In the WittyLeaks series, Diplomac&Trade regularly publishes the personal accounts of ambassadors and other diplomatic mission leaders accredited to Budapest. This time, the Ambasador of Thailand describes his pursuing of photography both in his native country and Hungary.
“Life is like a camera, just focus on what is important and capture the good times.” This expression sounds so true to me as I am passionate about photography. While the coronavirus pandemic poses certain limitations, I take the opportunity to explore Hungary and spend my leisure time domestically and photographically.
Before I took up my posting here in Budapest, I had seen a number of articles and TV programs about this country. Hungary is well-known among the Thai people as a country of great beauty, long history and warm people. But yet, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, despite the distance between Thailand and Hungary, the two countries share some elements of similarity.
The Rivers of Life
While the Danube River runs through the heart of Budapest, dividing the city into two parts with plentiful and historical sights, the Chao Phraya River has always been the bloodline of Bangkok and a life-giver to various provinces of Thailand through which it flows.
Flowing from the north of Thailand, through Bangkok, southwards to the Gulf of Thailand, the waters of the Chao Phraya River have shaped the history of the modern Thai capital. By time, the river banks landscape and way of life has expanded extensively. The river nowadays serves as transportation network and urban settlements with soaring hotels and condominiums hem in solemn temples, churches and civic buildings along both sides of the river.
When we have abundance of water, it is important to know how to make good use of it. I am pleased with the increased cooperation between our two countries on water resources management. Despite the physical contact barriers during the pandemic, our countries have successfully convened, through a video conference, the first meeting of the Joint Steering Committee on Cooperation in Water Resources Management in October last year which allows us to set up a three-year cooperation plan in such areas as water development, groundwater management and wastewater treatment. I am sure that the cooperation will further expand for the benefits of our two countries.
The local warmth
While Budapest is a truly beautiful city to look at, the people here are just as friendly and helpful. In my experience, Hungarians are polite, approachable and relatively open to foreigners. Many times, when I go out to take pictures, I often meet people with friendly face who give me a return smile or even a hand if needed. Such small gestures may be a no-big-deal in daily routine life, but it shows how much you care for others. The world is getting busier and digitalized, caring and support to other people have become increasingly important.
Thailanders have a similar manner from this point of view. We are often referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’. The Thai people always offer their smiles and are just as friendly in the big cities as they are in countryside towns. It is also ingrained in our culture to be respectful of others and lend a hand when the occasion arises.
The connections between our peoples can be seen easily. Thailand is a popular destination for Hungarian tourists, while Hungary is home for almost 2,000 Thais as well as a can’t-miss destination in the Europe’s itinerary of the Thai tourists.
Loving the elders
I appreciate the way that Hungarians hold their family value and respect the elders. I noticed after visiting some families that, unlike many western countries where elder person typically lives alone or with an elderly couple, senior people here are in good care of their offspring and many of them live under the same roof. Maybe it is from my own culture, but I used to feel emotionally touched when seeing the young taking care of the old in the family.
In Thailand, family is considered to be the foundation of life. The meaning of family can even extend, from the domestic unit, to close neighbors and friends. We commonly use the word ‘phi’ and ‘nong’, or brother and sister, before someone’s name to indicate affection that they are like siblings. The Thai families are in close connections with several generations living together. It is even common for some newlyweds to live with their families until they have their own children. Grandparents, aunts, or older siblings sometimes help raise the children. And, of course, there is a high level of respect bestowed upon the elderly. In my view, our two countries also share some similarities on this aspect.
Eat and play
Thailand and Hungary are gastronomically famous on their spiciness. Thai food has a reputation for being spicy. We even have a saying “mai phet, mai aroy” or “if it isn’t spicy, it isn’t tasty!”. In fact, the essence of Thai food is all about balance. A balance of different flavors: sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Hungary, on the other hand, has specialties and traditional foods that are considerably spicy with the use of paprika and other spices. Both nations represent their gourmet charms in distinctive and uncompetitive ways. I am happy to see the presence of Thai cuisine in Hungary, with a number of eateries featuring authentic Thai flavors, while many more include trendy Thai dishes in their menu. The Royal Thai Embassy has granted the ‘Thai Select’ award to those Thai restaurants as a guarantee for authentic Thai tastes. Food lovers eager to try to find Thai cuisine should simply look for restaurants with this logo.
Another aspect that I see is that the Hungarians are sport-lovers. I had a chance to witness the Budapest Marathon in October last year where I was fascinated to see so many runners racing enthusiastically along the beautiful scenery of the Danube River. No wonder why Muay Thai, or Thai boxing, among other sports, has gained much popularity here. There is an increasing number of Muay Thai Clubs in Hungary. I have visited some events and noticed that the Hungarian boxers have taken this sport seriously. Muay Thai has won global popularity and become one of the fastest growing combat sports in the world. It is now included among the sports to feature at the 2023 European Games in Krakow, Poland. I am sure that there will be more talented Hungarian boxers showing up in time.
Diversity in pictures
I take this opportunity to show some photos that I took recently. I am not a professional photographer and simply take the shutter with passion and curiosity, to capture memories, daily lives and culture in places I have been. Each place has its unique and incomparable character, but it helps me shape the good memories of my own culture. The trends of cultural convergence between countries are increasing with globalization. But what I learn is that diversity makes us stronger and new culture makes life more colorful.
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