friday five: the Bangkok edition…

street art, Siam Square style
street art, Siam Square style

So, anyways, we’ve been in Thailand for just over a week now.  While there’s lots more I need to post, I’ve been collecting a few fun facts along the way. Hashtagfunfacts…as Miss T would say…

Thresholds

Thresholds in traditional Thai houses are high. Seriously high. You actually have to take a full step over and, if your knees are as shoddy as mine, sometimes even have to grab the doorframe as support.

Why?

Is it perhaps to stop babies crawling out and toppling over balconies into the river or canals below? Traditionally many people lived by the river and canals- they still do- and these have a dreadful habit of flooding to a pretty mega level during the wet season. I talked about that a little in my post on Jimmy T.

Perhaps it’s to stop snakes from crossing the thresholds and terrorising the inhabitants?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you’d be wrong.

It’s to stop the spirits from crossing the threshold. Thai spirits- the nasty buggers, that is- can’t jump or fly. Instead they crawl along on their bellies like the truly nasty spirits they are. Apparently Chinese spirits can jump and fly which is why you shouldn’t be able to look through the front door to the back door, or through windows and other feng shui no no’s. Incidentally, many traditional Chinese homes in Chinatown have mirrors over the front doors so that the spirits will see themselves and take off in fright.

Balinese bad spirits fly over the top of everything, like great evil A380’s- which is why on Nyepi Day, everyone has to turn the lights out and stay really quiet so that the spirits will think no one’s home and fly right on by…but that’s Bali and this is about Thailand.

Spirit Houses

Speaking of spirits, no matter what religion you are, most Thai houses have a Spirit House outside for the spirits to live in.

These are seriously cute. Like little dolls houses.

Some are elaborate, some simple.

As long as the flowers and food offerings are replenished each day, everyone’s happy- especially the spirits.

the Spirit House at the Novotel, Siam Square
the Spirit House at the Novotel, Siam Square

Broken Things

I talked the other day about broken things and how hanging on to them can bring bad luck. Anyways, you see a lot of these broken things or symbols representative of broken things, at shrines or other offering points.

It might be a little statue with the head or arms off, or a piece of broken porcelain, or something else. Either way, the offering is representative of atonement.

You know, offering something broken as atonement for something that you’ve done wrong. Sort of like a confessional.

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Stairs

Stairs around temples or holy places are generally steep, often narrow, and there are usually a lot of them.

Why? Is it a gym for the monks?

No. It’s a mindful meditation through physical effort.

When you’re going up or down these stairs, your mind is completely on the job of going up or down these stairs. Especially if you have a dodgy knee. You are completely focused on the task. Trust me on this one.

temple ruins at Ayutthaya
temple ruins at Ayutthaya

Training Camps for husbands

I bet that one caught your eye…

Most Thai Buddhist boys have to be monks for at least 3 months.

This can be anytime after they turn 15, but should happen before they get married. It’s to teach them how to be good men. Temporary ordination, as this is, makes a man apparently more of a good candidate for both marriage and leadership. Apparently.

I asked the guide on our foodie walking tour what they learned and she told me that it’s about:

  • Learning respect
  • Learning humility
  • Always telling the truth- no lies
  • Not drinking alcohol- well, not too much
  • Not committing adultery

Naturally there’s more of a serious, cultural and religious nature to this- indeed the monasteries, traditionally, were the primary place of education for boys… but I’m sure if you wanted something of a more educational nature, you wouldn’t be reading my blog!

Comments

2 comments on “friday five: the Bangkok edition…”
  1. Debbish says:

    Oh, I didn’t know a lot of that and some of the cultural nuances are also present in Cambodia where I lived (or perhaps I knew back then but have forgotten). I do remember the vast numbers of young orange-clad men though!

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