A friend here in Nichada had a horrible problem with ants coming into her home. She found two very large ant hills in her front yard and called maintenance to have them destroyed. However, the maintenance men, rather than spraying the ant hills or putting ant poison in & around her home, insisted on "relocating" the ants. Yes, you read right. Relocating. Apparently, there is a lot of relocating that goes on here... snakes, rats, stray cats, soi dogs, etc. The Thais are very reluctant to harm or kill any animal because of a connection to its soul. As a friend recently told me, the rat that was in my garbage can last week could have very well been someone's mother who did not do too well in a previous life and is still in the Buddhist cycle of death & rebirth. It is impossible to find a vet here who will put a pet to sleep, regardless of how sick and in pain the animal might be. I guess that is one reason there are so many disease-ridden soi dogs running around on their last legs (literally).
Another interesting, and much more pleasant, sight are the spirit houses that can be found all over Thailand. I know, "spirit houses" sounds like bad grammar; however, even plural, they are never "spirit homes". Spirit houses are found all over Thailand and you will see at least one (usually many more) on every street in Bangkok. The Thai people believe that when a new home, business or hotel is built, the spirits that previously occupied that space are left homeless. If the spirits are left homeless for too long, they will become very angry and bring their wrath upon the new occupants of the property who will suffer bad luck, accidents and other troubles. The Thai solution to this is to pacify the spirits by offering them a new place, a spirit house, to call home. The spirit house is built to house and honor the former spirits so they look favorably upon the new inhabitants and bring them health, prosperity and happiness during their time on the property.
A spirit house is essentially a shrine. It is a small building (looks very much like a dollhouse) that is built on columns or on an altar in a corner of the property. A spirit house is typically built after much consultation with and the blessing of a Brahman priest or a Buddhist monk. Some of the spirit houses I have seen are large and ornate, others are very small and plain. The Thais honor the spirits with the traditional wai greeting and leave daily gifts at the house.
From what I have read about spirit houses, the hardest part is trying to keep the spirits happy! The spirits prefer their houses to be as big and as eye-catching as possible. The daily offerings to the spirits typically include food, drinks, garlands of flowers, figurines, candles, and incenses. Vendors sell all of these items right on the street so there is never an excuse not to make an offering! The figurines placed might be men/women to be company for the spirits or there might be figurines of horses/elephants which the spirits will use as transport. Some of the more progressive spirit houses have toy cars and plastic jet planes offered. Some owners decorate their spirit houses with Christmas lights which are to help guide the spirits home after a night on the town. The larger and more elaborate spirit houses are really a sight to see!
In fact, what gave me the idea to write about this topic was this spirit house (photo below) that we saw downtown on Sunday. This is, by far, the largest and most elaborate spirit house I have seen. Some spirit houses downtown or around Nichada are fancier (scroll down for more photos) but this one was so big and had so many offerings placed on it that a table had to be set up for the overflow.
Below are some more spirit houses from around Bangkok.
A quick "edit" to add that Burma, Cambodia, and Laos are other countries in southeast Asia that honor spirits with spirit houses. It is not just a Thai belief.