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After a mentally and physically exhausting two week mission trip, my team and I were beyond ready to enjoy some well-earned fun in the city of Chaig Mai, Thailand. That morning we left the small town where we were working, Sawankhalok, full of anticipation. The weather was gorgeous, the scenery was spectacular and both were foreshadowing the awesome day ahead of us. Little did I know this would end up being an eye opener to the beauty of the Thai culture.
First, we headed straight for the night bazaar upon arriving in Chaing Mai. The Asian ambiance was almost overwhelming, the rustic music blaring, elaborate decor draped over the many stands, a gorgeous tropical sunset in the background and the chatter of a foreign language. After a bit of practice, we learned the best way to get a low price on goods was to chit chat with the salesperson first. At the beginning, this was to my annoyance since I just wanted the straight forward price. But in actuality, it says a lot about Thai culture. It’s not just about business; it’s about relationship. After some great conversations with locals and with bags full of trinkets to take home, we all met up in the food court to enjoy one of our last meals of authentic pad Thai. And let me tell you, once you try it there, you will never enjoy any American replica EVER again. And to top the night off, out whole group went and got a massage together. The prices are extremely inexpensive and the Thai hospitality from my masseuse made it that much more comfortable and relaxing. After that night, I sure did love Thai people and their kindness.
After a glorious night’s rest, we woke up early to explore some more of Thailand’s rich culture. This country’s Buddhist heritage dates centuries back. As a typical 21st century high schooler, I honestly couldn’t have cared less about touring a Buddhist monastery. Despite my negative attitude, I was in awe upon walking in this culturally sacred building. The essence of the room itself was one of reverence. The Thai people truly treated that building as a place of worship, a place that was not to be tainted or corrupted. Though I had never cared before, I began to grasp the importance of these beliefs to the Thai people and therefore began to see value in their culture.
Our last, but definitely most anticipated activity before we needed to head to the airport was our elephant rides. Again, this originated as just a fun pastime. But, I never could’ve imagined how incredible and majestic these animals could be. Towering a good 7 feet above me, I could not have had more admiration for these intriguing animals. Consequently, something that I thought would just be entertaining became an activity that helped me gain an appreciation and respect for a country and an animal that I never would have thought twice about the day before.
Altogether, it’s crazy how a day that was just meant to pass the time before our flight turned out to help me see a culture in a way that you will never get from learning about it from a class, textbook or website. I appreciate the hospitality, beliefs and even the wildlife of Thailand even more than I ever thought possible. A country that most teens couldn’t even locate on a map now has a special place in my heart. I’m so looking toward to going back to Chaing Mai in the future.