Goodbye Thailand

I will be honest, our initial impression of Thailand was not love at first sight (except for the food, it was fantastic from day one).

But coming from Bali we couldn’t avoid comparing the adjustment. We arrived in Bangkok; it was hot as hell, we were tricked by a tuk tuk, it was grimy and crowded, all the expats with young girls made me feel awkward; and although we didn’t hate it, we didn’t love it.

It did make me curious, however, I knew there was more to it.

Little by little we got to talk with locals, we were seduced by the sunsets in the Gulf Islands, and we started to understand it better until finally, we headed north and we couldn’t avoid falling in love. We were sold!

Unfortunately, after two and a half months this affair has come to an end.

Like Lisa Aubin said:

“Travelling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station”

Today we are saying our goodbyes to Thailand and our Sa bai dee (hello) to LAOS!

Crossing the Mekong River from Thailand to Laos

Here are some of the things we came to know about Thailand:

People have a strong sense of patriotism and adore their King. You will see flags and pictures of the King everywhere you go, in every business, in the streets, in remote villages, all over! In several public places they play the national anthem and everyone stands and stops what they are doing with great admiration and honor. This happened to us in the train station in Bangkok and in the movie theater before watching The Dark Night Rises.

Thais are very friendly and keen to help. I have many stories that make me think this way; a guy stopping on his bike when we looked lost, helping us with directions; the many people I asked to take a picture of and receiving a nod and a smile every time; the young students coming to chat with us in a restaurant; the women at the market; the cooks from our favorite local restaurant always making conversation and being friendly; and the list goes on and on. I am convinced Thais have a big heart. It is hard to communicate, but they will always try to help and smile.

There is an interesting subculture of expats. We had the opportunity to hang out with many expats, most of them business owners and some our neighbors in Chiang Mai. I will keep their personal stories private, but in general they seem to keep to themselves and each has a fascinating story of how they came to live in Thailand. Although some spend most of their lives here, they can never feel same as the local Thais and the communication barrier is big, so they have created their own kind of culture. We really enjoyed our time hanging out with them and loved listening to all their stories. This was one of our favorite memories!

You get great value for your money: Five dollars for a one hour massage; less than two dollars for amazing food;  inexpensive transportation: four dollars per day for a motorbike, one-two dollar taxis; inexpensive accommodation with all the services like cable, A/C, hot water: ten to twenty dollars a night; unique opportunities to get real close to animals like tigers and elephants, caving, scuba diving, etc.

It is developed.  We got this impression from the beginning, but confirmed it during our last week when we visited the little towns on the border of Laos and Burma to see some of the “real” hill tribes. They definitely have a simple life and are self-sufficient. They farm and are far away from civilization, but they have TV’s and cable antennas, they know and are used to foreigners, and are far from uncivilized tribes like the ones on national geographic.

In the cities, iPhones and iPods are a common thing, there are plenty of bars and restaurants not so different from the ones we hang out in California. People dress well, live a good quality of life, and travel like any other people in the world.

Thailand has a great health care system. It is divided into three programs: The universal healthcare for Thai nationals where people pay ONE dollar. Social Security for private employees and finally, there are private hospitals financed by patient self-payment and private insurance.

Overall we got a good sample of how things are around here:  First in Bangkok, from there to the south at the Gulf Islands, later to the north in Chiang Mai where we rented an apartment and used it as our home base for almost two months. From CM we went to Chiang Rai to see the most surreal temples in Thailand.

Finally, we spent the last week around Pai and the border of Burma at Cave Lodge.

In the next couple of posts I will tell you more and how we ended our stay with the most thrilling part of all!

Our last day in Chiang Mai

Related posts:

Exploring Lombok Island
Border Run and Palm Reading in Myanmar
Little Known Wild Adventure in Thailand
Angkor Wat Avoiding the Crowds

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