All through my life, I have had a passion to travel. I have been very fortunate to travel to many parts of the United States, and beyond. Through my travels, I have dealt with flight delays and cancelations, damaged baggage, family conflicts, and car problems.
These ups and downs have shaped my perspective of travel and are something to look back at. However, I took one very unique and empowering trip in late 2006. My trip to Thailand opened the door to the developing world for me, helped me count my blessings, and demonstrated the importance of government regulation.For my winter break vacation, I headed for Bangkok, Thailand with my father, as he was attending a conference.
Upon our arrival in Bangkok late in the evening, we had to join the crowds at immigration/customs. Upon leaving the airport after midnight, from the comfort of our taxicab, I witnessed first hand the lack of structure in Thailand. I saw a pick up truck on a major highway packed with about ten people in the back.
After I first saw this, I was afraid that Thailand wouldn’t be safe and enjoyable. Nonetheless, we headed for our hotel and got rested for the morning. When I woke up, I found myself at a very elegant hotel on the river in Bangkok that offered just about every service and amenity known to man.
After a delightful breakfast, Dad and I decided to explore the immediate vicinity surrounding our hotel prior to his conference. Shortly after stepping off the hotel grounds, I noticed the big gap between the atmosphere in the hotel and on the streets of Bangkok. Our hotel was clean, attractive, and packed with servile employees that appeared to enjoy their jobs.
Shortly after I stepped off the hotel grounds, I experienced a contrast from the hotel grounds to the streets. In the hotel, everything looked wonderful, and affluent tourists appeared to be having a good time. Yet outside the hotel, the streets were crowded with people working long hours, in extreme heat simply trying to get by.
Street vendors were everywhere selling virtually anything-peanuts and potatoes, CDs, knock off bags, or designer shirts. Tuk-tuks, a semi enclosed cart like taxi appeared at every street corner with friendly, English-speaking drivers soliciting tourists with rides to anywhere at extremely cheap rates. These merchants demonstrate that many of the Thai are willing to work hard with hopes to provide better for themselves and their families.
However, many of the street vendors were my age, and likely did not attend school. This is significant because with out a formal education, there are few opportunities to get ahead in the global economy.I like to contrast the streets of Bangkok to the streets of London or New York City. In London, high-end retailers galore pack Regents Street and big black taxi cabs are always available.
New York City offers TV studios on Broadway, and many fine retailers on Fifth Avenue. After calling to mind the differences in other cities, I was able to relate to Bangkok as a densely populated working city, while other cities I had been to were shopping, entertainment, and business cities. I had an excellent time seeing the Grand Palace, the Wat Pho which contains the acclaimed reclining Buddha, dining in the restaurants, and embracing the Thai culture. The Thai are very friendly, outgoing, and service minded. Their customary greeting is very interesting to me; they place the palms of their hands together and bow their head as way to show respect. After spending a week in Bangkok seeing the Buddha temples, visiting museums, and shopping it was time to head home.
Upon leaving for the airport for our early morning flight I was deep in thought about my trip and how it affected me. Upon boarding our flight at the Bangkok airport, I recalled how lucky I am to travel to such an interesting place. While on the airplane home, I was able to better appreciate all of the opportunities I have been presented such as a free public education, loving family, and a safe and comfortable home. Seeing Bangkok was a very empowering experience for me and has helped me want to become more involved in fighting global poverty. Since returning home, I joined the Global Citizen Corps to become involved in fighting global poverty in the developing world. Not only did this trip stimulate my interest to fight global poverty, it has also demonstrated the importance of studying abroad.
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