Comedienne and actress, Helen Paul visited Thailand some months back. She shares fond memories of her trip to the Asian country with Punch.
When did you visit Thailand and why were you in the country?
I visited Thailand last year and I was in the country for a private event that I had been invited to, so I won’t really be able to disclose the details. Nonetheless, I had fun during my trip.
How long did you stay there?
I was there for three days and I made the most of my brief stay, even though I was basically preoccupied with work.
What were some of the things that struck you on arrival in Thailand?
One of the things that I found very fascinating was the airport; it’s very big and clean compared to what you would see in other places. The fact that Thais were also speaking their native language, which is also known as Thai was quite commendable too and it drove home the point that they are very in tune with their culture.
Since you couldn’t speak their language, how were you able to effectively communicate with the locals?
The good thing was that I had two attendants who served as translators for me during my stay. They could speak English fluently, so I was able to overcome the challenge language would have posed. I also observed that although most Thais could speak English, they speak more of their native language.
In terms of food, what were some of the dishes that you tasted during your visit; did you find any Nigerian cuisine on the menu?
For the most part, I had to make do with Thai food during my stay-they had rice but it wasn’t anything compared to what we have back home in Nigeria. Similarly, their spaghetti was also slightly different from ours. I also ate a bit of chips and fish and drank tea too but sadly, there was no regular beverage and I really missed that.
When you introduced yourself as a Nigerian, what was the reaction of the people, did they take a second glance at you?
Not at all; from my own perspective, they saw me as friendly and quite playful because I went there to represent the country so I had to put my best foot forward at all times. They liked me anyway and that was really heart-warming.
In terms of comparison, how would you compare Thailand to Nigeria?
The fact that they appreciated their culture more clearly stood out for me. In Nigeria for instance, we are very welcoming as a people and sometimes, we want to speak like visitors almost immediately they come in contact with us in a bid to make them feel at home in our country. On the contrary, the people in Thailand are not like that; they are so in sync with their language and they kept more to themselves from my observations while Nigerians are more welcoming and receptive.
Do you recall how you spent your typical day, did you find time to visit some tourist locations?
I didn’t have time to do that because I went there strictly for work-related purposes so I couldn’t really unwind much but I would like to visit the country again at some point and this time around, I would definitely go there with my own food, if they will allow it at the airport.
What kind of tips can you offer travellers from your own experience?
When you are visiting a country, you must realise that their food may not augur well with your taste buds so be prepared to taste something different from what you are used to in your home country. Then, you must make sure that you travel with your first aid box intact with drugs including pain killers and drugs to fight constipation because if they don’t speak your language, they might not be able to understand what you want for your body should you fall ill.
You must also travel with your Bible or Koran as the case may be. More importantly, always Google to find locations and sites on the Internet to make your trip hitch-free. These are just a few things that will help any traveller.
How would you rate the entertainment industry in Thailand?
I noticed that the Nigerians over there were really welcoming and they were happy to see me because they don’t get to see much of our entertainers. Thankfully, with the advent of social media, they are able to keep abreast and sort of have a good leverage to know what is happening back home on the entertainment scene.
I wasn’t really keen on looking into the Thais’ form of entertainment though but from their newspapers, I still saw more of their culture which is what makes Nigerians different-we know about our culture and also seek to discover other cultures as well.
… and the fashion scene?
The people I interacted with were very fashionable but you just can’t compare the Nigerian fashion scene with what is obtainable in other places. With all sense of pride, apart from the US, you would always think of Nigeria and the fashion content available in Africa. We are highly rated on the continent, if not number one, as far as fashion is concerned.
You mentioned earlier that when next you visit Thailand, you would go there with your own food…
Yes, I’d like to go there on my next visit with my own food because I missed my garri and amala during my last trip. I spent only three days so there was really no time to explore that much in the food department.