Karate Bob and Culture Shock in Bangkok, Thailand:

A Slightly Insensitive Stream of Brad’s Consciousness, Part I.

Nothing in my life compares to what I’ve experienced in Bangkok.  It has been an illustrative adventure through culture and cuisine.  I’ve enjoyed most of it, but the first few days were shocking.  I’ll use a few posts to share with you some of the adjustments necessary to truly enjoy yourself. 

Mo Bhat, Mo Problems 
Currency in Thailand is called Bhat.  One Dollar is worth approximately 30 Bhat.  I do not understand this.  I hand Kavitha money and she handles it.  Purchasing goes something like this:

River Ferry. So Confusing!

Brad: How much for this?
Salesperson: 300 Bhat.
Brad: Are you crazy?!
Kavitha: Brad, that’s $10. 
Brad: Oh.  Two, please.
Kavitha: Khob Khun Ka (Yeah, that’s Thai.  More on this later.)

I’ve improved.  I’m now able to figure it out on one hand and I no longer need the ipad calculator.  Add this to the list of things I cannot seem to process, including time zones, metro maps, and directions.

Karate Bob
Kavitha spent about 2 hours on one of our flights learning Thai.  I watched Harry Potter.  While I can now apparate and she has to walk, she can ask for directions to the bathroom while I can only point and grimace.  At any given point in time, she’s all like:

  • Sawadee Ka (Hey ya’ll)
  • Khob Khun Ka (Thank you)
  • Khob Khun Mark Na Ka (Thank you very much)
  • Poot Pa Sa Angkri Dai Ma Ka? (Do you speak Engrish?)
  • Aroy Mark (Delcious!)

Hunter and I have adapted by making up our own phrasing, including:
“Hob knob karate bob” and “Rickshaw Krav Maga”
These seem to work well enough as long as we use our big smiles and keep Kavitha within arm’s reach. 

This Map Does Not Help Me.

Lady Boys
Thailand is known for its progressiveness and acceptance of those that stray from the norm.  This includes transgendered people, and Bangkok provides one of the most readily accessible networks of hospitals performing sex change surgeries in the world.  Thus, when you see that woman walking down the street who looks a lot prettier than the rest, it’s a man.  There’s no Adam’s Apple; they shaved that off.  Nothing lends you to believe that she’s a man other than the fact that she’s just too pretty.  And she is…she was literally carved that way.  Thai people have a wonderful culture of acceptance, and these people  are integrated into society…with good antiinflamatories…seamlessly. 

Thai people are gracious, friendly, and polite.  They smile often, smile more to get through uncomforatable situations, and go out of their way to perform their responsibilities above expectations.  They dress smartly and treat others with respect.

European tourists are atrocious.  They are loud, wear tank tops to places other than the gym or pool, and smell of cigarettes and regret.  They are the worst part of Bangkok.  Not the hustlers, not the tuk tuk drivers who hound you, not the street vendors, and not those asking for spare change.  They are all part of the experience.  The Europeans, however, are awful.  More on this from Phuket in Part II.

Listen, Do You Smell Something?
Walking down the street in Bangkok is an overwhelming olfactory experience that morphs with every 5 steps or so.  It cycles between


  • grilled awesomeness (could be meat on a stick, seafood fritters, fruit, or deep fried bugs),
  • grilled crap (who knows what it is.  It was cooked a while ago and WILL give you Ho Chi Minh’s Revenge),
  • actual crap (as in raw sewage, vom, and who the hell knows what else.  If you think a US subway stop smells bad, you’re not even in the same hemisphere). 

These flow into your nose as you walk down the street.  They’re deceiving, as well,

Robata Octopus from a street cart. YUM!

because you don’t recognize an awesome-smelling food cart until you’ve passed it.  Walking in Bangkok requires a quick pace, and you can’t be afraid to double back.

These illustrate for you one of a hundred experiences that have formed for me a love of Bangkok that was grossly undersatisfied.  I’ll return!  Who’s coming with me?!

4 thoughts on “Karate Bob and Culture Shock in Bangkok, Thailand:

  1. still laughing!
    All of the blogs…..very enjoyable reading…almost as if the reader is there with you!
    Please keep it coming

  2. Brad, I have those same mirrored aviator sunglasses….how do you say “bad-ass” in Thai?

    Enjoying all your adventures vicariously from SC where all the prettiest ladies are probably still ladies.

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