Monday, January 07, 2008

Un-Thai behavior

We'd read and been told repeatedly -- especially by Mikey -- that the Thai people are unfailingly polite, non-confrontational and accommodating, always smiling and eager to avoid hurt feelings.

That was not our experience.

"F U C K Lady!!" a young Thai woman was screaming at a pretty Tahitian school teacher as we arrived at the railway station to catch a tour bus. The teacher was touring Thailand for the summer and trying to arrange some travel. "You are very uneducated!" the travel agent yelled. "What country are you from? You are insulting me and these people here (US). Please to not talk to me, Lady!"

We talked with the teacher afterward because we had to find out what had prompted behavior that Mikey called "the most un-Thai thing I've ever seen." The teacher had suggested to the travel agent that her prices were too high.

This was not an isolated incident.

On the 9-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, the top-volume whining Thai music piped in on the radio began to get to Cisco. He asked the bus stewardess (a cool idea. They deliver snacks and drinks as if you were on a plane) if she would mind turning down the radio.

"NO!" she snapped and walked down the aisle.

Clara repeatedly ran into aggressive and mean sales vendor at the Chiang Mai night bazaar. They cut her off, snapped at and ridiculed her when she tried to bargain with them. I had much less trouble and the boys all did great with the vendors. This is in accord with traditional prejudices -- men are esteemed over women in this traditional culture, old people are respected over young and white-skinned people are granted more regard than brown or black-skinned.

Mikey insists that we got a bad impression because we visited only the two biggest cities where people are callused from too much exposure to tourists. In the villages you see the real Thai he told us.

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