to try and find out exactly where the ones for sale were kept.

As if finding the postbox wasn’t amazing enough, the author spotted the second fire truck of her four years in Thailand and it was even in action! All of the firemen were obviously091202k3.jpg very excited about this, too, and were standing on the roof as it hurled down the road causing them all to nearly be decapitated by the limb of an unfriendly tree.

We are finally coming to the end of the ‘rainy season’ (it seems it rains whenever it feels like it year-round) and entering the ‘cool season’ (which is still pretty darn hot) here in Thailand. Recently I was trying to get home via public transportation pick-ups in the early evening and, as usual, rain was dumping down from the sky. All of the drivers stated that their fares were doubled that evening due to rain. Eventually I had to give in, as no one was willing to charge the standard rate. Imagine this happening in London or New York City! Actually, I am not sure which is more ridiculous; the behaviour of the pick-up truck drivers or that of the traffic police. As roads get clogged with rain and traffic and no driver pays the least bit of attention to any traffic law, pedestrians are forced to step out into oncoming traffic to cross the street because no one will stop for them at which point, if they are unlucky, they might be handed a 200-baht fine for jaywalking.

While you wait to cross the street (it could take forever), keep your eyes open for all of the hip new helmet accessories. As the motorcycle driver comes hurtling down the sidewalk at you, he might have a cute pair of plastic kitty ears attached to his helmet or (my favourite one yet) modified the helmet himself using a drill to install gigantic Herman Munster looking nuts and bolts coming out of the sides.

You just gotta love Thailand.

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