Cultural Adaptation Challenges

Cultural adaptation -  Thai traditional dance– A new look on cultural adaptation –

Many people believe that, when you live in a foreign country, you will never be fully accepted by the locals. Especially in countries with complex and closed cultures, like for example Japan or China. They think that it will always be you and them, no matter how hard you try to blend in.

Having lived in Asia for long periods, I also believed that. But then I read a comment from someone who considered this a weak excuse. He stated that people give up too quick. I started thinking about that opinion, and after a while, the thought slipped into my mind that it could be true. Did I complain too much in the past instead of taking more efforts to really become one of the locals?

Fresh impulses 

A lovely moment. Visit a new country and suddenly there is that feeling of excitement. You experience sounds, tastes, views and smells, which never before made a connection with your brain. You are constantly getting tickled by new sensations. However, the cultural sensations that you experience can quickly become numb if you decide to stay for a longer period. You might experience a stagnation in your cultural adaptation process.

Stagnation

Now that I am back in Thailand for a longer period, I start to notice a decrease in my interest level for its culture. I feel that my interest level reached a certain point and then slowly started to decrease, because the whole experience was not new anymore. Therefore, the longer I am here, the harder it becomes to dive into the Thai culture with 100% motivation.

Once I learned how to get around in Thailand, I basically stopped learning and showing interest. I do not often visit cultural sights anymore. These days I am working at my laptop most of the time. A downgrade for my offline social life. The number of Thai people I met also declined. As well as my excitement to meet them. To keep things short, it was time for a change.

A cultural adaptation boost

I was looking for a deeper cultural experience, as I did not want to have the feeling that I could be anywhere in the world. So I decided to start a cultural adaptation challenge. People say that learning the local language is the best way to bond with a foreign culture. Language is indeed important, but there are other interesting methods as well. So I decided to raise the bar a little higher.

What I want is a 100% involvement with the culture of my guest country. I try to accomplish this challenge by only eating Thai food, watching only Thai movies, reading only Thai books, listening only to Thai music etc. By doing this I will also quickly increase my knowledge of the Thai language, so it is a win win situation. Use this fun method if you find it hard to learn a language.

An amazing journey full of new discoveries

The result of my effort is an amazing journey full of new cultural discoveries. I am now having much deeper cultural experiences because of these discoveries. It is a whole new journey that requires no need for relocation. I like that because I will be stuck in Bangkok for a while. Now I can still travel this country but in a different way. I am making a fascinating cultural journey.

Side note

This challenge is a lifestyle experiment that I created to get out of my comfort zone. However, as it involves everything that I am doing on a daily basis, I find it important that it stays a fun challenge. I am not going to eat food that I do not like or listen to music that I hate, just because it needs to be Thai.

To tackle this problem, I choose Thai equivalents for the things that I already like. For example I like dance music, but it never crossed my mind to start looking for Thai dance music. The same thing counts for Thai books, movies etc. These Thai equivalents make it easier to deal with the difficult challenge of a 100% cultural adaptation. Otherwise, I will quickly return to my old habits again.

Thai statue in Grand Palace

Are you up for the challenge?

Are you interested in (Thai) culture related subjects or do you also want to tackle this challenge? Make sure to read all the upcoming posts about my cultural experiences and discoveries. I will share new discoveries about books, music, movies etc. on my blog, in my newsletter or on any of my social media profiles. So make sure you also sign up to my mailing list, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

How do you usually try to adapt to a new culture? What methods do you use to make the integration process as smooth as possible? Do you believe you can fully adapt to every new culture? Share your views on this subject, and let me know if you got inspired by my culture challenge.

Useful links

 

Kathmandu Photo Gallery – Pictures of Bangkok

 

Kathmandu Photo galleryAspects of Bangkok in the Kathmandu Photo Gallery

The Kathmandu Photo Gallery shows me a familiar yet unknown aspect of Bangkok. Photographer Dale Konstanz shoots photographs inside Bangkok taxis. While looking at his photographs, I get to know a little bit more about the taxi drivers. The drivers who brought me to many destinations in the city. But today I learn more about what moves them.

Kathmandu Photo Gallery

Small but worthwhile. The exhibition room houses series of interesting pictures. They show snapshots of the world. You can visit the whole gallery in 10 minutes but you can be left wondering for hours about the images, which print themselves in your brain. Images which are made by locals and foreigners, who put their lens on Thailand and the world.

Getting there

You find the Kathmandu Gallery at 87 Pan Road (opposite to the Indian Temple) in Bangkok. To get there you have to take the BTS Skytrain to the stations Surasak or Chong Nonsi. From there it is only a 10 minutes walk. You can recognize Pan Road by the Myanmar Embassy which is located at the beginning of the street. Keep your eyes open as you could pass the Kathmandu building easily.
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What to see

You can see photography exhibitions which change every few months. Check out the Kathmandu Gallery website (You can find the link at the bottom of this post) for the most recent photographic displays. The works are from local and international photographers. They showcase interesting photographs from all aspects of life. This Bangkok sight is definitely worth a visit when you happen to be in Bangkok.

Useful links

  • Kathmandu Photo Gallery: The official website of this gallery. Read more about the gallery and its (upcoming) exhibitions. You can also read a variety of articles and find more information about the photographers.
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Thailand Motorcycle – Tears In The Land Of Smiles

Thailand Motorcycle Misery in the jungleThailand motorcycle – Drama in paradise

I was breathing sand and sweating salt while squeezing the brakes as strong as I could. If I would loose my grip for the smallest of seconds I would most likely slide into the cliff and disappear for ever. Swallowed by large green leaves and digested by the dark moist soil.

Stranded in the jungle

My first solo journey into the wild was an adventures mix of great experiences and miserable moments. There were plenty of moments when I relaxed and plenty of moments when I got in trouble. In this article I will tell you about a particular bad situation, which made me cry for my mommy in the land of smiles. It all happened when I got stranded with my motorcycle in the “jungle” of Ko Tao, Thailand.

Making a wrong choice

I had rented a motorcycle in town and then I wanted to drive back to my bungalow before sunset. However, to get there I had to drive trough a rough, sandy road full of huge stones, sticks and coconuts. Steep cliffs on both sides of the road and the pending darkness of the evening made it even more of a challenge. But of course I made the decision to go anyway.

The beginning of the end

Somehow, somewhere I made a wrong turn, and that was the start of a miserable night. It got dark and the road became a real challenge. On top of that my motorcycle started to break down. Sprocket and chain decided to separate while I was struggling on a steep and sandy hill. I dropped to the ground and it cost me all my strength to keep the motorbike from sliding down into the cliffs.

However, I managed to get the chain back on the gear. Only to experience the same situation after a few more meters, the chain snapped lose again. I had to drop myself on the heavy bike and squeeze it to the ground otherwise me and my motorized friend would disappear in the jungle forever.

Pure Thailand motorcycle misery

I managed to drag the motorbike uphill and there I sat down to weep while drowning in my own sweat. I had no idea where I was, where I should go and how I should go somewhere anyway. I cried out of misery and I swore to myself that this would never happen to me again.

The rescue mission

Somehow, I managed to drag my motorcycle to a house in the jungle. The Thai residents in that house stared very confused at the white boy who was weeping at their doorstep. I put up my saddest puppy face and eventually managed to explain that they needed to call my resort.

After a while some people from the resort arrived with a pickup truck. The brought me and my bike back to the resort. I was relieved as I had overcome my  stupid mistake. A mistake that taught me some valuable lessons about myself and about renting motorized vehicles in Thailand.

Some Tips

  • Before renting, always check your motorcycle for existing damage
  • Do not underestimate situations. Especially in an unfamiliar place
  • Rent an automatic scooter if you are not used to shifting gears

Useful links

  • Renting scooters in Thailand: Do you want to rent a motorcycle / scooter in Thailand? Avoid making the same mistakes that I made. Do yourself a favor and check out this Youtube video from Darren Brinkworth. In the video he talks about how you can avoid scams and how you can drive safely. He also gives advice about legal matters when it comes to renting a bike in Thailand.
  • Renting a motorcycle in Southeast Asia: For the readers. This is written down advice about renting motorbikes in Asia. The writer from the artice, Greg Rodgers, describes into detail what you need to be aware of when renting a bike in Southeast Asia.
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Museum Of Siam – Discover The Thai Identity

The Museum of SiamThai history in the Museum of Siam

While in charge of the canon, I am attacked by a large group of warriors, who approach me from the front. I aim the cannon, load, and I blast away. Three soldiers on the right flank of the group fly through the air. Then the ground starts to rumble. A large war elephant comes charging in from the left flank of the group. I quickly reload and aim my canon at the approaching giant.

There is a big bang and a lot of dust. The elephant and its accompanying warriors disappear in the fire of the explosion. Then I am suddenly surprised by a very angry looking warrior who jumps out of the dust. He is right in front of me and it is to late to react. He swings his battle sword and the last words I see are: GAME OVER.

Museum of Siam

This Museum of Siam provides an inside into the rich and turbulent history of the Thai people and their country. You learn about their culture and heritage via a very interactive exhibition. Videos, sound recordings, photos and a war game will certainly entertain young children and also their accompanying parents.

Location

The Museum of Siam is located at Sanam Chai Rd in the old part of Bangkok. Other nearby sights are Wat Pho and the Grand Palace. You can easily recognize the museum because it is located in a neoclassical building, which has been formerly used by the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

Getting there

Take the Chao Phraya river boat to Tha Tien pier. Get off the boat and walk from the pier to the main road. Then walk to the right, in the direction of Wat Pho. Keep following the main road (Th Maharat). After Wat Pho you will see a school and university.

Keep walking till you see the museum walls on your left hand. Enter Soi Setthakan and follow the walls. Halfway down the street there is a passage. Go inside and walk to the main entrance of the building. The walk from the pier takes about 5 minutes. Be careful at the surrounding streets. There is a lot of traffic.

What to see

The main exhibition consists of 17 rooms. Each of these rooms have a theme, which is related to Thai history and culture. The rooms have topics like the founding of Ayutthaya, Buddhism, village life and Thailand today. There is also a war room where you can play an interactive war game. This game will take you right into a battle, where you are in charge a 19th century canon.

You can visit this sight from Tuesday till Sunday. The opening times are 10:00 AM till 18:00 PM, and the admission is 300 baht (about 9 dollars) for foreigners and 100 bath for Thai people. At the time of my visit there where also temporary exhibitions, which were on display around the main building. There was a butterfly garden and an exhibition about silk.Neoclassical architecture in the Museum of Siam

Tips

Come late to avoid large masses of children and the high entrance price. You can enter for free after 16:00 PM. I came at 16:15 PM and had the building practically for myself. Which is nice because it is a very interactive exhibition. You don’t want to have to fall in line to push buttons, shoot cannons, watch videos and listen to sound recordings.

Useful links

  • Museumsiam.com: The official Museum of Siam website. Check it before you go to this sight, so that you are up to date about the current opening times, prices and expositions.
  • ndmi.or.th: The website of the National Museum Institute, which might be more interesting for researchers. Visit this site to network with the institute or check news updates and current events.

City Pillar – Prayers For Buddha And Thailand

Shrine of the city pillarAbout a visit to Bangkok’s city pillar

The dancer seems bored, so does the guy who is playing a monk. He falls asleep while the lady is making her traditional moves. She finds out what he is doing and walks to the back of the stage. Then she comes back with some papers and slaps him awake. What follows is a funny dialogue between the two of them. It leaves me wondering, is this part of the act?

Lak Muang

Lak Muang is the Thai worth for city pillar. These are common objects in Thai cities. Most of them are placed in a shrine as they have a strong spiritual function. Bangkok’s city pillar embodies Phra Sayam Thewathirat (Bangkok’s guardian spirit). This object also marks the center of the city.

Location

The pillar is standing in a shrine at Th Ratchadamnoen Nai & Th Lak Muang (The old part of Bangkok). The building is located next to the Grand Palace and a busy intersection. You can recognize this intersection because of the two large elephant statues, which are standing in the middle of the road.

Getting there

Take the Chao Phraya river ferry to Tha Chang pier. From there you can walk in a strait line to Lak Muang, while you keep the Grand Palace on your right. After a while you will see the shrine on the other side of a large intersection. The walk from the pier to the shrine will take about five to ten minutes.

Remember that you march into a heavily touristic area. The Grand Palace absorbs everything in its huge gravity field. Many tourists and scammers orbit around it, so you have to overcome a few obstacles in order to get from the pier to the pillar. Certain problems that will most likely cross your path are tuk tuk driver and bird feeding man. Avoid these dodgy figures at any cost.

What to see

When I visited the temple I was lucky to see some people performing a lá-kon gâa bon (a traditional dance). The dancers wear beautiful colored costumes and a golden head piece. They sing, tell stories and perform dances, which consist of small hand and feed movements. While performing they are accompanied by people who play instruments, like a drum and a wooden xylophone (rá-náht-èhk).

Everyone speaks in Thai during the lá-kon gâa bon performance so it can be hard to understand the story line. However, I recommend watching it as it is a nice display of Thai tradition. Worshipers commission these kind of performances with the intention of earning merit. It is part of a series of prayers and offers that are being performed at this place.

The city pillar

Offers and prayers

People come to this shrine to worship and pray. Therefore, all kinds of praying accessories are available for purchase. The gods give you no excuse to say that you forgot your cash money as there is an ATM available. You can buy accessories like amulets, flowers and incense sticks. You can also purchase oil, which you have to pour in bowls. You offer this oil to worship the birthday of Buddha or to dispel misfortune.

Offering oil for Buddah

 

Did you ever visit the city pillar in Bangkok? What was your impression of this sight?

 

Useful Links

  • Tour Bangkok Legacies: A site which offers a lot of information about Bangkok. By visiting thinks link you can read Eric Lim’s detailed description of the city pillar.
  • Virtual Tourist: This link will bring you to the Virtual Tourist page of Lak Muang. There you can watch pictures and read reviews from people who visited this sight.
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