Leaving Thailand was one of those times when the universe feels like it’s conspiring against us in a new country: No internet upon our arrival in Indonesia so we were unable to work, disabled ATM cards in the midst of a long bank holiday back home and no option to unfreeze them, a wallet accidentally locked in the room safe for 3 days until someone with the master key could be found… For those first few days in Indonesia, I struggled to remember: Why in the world did we leave beautiful, friendly, easy Thailand?
I realize that we’ve written nothing, zilch, nada, about our 2.5 months in Thailand, and here we are, already onto our next island adventure. Perhaps a nice photo gallery and a few comments will suffice to get us back on schedule…
Due to shorter visa allowances, we find ourselves moving at a faster pace here in Southeast Asia, no more than a month in each house.
Friendly, outgoing, comfortable with foreigners: a guide pointed out the country has never been colonized and sits on ancient trading routes, so foreigners are by default easily integrated into their culture. We also found them to be generous with each other. On the subway in Bangkok, we saw – more than once – people defer to others when a seat opened up. “No, you take it.” “No, I insist – please sit!”
We arrived a few weeks after Thailand’s most recent military coup, and while we were in the country, the military inaugurated the coup’s leader as the newest prime minister. After talking to several expats, opinions were mixed; we didn’t meet any Thais with sufficient English to get a feel but I understand the country’s political parties tend to divide geographically between the rural north and wealthier elite in the south near/around Bangkok.
We didn’t experience many effects – the curfews were canceled before we arrived – but the English language newspapers reported a heavy crackdown on corruption, and we saw the immediate impact when the military moved onto the beach near us and oversaw the dismantling of illegal tacky restaurants and for-rent lounge chairs under every bit of palm-tree shade. The next day we walked onto a pristine tropical beach devoid of any manmade features save lifeguard stands.
Loved it! Many of the dishes in Thai restaurants in America are good copies of what we found in Thailand. We also found many more dishes, although frankly many of my favorite dishes have been exported and we were already familiar with them: pad thai, tom ka gai soup, shredded papaya salad…. Twice I got dishes so spicy I thought my taste buds might not recover.
There was a variety between the landlocked north and the seafaring south. Phuket has its own regional dishes, heavy with Chinese influence since Thais hadn’t populated the hilly southern portion of the island (too steep for rice production) before a Chinese labor migration began in the 1800s with the discovery of tin. I still drool a little when I think of those spicy shredded fish balls from the food cart…
It’s now been a few weeks since we arrived in Indonesia and she’s gradually eased up on us. Nonetheless, I’ll leave you with a few more photos of Thailand which I hope will show why we still think back fondly on our time in the Land of 1,000 Smiles.
[There are captions on the photos below. If you click on them you can move back and forward like a slideshow.]