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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Coco's Guesthouse NEWS on Koh Phi Phi 2016, #ppdeal

Coco's Guesthouse,  is the ideal budget travel accommodation on Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand for the traveler, backpacker and gap year student. Spend time on one of the world's most famous islands and see where the movie 'The beach' was made in stunning Maya Bay.

Follow this blog to see the #lastminute #ppdeal as they happen. These last minute deals are price reductions to sell the last remaining rooms in the guesthouse. They tend to happen from 1pm -3pm Bangkok Local Time, in time to take the deal and get the last ferry to Phi Phi.

Phi Phi Low season deals.Prices are 50 % cheaper in low season so it's a great time to travel on the islands. Low Season prices are May 1st till October 31st. There are some superb Phi Phi weather times on the island during low season making this a value time to see this world class island. 

P.S. Also Follow Us on facebook: /ppcoco1,    twitter: @ppcoco1,     instagram: #ppcoco1,     google+: +ppcocos

16th May 2016
The standard air con rooms are available from tomorrow at ‪#‎phiphi‬ 's favourite‪ #‎guesthouse‬.
700THB / £13 / $19.7 / E17.5.
Coco's Guesthouse NEWS on Koh Phi Phi 2016, #ppdeal
Coco's Guesthouse NEWS on Koh Phi Phi 2016

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Thai National Anthem and Nationality

Thai National Anthem and Nationality.

Thailand has one of the most homogeneous of races in the world with 95% being Thai Buddhist, about 4% are Muslim and the remaining 1% a mix of other races. This 95% accounts for a strong uniform set of values that keep the society closely aware of their culture and united. 

The King of Thailand.
The key symbol of Nationality and unity is the King who is greatly revered.

National Anthem.
The Thai natural sense of Nationality often starts with schooling and children are quickly taught to learn Thai and appreciate the uniqueness of Thai culture and sing the National anthem every morning before lessons start at 8 am. This is a parade ground style of Assembly with children standing in line as the Thai Flag is raised.

The National Anthem translation is as follows;

Thailand unites flesh and blood of Thais
Land of Thailand belongs to the Thais.
It has long maintained its sovereignty,
Because the Thais seek, and love, unity.
Thais are peace-loving, but fight with courage
They shall allow no one to rob them of freedom.
Sacrificing every drop of blood for the nation,
For the nation's safety, freedom and progress.

This is a fiercely patriotic anthem and one that every child takes to heart. There's no doubt in my mind that it is one of the key elements for building such a cohesive society.

6pm Thai National Anthem
At 6 pm every day the National Anthem is broadcast ed on all the main TV and radios 

Cinema Thai National Anthem
The Thai National Anthem is also broadcast-ed at the Cinema before a movie. Everyone, including westerners, are expected to stand respectfully.

Important to Show respect.
If you are a westerner and even a carefree backpacker travelling Thailand around, I advise you to show respect for the Thai National Anthem and Nationality. Thai people will get quite upset if you knowingly or unknowingly disrespect their sense of Thailand.

BTW. This also applies to the currency which has the Kings head on it, so please be careful how you treat the money.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Thai Family and familiarity

Thai Family
From the European perspective, the Thai family has a very traditional, and some would say, old fashion structure. Old fashion sounds negative but I believe that many of the normal Thai family traits appear similar to some of the great values of European living. By this I mean there is a strong sense of family and how it is perceived to fit in with the social hierarchy of the country as a whole. Thai parents and children have a profound understanding of who is senior and who should be respected as this is drilled into children at an early age. There is also a great respect for government work like army, police & bureaucrats and this sense of structure keeps the family unit grounded. It also helps keep Thailand uniform and cohesive.

Thai Family
Thai Family

Thai Schooling
From very early on, children are taught by rote, with a lot of repetition, to conform to norms as set out by their teachers and parents. The Thai alphabet is a 48 character system, each letter represented by common animals like chicken and snake and some more esoteric characters like monks cymbal bells. Children endlessly repeat the sound of the alphabet with associated representation until they know them backwards and can say them with the correct intonation. The intonation is something core to talking, understanding, reading and writing Thai. This chanting style at an early age pulls children in a uniform direction embracing the value of the culture.

Once these basic elements have been assembled, the Thai culture and Thai face is taught by Buddhist parables & fables that reflect Thai's basic relativism. Along side these cultural elements the sciences and social sciences sit. However I would comment that the majority of Thai people see the Thai cultural aspect as core.

Thai Schooling
Thai Schooling at the start of school

The elderly
The elderly are always addressed in an honourific term 'Pi' their name emphasizing their place in the family and in society. The style of language that is used to talk to an elder changes to show this respect. However they in turn are able to reply to the younger 'Nong' their name and use less formal language. This sense of elder younger is taught from a young age and is part of the fabric of life. The classic way to describe this comes from the following story. Imagine twins at birth. Aunts will gather round and  talk to the older baby as 'Pi' their name and 'Nong' their name to keep this hierarchy in place. This younger older conversation will stay with those children throughout their life and spreads out to include family and friends.

Ancestor worship
I'm not convinced that Thai people are ancestor worshipers unlike their Chinese-Thai compatriots who go to great lengths to pay their respects to the dead. Having said that, there is a fundamental awareness of relations in the after life in the tradition of believing in ghosts. Many of the most popular TV soaps include ghosts and their imaginary horrors.

No Nanny state.
Thailand is not a nanny state and the primary care process is based on the family. This emphasizes the need for good family relations and large and extended family ties.  Often getting work comes through who you know in the extended network of family and their friends. Many homes have elderly relations living our their days, some with far from satisfactory help but there is no European sense of state provision. For these reasons the family is at the core of Thailand living.

Thais are not very tactile compared to Western cultures and care should be taken not be too informal before you get to know people. Thailand is very hot so it makes sense there isn't a lot of hugging or cheek kissing or even shaking hands. This I believe, is one reason why the Thai feel comfortable doing the 'Wai' (meaning 'bow') with their hands together as if in prayer, fingers pointing upwards.

Thai Wai or bow
Thai Wai or bow

Thailand since the Internet
Boy things have changed!

It's as if the internet has re-written social values all over the world and none more so than in Thailand. The 'smart phone generation' has come to large sways of the country, changing how people communicate and express their thought. There is a lot more slang, a lot more break-down-the-walls-of-hierarchy-and-independent-thought and having a voice, much to the chagrin of the older generation. This has created a social energy that puts the under 40's in a different mind set to those who have not embraced the internet.  However the language, schooling and values are the same, the powerful political classes and institutions change very slowly. So from the outside it is feels as if it's a modern version of the same culture. However, speaking to some of the older generation it's as if the world is getting turned upside down.

In a heavily networked family, the internet generation might find it more difficult to respect their elders and this is a fault line that will change Thailand over time.

Thai internet generation
Thai internet generation

Modern times
Modern times

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Thai Shopping Malls, the aspiration lifestyle of choice

Siam Paragon Shopping Mall Bangkok
Siam Paragon Shopping Mall Bangkok next to Siam Square MBS skytrain.

Thai Shopping Malls

Shopping Malls in Thailand have an incredible pull on Thai society. Large sections of Thai society aspire to spend loads of time in smart, clean, air conditioned mega buildings. The modern shopping Mall is packed with the latest fun things to buy, eat, and look at and enjoy. It can often have cinema complexes, bowling alleys, Thai Massage and even attractions like Aquariums, which along with gardens, sculptures and displays, make it the go to entertainment center. Normally there is no bargaining for a deal in the main shops but quiet calm persistence can get some movement of the price if your smile is genuine enough.

SFX Cinema complex in side the Mall
SFX Cinema complex in side the Mall

It has also acquired the prestige of a cool (as in hip) place to meet up with friends and hang out. It really is an amazing phenomenon. Most places will have wi fi and internet connection down the mobile is great so you can hang out and be connected.

Not only that, Malls are often have large parking lots and so, for those who have a car, the symbol that shows the world that you have made it in the world, you can arrive in style. Having said that many people arrive on motor bikes, subway, bus, songtail tuk tuk, or simply walk, anything to be apart of the Mall lifestyle.

I think one of the most obvious draws for Thai people is comfort. The Mall removes you from the glaring sun, the heat and the humidity of the Thai seasons. It also provides a level a comparable comfort outside the home, if wealthy, but even a higher level of comfort, if less affluent. You could argue that any smart restaurant with air conditioning has the comfort, but because The Mall is similar to an enclosed village and allows you to walk around like you are in a smart shopping street, able to browse, compare, experience, shop, eat and just past the time of day. In addition it allows you to show how sophisticated you are and how you stand in the world.

The shopping Malls also plays heavily on Thai's love of food. It is rare to visit a country that is so engaged with food. From the simple local food to elegant Thai Royal cuisine, sophisticated tastes to rare and mainstream food franchises, the Shopping Mall is a place to come and meet friends and eat. The convenience of it cannot be stressed. The huge number of people on the roads, the stress of any day to day living can be wiped clean with a walk around the Mall, a chat with friends and a bite to eat.

One of my favourite eating experiences are the Shopping Mall food courts. Surrounding many many tables you have small food outlets with local food. Here you can enjoy all the local street food without the heat of the street, all the local desserts and specialties and often at great value. Normally you buy a swipe card from the kiosk for 100-200 THB, buy any dishes you like, and then return the card, getting any unused credit back in change.

Busy food court in the Mall
Busy food court in the Mall

(While I'm thinking of it) It's not strictly a Mall but does have multiple food outlet like a Mall. One little gem that is worth knowing is the food court at Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). It's down stairs near to the Suvarnabhumi skytrain station entrance. This a great place to taste that authentic taste before a flight but also before passport control on departure.

Those who cannot afford the time and money to go to the Mall aspire to this lifestyle. Thai society is quite hierarchical so there is big face if you can go and be at ease with your surroundings. A way to show you are at ease is to walk around with many bags of shopping, ideally with the most expensive brands on show. Huge section of the Thai society love to shop and feel great comfort in buying into well known brands. Marketing people have worked this all out so now their are an entire range of Shopping Mall's that focus in on branding by income and demographic.

Quieter times food court,
Quieter times food court,

Different shopping Mall franchises.
General Malls like Big C or MBK off Siam Square aim at those with a lower income and tweak their business model for exactly the profile of people who can afford the entry level products. The Central Shopping Mall aims at the aspiring middle class and this franchise can be found all over Thailand. High end Malls like The Emporium off Sukhumvit in Bangkok cater to the super wealthy and you can feel that affluence by the watches worn, bags, designer labels of all the customers. So by going to the Mall it  has become a status symbol which measures where you are in society.

MBK Bangkok- Shopping Mall
MBK Bangkok- Shopping Mall
MBK Shopping Mall
MBK Shopping Mall

In 2014 the Worlds most used Instagram hashtag for a while was #paragon ( a seven storey mega Mall in Bangkok with all the top clothing (Chanel) brands, high end jewelers (Cartier) and a whole section devoted to selling Porshe, Ferrari, & Lambourgini. This was an aspiration movement hashtag and with over 7 million hits showed that being part of the Mall lifestyle has a profound meaning inside Thailand.

Central Festival Phuket
Central Festival Phuket

The Meaning of the Materialism
From a western perspective the Thai Shopping Mall might come over as highly materialistic which, at one level, it is. But there again I think there is more to it. There is massive social cohesion in Thai society and being part of the group represents good. From an early age, children are taught at school to believe that the Thai way is the best way and doing what other Thais do is a good thing. Buying into known brands at popular shopping Malls, eating with other like minder people reaches a deep comfort level that reinforces the belief system.

Another aspect of the success of the Shopping Mall is it's modernity. Modern, not old and backward, is the hallmark of progress. Thai people sees themselves as modern and from a modernizing society, a developing country looking forward optimistically to a brighter future. So in this sense the Mall gives Thai people a sense they are part of the future.

It is important to understand that this isn't a western sense of optimism, it is purely a Thai one based on strong foundations of shared Thai Values, a strong school system to teach them and a profound love of being Thai. So although the Mall looks like something you might see in London, Paris or New York it most definately has a strong Thai twist and theme and very unique social interaction.

What this love of the shopping mall culture tells me about Thai people is that they are very confident about the future and confident on who they are. They are happy to spend and spend as nothing in the future will stop the progress of their country.