The reaction was always the same- a quizzical facial expression accompanied by the immediate response, “Why Thailand?” However, the unique reaction certainly fit the destination. No matter how many books you study, movies you observe, or internet searches you investigate-your first step into Thailand will surely surprise you with its ability to disprove all of your previous knowledge.
June 14, 2007 was the first day of a lifetime filled with unique vacations that would drastically tear me out of my secure, comfortable element of a small suburban town in California. Following the life changing vacation, I no longer wanted to bask in the sunshine on the California coast, attend inspiring Broadway shows in New York City, or even journey to Miami for frivolous shopping sprees. No, a new passion was sparked-I wanted to explore the world, with a great desire to visit those places that may seem even the most peculiar.
Twenty-one hours after our departure out of SFO, my parents and I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. Despite an immense amount of fatigue, stepping into the humid Bangkok air immediately awakened our senses. Considering the international travelers that flock to Bangkok from different time zones combined with a population of 15 million-Bangkok is truly the city that never sleeps. I have learned, however, that there is absolutely no time for sleep when you immerse yourself into a destination with a culture shock you were never quite prepared for. In a bustling city so unique, you find calm wonderlands where temples reside, gritty, street markets filled with authentic Thai items-from soap-carved flowers to street fried Thai food, and even in the most questionable parts of the city, the Thai love for luxury can be witnessed- from diamonds to designer handbags. After trying to absorb every aspect of the Bangkok lifestyle, the inevitable time arrived when must say our goodbyes to the city and continue our journey.
Just when you think you are accustomed to the Thai life, you are once again dumbfounded upon arriving in Phuket. Phuket is a luscious paradise that is profoundly simple. Taking into account that it was June, monsoon season, we were greeted with an empty, secluded beach. The remnants of what were once busy beach bars lined the sand, along with wild, yet harmless dogs looking for affection and the presence of undeniably beautiful flora. A peaceful drive around the island whispers hidden treasures, such as a religious showcase of artificial elephants and breathtaking views. Phuket is the epitome of tropical seclusion in the most unexpected place.
Our last stop on the Thailand tour was Chiang Mai, a city known for its mountainous beauty and concentrated culture. We arrived in the evening, and as you drive through the city you are engulfed with the images of bright markets offering the only hint of light in the dark of the night. One is overcome by a deep melancholy curiosity and can’t help but wonder how exactly our cultures differ or if the native people hold foreign secrets to match the foreign destination. Regal elephant rides and market bartering fill our days as we try to sincerely absorb the culture before it is time to depart not only Chiang Mai, but Thailand-the country that forever changed my life.
Honestly, when my mom mentioned Thailand, I too, reacted with the same unusual thoughts. But clearly, my first assumptions have never been more wrong. I depart Thailand with a new outlook-the foreign destinations that cause a nervous curiosity and force you out of your comfort zone, will forever be the greatest destinations due to the undeniable resulting knowledge and maturity.
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