I write from my hotel in Bangkok late in the afternoon, shades partially drawn, wondering if life in this city is worthy of song lyrics that will never be a hit on the radio. I do not yet know the answer, but my time here has been less than 24 hours. There is still time, there is still more than enough time.
It’s been nine days since I first arrived in Thailand, but it feels as if it has been much longer. I hear the words “culture shock” all around me, and maybe it is true, but for some reason in these cities not finding toilet paper in the bathroom and watching cockroaches scurry between my feet in the streets at night does not bother me.
Am I dreaming? Sometimes it feels that way. I’m having trouble differentiating what I’ll find back in the states to what I’m finding now, and I anticipate coming home to talk about unfamiliar things and have a lack of pictures to explain them.
When you find a place that feels like home, you begin to overlook the things that don’t make sense and adopt the out-of-place things as your own.
The first week consisted of being excited about street food (and then, not being excited about street food) but the 10 baht street fruit lady in the alley has darn good sweet mango on the right days and papaya on the days without sweet mango.
From this angle, 7/11 has taken over. There’s one on nearly every corner, if not two, and its essential purpose is cheap water, peach Hi-Chews and the Thailand version of Cheetos, which taste more real and less chemically cheese-d. We buy bug spray there, too, and the occasional ham and cheese toasty. I’ve heard the barbecue chicken pizza toasty is good, too.
The city is good in Chiang Mai. The red trucks we take anywhere in the city for about .70 USD and the tuk tuks if there’s fewer of us, but they tend to be more expensive, so we often travel in packs.
We’ve done our fair share of the tourist attractions (we went to a night safari, which was pretty sweet… other than the fact 90% of the animals were from Africa) and our red truck driver cut us a deal and even even walked us up to the ticket counter to help us buy a ticket. I asked him if he was born in Chiang Mai and he said “yes,” but he “also went to Ireland once.”
The Thai food is SO GOOD, but also can provide good stomachaches if it’s too spicy or just, you know, a little sketchy. We eat Mexican and American food on off-days and throw in a couple meals of simple white rice and fresh fruits and vegetables because sometimes our digestive systems are little “lol, no.”
We hiked a lower part of Doi Inthanon, the highest peak in Thailand (a majority is closed in the rainy season) next to waterfalls and on dirt that looked red-orange like clay. It was sticky when wet but solid when dry, and I saw it change throughout our journey. In the jungle it was wet, in the sunlight it was dry. And I was reminded all it takes is light to change everything.
My favorite animal is a deer because they bounce back quickly. Back in the states I’ve seen enough deer get hit by cars to know that by the time our eyes open, they’re gone. When I hit the ground, my first instinct was to get back on my feet and when I did, I had enough momentum to give into gravity’s hold and my hands met the dirt once again.
Oh, Thailand. Each misstep here has turned back into praise. Every ten baht short I think I am for travel or small purchases I somehow find waiting for me in my satchel, every rainstorm stops when I step out the door. My heart feels different here, and I’m learning to grow into it.
I think back to the times I considered, “how much longer will I wait to get there?” and now I’m here, and it’s more than I thought it was. It’s more than I thought it could be. I dance under the lights of the city (poorly) and listen to the American music we heard back in middle school and the Thai remakes of popular radio songs that they play in restaurants and the tram on campus.
My class is good; more than good, even. I’m taking a Business in Southeast Asia course with an emphasis on Social Entrepreneurship. There are three Americans in my class and three students from Cambodia. Ajan (pronounced ajahn, Thai for “teacher) Thomas, is originally from Texas, but he has lived in different continents and now completes research in a northern province of Thailand.
Our class took a flight in yesterday from Chiang Mai toward the south to a smaller airport in Bangkok (not BKK) and are staying in a hotel in the Sukhumvit area to meet with businesses in Bangkok. This first day, we met with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and visited the top law firm in Bangkok to see a Counterfeit Goods museum (such as medicines, clothing, etc, that you might find in a market). It feels much different from Chiang Mai, and I’m learning how it feels to find a new place all over again in a short period of time.