The population of Bangkok is about 8 million. About the same size of NYC. And we just came from Mumbai which is about 18 million. So, feels like there’s a lot more space here. Everything in perspective.
That space and my perspective likely impacts some of the cultural differences I have noticed. Well and also that 95% of all the people in Thailand are Buddhist. Those teachings and beliefs are ingrained in the culture….you can feel it.
Bangkok is known as the land of smiles. Although people are friendly I have found them to be much more reserved and less engaging then I anticipated. People are very respectful but not initially inviting or outwardly welcoming. I don’t think we have been stopped on the street at all to be asked which country from, who are you, do you like it here, etc……
In the 3+ weeks we have been here I think I have only heard a horn once. There’s a lot of traffic and lights and music but no horns….even when I think maybe someone should offer a warning beep…no nothing. That might be due to the strong cultural belief in Thai that one should not show any anger in public. Actually don’t show any excessive emotions in public. People are more reserved and very respectful. When someone walks in front of you they duck down slightly. I keep noticing people ducking and was curious about what was happening. In each county I like to read up on cultural tips and customs and that’s when I read that it’s a way to respectfully acknowledge the interruption or blocking vision for a split second.
Thais revere their King and the National anthem. The national anthem is called “Pheng Chat” in Thai, meaning national song. The national anthem is played every day at 8am and 6pm – everything stops. No matter what you are doing or where you are, everything stops. You stand, be quiet, and listen. Apparently you can be arrested in you don’t. The national anthem plays at the start of all movies. We got to experience that last week. We joined everyone, stood quietly, and listened to the national anthem before watching All the Money in the World (a very interesting movie based on a true story).
As I mentioned, 95% of all the people in Tailand are Buddhist. You can’t talk about Thailand without talking about Wat’s….aka temples. Last blog entry I shared the amazing plethora of street food and markets. Well, there is an amazingly large number of Wats in Bangkok as well. Literally thousands of them here. David has also shared some great photos and stories about visiting some of them in his blog. As you might expect based on the culture, there’s a dress code and level of respect required when visiting the wats. No shorts and shoulders covered. If you are not properly dressed you can rent clothes or purchase from the many vendors just outside the area. We saw plenty of people being refused entry based on inappropriate attire.
A fun fact – the Baht coins (Thai money) each have a different Wat on the back. They are all temples in Bangkok. Why not toss and coin and then literally go see what’s on it? We visited 2 out of the four. The Wat on the 1 Baht and the Wat on the 10 Bhat. I guess we will have to come back again to see the others!
1 Baht – Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha, inside The Grand Palace) – amazing!
2 Baht – Wat Saket (Temple on the Mount) – next time!
5 Baht – Wat Benjamabophit (The Marble Temple) – next time!
10 Baht – Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) – our favorite!
The Satang coins (the little tiny ones in the picture) display Wat’s that are located elsewhere in Thailand 25 Satang – Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan in Nakhon Si Thammarat (headed down toward Malaysia), and 50 Satang – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai (maybe we can see this one since we are headed to Chiang Mai next!).
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) was another well known temple we visited. It houses the largest buddha in Thailand – 150 feet long! We had fun exploring the whole area. The complex included a variety of statues in yoga postures. David had fun with that and shared many of them in his blog post.
We head to Chiang Mai Sunday. Looking forward to exploring northern Thailand. Maybe more markets, food, and Wats!