Right before I decided to start writing this post, I thought about simply writing about Thailand as a whole. However, because I spent as much time in Thailand as I did in Japan, I knew that would again result in a three or four part blog post. As such, I'm going to try to break up Thailand, by the two cities I stayed in: Bangkok and Chiangmai.
Bangkok is controlled chaos. The traffic is heavy, there are tons of cars, and the people have a frenetic ebb and flow. At the same time, there are BTS skytrains and metros that bring in a semblance of order to move people around. There are also glorious temples like Wat Pho (pearl of inlay on the feet of a reclining Buddha - reclining Buddhas are one of the common position of Buddha in Theravada Buddhism). Another highlight is Wat Phra Kaew which is the king's (insanely important to Thailand) palace and Emerald Buddha Temple. All of these I had a lot of fun with while dodging Chinese tourists and taking off my shoes everywhere. In terms of culture, cooking classes and food tours on Tuk-tuks were other wondrous moments. As such, I now have an aversion for paying top dollar for Thai food since it was often a $1.50 for Pad Thai that was better than any in the US. Furthermore, my own cooking was better than most of the food I have had in the US. This would also be my foray into Asian markets which I got so used to as it became the lifeblood of the regoin as people ate and bought ingredients in the markets.
I also had a hilarious time eating random food from random vendors with my broken Thai and having no idea what I was eating. This ended up being the start of me being comfortable with unpredictability, but I think I also got my case of worms from some of the street food (steer clear of grilled pork balls). Food is a lifeblood in Bangkok and Pad Thai in egg, Som Tam (spicy papaya salad), all the curries, and Tom Yum soup would begin to determine the Thai eating culture.
One of the day trips I made from Bangkok was Ayutthaya. I bicycled frequently around the old ancient capitol of Thailand (destroyed by the Burmese aka modern day Myanmar). This proved to be insanity because I had Thai hippie pants and it was hot and much farther to get around everywhere. If I had to do it again I would get a motorcycle, but I didn't know how to ride one....yet. Still, amazing set of culture to see in Bangkok.
Lastly, I have to talk about the world of ladyboys, sex culture and how that fits into Bangkok. It is rampant in certain parts of Bangkok. At the same time, you know exactly when you are in the red light district and the women are curious to meet you. On a different note, ladyboys can have regular jobs and be a functional part of society. There is a level of comfortable Bangkok has with all of this and it makes you more comfortable and accepting of that world.
If anything would be controversial in Bangkok (besides rolling around the skytrain with no phone and seeing everyone on theirs), would be the mistreatment of Myanmar immigrants as they work low wages and aren't allowed to become Thai citizens. THere is more nuisance in this that I will bring up in the Chiangmai post.
Bangkok is one of my favorite cities and Thailand is one of my favorite countries. Is it the new one? We will see as I continue to discuss Southeast Asia.