Thailand- It's Not Service, It's Servitude

I've been in Phuket a week now... and my 2nd holiday of 2012 is already ending soon.

Just a quick thought I want to share with you.

I love Thailand, and I've had many fantastic holidays here. Love it because you get more bang for your buck, food, drinks, etc are much cheaper here. But people have also called Thailand the land of smiles... and commend the Thais on excellent hospitality and service.

But I've only just come to realise one thing.. it's not really service, it's servitude. It's like they have an innate sense of duty and service... especially towards white people.

It is also a rather sexist (possibly racist?? read my experience below) country.

When we arrived at the airport and booked a taxi, we wheeled our baggage out of the airport
toward the taxis. And immediately... the driver comes forward and takes my fiancé 's bag. Great service eh? No no.. wait a minute? What about my bag?

We both had equal sized bags. In most other non third worldly countries I've been to, I the bell boy, driver, etc always reaches for the woman's bag first, before helping the man out with his.

Of course, my fiancé, being the gentleman that he is, turns to me and takes my bag. It's not a problem. But definitely something to think about...
Then when we arrive at our hotel, I check in while David nips outside for a smoke. While I was filling in the details on a registration sort of form, the receptionist lady stops me abruptly and points out to David (who is outside smoking) and says that HE must fill it in.

I am puzzled. Why can't I fill in my details (because I am a woman or because I am asian)? I then tell her that the credit card used to book this room is under MY name.

And then she says with heavy Thai droning and punctuation, " You ShOw Meee".

So I take out my credit card, she checks and they payment for the room is indeed under my credit card.

"ok ok"

And I was given the go ahead to fill the form out. No apologies. Nothing. Wtf man.

Everytime my fiancé or other white men walk past... they bow their heads so fast, their necks might snap.
Of course, this new realisation of mine isn't going to stop me from coming back... it's still a lovely country to visit. But yeah.. I wouldn't really say it's service with a smile, when it's really a sense of servitude. When I see it blatantly happening in front on my eyes, makes me wonder - Why you so like that?

What do you think?

P/s - Last trip we stayed at Royal Phuket Yacht Club in Naiharn, best ever in my opinion. But it's high season now, all the nice places in Niaharn and Kata were fully booked. We're staying at Le Piman on Rawai beach. It's nice. Only 16 Villas and a nice pool. And cheap too (approx $80 + a night). But the pillows SUCK BIG TIME. My neck is so sore. It's like they cut up an old t- shirt into 5 bits, then scrunched those bits and put it in a pillow case. Absolutely NOT kidding. I've been to cheaper hotels in Malaysia and also in Hong Kong recently (on my last night there this month, I stayed in a $80 room in Tsing Yi and pillow was comfy!)

Update: 27 Jan 1.36 pm
I flew back early this morning. Have to say, that other than that first shitty encounter during check in, the hotel staff were very polite to me. So it may have been a one off thing during check in, or it may be they started treating me better as they realised the villa was getting paid through my credit card. Dunnoe. But they were good though...porter even carried my bag on my way out (did they read my post?!).


  1. Phuket is really nice. I was there for Christmas break last year. Not so sure about the servitude part because I am happy to let my man take care of everything. =)

    Enjoy your trip!

  2. Hi, yep, I agree with you. Service there is generally very attentive, I see it going down - but it's still pretty good.

    I know what you mean though. They definitely treat white people differently. It could be that for a place like phuket, a tourist down, they think white people = money. So they tend to get treated better.

    Also, there are big fat white men with pretty young thai girls everywhere. So you may have gotten mistaken for one of them (not that your fiancee is fat)

    Its just a mindset. Just like how we are thrown for a loop when we see an ang mo cleaner.

    One thing though: Servitude actually means the actions of someone in the role of a servant, it doesn't actually mean service mentality.

    Hope your CNY was a wonderful one!

  3. Yup.. meant servitude as in they take on the role of servants (though its passed off as great service)

    Yup i see a lot of fat old with thai gfs here. but i dont think reception thought i was one as she copied our passports n mine is a glaring red singapore one. but even if i were thai... thts no reason to give me poorer treatment or not let me fill out a form

  4. Anonymous6:37 pm

    They think you're for "hired" and that's why go to the man. Before you think I'm insulting you, WAIT cos I'm not. I'm Thai and in Thailand, whenever they see a white guy with an Asian woman, they'll think the woman is a prostitute cos it's so damn common in Thailand where loser white men go there and have "dates" with paid women. It's very insulting but I think they see it so often that it's kinda ingrained in them that if there's a couple of white man and Asian woman, she must be a prostitute. It's annoying but it's just the way it is unfortunately.

  5. It is the same in Bali. They are really racist. I realized that the hotel that me and my boyfriend stayed in had no asians at all. Australians and Americans were the bulk of the guests. We took a walk by the beach behind the hotel and decided to wash our feet by the washing area when we walked back to the hotel. The staff immediately stopped us to verify if we were the guests. Then we went for some water sports. The person refused to flip us over when we were on a banana boat. And the point of a banana boat was to flip us over into the sea! They only gave us a ride round the sea. I was infuriated. I paid for it, same amount as the ang mohs. The ang mohs get to flip countless times. Only when we were paired up with 3 ang mohs the second round were we able to get flipped over which is super fun. Later I realized they were actually just prejudiced against Chinese from china. We went snorkelling after the banana boat and the snorkelling equipment were not enough to go around. The ang mohs were really quick to snatch the equipment. One of the staff then asked where we were from, and when he knew we are Singaporeans, he immediately snatched two from the last few equipment and gave it to us. The Chinese from china either had to wait or did not get a chance to go down. It was a really bad experience all in all. I'll never go there again.

  6. You're right it's no excuse. I went to Thailand earlier in the year as well, also with my ang mo fiancee.

    I was in Patpong, and this prostitute walked up to me and said: "Is he yours? If not I want." Reffering to my fiancee as a customer.

    I said, yep, he's mine. Thought it was funny actually. But yah, I really think they shouldn't assume. Ugh.

  7. Anonymous11:20 am

    Like you, I love Thailand but yes, their attitude/mindset towards the Caucasian-man with Asian-woman combination is incredibly frustrating.

    I just returned from Thailand after the CNY weekend and whilst I was playing golf with my boyfriend there, the Thai caddy who was with me for the day actually didn't believe me when I said that we were both from SG and that I am not a working girl. Her response to me was, "But he is white. You no. He no pay you?" I was so shocked that I didn't know how to react. (I didn't swing my golf club at her, in case you were wondering. It was tempting though! :P)

    Then again, this has happened to me in Bali, in Hanoi, in HCMC, in Australia, and heck, even at home, when people see me with my bf, they assume I must be a SPG.

    Fantastic. :)

  8. Re: servitude, some will say the same phenomenon of putting the white man on top of the food-chain exists in most of Asia. You have yourself shown a distinct preference for white men - and seen nasty comments on your blog as a result. I am not being judgemental here, but I think all of this 'preferencial treatment' for good or bad reasons goes towards creating stereotypes. I have myself heard all of the following during my visits to Singapore, KL, Bangkok, etc.:

    1. White men prefer Asian girls because they are submissive and low maintenance.

    2. White men prefer Asian girls because they have a fetish for petite and girls who look 20 even when they are 35 (in western eyes).

    3. Asian girls date/marry white men to quickly rise up the social ladder.

    4. Asian girls are looking for sugar-daddies to get rich fast.

    While some of this may be true, my guess is these stereotypes will disappear with increasing wealth and social change in the East.

  9. pearly11:45 pm

    Hi HJ, unrelated question, hope you don't mind. I noticed that you mentioned that the fiancé smokes and I don't recall reading that you do. Could you shed any light on how to "deal" with something like this? I've just started dating someone who is a smoker (and I've quit over 10 yrs ago), and as much as he may be a nice guy, his smoking could potentially be a deal-breaker for me. Not sure how to approach this... your thoughts?

  10. well.. smoking has never been a deal breaker for me.

    David is trying to quit (esp now tht we are going to start a future/family together) and I am sure he eventually will quit. But I wld be with him even if he doesnt quit.

    If it's a deal breaker for you, you need to speak to him (in non accusing manner). Just tell him ur concerns regarding smoking. But I got to tell u, if he's not ready to quit.. it's damn hard to.

    I knew a married couple once (like 8 years ago)... BOTH husband and wife told each other they quit already. And yet, when I go toilet, she will come along and steal a cigarette off me (i used to smoke in Uni). And then when we are in the toilet, her husband steals a cig off my (ex) BF (who also smoked).

  11. Wow. Never notice that they are racist before.

  12. pearly10:23 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts HJ. I honestly don't know if I can bring myself to be around a smoker for the long run. How does one get over the smell of secondhand smoke, esp. post-cig breath?? I've seen my share of people saying "Oh I'll quit one of these days"... yeah sure, like when? o_O

    It's a little early and we're just feeling our way around each other. I have a feeling he's not one to quit soon. Guess I'll get to talking to him about this soon enough. *haiz* Thanks again HJ!

  13. I'm a fellow Singaporean just like you & been living in Bangkok for couple years. YES INDEED the service is declining especially in the touristy area!!
    Recently I was at Siam Paragon with a Thai friend & we were just browsing the perfumes section. As we didn't buy, the bloody salesman said blatantly in Thai 'why see if don't buy... & in the end still said the F word'!!
    My Thai friend got a shock & quickly pulled me away from the Gucci counter.

    How "Amazing" Thailand can be!!

  14. Anonymous3:36 am

    Thanks Holly for sharing. I don't know that the Thais particularly in the hotel u stayed were like that. I don't even recall that they were a victim of colonization though. It is a unique problem but i guessed it is related to the media presentation of the superiority of the whites. They might be also trained to serve the whites better as they might be told that the whites are the ones that invent money!(maybe i'm exaggerating)

    It is somehow familiar in Singapore Airlines where I used to work. Such a great way to fly they say but when it comes to white passengers, they can be very nice but not so nice towards other races. For us Singaporeans, it is definitely a post-colonization mindset that still exists and affecting my worldview.


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