delighted to welcome Bangkok-based Nima
Chandler to the Journeywoman Network. Nima
is a single American woman in her early
30s who grew up in Thailand, and still calls
it home. A former journalist, she now runs
her mother's company, Nancy Chandler Graphics,
which publishes maps of Bangkok and Chiang
Mai. We asked Nima to offer some female-centered
advice to those women travelling to her
part of the world. She writes...
is in fact much safer for western women than
any western city I know. All the places I
will mention in this article are safe for
women -- even at night. As with elsewhere,
however, it helps to look like you know where
you are going, and to practice big-city vigilance.
about your safety...
important not to flash one's money or
'too much skin' in public. Make sure that
the areas you choose to visit are considered
safe by the locals and that you are extra
careful after dark. From my experience,
the most common (relatively harmless)
crimes against tourists are the ones committed
by touts. These men pretend to befriend
you by offering you help on the street
and then they talk you into going to a
gem store where they get paid for bringing
in a potential customer. More serious
offenses are pickpocketing in some crowded
markets; and, maybe, overcharging by taxi
drivers, waiters and other people in services.
visitors to this part of the world must consider
both the culture and the climate when deciding
on their wardrobe. Thailand may be hot, hot,
hot but wearing skimpy clothes is not acceptable
to most Thais. Leave your tiny tank tops,
midriff-baring T-shirts and short shorts at
home. Ideally, tops should cover your shoulders
(although times are slowly changing in this
regard). Skirts and shorts should reach at
least just above the knee. For the beach or
poolside, swimwear is appropriate only by
the water and topless sunbathing remains frowned
upon. You will see people who break these
'rules' but that doesn't mean you should too!
a smart shopper...
your money on items you will treasure
forever. There is a lot of tourist kitsch
out there and, at current exchange rates,
you'll see a million and one bargains
in the markets. Ask yourself if the item
you are looking at will fit into your
home decor or wardrobe. In Impact Publication's
shopping guidebook, The Treasures
& Pleasures of Thailand,
the authors warn that many western women,
for example, chose silks that look fantastic
in Thai shops, but when they get home
they realize the colors don't look so
good in their own living rooms nor do
they complement their skin color like
they do for Thais. P.S.
For those Journeywomen who are serious
shoppers, pick up the above mentioned
book which walks you through the local
bargaining process, teaches you how to
assess tailors and quality products, and
gives you a crash course on buying gems,
tips on shipping and customs issues and
many other valuable insights on shopping
yourself with a visit to a salon or spa...
your hair shampooed at a local hairdresser.
They give you terrific head massages at the
same time and they are very cheap (e.g. US$
2-3.00). For a more costly, luxurious and
unique experience, try one of Thailand's top
spas: In Bangkok, on the 51st-54th floors
of the Westin Banyan Tree hotel, overlooking
the city is the Banyan Tree Spa (www.westin-bangkok.com/spa.asp);
or take the free hotel ferry from the Taksin
skytrain station to the Marriott Royal Garden
Riverside hotel (a relaxing boat trip of about
20 minutes) and its Mandara Spa (www.mandaraspa-asia.com),
Tel: 426-0021; or in Chiang Mai, try The Spa
at the Regent Resort Chiang Mai (Tel: 298-181-9).
a good Thai massage...
hotels will have an in-room service, others
can refer you to a good massage parlor nearby.
In Bangkok, you can also go to Wat Po, a temple
where massage is taught, but this site is
usually full of tourists and less relaxing
than being pampered in the privacy of your
own room. Don't walk into just any massage
parlor, however, as many are for men only
and services are not exactly 'traditional'.
In Chiang Mai and elsewhere, you will also
see a lot of 'safe' small foot massage shops
along shopping routes. You can also get a
massage on the beaches for about B 200.00/hour
(US$5.00), but ask for proof of some training
when you do.
a cabaret show with friends...
a truly fun, truly Asian experience, the professional
transvestite cabaret shows can't be beat.
They are the closest you'll come to a comedy
club in Thailand -- catering to international
audiences with fantastic costumes and songs
from the US, Europe, Japan, Korea and China,
as well as slapstick comedy that leaves everyone
laughing, even if they don't speak English
or Thai! The performers are often mistaken
for real women, and I've had many female friends
walk out with a new perspective on what it
means to be a woman -- a new gesture, posture,
tilt of the head, etc. The most famous cabaret
acts are in Pattaya at Alcatraz and Tiffany's.
In Bangkok, try Calypso at the Asia Hotel
or Mambo on Sukhumvit Road. In Chiang Mai,
there are free shows at the Galare Food Center
2, although these are not quite as good.
clothes made just for
your favourite outfits with you to the tailors.
Most Thai tailors work better from originals
than from pictures, sketches or sewing instructions.
In other words, if you have a dress you'd
love to have copied, pack it and bring it
with you for best results!