Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sa-Wa-Dee Khrup ( Hello )

First Impression of Thailand

I should begin by saying Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! It has been more than two weeks since my last post and I apologize for the gap. However, I am back on the road conducting what is now the 3rd leg of the project. Since Thailand is very different to anything I am accustomed to I thought it wise to begin with “First Impressions”.

My first contact with something Thai would have to my 16-hour flight from NYC. It sounds much worse than it really is. With a personal TV every passenger has access to hordes of movies, music, and games (ranging from Super Mario Brothers to chess to learning Thai). Everything in the plane is shades of pink and purple to match the important Thai Orchid and service is top-notch. With three above average square meals and sandwiches and fruit by request, it is no wonder why some refer to Thai Airlines as Stuff You Air. Move over British, the Thai know how to fly.

Upon landing it is very evident that Bangkok is a busy International hub. At the immigration check point I waited for 30 minutes because within an hour range of my flight more than 10 other international arrivals had landed (JFK, Boston, London, Taipei, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Etc.). The International feel is continued as my host Mike and I drive through “Downtown Bangkok”. Would you care for gelato at the Italian Ice Cream store? You could stop for drinks at the Heineken roof top bar or eat at any of the authentic Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Italian, and the list goes on and on for restaurants. For those who need their American Coffee or Slurpees, I counted three Starbucks and two 7-11s on the roughly 2 miles we were on the main avenue.

I would be mistaken not to mention the obvious language barrier. Thai is a remarkably difficult language to grasp. Even when the spelling is written phonetically you are not guaranteed success because the tone is generally flat and certain letters go unpronounced, such as the ‘h’ when preceded by a ‘k’, ‘p’, or ‘t’. After less then 24 hours here, I am nervous to say hello (sa-wa-dee khrup) and thank you (khop-khun-khrup). ‘Khrup’ is the word males add to the end of sentences to show courtesy and proper form and the female equivalent is ‘Kah’. I imagine taking taxis will have to wait until I learn some more of the basics. Luckily Mike lives approximately a mile from the famous Thai Sky Train system. It was built is 1998 and can take you around the heart of Bangkok in a cost effective and time efficient manner because rumor has it and guides profess it – traffic in Bangkok is bad and driving is even worse.

The last thing I want to mention is the advanced technology that I have seen so far in Thailand. Cell phones here make the States look like the developing country. The Apple iPhone is probably the only US phone that can hold its own in comparison but it is incredibly over priced. Here cell phones work on prepaid systems. You buy any phone and then prepay for the services you use (forget about roll over or unused minutes and contract termination fees). Also, little things make my experience in this developing country much different from the last. For instance a flat screen TV in front of a few street elevators or people with personal handheld screens that carry photos, planners, and everything else you would need were not things I saw while in Nicaragua. Needless to say I was impressed by the technology that is evident and available to Thais in Bangkok.

I will be returning to my pattern of writing at least every 3 days, but judging from the amount of notes I made from just one day I will probably post every other day. Any questions are always welcomed.

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