This issue of
Citylife

This is Thailand

For those of you with any questions regarding Thailand, Thai culture, history, tourism, laws, rules, food, nightlife, sub-cultures, dating; generally anything as long as it is relevant,
we have a panel of three experts who will respond to your enquiries.
Email: [email protected]

1. I have been here a while but I’m still not really sure about the things I can bargain for. I don’t want to upset someone and bargain when a price is meant to be fixed. Can you give me some pointers?

James:
Obviously you can’t bargain for your food. In malls you might be able to get 5-10% off in many outlets, they usually allow for that. In the Night Bazaar everything is up for a bargain but in other Thai markets the price is often fixed [Ed. Saw an American offered a pair of sandals for 120 baht at the Night Bazaar, when I spoke Thai and asked for the price it was 60 baht, when I spoke kam muang – northern Thai – I got it for 40.]. As to transportation, songtaew should be about 20 baht for a short journey, 50 baht for long. If they want more you can accept their offer or go away. You can get the price down on house/flat rentals, especially if you want a long lease; always ask. Hotel rooms are usually fixed though most do have an internet and a rack rate, which are vastly different.

2. I used to have what we called a ‘breadman’ in the UK, a man that would come to my house and deliver fresh bread. Do we have that service here?

James:
Yes, in fact, we do. ‘The French Bread Collection’ delivers bread (French sticks, square bread, sesame, cumin, 7 grain, croissant) to your house on Tuesdays and Saturdays. You must make your order one day prior to delivery. Tel: 085 0322 935.

3. If you have a party, can you make sure there are no, or few, mosquitoes outside your house, in your garden? I’ve noticed high-end resorts have no mozzies, my friend told me they put something in the air?

James:
Most big hotels hire a professional company that comes out to the hotel a couple of times a week. Mosquito larva will be destroyed and that’s why you won’t get bitten like you would somewhere else. You can call Ikari 053 802286 a few days before your party and tell them what you are doing and they will suggest the best line of attack for you and come round to your place. You will then have a mosquito-, ant-, bug-free party in your garden . . . well, almost.

4. What do you think I should do, I’m in a bit of a conundrum? I am not Buddhist, nor am I Christian nor any other religion, I am however deeply concerned with the human condition and am a published philosopher. Organised religion, religious ideology, don’t sit well with me. My girlfriend of six years, a Thai academic (hardly Buddhist), comes from a devoutly Buddhist family. We will get married sometime in the future and her family expects a Buddhist wedding, they demand it – for sake of face – though it would be a shameful contradiction on my life’s work to go through with this.

Hugh:
My family recently had a similar conundrum. My son got married in a big Catholic ceremony back in the States. He isn’t Catholic, nor are we, nor did he care about a big wedding. But he went through with it and we flew there for the wedding and the ceremony and even got blessed by the Catholic priest. Why did we all do this? Because it made the bride and her family feel great.

Sometimes, out of love, one just does stuff.

Now when it comes to Buddhist ceremonies, they have much less to do with ‘religion’ than they have to do with the family and their place in society. Never underestimate the importance of ‘face’ in an Asian society. On the big day, you wake up early to offer food to the monks. Then you listen to the monks chant, usually about how things are impermanent and you should not become attached to impermanent things. It is basically advice about how to be happy. Then the day is spent accepting blessings from family and friends. Depending on where you are, they will tie strings around your wrists, or pour water over you hands, or both. All this to wish you well. The day usually ends with a big feast with lots of partying. It is a time for those close to you and the family to celebrate your happiness.

So the day includes giving to charity, listening to advice about how to be happy, having friends and relatives give their blessings to your marriage and then having a big party. Are there really any contradictions here?
Good luck, congratulations, and from someone who has been married for 38 years (we eloped), please accept my blessings.

John:
A Thai (Buddhist) wedding has nothing to do with religion. The only religious part is the, optional, giving of alms to monks in the morning. This can be a family affair at a temple or else a private offering by the bride and groom at the side of the road. The main ceremony, either the pouring of lustral water over the hands of the bride and groom or, in the north, the tying of string around their wrists. The civil part can be carried out at home or at the amphur office and, again is optional (many will advise against it as it imposes some restrictions). Then comes the reception. Nothing here to upset a published philosopher.