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A haircut in Thailand

Updated on March 21, 2009

A hairy experience

In between contracts at international schools, I decided to spend a few months working in Thailand, teaching in a Thai High School.  It was the first time for a while that I lived like a local and not like an expat.  I did not get expat housing, but lived in a Thai house in a Thai Soi (lane).  I got paid a slightly higher than local Thai salary.  Enough to get by on if you lived like the locals, but no luxuries.

The weather was hot.  Stinking hot and Thai houses do not have air conditioners.  Rather, you have to sit surrounded by electric fans.  I thought having shorter hair would be a lot cooler, so I decided to be brave and try a local hairdresser, not far from our house.  Siobhan, my youngest daughter,  went with me to watch.  We waited for about an hour while the hairdresser completed a pedicure and manicure on another customer.  Just when I thought it was going to be my turn, she started doing a manicure on someone else.  She gave me a stack of books with hairstyles to choose from.  I flicked through the pages of Japanese styles, and saw nothing remotely like I wanted.  I am definitely not the cutey cutey Japanese hairstyle type.  Somehow, I don't think that looking like an Anime character from a Japanese comic book would suit me. 

Mosquitoes were coming in squadrons through the open door, and all decided to feast on farang (foreigner) flesh.  They avoided Siobhan like she had the plague, and went for my bare legs.  My legs are already covered in bites and scabs and I thought I'd be leaving Thailand physically scarred for life.  So, I sat there, waiting, scratching and hitting my legs until it was my turn to receive the hairdresser's attention.  The first thing that struck me, was that she could speak a little bit of English.  Her parents had moved to Switzerland 20 years ago to work, and I think they came to visit from time to time. 

The second thing, was that she was the first hairdresser I'd ever encountered, who did not wet or dampen the hair before commencing to cut it.  No spray of a fine mist of water, nothing.  She just combed my hair, stuck in some brightly coloured pegs and started to cut.  When I was brave enough to open my eyes and watch what she was doing, I saw that she had the biggest collection of different kinds of pairs of scissors that I'd ever seen.  She would use one pair and do a few cuts, then exchange it for another pair, and so on.  Then, she picked up a cutthroat razor, no electric shaver for her, and trimmed my neck.  I was rather nervous when I watched her put a new blade in as it looked very sharp.  Anyway, the only blood was from the mosquito bites I'd scratched on my legs.  I looked in the mirror and it looked like one of the better haircuts I'd ever had. 

As my hair had never been wet throughout the whole procedure, imagine my surprise when she picked up a large blowdryer and plugged it in.  I soon realised that the blowdryer was not to be used on my hair, the hair still on my head that is!  She carefully blew away all my pieces of hair off the towel around my shoulders, onto the floor.  And, for that hour and a half's entertainment, I only paid $1!  Thailand really is cheap! Who wants to live like an expat and pay expat prices!


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    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      A true Brazilian then! lol When you live overseas you sometimes have to be brave. My friend has lovely long thick hair, slightly wavy. She went to a hairdreser here in China who put on some special stuff to straighten her hair, and she left all upset looking like she was wearing one of Cher's wigs!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      9 years ago from France

      Very brave of you! It is amazing how cheap can hairdressers and beauty treatments in general can be in some countries. I am not sure I would brave my "locks" to a foreign hairdresser, but I would certainly try the beauty treatments, such as manicures and massages.

      My bravest experience in that field? A full wax (and I mean FULL, never been so hairless in my life) I had in Brazil. I never even new that I had hair in some "obscure places" LOL

    • cindyvine profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Vine 

      9 years ago from Cape Town

      Hi Mr Nice, I was staying in Petchaburi which is a very small town. Don't think it qualifies as a city! It's amazing, as a tourist in Thailand you spend 20 000 baht a week, but living as a local 20 000 baht lasts you a month!

      Bill, I saw some of those sreet barbers in Hanoi. You could sit and get a shave and a beer from the same guy on the side of the street!

    • bill komissaroff profile image

      bill komissaroff 

      9 years ago from Portland O

      I had a similar experience while traveling in Vietnam.  I decided to get my head and face shaved from a street barber in Hanoi.  His razor was sharp; he spoke no English; and he was very nervous.  Ultimately he did great and I got a great shave plus a terrific picture.

      Good stuff.

    • Mr Nice profile image

      Mr Nice 

      9 years ago from North America

      Hi cindy!

      I enjoyed your hub but you should have mentioned what city in Thailand. I visit Thailand often & stay in Bangkok. Some of the things you mentioned I guess you were in a small city. Bangkok's standard is very high but still very cheap.

      This summer I went to a hairdresser too, very nice & air-conditioned lot of magazines. My waiting time was an hour because there were two people before me. Hair cut was very professional & excellent. After the hair cut, the girl gave massage to my head, neck & shoulders every thing was for $1.

      Every other day I had 1 1/2 hour of full body massage for only $2 but I always paid $3. I love Thailand, Mosquitoes is a problem but it all depends where you stay in Thailand. If you live in a house & have an air conditioner then there is no problem. We have the same problem here too in most of the hot cities during summer.


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