Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Thoughts on Thailand

Well, I’m exhausted and my bed is calling me, but it’s only 5pm, so I’m trying anything I can think of to keep myself from surrendering to its power because it’s just too early. It’s a good kind of tired. We just got in from an amazing vacation in Thailand. A much needed and very energizing journey to our western neighbor that was so packed full of adventure that I’m now home and totally exhausted! In effort to stay up until at least 8:00 (or 6:00), I’ve been sorting through photos, editing pictures, washing some clothes, and catching up on things like blogs and facebook. I decided my blog needed an update as well. But since I’m way too tired to think very clearly right now, forgive me as I stumble through the thoughts here. Here’s the short version of my impression of Thailand, and I promise more photos will come, and they may or may not include more comments.

First stop: BANGKOK
View of one side of Bangkok from our hotel roof
Facts - Capital of Thailand and city of 12-15 million people, depending on who you ask and who is counting. (Phnom Penh has about 2 million) North of Phnom Penh but still warm year round and has rivers and canals running through it, which flooded just a couple months ago (thus cancelling our first planned trip to Thailand).

My impression – Didn’t care much for it, honestly. I thought it looked like any big city in America and felt much like it, too. In fact, I think from the cities I’ve visited (which aren’t too, too many), I’d compare it to Los Angeles. In the city there are very wealthy areas where the elite live and then there are the poor areas where markets are set up on the streets and vendors are selling food and clothes to anyone along a dirty canal. There is a good metro system in place but we didn’t use it so I can’t say much about it. Lots of night clubs, but we didn’t see those, either. Mostly we just saw some awesome fashion trends – from the fabulous to the oddly mysterious to everything in between and also hair styles of all kinds. It was obvious that there was a large affluent population there. Stephen commented that there were more overweight people there than in Cambodia, too. Definitely true. And when I get to talk to you about food, I’ll show you why in photos. The food was great. They had all the Western fast food chains, and even some more upscale places like Outback and stuff and then all the Thai places, too. The malls were amazing. I was so excited to be in a place I could actually try on clothes – in a real dressing room as opposed to the market where if I do ever try something on it is only while the girl holds up a tiny towel while I change behind it. Frustrating thing was, just like in LA, I couldn’t afford anything in any of the stores! Not a chance!

And the people all tried to con us. Tuk tuk drivers, tour guides, even the concierge at our nice hotel! We had read about their “tricks” and quite a few were pulled on us. Good thing we didn’t fall for any of them. It just was so frustrating to be in a place where we couldn’t trust anyone enough to even ask something simple as how to say a Thai word or to point us in the right direction of some place we were going. Everyone was out to scam us. I hated that and I was ready to get out of there.

Next stop: CHIANG MAI

Overlook of Chiang Mai, Thailand from the temple on the mountain

Facts: Largest city in northern Thailand, in the mountains, pretty far from Bangkok, at least a full day’s drive. Apparently it has over 300 Buddhist temples. Lots of Thai hill tribes (sort of like American Indians are to Americans) live in the mountains around the city.

My impression – Love at first sight. It was beautiful. We were supposed to take a train into the city but long story short, tickets were sold out, so we had to fly. I was in love before our plane started descending. Mountains surround a city that in ancient times had a wall and a moat around it. It’s gorgeous. And the people were much nicer. The Thai people take much pride in Chiang Mai. At the airport when we told people we were going there they were all proud of us. It was here that we had to design an excel spreadsheet to account for every hour of each day to squeeze in all the things we wanted to do. We got to see a night safari of animals, go to an ancient temple on the top of a mountain, visit beautiful waterfalls, take part in an umbrella festival in a province where they make paper umbrellas, ride elephants in a jungle, see elephants put on a show where they painted pictures, played soccer and more, and see monkeys do a show, too. I have lots to share about Chiang Mai. We didn’t want to leave.

But we had to. And we took an overnight train for 14 hours back to Bangkok last night. We each shared a sleeper bed with one kid, so neither of us grown ups slept at all. Then we boarded a plane and came home. So we are tired. And now I think it’s getting a bit closer to being an acceptable time to climb in my bed, watch a little TV, and then drift off to dream about the wonderful vacation we had in Chiang Mai.

I hope you are as excited as I am!

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