I’m back from my month-long adventure in Thailand and I’m not too happy about it. China is cold and damp, and grey while Thailand was filled with amazing food, clear skies, green jungles and warm temps.
Thailand is so close, and so cheap I can’t believe it took me so long to actually go there. I realized that most of the other westerners had paid thousands of dollars and had suffered a long plane trip to get there while I just had a hop, skip and jump for just a few hundred.
I traveled all over the country, by train, VIP bus (which was hella nice) and plane. I started in Bangkok, headed north spending time in the ancient cities of Ayutthaya and Sukothai. Stayed in Chiang Mai enjoying the jungles and mountains before flying down south to hit the famous beaches in Phuket Island. Then I finished with a few days in Bangkok again.
I went to Thailand without knowing anything, so everything was new and exciting to me. This is what I learned:
They Have a King!
And not just any king, but the longest reigning monarch in the world. (Take that, Queen!) Thailand is a democracy, just like England, but it seems the King has a bit more power than his British counterpart. Secretly, members of the royal family might be messing with politics more than is known, but for the most part, the king is really loved. I went to a movie theatre and before the film started they played a little video of the king and everyone in the theatre stood. His image is also everywhere, on clock towers, and major intersections and all schools, hospitals, tourist sites and everything.
Thai Ice Tea is a Thing!
It’s not just a tourist thing, but a real drink Thai’s drink all the time. (Though technically it’s called milk tea in Thailand.) And ohmygoditissogood! I seriously drank at least 2, ice cold cups a day despite it being about 50% sugar. But damn it was worth it.
There is also something called Thai lemon tea, which is the same tea, with sugar, but instead of the cream and milk, they add fresh cut lemons. If, on the rare occasion I didn’t have a milk tea, I had one of these. I bought some tea at a market that the lady told me “is the tea from Thai ice tea” so I’m dying to try to make some myself.
Pad Thai is Less of a Thing
While pad thai is definitely a dish you can eat just about anywhere in Thailand, it’s not a big thing. A few of my Thai friends told me they prefer noodle soup over pad thai. But you can still get it at most restaurants and food stalls. And I even learned how to make it myself when I took a cooking course (I also learned how to make curry from scratch!)
I added a new category to my travel budget this trip; massages! I mean, China already has some really good, really cheap massages, but Thai is even more awesome if not a bit more awkward. The traditional Thai massage is a full body workout. The lady gets on the table with you and basically takes control of your entire body and isn’t afraid to go there. Jamming your elbow into her boobs? Sure. Pressing all over your pelvis area? Why not. It’s not at all sexy, your usually in a room with several other people, but she pulls body parts, rocks you, throws herself on your back, stretching you out. Those ladies are strong!
When I wasn’t quite in the mood for being tossed around a bed I opted for the foot massage which was heavenly, especially after a long day of hiking or walking around. They were so cheap, even compared to China, that I got several. One every few days.
I’m never wearing this shirt again!
I made the mistake of bringing my shirt emblazoned with ‘Canada’ across it. I have never given this shirt a second thought. I bought it in China, it was cheap and has weird English on the back, and no one in China actually reads shirts.
But in Thailand, not only did everyone read it but commented on it.
“We’re winning the olympics!” some guy said at a bar giving me a high five.
“What part?” someone said in the hostel hallways.
“Bonjour,” said an artist working on a graphic novel in the park of a temple. (He was French-Canadian.)
It got quite annoying when the touts got in on it. “Canada! Hey Canada! You want taxi? Where you going Canada?” Even my friend got sucked into my Canadian world. In China I have a Thai friend (the guy with the ‘I Heart Bangkok’ shirt in the above pic) and we hung out on Khaosan Road in Bangkok one night. There are a ton of hawkers selling tailored suits and the guy approached my Thai friend and said, “hey, I have a friend from Canada and he blah, blah, blah.” The guy followed us down the street for a minute and my friend and I just kinda looked at each other and laughed. The seller picked up on it.
“You’re not from Canada?” he asked.
“Oh, well my friend went to America after he went to Canada!” he continued without missing a beat.
Land of Smiles
The unofficial motto of Thailand is the land of smiles, and I’ll agree with it. Not so much the city, but outside Bangkok people were really friendly, even if they couldn’t speak English. One day I was in an ancient city of Ayutthaya, on a small boat going around to some ancient temples. As we motored around in tiny canals between yards and houses, everyone that was outside, or in a doorway, waved to us. And not a small shy wave, or a flippant thing, but a big toothy grin and a hearty wave. And when you caught someones eye they just smiled at you which is a nice contrast to the coldness between strangers in china.
I also met a ton of travelers which was fun. I’ll admit, meeting people in Thailand wasn’t as easy as it was in other places. Most travelers came with someone, or a group of people, and didn’t really seem to socialize much. But that didn’t keep me from finding the solo travelers, or more social ones and my weixin and Facebook has a bunch of new contacts. I love how technology helps travelers keep in touch.
I also got to practice my chinese. A large bulk, maybe half, of the travelers were Chinese. (It was their national week-long holiday after all, while most westerners are back at work.) Of course no one expected me to speak Chinese and I’ll admit that it was fun to shock people. When I was getting a massage the guy next to me was speaking chinese, telling the lady where he was from and such. (Many workers in Thailand can speak Chinese because of all the chinese travelers.)
“I’m from China too,” I said in Chinese.
“Aiyah!” said the woman.
“What a surprise!” said the guy.
Heh heh heh. I don’t learn Chinese to use as a party trick, but it is a good one sometime.
Anyway, it was a great trip but only fueled my desire to see more of southeast asia now that I know it’s not full of douchey travelers, and a perfect place to escape to in the winter.
I’m just gonna do a few posts on Thailand, to show some pictures of things like the amazing temples (which are totally different than China) and some more of the food and then go back to my regularly scheduled China posts. It’s my last semester before going to a new city, and I already have a lot to say!
Also, if you could take a moment and vote for me in the Lotus Blossom Award. I’m not sure when voting ends but it would really mean a lot. Thanks so much!!