27 December 2008

A trip to Thailand: The land of smiles

Last week (19th-24th December, 2008), I was on a trip to the Phuket islands of Thailand to attend International Conference on Computer and Electrical Engineering (ICCEE 2008). Though, I had booked my ticket and made all the necessary arrangements for the trip around early November, I was not sure of actually making it after both of Bangkok's ariports were shut down by the protesters late last month. Following the incident, a travel advisory was issued by the university authorities suggesting not to travel to Thailand under the prevailing circumstances. However, I was allowed to proceed with the trip just a couple of days ahead of the schedule. And for this, I am grateful to my professor. On the early morning of 19th December, I was on the way to Hiroshima International Airport to board the China Airlines flight bound for Taipei. Eventhough, there are direct flights to Bangkok from Hiroshima, I had to opt for Hiroshima-Taipei-Bangkok route due to inconvenient schedule of the direct flights.

On my way to the Hiroshima Airport, I observed a thin layer of snow on the grass and the vehicles. It did snow several times a little bit during the night before however, none of the snow did stay on the ground. It was 10 AM morning and the plane took off on time. It took about 3 hours before it could reach to Taipei. I had 2 hours of transit there at the Taipei airport enough for window-shopping. My next flight was again a China Airlines one bound for Bangkok that took another 4 hours. Once landed, I was obviously very curious to see if there was any damage caused at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok after the series of protests few weeks ago. But, to my surprise, everything appeared so normal there. This was in contrast to protests in my country that often turn violent and protesters don't refrain from vandalizing the public properties!

After 2 and half hour of roaming around the airport and immigration clearance, I boarded a Thai Airways plane bound for the Phuket island. It was 9 PM when I reached to the Phuket International Airport. The scene outside of airport was almost identical to one when we land at the International Airport in Kathmandu: many taxi drivers and other agents trying to bother you by asking several questions regarding your booking of accomodation and need of a taxi. However, the way they operate seemed to be little bit polite. After all, I was at the 'Land of smiles'!

I took a taxi and proceeded towards my hotel. I had already booked my accomodation at a hotel in the Patong beach area which is the most famous location in the Phuket islands. From the taxi, I could see and sense the beauty of the Phuket island through the well placed street lights. It was about 45km drive under warm (about 30 degree celcius) weather conditions and there was no way you could wear jackets and sweaters. So, from a chilling condition in Hiroshima to a hot Phuket, I had to manage some extra weight added to my otherwise light baggages! It was 10:30 PM when I finally checked-in to my hotel. Needless to mention, I was exhausted after the long and tiring trip. My paper was scheduled for presentation on the next day, so had to go to bed a bit early however, not before making few calls to my family members!

While on bed, I kept on thinking about the people's smiles which was a bit different. In fact, when we landed at the Bangkok airport and were getting out of the aircraft, I saw many smiling faces aligned there to welcome the tourists. Travel brochures often portrays Thailand as the happy-go-lucky 'Land of Smiles', an impression the Tourism Authority of Thailand are more than happy to go along with. One can see hoardings displaying 'Land of Smiles' at the airport before even clearing the immigration. So, my first impression was that the Thais must be very friendly and happy people. Because, if you are happy and friendly, then only smile will come out of you. However, I had an obvious question in mind that do they really have so much to smile about? But, wherever you visit in Thailand, if you can smile at any Thai people, it's pretty rare that you won't get a smile back in return. A bit of googling revealed that there's a much broader range of uses for smiling in Thailand. It's used to show happiness, embarrassment, fear, tension, resignation, remorse etc. etc. Please take a note of the various type of smiles (yim in Thai: source):

  • Yim tak tai: The polite smile used mostly for strangers or people you barely know
  • Feun yim: The "I'm being forced to smile even though I don't want to" smile
  • Yim cheuat cheuan: The smile a winner gives to a loosing rival
  • Yim tang nam dtah: The smile used when you are really happy (won-the-lottery type smile)
  • Yim tak tan: The "sorry, you are wrong and I'm right" type smile
  • Yim sao: The smile used to mask feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Yim mee lay-nai: The smile used to hide evil ideas
  • Yim cheun chom: The smile to express admiration or show that you are impressed
  • Yim yor: The smile used to taunt or laugh at someone
  • Yim mal ork: When you fail to smile even though you want
  • Yim yair yair: The smile used to apologize and to settle out potentially embarrasing situations
  • Yim hairng: The 'dry smile', a nervous and opologetic smile
  • Yim soo: 'My situation is so bad that even I might as well smile' type smile
Well, seeing the above description, I got so confused about smiles. Thai people can virtually smile at and for anything! I thought that you all might be interested in the 'smile types' hence, decided to share it here. By the way, I spent some wonderful moments there in the Phuket islands which is also known as 'Pearl of South'. I will post rest of my experiences in the next post. Hoping that you have enjoyed reading the post, I look forward to have your company again.

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Dilip Acharya on December 27, 2008 at 3:35 PM said...

Perfectly depicted, I felt like I was also there, while I read between your lines.

And s, thanks for the interesting information about "types of smiles". Though it may take time to know exactly which gesture is for what, but next time I'll try to figure out the feelings and attitude of Thai people while they smile.....

Alok said...

It's interesting to read your tour diary. I will be waiting for its sequel. I know Phuket is a beautiful place to visit and believe that you must have enjoyed your trip there. BTW, thanks for sharing the 'secret' behind the 'Land of smiles'!

Prajwol on December 27, 2008 at 10:45 PM said...

That was an interesting piece of information, a smile for every occasion :)

Anonymous said...

I am really excited to see you as a blogger. The blog contents are nice & expressions are just too good. will be visiting regularly from now on (have already subscribed to it). Hope to read more interesting stuffs on the 'Land of smiles'.

Lukmanul Hakim on December 28, 2008 at 6:55 PM said...

Frankly, I was so relief to hear your voice on my mobile when you told me that you're already back in Saijo. Thanks for sharing the Phuket trip with us.

Sujan said...

Thanks for shearing ure experince. Nice to know that there exists differnt variety of smile for different occasion. I wonder how one can smile even during unhappiness. I will try to know more about it from my thai friend.
I'll be waiting for the part 2 of ure tour to "land of smile".....

Basanta Gautam on December 29, 2008 at 10:13 AM said...

Thank you for sharing this trip and many interesting information.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for reading and liking the post. I am indeed pleased to note your interest in rest of my Thailand trip. I will definetely try to post the rest stuffs as soon as possible.
Dear Lokman, I am thankful to your concern for my safety during the trip. I was too a bit worried due to what happened there few weeks ago. However, everything went well. And, I am happy to have a friend like you. Thanks once again mate!

Anonymous said...

thank you for all my greatest friend . nice to read that about our trip also about me .!!

Dr.Adnan -Jordan

Anonymous said...

dear ! i remember 'Ali Baba Restaurant'!! and i think that not bad to try take a food there another time ( another trip )! OK ?

adnan -Jordan

Anonymous said...

Sure, my friend! I am glad to hear from you. I relived the trip today. Thanks once again for your comments. and keep in touch!

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