I can’t believe it–we’re finally onto the last country we visited in Southeast Asia! We’ve been home for three months, but sometimes, it still seems like just yesterday. Thailand is a magnificent place. When we visited there last winter, we knew we needed to spend more time exploring this beautiful country, so we made it a priority on our itinerary this time around to include several Thai cities. We actually hoped to see even more of Thailand, but nevertheless, we managed to visit Phuket and Koh Phi Phi last year, and Chiang Mai, Koh Chang and Bangkok this year. Here are some things we learned along the way…
1.) Thailand in the only country in Southeast Asia that has never been colonized. That’s quite a feat when you look around and see the fate of Thailand’s neighbors–every other country in the area fell into the hands of European powers at some point in their history. Because of this, Thai people refer to their country as “land of the free.”
2.) Thailand is a monarchy, and Thai people really love and respect the royal family. It is considered very rude and disrespectful to say anything negative about a member of the royal family, and Thai people take great offense to Westerner’s who make fun of this reverence. Portraits and statues of the royal family can be found all over the country–mounted on street lights, sitting in front of government buildings, etc.
3.) Thailand medical care is top notch–especially compared to its neighbors. People come from all over Asia to use Thai hospitals and receive high-quality care. This bit will be important to our story later…stay tuned.
4.) Thailand has the most tourists of any country in Southeast Asia. I’m not entirely sure why this is, except that maybe its just the most well-known. It’s not as cheap as some of its neighbors (Laos, Cambodia), and the beaches are very beautiful, but there are beautiful beaches in Malaysia and Vietnam too. In my opinion, Thailand is a bit of a gateway into Southeast Asia–people come for the resorts and beaches, and then they find out Southeast Asia isn’t as dirty or scary as they imagined, and their interest in the other countries in the area is piqued. Sadly, some parts of Thailand are annoyingly overrun with tourists and backpackers.
5.) Thailand is nicknamed “The Land of Smiles” because of the friendly locals. However, some people come to Thailand expecting the Thai people to be very tolerant of their bad behavior (skimpy dress, public drunkenness, etc.) because of the “friendly locals” reputation. While friendly, Thai people do not turn a blind eye to these offensive acts, and they most definitely will not just sit and smile at you if you are being disrespectful. It bothered me that some people seemed to take advantage of Thai’s friendliness, and in the process make Westerners look bad. Don’t be that person! End rant.
So there you have it–Thailand in a nutshell. Tomorrow we’ll start things off in Chiang Mai, a quaint town in the Northern part of Thailand. Get excited–I had both the best and worst days of our trip in Chiang Mai, within two days of each other. It was a whirlwind of emotion–but more on that later!