Thai/ Western Cross Cultural Relationships: Keeping A Loose Itinerary for Thailand

Ben had a loose itinerary for the trip back to Thailand, but not a rigid one, he had learnt from past mistakes down the years about down to the minute itineraries, especially in Thailand. It gets to the point that you might as well have stayed at home if you are going to be governed by the clock whilst away.

Having said that and being the planner that Ben was, he did want some structure to the proceedings. For as much as he loved Thailand if not careful the days would just amble away having seen or accomplished nothing.

The planning part came in the form of not over-doing the stay in Waan’s home town of Chainat. Although he liked Chainat there would be the usual traipsing around the many relatives houses complete with smiling, nodding and floor sitting. A few days of that could see a western man start to lose the will to live.

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Both Ben and Waan had friends in Hua Hin so they arranged to spend only two nights in Chainat and head straight to the royal beach resort of Hua Hin.

Instead of taking the bus or train from Chainat to Hua Hin, Waan said that Da (the name of Waan’s niece), and her husband Tuk would take them in a nice spacious Toyota pick up wagon. How very nice of them Ben thought and the convenience of not having to carry the luggage about or should he say Waan’s luggage was a real blessing.

The next morning things have changed slightly and not only are Da and Tuk taking us, but they are also going to be staying a few days with us as well. Ben was still very much looking forward to the trip as Da, Tuk and the Mother-in -law would be in the front and Waan and Ben would be stretched out in the back.  It meant that Ben could catch up with some important writing that had been on hold for a while… yes pleasant.

Maeka lady – Hard working ladies and usually how Ben felt carrying Waan’s suitcases.

Loaded Up And Ready To Go

Da’s Friend Nok Arrives

We are all loaded up, fuelled up and ready to go. After about 10 minutes we stop off at the house of Da’s friend who apparently has something to give Da in relation to work. As it turned out she actually had nothing to give Da, but instead complete with hand luggage made the traditional greeting of a wai (see notes below) and got in the back of the truck.

Now this is about the time when Ben’s suspicions arise and the alarm bells start to ring. As memories of previous experiences are called upon of being crammed in the back like a sardine, Ben begins to ask Waan some questions about the trip to Hua Hin. This however must be done in a cautious way with precise but careful probing. It’s a battle of wills, craft and guile as he puts Waan slightly uncomfortably on the back foot; but not drastically uncomfortably.

  • Ben: Why has Da’s friend Nok got in the vehicle are we dropping her off somewhere?
  • Waan: Yes I think she has something work related to do for Mon
  • Ben: Oh, right (accepting the explanation, but doubting it very much)

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Nok Arrives

 Nok’s Brother Somchai Arrives

Nok’s brother arrives at the rear of the pick up truck performs a wai greeting and say’s sawat dii khrap and boards the truck with a suitcase and a fishing rod. Ben lets a small period of time pass by of about 2 minutes before asking Waan;

  • Ben: Where is Nok’s brother going?
  • Waan: Oh he is off to help Nok I think?
  • Ben: They must be staying a couple of days as Nok’s brother has a suitcase and a fishing rod (The art of perception tinged with sarcasm).
  • Waan: Stays silent feeling there is no need to respond to this.

Nok’s Mum and Dad Arrive Accompanied by a Small Boy

Nok’s Mum and Dad approach the rear of the truck with a small boy (to wave us all off or so I thought), perform a wai and a sawatdii greeting and climb aboard the pick up truck. However, this time the game has really been given away as the boy is carrying a bucket and spade.

Waan’s Sister, Husband and another Small Boy Arrive

Another 20 minutes driving and we are back in the centre of Chainat to pick up Waan’s sister and her husband. But this is not all, as along with them is a little boy who is dancing around excitedly with joy and does not look like someone on his way to watch his elders work. Suitcases are tied to the tail board, visibility is nil and I already have that old feeling of a sardine packed in a tin.

This resembles the trip from Chainat to Hua Hin

  • Ben: Ben glances towards Waan, but she pretends not to notice him. After a few seconds and a bit of throat clearing, Ben asks Waan are they all going to Hua Hin by any chance.
  • Waan: Yes, but I have only just been told by Da. I did not know before.
  • Ben:  Of course you didn’t dear
  • Waan: Apparently they are going down to stay at an uncle’s place in Hua Hin.
  • Ben: What all of them? Does the uncle know?
  • Waan: No they are going to surprise him
  • Ben: More like severely shock him

Waan laughs knowing the beast has been tamed once again and all is well with the world. Now she can relax and it must be time to stop off for something to eat and drink again soon as well.

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Final Thoughts

Ben say’s; ‘’It is at that point when you forget the disappointment of having space to carry out your best laid writing plans and see the funny side of things. Firstly, could you imagine taking that many people to an uncle’s house in England all armed with luggage in order to stay for a few days. Not only that but he doesn’t know a thing about it. It’s pretty much a fact that he would have the door bolted in no time at all with the crowd of relatives on the outer side of it.’’

Instead of writing Ben is now teaching English to all in sundry in the back of a pick up truck with a bag of sticky rice in one hand and a greasy piece of chicken in the other. The refreshment stops were something else to witness as a pack of sardines with cramp and pins and needles unpacked and then repacked on each occasion.

Ben say’s; ‘’Now don’t get me wrong on this as I loved the way the whole family came with us. It’s just the pure element of surprise that throws me, because you never actually know a lot about things in Thailand until they are happening. As for my making of plans, you can forget it unless you are by yourself and even then it’s not guaranteed.’’

‘’A great piece of advice when in Thailand is expect the unexpected, in my experience it will very seldom go as you expect it to go. At times this is great fun, but if you’re a planner then you have been warned.’’

Now time for 100 relatives to descend on an uncle and the beach of Hua Hin.

Hua Hin beach empty, but not for long

Language Notes

 Wai Is a gesture of respect made by placing the palms of your hands together as if praying at about chin height.

Sawatdii Similar to hello, good morning or good day, but not used as often as we would say hello or good morning. Always used when meeting someone for the first time and accompanied by a wai.

Khrap Spoken by the male Kha Spoken by the Female  (added to show politeness, always used when speaking to strangers or when meeting someone for the first time, but remember ladies say (Kha) and gentlemen say (khrap) I enjoy the continued learning of Thai as it is an incredibly polite language.

Please Note

 These stories are based around true encounters, but are a light-hearted look at some of the differences in cross-cultural relationships between the Thai and the Westerner.

 

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