Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide


party timeImagine 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.

Food
Village foodIf 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.

Survival Tips
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.

Survival Tips
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
Village houseIf 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.

Survival Tips
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
SnakeComing 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.

Survival Tips
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.


Credit

Photograph Snake by   VMOS

© 2009 – 2011, Martyn. All rights reserved.

21 thoughts on “Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide

  1. Great post Martyn. heres a few ways Thai village life is taking over my retirement!

    Thai kids now visit (to see Doy) clearly not used to a sofa but perhaps having seen a trampoline on the TV they are in their element as cartoon network blares out.

    My truck seems to be in demand too, so far I have managed to avoid it being used to move my neighbours cows, but only just.

    Soi dogs roam the yard and try to dig up my plants in a search for a cool shady spot, one even likes to jockey for position on my chair on the porch.

    Would I change things? No not really although I wish they would believe me when I say in my best Thai mai mee tang.
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Thailand Post =-.

  2. A fun read – well done. a tongue in cheek but unnervingly true portrayal for village life .

  3. Mike I can imagine the young kids with their faces pressed against your front gate pleading “ao tang,” they are a lot more clever than you think. I like the thought of the dog jockeying for position on the chair but after what happened to Lucky then I’m surprised you allow any of them in. The truck and the cows sounds like a good story waiting to happen.

    Thailand Girl thanks for your comment and yes a little tongue in cheek but hopefully with some sound advice for any rural wannabes.

  4. You mean red ant eggs aren’t gourmet food?

    Beer and ciggy’s…what’s yours is theres…expect to share the lot…and also be prepared to get your beer delivered with Ice in it.

    We all get hit up for the family outings and dinners out but the best part of it is the price is so small it’s negligible. I took all 14 family members to Thai BBQ and all in it cost me 1400 baht ( roughly $43).

    I don’t mind the squat toilets now or the ice cold shower which is just a pot in a trough. But the snakes and lizzards that stare at me occasionally while I am precariously perched on the squater I can do without!

    Great tips as always Martyn…
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..Thailand Moving to Ban Electronic Cigarettes =-.

  5. Talen I haven’t tried the red ant eggs and don’t think I will either or though after the amount of bites I’ve had from the buggers then perhaps I should.

    If I buy 10 beers then I doubt I manage to drink 6 of them myself but as you say it’s cheap enough. I buy plenty of cigarettes and hand them around but a long time back I drew the line at people helping themselves to my packet. I like to know roughly how many I’ve smoked in one day and it was getting to the point where I’d gone through 4 packs in a day due to people helping themselves, now I leave a spare pack on the living room table for all and sundry.

    Squat toilets, snakes and lizards. My bad eyesight is a perfect cure for that problem.

  6. ‘Imagine you are surrounded by natives and down to your last cigarette’

    …then you’d quick like head over to Talen’s for an e-cig 🙂

    Sadly, I don’t have any tips to add as I’ve never done the Thai gal in the village visit sort of thing.

    But as this is such a well written survival guide, perhaps dress it up and offer it as a pdf download in your sidebar?

    I’d certainly twitter it around for you.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Why Learning the Thai Language Needs To Be More Than a Study of Words and Grammar =-.

  7. Catherine I have just ordered an e cig starter pack and 20 cartridges at just over £60 so I’m going to smoke like crazy until the package arrives. I’m surprised you haven’t done the village thing as I’m sure you have many Thai friends, I think you would enjoy it.

    I’d be delighted if you twittered something about the post, thanks for thinking that way and if you get round to it then an extra big thank you.

  8. Glad to hear that you’ve purchased the e-cigs 🙂

    I do aim to go for the real Thai village experience. As soon as I get over my shyness I plan on putting myself in the hands of chance.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Why Learning the Thai Language Needs To Be More Than a Study of Words and Grammar =-.

  9. Hi Martyn,
    Excellent insight here and would turn out to be a great idea for a pamlet to be handed out in travel agent’s shops and to airport passengers heading there.

    You tell how it is and that’s what many want who need to find out what it’s really like in Thailand.

    There are many thing there tha differ greatly form Bulgaria, mainly customs and traditions on how they treat visitors. The village life sounds great, but then you have to love village life in the first place I suppose.

    Although I am in dispose in visits to blogging friends I remain a fan of many blogging friend here from a distance until the gorwin season calms down.

    Fond Regards

    Martin
    .-= Martin In Bulgaria´s last blog ..Home Grown Crops On The Dinner Table =-.

  10. Catherine

    ” As soon as I get over my shyness I plan on putting myself in the hands of chance.”

    Believe me the hands of chance will make you dance, laugh, have tears of regret (make you realize how well off you are ) and make you wonder why you didn’t pick up and embrace everything that is natural Thailand before. Village life to me is a welcome throwback to the UK before my time, the rural 1930’s, perhaps the old American Wild West gunslinger days of old, living off the land and if someone is in desperate need then help them out. If you ever get the chance then grab it with both hands, clenched fists and a Glasgow kiss.

  11. ‘If you ever get the chance then grab it with both hands, clenched fists and a Glasgow kiss.’

    Ok, now I’m convinced! And now I just need a good time along with a good place to launch myself.

  12. Martin thanks for your sound comments and I like everyone else understand that you need to spend time working on your land right now.I was pleased to read that your new book is selling well, best wishes.

    Catherine – Now you’re convinced, work your spot and grab it.

  13. Martyn, The red ant eggs are actually pretty damn good.

    Glad to hear you’re trying the e-cigs hopefully they work as well for you as they have for me.
    .-= Talen´s last blog ..LK Renaissance Hotel in Pattaya =-.

  14. read and learn guys and girls issan is a great place and should present really little problems to those of us with a level head
    getting more involed with the local Thai community can be very rewarding and humbling sometimes
    after you get past the first trip to big c shopping be firm but fair with your girl and mutual respect should ensue

  15. John you have laid out some sound advice about getting involved with the community, a survival guide could run into thousands of words and still have so much omitted.

  16. Really interesting, i have only been through Bangkok, never stopped in Thailand, I think i might make the effort to visit Issan, I have cycled through Vietnam and Cambodia and love the village life.
    Well written,thank you

  17. Ive just been re reading this post and enjoyed it again life in issan can be the best of times and the worst for those with rose tinted glasses
    But to be fair you can fall flat on your face anywhere in the world but no place makes the ride so sweet
    Udon thani and issan keep me coming back for more just love the place
    regards john
    .-= john´s last blog ..Flights to and from Udon Thani latest info =-.

  18. John thanks for the re read and comment. I’m really missing village life and can’t wait to put my feet up in the garden in May. Sun, beer and relaxation, I can’t wait. Bring it on.

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