Thai wisdom rubs off on us

2011-03-26 10:54

I first came to South Africa in 2008 with my partner, who is a journalist.

In Thailand, I worked for a big pharmaceutical company, but had had enough with the corporate world so I decided to come here with my partner and see what I could do in Joburg.

My favourite place in South Africa is Durban because I like the beach, the warm weather and being close to the ocean.

One thing I’ve come to loathe about South Africa is the crime.

When I first came here I asked why all the houses have giant walls and electric fences around them.

But last January we were burgled three times in one month and lost everything thrice.

Now I understand why people are so security conscious.

I was born in Bangkok and grew up there. You can have a massage on every block in Bangkok.

I’d have one and then go back to work. Massage has always been my passion.

I lived in Los Angeles in 2005 and at the time there was only one Thai massage place on Hollywood Boulevard.

I always thought that if I had a chance to open one there, I would.

I created Puri Massage – Puri is the first four letters of my name and it means “wisdom” in Thai – because I wanted to bring Thai wisdom to South Africa.

Business hours are the biggest difference between Joburg and Bangkok.

Thai parlours close late and are open every day, even on public holidays.

I saw the gap in the market because most Thai places here close by 4pm and on Mondays or Sundays. We close at 9pm and are open every day.

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt here is not to do business on trust alone.

This is the second business I started here.

When I first arrived, I was a foreigner and new to South Africa.

I didn’t know anything about forming a company and approached someone and trusted them.

I ended up fighting for my share in court and realised that I was paying more for the lawyer than I would get out, so I gave up and walked away with nothing.

I crashed but I was lucky I had my partner and two beautiful sons who supported me.

I’d like South Africans to know that Thais are not just beautiful from the outside, we are warm inside as well.

If I could take a South African to Thailand I’d take them to the Grand Palace in the centre of Bangkok.

It’s an ancient Buddhist temple with writings on the walls that were done three or four hundred years ago.

They tell stories about Buddhism in Thailand.

The food I miss the most is kao kra prow gai kai dow; or minced chicken with basil and chilli, with an egg done sunny side up on top.
In Bangkok you find food everywhere, whereas in Joburg you have to go to a restaurant.

The thing I’m most proud of is that Thailand has never been colonised, which is why Thai is our first language.

But it’s not always a good thing because English has the advantage of being the language of business across the globe.

Everyone at home, my family and friends, warned me about the crime in South Africa.

I told them crime happens in Bangkok and everywhere else in the world.

If you decide to move somewhere, you’ve got to face the situation head on.

As a foreigner, I listened to the locals when they told me what to do and where not to go.

My favourite South African is Isaac Mokoena, a security guard who stands at the corner of my street.

He is the friendliest guy and my older son always rushes up to talk to him. He’s just an ordinary guy with a great smile and I feel safe because of him.

I just don’t get tripe. I had it once and I’d eaten it in Thailand, but it’s cooked very differently here.

I put it in my mouth and had to spit it out.

I’ve not experienced any xenophobia because I don’t go to places where my South African friends tell me not to go.

My advice to anyone thinking of moving here is: do your homework and learn to be patient.

Home Affairs will drive you crazy, but you can’t do anything without a work permit.

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