We spent a total of 4 days and 3 nights away from home - Singapore - whilst holidaying in the land or Kingdom of smiles. This wasn't our first trip to Thailand but this was something both my children noticed and pointed out -the genuine courtesy, smiles and overall hospitality and graciousness of the Thai people. I'm sure like in every other branch of the human race, you will come across the crass and insensitive but in contrast I'd say its a 85:15 ratio, in favour of graciousness. Our service industry has a LOT to learn from them. Whilst many of them might not be proficient in the English language, they make a concerted effort to understand, either by gestures, examples or a "can I help you" attitude. Sadly, the same cannot be said at home. Whilst I appreciate the fact that we "need" foreign talent in whatever field, it is very frustrating to try and ask someone who might look like the majority of Singaporeans, in a department store, a simple question of "do you have this in another colour/size"....she'd/he'd respond in a brand of English thats decipherable if you're from that side of the pond, disappear and that would be the end of the story...worse still if its in the heartlands....they'd look at you as if you're the foreigner. Its beyond the "can I help-ch you" auto response or the bored, disinterested look or worse still the "can't you see I'm having a convo with my countryman/woman" look, or "come back when I feel a little more inclined to work" attitude. I know this might rile many people but its my opinion. So different from the attitude of the service industry in Thailand.....humble, politely gracious, eager to help.

We did a fair bit of walking whilst in Bangkok. Some places are more efficiently reached by hopping on to their BTS (MRT) or just by walking from one point to the other. We encountered an incident of a blind man on their BTS. Their trains are generally very crowded with locals as well as visitors and unfortunately their PA system on the trains aren't very audible. We were concerned about how this man would know when he reached his destination and wanted to get off the train - we didn't notice when or how he got on the train. What was most impressive was the fact that many other commuters made an effort to help this blind person, with one of them holding his arm and helping him off the train, leaving him on the platform in a safe area and the train driver who got out of his cabin, blew his whistle a couple of times and the security officer (there's lots of them in uniform all over the place and its hard to tell if they are military/police/or just private security because they all look spiffy in their well tailored/fitted uniforms) came running and blowing his whilstle along the way just to indicate "on the way, on the way" (I think). Maybe it takes little to impress me but I was overwhelmed at the offers of assistance and the eventual assistance given to the blind person. Not sure if I'd see the same at home. Maybe I don't travel on public transport at home so I shouldn't dismiss the possibility of the same happening here. All I do hear or read about though, with regards to our trains is that our trains have the effect of putting people to sleep and ignoring very pregnant, old, young people even if you happen to be in a seat reserved for them. And these same people have this amazing ability to wake up at the correct station. Amazing.

Public toilets - we didn't actually go to the other side of the lake when we were in BKK but 10 out of 10 public toilets we visited (I am not someone who visits public toilets unless its an absolute emergency) were spanking clean, dry and fully equipped - tissue/liquid soap/paper hand towels or blowers for drying hands. None of the floors were wet, all toilets worked (and if they didn't the door was locked with a sign on the outside) and they all smelt fresh! Apart from the excellent and efficient toilet cleaning crew I'd have to say its got something to do with the people who use the toilets. I definitely did not see shoe marks on the toilet seats! Another page to add to our book of "we should learn...."

I'm sure there will be a lot of people who will diss what I've said above, feel that its not their responsibility to be polite/clean/gracious.....but I am first to say....we can still learn.

The only thing that really put us off were the taxi drivers. You are literally at the mercy of the taxi driver. Even at the hotel where the bellhop/captain organises a taxi for you, handing you a card with the taxi details, there is no guarantee that whilst you're in the cab the driver won't suddenly pull an "excuse me where exactly is this place you want to go to......I think its closed today, I will bring you to another better place"...... almost everytime/all the time....then you also have to ensure that if they agree to set the fare by meter you have to check that the driver has turned the meter on. We had an incident where a taxi driver, after we agreed on our destination point, actually stopped the taxi a few metres down the road, gets out to communicate with another driver and they both point this way and that way and then our driver returns and says "I U-turn" and we end up back at our hotel where he tells us he has to take "other way"..... by this point we'd learnt the tricks and my husband said "Ok....stop....everybody get out" and the guy knew his bluff had been called because he didn't stop us or anything.....We were a group of 4 adults and this was scarier when we travelled at night. I think its probably the fact that they don't take regulation seriously. Not all taxis had the photo/licence/taxi number displayed on the dashboard. Those were the taxis where the drivers inevitably tried to scam us....many times. Traffic is a nightmare and you could be stuck in a jam for up to 30 minutes (or more) with little progress in sight so on one occassion (with a more honest cab driver), he had had enough of the jam, hit his forehead and drove against traffic for a short distance or we'd have been stuck there for another 30 minutes. We clapped (even though it was dangerous for everybody and most likely unlawful) but we were so glad to get out of the jam especially since it was very, very late at night and you can't really tell where exactly you're at! Traffic lights seem to be road decorations because nobody shows any respect for the lights. Who the race to get to your destination. Heck the lights/policeman.....nothing will happen. Green on your side could mean everybody at all four junctions can go....pedestrian crossings - what are those??? Here I'm talking about even the better side of BKK.....Gaysorn/Central World/Siam Paragon proceed with caution whenever you're out of a building and on a road.

The disparity between the haves and the have nots is so wide its sad. Along a stretch of high end malls you have, right on the opposite street, a mish mash of run down shophouses, electrical cables criss crossing one another, water dripping off aluminium/canvas awnings drip...drip...dripping on to the road and sometimes on your head if you're not careful....potholes along the sidewalks, beggars and you have the scammers...."today is Lucky Buddha Day....I take you to temple?" it doesn't seem to matter which day we meet these scammers but they always have something to show you or some place to take you....just be firmly polite.

Food, glorious food but just know how much sugar and spice you can hold before going overboard. Food malls are aplenty......I'm a little wary of the roadside hawkers who peddle really interesting fruit or vegetable or both salads/noodles/barbecued meats, fish, fried errr....chicken?...whatever...the aromas are tantallising but thats the extent of my adventure into foods by the wayside....I savour the sights and the smells =D

Other than the taxi service operators who stink up the image, I'd say our major service industry players at home should take a page or two out of the courtesty book of our gracious Thai neighbours!

A most enjoyable trip and I'll post more photos/snippets as I sort things out.

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