In Thailand, never criticise the king or the royal family. The Lonely Planet says so and every traveller you meet agrees that it’s a bad idea to get into that subject. The Thai truly love him and it would be ill-advised to say bad things about him.
When you are in Thailand, there are pictures of him and members of his family almost everywhere you look, from the more formal ones with his royal attire to more informal ones doing day-to-day things or activities related to the place that you are visiting. They even have comic books about his life and works!
Notice the smiley faces in the crowd behind him :).
But it goes deeper than that, in times of struggle, the Thai turn to their beloved Rama IX for counsel. It is a well-known fact that if there is a coup, the government will only be overthrown if the coup has the king’s blessing. Otherwise, it will fail.
That is all and well but what if I have more mundane problems and I want to know what would the king do? Let’s say I want to buy a camera and I’m undecided about which brand or model is the best. I may think “Gee! What camera would King Bhumibol recommend?”.
Some things lose their meaning as you travel East, other radically change their meaning. Take this roadsign for example:
In Western Europe it usually means that there is some kind of roadworks ahead, probably taking one lane of the road you are riding. From Romania tu Turkey it means that you are in for some traffic jam and alternate circulation for probably a hundred km. I don’t really know what it could mean in Georgia because I have never seen it. Up to now, the meaning is about the same but when you get to Russia, it starts getting more difficult to decode. So far, I think it means “some time ago, this road has been worked on and there may be a better bit ahead” whereas in Kazakhstan it gets more philosophical. In Kazakhstan, the presence of this sign just means that there is a red triangular sign with a black worker holding a black shovel drawn on it by the side of the road. It gives absolutely no indication about the future characteristics of the road.
Another sign that completely lost its meaning after the Russian border is this one:
Even when it is accompanied by a “15 km” panel.
Other signs that are usually useless in Western Europe should actually be put at the entrance of the country together with the ones announcing the local top speeds. I’m talking about this one:
It starts in Romania but then in Georgia, they’ve just given up using it.
By the time you get to Kazakhstan, it’s a whole different thing…