Tuesday, 15 December 2009

How you can celebrate Christmas with just 20 baht

Christmas is in the air. In Bangkok, the Christmas tree decorations around the downtown Siam shopping centres are enchanting, magical. And in Chiang Mai, Christmas carols are ringing out from speakers at Central Mall, my local pub, the gym, and even the two lions which symbolically guard the front entrance of my condominium are now somewhat incongruously decked out in red Santa caps.

But what makes it feel even more Christmassy are a couple of things that I came across in the last few days. One happened to me. The other I read in a newspaper.

The lady in my condo's administration called me into her office. 'Is this your 20 baht?' she asked, proffering the green note worth about 55 US cents. 'Someone found it outside your door.' As my apartment is at the end of the hall it was in all likelihood mine. But, it is soooooo humbling that someone found it, and thought to get it back to its rightful owner, handed it in, and then the condo admin staff took it upon themselves to find its rightful owner. (To put it in context, 20 baht nearly buys you a lovely lunch plate of pad thai noodles, so it's not an insignificant amount to a local, especially, say, a cleaner.) I am ashamed to say if I'd found it, I would have pocketed it.

That same day I read in the Bangkok Post where a taxi driver in Bangkok had found a sports bag in the back of his cab. In it were passports, a camera, a video camera and a few thousand dollars of cash. Finding a hotel key card, he called the hotel to see if those people were still guests. Indeed they were. He then arranged to have the whole lot returned to the very relieved Middle Eastern owners of the cash and goods. That this could happen in any major city in the world -- where size and anonymity often compromise moral scruples -- is heart-warming.

And it's these thousand little acts of kindness that I encounter every day that makes me so thankful for living among the good-hearted Thai people. Kon Thai jai dee! It kind of feels like there's Christmas spirit in the air every day year round ...

As for me, I'll be celebrating Christmas on Koh Samui and New Year's Eve in Bangkok with fireworks on the Chao Phraya River. Look out for my postings on these shortly.

Question: As a tourist, have you encountered incredible honesty in your dealings with Thais? Tell us about that.

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