The Best of Both Worlds

 |  April 26, 2011

Last month I wrote about motorcycling in Thailand, so perhaps a logical sequel to that article is the taboo subject of Death.

As Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes.’ Even if you dodge a few taxes, even Houdini couldn’t escape death.

The essential elements of life are birth, health and sickness, and death; and nobody realises this fact like medical doctors, nurses, workers in morgues, and monks.

Phra Saneh Dhammavaro at Wat Suandok says, ‘Every day we are walking closer to the graveyard, so we must do our best to take care of our family.’ Buddhist philosophy asserts that life follows death until we reach Nirvana, so good merit-makers have no reason to fear death.

People of other cultures deal with death differently: Arab women wail violently in public to express their grief; the Balinese offer colorful Hindu funeral processions; The Blues Brothers performed cartwheels during a funeral of their own clan; while others subscribe to bereavement counselling and medication.

Death is big business in so-called ‘developed countries,’ where many families require savings plans to finance their tombstones, but in Thailand (where people die to live) a dignified funeral lasting three days at a village temple followed by cremation may cost as little as 20,000 baht.

Cremation is the usual way of treating a corpse in Thailand. Expats living in Thailand may specify their preferred funeral arrangements in their Thai will, and stipulate their appointed representative (or next of kin).

Finally, if you witness a death – or if you kill someone – you are legally obliged to report the event to the Thai Police within 24 hours so they can notify the relevant embassy.

Philip Wylie is the author of several books, including How To Establish A Successful Business In Thailand and How To Make A Living In Paradise; and he assists writers in their quest to get their books published.