Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide
Imagine you are surrounded by natives and down to your last cigarette. You hear the desperate sound of plop as someone opens your last bottle of Beer Leo. Surely they must all leave soon. You glance at your hand crafted, lacquer finished, precision quartz mantel clock, its gone.
You’re then gently ushered to one side as three of your girlfriends uncle’s carry the Contemporary Boston Range Leather Bourbon three seat sofa out of the front door, it’s then that you notice a lone cigarette burn still smouldering on its armrest as Uncle Som swigs from your Jack Daniel bottle as he guides them and the sofa to a waiting pick up truck.
Khun Som belches then tosses the empty bottle into the fishing pond and gently lifts a small young child holding a bunch of brightly coloured balloons into the back and the vehicle noisily pulls away…. Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide.
All the above is a complete fabrication but was written to over emphasize the problems that you can face in Thai villages. For those visiting a country village for the first time the amenities and way of life can be a welcome change for some but leave many others heading for the exit door never to return. Thai people as a whole are fun loving, kind and generous to a fault but when it comes to money their lack of it means you will be expected to foot the bill.
InThai culture the elder or socially higher ranked person is expected to settle the restaurant bill and Thai’s knowledge that the well stocked falang money trees are the world’s best hope in the fight against C02 and the greenhouse effect mean that irrespective of your age or homeland status quo, the bill will be yours. Beyond The Mango Juice roots amongst the chicken feathers and gecko droppings to offer a few tips and hints to help the first time country life visitor’s village stay a little more comfortable and a whole lot longer.
If you love the spices and herbs that make Thai food such a delight then for many people village food will not be a problem although don’t expect too many of the gourmet meals that the city’s restaurants offer. Tom Yum soup will be about as sophisticated as it gets so expect a diet of minced beef (lap neua), Thai fried noodles (pad thai), fried rice (khao pad), pork and vegetable soup (gaang joot) and a healthy portion of sticky rice with most things. Fish and an omelette will be the nearest you’ll probably get to a taste of mama’s cooking back home. Bottled water is a must.
Before heading to the village ask if where you will be staying has a refrigerator and if so head for the nearest town or big city supermarket. Superstores like Big C and Tesco Lotus are well stocked with foreign foods though they are a little more pricey. Steaks, soups, cheese, bread, potatoes and many other items are readily available and in a village if Thai food is not to your liking then these purchases can make your stay much more easier.
Beer, Cigarettes and Parties
Expect a party on the first night as family and friends will want to see the face that fronts the newest addition to the family circle. This is probably going to be the biggest expense of your village stay, but the few thousand baht outlay will be worthwhile in the long run and also raise your girlfriend’s standing amongst her family members.
Please don’t be mean with the flow of food, alcohol and cigarettes, your girl’s reputation is at stake and your own social ranking is being assessed. Thai’s are not big beer consumers and Thai whisky, home grown lao khao and a reasonably priced brand whisky will compliment an ample amount of beer. Buy some Thai cigarettes for the party goers to smoke but don’t leave all of them out at once. Filter tip cigarettes are a luxury to your average village man and you may find that they miraculously disappear in double quick time. Expect loud music, karaoke and do try at least a little Thai food.
The Village House
If you’re lucky then the house will be brick built and full of the best mod cons the world can offer, that is however very unlikely. The house will probably be the wood stilt, corrugated roof style and occupied by the girl’s parents and younger brothers and sisters. A cooling fan will be the best heat repellent on offer and the afternoon temperatures can make the house stifling hot and unbearable so spend your time downstairs under the house.
The bathroom facilities will almost certainly be the squat style toilet and showering will involve pouring cold icy water from a large plastic or ceramic drum over yourself, good luck. The cooking and cleaning amenities will be basic at best but quickly adopting a “if it’s good enough for you then it’s fine by me” attitude should see you safely get by on most days.
Look lovingly at your steak and chips and accept that sex is strictly off the menu, respect the family home. If your budget stretches to a rented car then make the most of it with day trips to the local attractions and big city air cooled shopping malls. Evening time there will be plenty of local restaurants within easy motoring reach so take the family and enjoy the delights that a family meal and an open air restaurant can offer.
Snakes, Insects and Bites
Coming into contact with a cobra is not liable to happen to you but be aware that it could. Snakes will avoid you at all times but unless you are an expert in such matters back away at all times.No matter its colour or size, treat every snake as a potentially poisonous one.
Insects and mosquitoes are in an abundance in rural area’s so be prepared to find them in your drinks and on your food. Dogs can look mangy and fearsome but are generally weary of the human form but again treat each one as a potential threat until they prove otherwise. Expect to see lizards, frogs, bees and insects of varying size.
In the case of snakes then don’t go trampling around in overgrown area’s and long grass and if seen then back off at all times. Wear a mosquito repellent for evening times and a pair of trousers, jeans or training bottoms are ideal for nighttime use. Also take some basic medical supplies with you such as plasters, antiseptic cream and after-sun lotion. Any innoculations needed for your trip should have been administered before leaving your homeland.
The above tips and advice have all been gained from my own experience of staying in three different Thai villages and each individuals opinion will be different. Please add any of your own advice and tips in the comments box, your views are most welcome.
Photograph Snake by VMOS