THAILAND DIARIES – VOLUME 3 – THAILAND IN PERSPECTIVE
Thailand in Perspective is the Third Volume of my Thailand Diaries and is now almost complete. But before I publish it as an e-book I have decided to post a selection of excerpts which I hope will encourage you to download and enjoy the whole book.
The first excerpt below is the short prologue which outlines the book and its content.
Excerpt 1 – PROLOGUE (Part 1)
“Sometimes people carry to such perfection the mask they have assumed that in due course they actually become the person they seem.” W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence. (English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965))
A very good friend of mine; English actor and entertainer Martin Palmer, who has lived in Thailand for 25 years, once told me to stop trying to understand Thai people. When I asked why? He said,
“Because you never will. I gave up 20 years ago, realised I had to change my thinking radically and have been happy ever since”.
Thailand is unfathomable, baffling, inexplicable, magical, perplexing, puzzling, veiled, enigmatic and secretive; in a word ‘mysterious’. If you stay in Thailand for any length of time there will be many times when temptation hooks you up to the internet in search of the cheapest air ticket to anywhere. You will feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall and then fall into the trap of making incomparable comparisons with your country of origin as you become bewildered by the aesthetic discord, pretence and hypocrisy.
Everything seems to be broken or is about to break and whenever a workman fixes something it ends up worse than before. You will wonder why more people are electrocuted in showers than you could ever imagine possible. Then you find out that most electrical installations are not earthed and the ‘electrician’ (I use that word loosely) is perfectly content to connect several old bits of wire with tape to make up the required length. You wonder why and then you find out that he has saved the customer twenty baht in materials and charged him an extra fifty baht in labour!
You are desperately trying to understand a new culture, new customs and a new ‘sign’ language. You know nobody thinks like you so you are trying to think like everybody else and you are slowly going doolally and are about to have a kynyption. If you think you are the only one in step then don’t worry you’ve just joined the tribe.
Evolutionary Biologist Professor Richard Dawkins says that humans are far more uniform than any other species and there is a greater genetic difference between two chimpanzees in the same forest than there is between two human beings living at opposite ends of the earth. We humans are, then, so uniquely uniform that it is hardly surprising that, behind the mask, Thais are just like everyone else; vibrant, intelligent and adorable people. Thailand is, in a word, irresistible.
A warm welcome awaits you in this captivating and enthralling land. Contradiction, controversy, confusion, frustration, weird language, cultural barriers and mystery will haunt you. When you eventually get over the early shocks, which may incidentally take years, and you realise that you cannot fix a ‘dysfunctional’ nation without a modicum of help from above you can begin your bumpy journey.
“Contradiction is what keeps sanity in place”. Gustave Flaubert
Why did I write Thailand Diaries?
Sam Harris, neuroscientist and author describes ‘Freewill’ as an illusion. He uses brilliant analogies to explain that acting of your own freewill implies that you could have done otherwise. He poses the question, ‘What are you going to think next? Your next thought comes out of nowhere. Whatever you are doing you have a voice in your head which just says things. Thoughts just emerge in consciousness. We can’t choose them before we think them. So if you can’t control your next thought where is your freedom of will?’
So now you know how I came to write the three volumes of ‘Thailand Diaries’; lack of freewill. But what about the reasons for scribbling memoirs of my adopted home since 2008 when there are many publications on Thailand already available? Some of them I have read but most I haven’t, primarily because I didn’t want to be over influenced or indeed intimidated by more skilful authors or other writings. My intention is to present an uncluttered view of Thailand from my perspective to you, the reader, the like of which you will not find elsewhere.
What is Volume 3 about?
Volume 3 of Thailand Diaries is definitely not a travel book in the accepted sense, but I will have no objection if it finds its way onto the travel shelves. It is more a critical memoir of my observations of the people in a Country, monopolised by superstition, ancient cultural values and old religious beliefs, struggling to come to terms with modernity and the 21st century; people who have, as yet, generally travelled little. I have endeavoured to present my views as objectively as I possibly can and I make no apologies if, in setting out the ‘pros and cons’ of life in and the mysteries of Thailand, some of my arguments may be viewed as polemic; it was absolutely intentional.
I love Thailand and I believe there should be, and usually is, a balance to be found in every society. I believe that most cultures and religions may have syncretic elements to their beliefs, to a greater or lesser degree, and we are all ostensibly the same if we look behind the mask. Some of you may be one-eyed when you embark on this journey; your views may be jaundiced or if you wear spectacles they may have the most exquisite rosy tint imaginable. If you manage to read all three volumes of ‘Thailand Diaries’ I hope that your other eye is at least half open afterwards.
Enjoy the excerpts where I give you a glimpse of my beautiful adopted home and my candid opinions of the people, the places I have visited and lived in.
Thailand in Perspective (excerpt 2) – To be posted next week.