Over the last decade in Southeast Asia, I’ve seen lots of things that would be considered weird in the West. They seemed weird to me at the time, but I love them now. Superstition is higher here than anywhere I have ever been, it is in the DNA. Things that are completely normal to Southeast Asian people are considered the strangest behaviour to Westerners. Here are a few stories of my experiences here.
The first time I saw this was in Phnom Penh. I was strolling along Sisowath Quay when a woman came out of a shop with hand full of money and threw it into a small brazier on the footpath. I was completely baffled and asked her what it was about. She spoke very good English and exclaimed that it was to bring good fortune to her newly opened shop. I asked her why she didn’t just keep the money, then she would be better off. She explained that it wasn’t real money but fake money that they bought especially for the job. “Why don’t you just burn the money that you spent buying it.” She replied with a half smile, “That would be stupid.” That told me.
Settling down to sleep on the first night in a new room, with my Thai girlfriend, I turned the light off. The street lamp outside spilled light in through the window. My girlfriend sat bolt upright, obviously scared. I turned the light on and asked her what was wrong. “Ghost.” She cried. She pointed at the newly painted wall. I turned the lights off again and saw a shadow on the wall. Realising immediately what it was, I turned the light on and got out of bed, to show her where the guy who plastered the wall had simply left a trowel mark, which was casting a shadow. Satisfied she got back into bed and I turned the light off. “Ghost!” was the immediate response. We had to sleep with the light on, and I had to sand the wall down the day after and repaint it; thus exorcising the ghost!
The Thai’s believe that the first customer of the day sets the tone for how much money they will make. If you want to spend a good amount of money, go as soon as they open and you will really make them happy. If your purchase is very small it will depress them. They also hit everything on the shelves with the money you spend for good luck. It’s all good fun, but they do take it seriously.
Good Luck for Bars
The girls who work in the bars in Thailand are no less superstitious than anyone else. At opening time they will stand facing the bar and throw whisky between their legs for good luck. I have no idea what the origins of this are, one can but guess. I once walked out of my Bangkok bar and tripped over the “buddha temple” that one of the girls had built right in front of the door. I was apoplectic with embarrassment, “Don’t worry boss, we think Buddha eat and drink, already.” Crazy and lovely. I got a builder in to build a permanent shrine. I was happy, the girls were happy and Buddha was happy!
Following a highly successful 25-year career as a singer/songwriter and musician, Keith pulled out of the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. First living in Thailand, he moved to Cambodia and then relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in early 2013. www.inseasia.com