Monday, June 29, 2009

Kingdom of Smiles

Initial Observations, Mo Chit Northern Bus Station, Bangkok, Thailand.

Hour 1:
Style-- Legs! Lots of them. 80s jeans, different than 70s-influenced Tamil wear. Spunky haircuts and mini skirts.

Patriotism-- 1984 "honey coated Orwelian" feeling. It's 8:00 a.m and suddenly the hustle bustle of the bus station stops abruptly. Everybody becomes silent as the sound of the harmonious Thai anthem echoes from the television. Those who were walking stop.. those who were seated stand. For the next couple of minutes, I'm in awe as I watch these obedient patriots celebrate the Kingdom of Smiles.

Hour 2:
Mozzies!--The mosquitoes are bad...somehow I forgot that I was coming to southeast Asia, where mosquitoes are in fact bad. Did I bring enough repellent?

Sa wah dee cap!-- The Thai word for "welcome." Spoken everywhere, by everyone, all the time. It comes out in full nasal force and I indulge in every tone.

On another note...
Empty, dark skies parted to reveal a scattering of neon lights- Bangkok's personal galaxy. It's 5:30 a.m. and the plane lands safely outside the space-age looking airport. Instantly, I feel summoned far away from my Indian past. The airport's modern glow illuminates the streets nearby and the flight attendants welcome us to Thailand.
Fast forward: Speeding along the Bangkok race track with an ancient "No English, Miss" taxi driver. I'm wide-eyed and observant. I didn't expect my new surroundings to look quite I sit in anticipation, waiting for the old and dilapidated to spring up at least as often as the posh and modern (as is the case in India), but it doesn't. New buildings show off against a backdrop of even more modern infrastructure. The streets are swept clean and are lined by orderly trash cans.
Bus ride: 10 hours on the VIP bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I'm too exhausted to enjoy the bizarre/comedic Thai reality show that's blaring over the speakers. I doze in and out and am awakened by fitful bursts of laughter- the audience is on cue. Men with faces caked in makeup strut around on camera, entertaining Thai audiences from here to the Phuket with their (dare I say typical?) Asian slapstick talent show routine. I glance away from the TV screen and peak out the window. Flashes of Bali green have replaced the city landscape and I'm enamored by the rice fields, street vendors and smell of coconut.
Chiang Mai: The city is clean, orderly, and comfortable. I duck into alleyways in search for the chaos and confusion that I've come to associate with everyday life (thanks, India)- it's nowhere to be found! The Thai are friendly and takes no time at all to reason why this land has been nicknamed the Kingdom of Smiles. I stroll around, shedding behind me pieces of my outer shell- constructed over a period of six months to defend myself against the Indian elements. I don't need to be so tough around here.
Sunday afternoon and evening- Chiang Mai market. Every Sunday, the side roads of Chiang Mai become dotted with vendors. Every nook and cranny is decorated with Hmong and Lahu inspired crafts- two ethnic groups native to Burma, China and Thailand. Jade jewelry, hand-crafted wooden bowls, and "fisherman pants" in every color imaginable.
Past the crafts, clothes, and art I find an even more delectable treasure trove. A haven of scents and smells enough to make anyone familiar with Asian culinary flavors squirm with delight. Soups, stews, spring rolls, and the infamous pad thai can be found in food stalls alongside even fresher and brighter snacks. Bright pink dragon fruit and coconut blazed, grilled banana..the options are endless.

So far, so good folks. A new exploration has begun...


Onion Insights said...

Hey that is a wonderful set of observations. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience.

We at Onion Insights
( are always happy to come across bloggers like you. We are also glad to inform you that your writing skills can now be put to good use and you can make some extra money too.

Sign up as a freelance Mystery Shopper - go to and select New Shopper Signup with Onion Insights - A Boutique Mystery Customer Experience Management firm and get paid for telling us your shopping or dining experience.

You read correctly - you get paid for shopping!

For more details log on to, read our blog and give us a call on +919769781001 or shoot us an email at

An OI Team Member will get in touch with you as soon as possible! There are many Mystery Shopping assignments available in your city.

Looking forward to working with you.

Jens said...

Hey, great blog post! Good to hear that your Indian outer shell is coming off; mine is still sticking and actually feels useful here in Norway. Not good.

Anyway, happy that you're there and in one piece - and fun to see that you're being cyber-head-hunted to do moneymaking blogging:)

Slaveya Starkov said...

kelin does chiang mai......!
wanita, keep writing and eating....pisang pisang goreng goreng mhmmmm
hati hati hatiku
big love


We at momo insights love that your enjoying Thailand (even though your away from us!)
Liking the change of scenery in the photos, but there are none of you- please next time!
Please dont fall in love with Thailand too much-India needs you


Smaps said...

@onion- How sweet you are to come across my blog. Who told you of my infatuation with mystery shopping?

@Jens- We've gone to different worlds! I can't imagine the shock of ultra clean "too perfect" Norway. Which world feels more alien to you now?

@Slav- Tu eres mi wanita mejor. Aku rindu kamu banyak...silakhan datang ke sini sekarang!

@Momo- Alas, I have realized that India took what it needed from me and tried to throw the rest away. But I will endure! I love Thailand, but from what I can tell, they have yet to learn the art of creating momos. What to do, where to go?!

Onion Insights said...


If you have any queries, please free to email us on or call on + 919769781001 to guide you through the Sign - Up Process!


The Onion Insights Team

Onion Insights said...


We are following up on our invitation to you to sign up as a OI Mystery Shopper. Is there any specific question you have or any doubt that we could clarify for you? In case of any difficulties signing up, give us a call on +919769781001 or shoot us an email at
Hoping to hear from you soon.

OI Team - Mumbai