I think one – of the many – things I like about Thailand is the population’s general disregard for rules. In the west it’s not uncommon to hear the saying that rules are made to be broken. They have no comparable bit of popular wisdom in Thailand because the general consensus there is that rules are best ignored. It’s not so much about consciously breaking rules in Thailand, it’s just that life is easier by simply disregarding any rule that may get in your way. Being a bit of an iconoclast myself, I think that’s a pretty good rule to live by.
Of course there are rules, and then there are rules. Those meant for the local populace are one thing, those meant for anyone not lucky enough to be born Thai are another. It is one of the paradoxes of Thailand. Rules that govern the behavior of visitors to the country are strictly enforced, those that govern the actions of locals not so much. And rules that apply to both are only enforced when a farang is involved. Granted, enforcement efforts are usually about money and not really about the silly rule. Bangkok’s infamous litter police are a good example. There’s a 2,000 baht fine for littering that visitors will fall prey to even when they haven’t littered. But a Thai can get away scot-free when dumping a trash bag full of garbage at the feet of a litter patrol officer.
As unconcerned about rules as Thais are, as a farang when you have unknowingly or inadvertently broken some minor little rule you can be guaranteed that whoever the local is calling the shots he or she will cut you absolutely no slack. Explain, argue, try to use logic . . . your efforts will be wasted. The person you are trying to convince to see it your way will just keep giving you one of those damn Thai smiles, will just keep agreeing with your every point, and will just keep repeating whatever the stupid rule is that you broke. I think Thais have a rule about how to deal with farang. It seems to be a pretty effective one.
A good example that I recently mentioned in reply to a comment on this blog is a rule I ran up against at a hotel in Bangkok. Like many rules, it was not written down anywhere; you wouldn’t know about it until you broke it. The six story hotel’s frontage was all glass, a good portion of which was made up of the windows in each room. I like fresh air in a room. Even when the air barely qualifies as fresh. Within a few minutes of having opened one of the windows in my room, the front desk called to tell me I needed to close it. The hotel had a rule against opening windows in rooms. Huh. I decided the best rule of thumb was to follow the ever popular advice of When In Rome Do As The Romans Do, so I ignored their rule and their request to close the window. A bell hop showed up a few minutes later to rectify my error.
I know from experience that if 10:00 am is the cut-off time for breakfast at a hotel in Thailand, showing up at 10:01 means you’ll go hungry. Even if it is a buffet, all the food is still laid out, and there are numerous other guests still filling the dining room. Unless you are with a Thai. I’ve waltzed into breakfast with Noom a half hour after service had ended and the staff has not only allowed us in but had the cooks rustle us up food too. That’s the kind of thing that should, as a visitor, piss me off. But when you are in Thailand the best rule to live by is to just go with the flow.
I’d pay more attention to rules when I’m in Thailand, just to avoid hassles if nothing else. But a holiday is supposed to be about enjoying yourself and trying to adhere to all the rules of a country you are visiting doesn’t fit that theme. Fortunately, one of the rules in Thailand is that when you break one an outlay of baht will always make matters right again. I just consider those user fees and enjoy my time in The Kingdom rule free.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy: