There are many reasons why people choose to live in Thailand – some are attracted to the low cost of living; others are here for family; many like the lifestyle, the beaches, the mountains, the culture and some are here for work. During the past 12 weeks since my arrival in Chiang Mai, I have spent my days observing and pondering and realise that for me, the beauty of Thailand is the people.
Thai people are kind, caring, happy and funny. Everyday I am amazed that though I cannot speak their language, I am still able to communicate with them. The majority of the population speak conversational English, some are more fluent than others and somehow I am able to communicate with those who do not speak my native language. Often just the name of a street or the name of a restaurant or attraction is all that is required to take the songthaew (red taxi) to where I want to go. Last weekend my husband and I and some friends visited a local tourist attraction which I will write about in another article. We were having difficulty securing a songthaew, but the experience was fantastic. We had about 8 Thai people involved in our discussions, some tuk-tuk drivers, some songthaew drivers, some air-conditioned sedan taxi drivers. Everyone was trying so hard to help us and all busy talking among themselves. They knew where we wanted to go from the brochure in hand and after a while the decision was made as to which vehicle and the price and off with went with our new songthaew driver for a very interesting excursion.
Another condominium complex is being constructed next to where I live and the workers on the site are now part of my daily life. Around 6.30 each morning I hear their voices as they arrive for work and I start to wake from my sleep. There is laughter, singing and lots of conversation and even at this early hour, the workers are happy. Around midday I become aware of the quietness and know that the workers are having their daily rest and I stand on my tiny balcony or look out of my bedroom window as it is such a wonderful sight. There they are, sleeping on the concrete in the basement of the building where the car parks are being completed. Side by side they lay, so very close together, like children at pre-school. Arms are draped across fellow workers, heads are resting on the reversing humps in the car parks and that makes my neck hurt just looking at it. Soon the quiet is broken by the noise of their talk and laughter as they return to work for the afternoon. As dusk approaches the noise changes to a different sound as they now gather for a game of soccer before some head home, tired and exhausted, to be with their family. Others continue to work into the night, but by 10 pm, there is only the sound of absolute silence.
Everyone is willing to help – Bn a songthaew driver who helped us with directions after he saw us on the side of the road reading a map; a stranger who held open a gate as we were carrying groceries in both hands, a lawyer who met with us at our home within 30 minutes of a phone call to him (we only needed a document witnessed); the kind folk who help us in the food parks (courts) when we have difficulty ordering in Thai; the complimentary iced cold drinks provided at a Japanese restaurant while we waited for our take-away order – everyday we are surrounded by kindness and thoughtfulness.