Thailand - Dangers and Annoyances
Things don’t work too badly in Thailand, but they don’t work too well either. Visitors who are still in ‘Western impatience mode’ will get annoyed by the often slow service, lack of attention and forgetfulness in all but the top resorts, whilst those who have adjusted to the more laid-back attitudes here won’t let such generally minor inconveniences annoy them too much. The standard of English isn’t that high, so doing anything slightly unusual (for example ordering your club sandwich without tomato) can be difficult. Patience is essential.
Thailand is not at all a safety-conscious place: you will see people juggling fire-sticks next to thatched roofs, builders teetering at the tops of wobbly ladders and motorbikes being shared by four or more people, ridden by a minor with no lights on a rainy night and with the driver riding with only one hand, whilst he chats on a phone clasped in the other. How some of these people manage to keep their bikes vertical most of the times is amazing: they should apply for jobs in a circus.
If, however, you are tempted to mock or moan then consider that it is precisely this carefree attitude which makes Thais so lovable, so it’s pretty pointless to complain about their laid-back attitude’s other effects. The biggest danger to your health in Thailand is, by far, the roads. Especially the motorbikes, on which tourists die pretty much every day.
Many long-stay Western men come badly unstuck here. Whatever problem they had back home, whether it was drink, women or drugs, the laisee faire attitude here reduces self-restraint and causes many to behave worse than they did at home, and in a way that makes it difficult to feel sympathy when they come to grief, as they often do.
Anybody who studies the geology of the matter will have no fear of another tsunami. There will be another one, but it will be triggered further south on the fault-line and thus in a place where the bulk of the Indonesian island of Sumatra will shield the Thai coast. Shortly after the December 2004 tsunami, scientists predicted that the next undersea earthquake would occur further south on the fault-line, which is what happened a year later. The resulting tsunami didn’t touch Thailand and nor will the next one, which will occur even further southeast and so even better shielded by Sumatra.
One of the most admirable aspects of Thailand is the safety with which women can travel around the country, due to the admirably low incidence of physical molestation of foreign women by Thai men. They might annoy a Western woman by proposing too many times, but they almost never pose a danger. A woman travelling alone should of course still be cautious, particularly on Koh Phangan during the Full Moon Party, but generally, if she is sensible she has nothing to fear. A number of women do come to grief here, but almost always because they ignore the same elementary rules of self-protection that they would take for granted in the West.
It is extremely unlikely that you will have a problem with a snake unless you go hacking your way through the jungle, but you might, if you aren't carful while putting on your clothes, get bitten by a scorpion.
A year ago I grabbed my shorts off the ‘floor-drobe’ and pulled them on. I knew it had been lazy of me not to hang them up the previous night, but didn’t realise that they had acquired an unwanted passenger. Twenty minutes later I boarded a bus and, just as it pulled away, I felt a stab of pain somewhere extremely tender. “God, what was that?” I thought before rapidly realising that, a bit like a Victorian society host, I had company downstairs. But what was I to do about this, surrounded as I was by a bus-load of people? I shouted for the bus driver to stop, but he didn’t hear me. Well, call me indiscrete, but faced with the alternatives of either making myself a laughing stock or being bitten in the nether regions again, I pulled down my shorts, stood up and shook the culprit loose. He turned out to be one of the little brown ones, rather than the big black fellows. The smaller scorpions hurt you more, as they have venom, whereas the bigger ones just rely on their impressive-looking claws. The remainder of the bus journey wasn’t very comfortable, both because of an unpleasantly numb feeling in usually the most sensitive of spots, but also because of the sidelong glances and barely concealed giggles of the vehicle’s other occupants, who seemed to find it amusing that I had to continually cross, uncross and then re-cross my legs.
This is not paradise. Paradise is a silly concept which is mostly a result of how the perceiver views his or her conditions. Most Thais are much happier with the very little they have, because they are taught from an early age that it is not happiness, but contentment, to which they should aspire. Happiness is a fleeting condition, but contentment is not. Many Westerners have used Thai Theravada Buddhism as a springboard to improved contentment, via ridding their lives of craving and attachment to impermanent phenomena.
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