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La Chica Viajera by Frencie Carreon



BANGKOK, Thailand--One of the cities in Southeast Asia where you get to meet a lot of Filipinos is Bangkok. It is the region's commercial hub, and no other country can ever beat Siam for the total hospitality of its people.

Thailand is home, whether permanent or temporary, to many Pinoys. Some come here for sightseeing, for tourism and the real fun of it, for adventure, for their cosmetic and health care products, and for conventions, meetings, and conferences.

Of course, one must not forget the colorful orchids that abound in Thailand, each little soft petal greeting every visitor the moment you land at the airport, "Sawadee!" And that does not even count the warm sweet smile Thai ladies flash every time they say the same greeting. Take note, they do that to everyone even to non-foreigners who may not even give them any tip! (Do i sound amazed? Well, if you haven't had a taste of hypocritical hospitality and welcome from Pinoys at the airports--remember me when you do.)

One other fact that Thailand is noted for is their blatant societal acceptance for transgenders. I sometimes find it hard to distinguish a woman from a transvestite, or a woman who was once a man. Transvestites demonstrate excellent prowess in dancing traditional Thai dances, and who model Thai fashion with grace and charm like no other woman could! So, gender transfers are just lifetime investments for some men, huh!

Here in Bangkok, you find Pinoys across the industries--automotive, fashion and accessories, horticulture, cosmetology,
and entertainment.

Thais have a special warmth for visitors. Thai Airways personnel demonstrate this the most. In addition, the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)  has for its Secretary General till the end of this year at least, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan. And Thai as he is, I see in him the best diplomatic envoy who can truly offer Thai hospitality. Added to that, SecGen Surin is one ideal interviewee for a journalist: he takes time, he listens, makes sure he understands your question before giving out an answer, plays fair with media, is not biased with the ASEAN press. (Personally, I appreciate his having accommodated me when I requested for a second photo shoot in two interviews i did with him in the past. He remembers my nationality and finds time to commend me for my Barong Tagalog--if these notes are relevant at all!)

But Dr. Surin is not Thailand. The country has a rich history, is in itself a treasure of cultural stories and symbols, and is the stark representation of ASEAN diversity.

And I wouldn't wonder at all that newly-reelected U.S. President Barack Obama is set for his official visit to Thailand this month! (That's keeping US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney super busy.)

So why don't you check tourist-friendly airfares and hotel rates now and plan to be off for a holiday, or a shopping spree, or a medical/cosmetological lift?

Go Siam--as it celebrates the King's birthday this cool November. (Frencie Carreon, La Chica Viajera, for Zamboanga Today)

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