Leaving Thailand: What Were We Thinking?!

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…

The Place

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.

A month in Phuket (tourist surf town… humid…great cottage and easy to scoot around on our rented Honda motorbike)

A month in Phuket: Over-developed tourist surf area… humid…great cottage and easy to scoot around on our rented Honda motorbike

A few days in Chiang Mai (nice-sized city rich with Thai history, an impressive density of Buddhist temples, and a very international community)

A few days in Chiang Mai: Nice-sized city rich with Thai history, an impressive density of Buddhist temples, and a very international expat community

A month in Pai (tiny mountain village 20+ miles from the Myanmar border, smack dab in the middle of rice fields rolling mountains)

A month in Pai: Tiny mountain village 20+ miles from the Myanmar border, smack dab in the middle of rice fields and rolling mountains

A week in Bangkok: We had our first tailoring experience here, a "research" effort to figure out the process and potential pitfalls prior to Vietnam.

A final week in Bangkok: We had our first tailoring experience here, a “research” effort to figure out the process and potential pitfalls prior to Vietnam.

The People

Preferred seating for monks on Bangkok's mass transit

Preferred seating for monks on Bangkok’s mass transit

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!”

 

The Politics

Kata Beach cleanup as a result of Thailand's military coup

Kata Beach cleanup as a result of Thailand’s military coup

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.

The Food

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.

Fish balls in Old Phuket Town street food cart

Fish balls in Old Phuket Town street food cart

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.]

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6 comments

  1. . . a most enjoyable bit of vouyerism! 🙂

    1. It’s only fair… you let me peek into your garden on a regular basis!

  2. Land of 1,000 Smiles, when I read this I understood why the military leaders were smiling.(I’ve never seen a photo of smiling military! Your blogs are so interesting, including the links, such as the beautiful Buddhist gold murals and the Muay boxing history– a wonderful way to get a taste of a country.

    1. I tried to get a sense of Thai history by reading an academic tome on the subject. I only made it 1/3 of the way through the book… the problem is that looking up the story behind those murals is infinitely more engaging!!

  3. What great insights….and beautifully written. I know virtually nothing about the east so this is a nice glimpse for me. I certainly could relate to the no phone/wifi, no bank cards, etc…this world is not made for the outlier who travels. Yet we survive. We’ve got a few new challenges this week trying to find a new place…lots hanging in the balance … and our October group arrives in Dublin on 8th. Not enough time it seems but as always the universe does make a way. I have to just quit panicking.
    Sending love your way.

    1. Best of luck with the house hunting! I can’t believe it’s been a year since Danielle’s Ireland trip… I hope you have a great time with this group, too.

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