Thailand through Norwegian eyes | Bangkok Post: learning


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Thailand through Norwegian eyes

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Throughout the Songkran holidays will be taking a new look at Thailand thanks to a group of students from Norway. Each day, we’ll have new impressions on different aspects of Thai life and culture.

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Teacher Jan Vincens Steen says "the students have been at our school (Arbeiderbevegelsens Folkehøgskole, Ringsaker (AFR)) in Norway for two years, and this Southeast Asia study trip was built the school`s philosophy: “To grow through responsibility.” They were given maximum freedom to explore Bangkok, and at the same time solve tasks they were given.” From left to right, Martin Nordberg Foldmoe, Jan Vincens Steen (teacher), Mats Johannesen, Espen Vedå Skålnes, Per Marius Nerby, Lidija Vidic, Toril Grødem Kleven. (at the Bangkok Post building)

Some tourists feel most comfortable with highly organised tours, but many others, especially younger people, like to experience the country the way it really is. In a country like Thailand where tourism is a big business this can take some effort, but as Lidija Vidić found out, it is definitely worth it.

Taling Chan floating market: new tourist attraction

Lidija Vidić

Photo: Lidija Vidić

Floating markets in Bangkok have become very popular tourist attractions. In fact, nowadays, it’s a bit of a challenge to find one that is not yet “spoiled” by tourism.

In search of a Thai experience

Not surprisingly, the most popular floating markets – like Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa –  are becoming more and more oriented towards tourists. Thailand is, after all, one of the world’s top tourist destinations and its water culture is a big attraction. The downside is that this makes it a bit more difficult for those of us who are in search of a real Thai experience. That experience is still there, however, and the good news is that it lies just over a half an hour’s ride from busy Silom road.

Rich offerings, but still local

One floating market that preserves the Thai tradition but is tourist-friendly is Taling Chan. This market seems to be on its way up mostly because of its originality. It has so far succeeded in fighting off mainstream commercial tourism and Taling Chan market remains mostly a market for locals. It still has a lot to offer to travelers, however. Aside from all sorts of Thai foods, fruits vegetables, fish, crabs and different types of refreshments in the market’s floating restaurants; you can enjoy making flowers out of soap or a relaxing massage for a bargain price. Those who have enough time on their hands are offered a short trip along the riverside.

Every now and then you stumble upon a group of foreigners, lucky to have found a taste of traditional Thai delights.

“I just got a foot-massage that included legs, arms and back! The local people are very friendly to us and hope I can come back here,” says Espen Vedå Skålnes (21), a student from Norway.

English or not

In order for the Taling Chan market to attract more tourists, there’s one thing that might need improving. That is the knowledge of English among the people working in the market in order to make their contact with tourists easier. On the other hand, perhaps the friendly smiles of the locals are enough and actually make this market even more exotic for tourists.

“It doesn’t really matter if they don’t speak good English, as long as we can use our arms and legs with a little bit of language. it works for me!”, says Espen.

Finding a different type of exotic

Exotic doesn’t always mean something completely different. It can be even this home-like atmosphere at places where we’re not expecting to feel it. Whether it’s a smile of a local boat driver, a silent prayer before a foot massage or sitting with a most talented girl making wonders out of soap while her pet monkey climbs your shoulder. It is actually that spontaneous, not pre-arranged fun that tourists get in Taling Chan floating market. This is something worth preserving. Out of personal experience, it’s safe to say that westerners are getting bored with “controlled” tourism and things that almost everybody gets to experience. That is why this market is such a refreshing change. It remains original and unspoiled by tourism. Only time will tell how long it is before it becomes another “must see” attraction in Bangkok.

Other stories in this series:

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atmosphere : the mood or feeling that exists in a place - บรรยากาศ

attraction : something that creates interest and brings people to see it - การดึงดูดความสนใจ

bargain price (noun): a very low or special price - ราคาประหยัด

bored : feeling impatient or dissatisfied, because you are not interested in something or because you have nothing to do - เบื่อหน่าย เหนื่อยหน่าย

challenge : something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with or achieve - สิ่งที่ท้าทาย, การท้าทาย

commercial : for business purposes - เกี่ยวกับการค้า

culture (noun): the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group - วัฒนธรรม

destination : the place where someone or something is going - จุดหมายปลายทาง

exotic : seeming exciting and unusual because it is connected with foreign countries or other historical periods - ผิดธรรมดา, มาจากต่างประเทศ, มาจากดินแดนอื่น, มาจากภูมิภาคอื่น

improve : to make better - ทำให้ดีขึ้น

local : in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น

locals : people who live in a particular place - ชาวบ้าน

mainstream : accepted or used by most people; considered ordinary or normal - ทั่้วๆ ไป 

massage : the action of rubbing and pressing a person's body with the hands to reduce pain in the muscles and joints - การนวด

oriented : mainly concerned with or directed towards -

originality : the quality of being new and interesting in a way that is different from anything that has existed before - ความคิดริเริ่ม, ความแปลกใหม่, ความไม่เหมือนใคร

popular (adj): a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - เป็นที่นิยม, เป็นที่ชื่นชอบ

preserve : to keep something as it is, especially in order to prevent it from being damaged or destroyed - ทำให้คงอยู่, สงวน

refreshing : making you feel less tired or hot - ซึ่งทำให้สดชื่น

refreshment : something to eat or drink during an event such as a meeting or party - เครื่องดื่มเพื่อความสดชื่น

rich : interesting, with a lot of different qualities, experiences or events - อุดมไปด้วย

shoulder : one of the two parts of your body between your neck and the top of your arms - ไหล่

spoil : to destroy or reduce the pleasure, interest or beauty of something - ทำให้เสีย

spontaneous : happening or done in a natural, often sudden way, without any planning or without being forced - ซึ่งเป็นไปตามธรรมชาติ, เป็นไปเอง, ซึ่งเกิดขึ้นเอง, โดยสัญชาตญาณ

stumble upon : to discover something by chance, or to meet someone by chance - พบโดยบังเอิญ

talented : having a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught - ซึ่งมีพรสวรรค์

tradition : a very old custom, belief, or story - ประเพณี, ขนบธรรมเนียม

wonder : something that fills you with surprise and admiration - สิ่งน่าพิศวง


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