Sawatdee Thailand!!

It's been a humbling experience, traveling to Thailand for spring break.  The heat in Bangkok was SCORCHING hot (95*F), humidity suffocating, and Thai hospitality overwhelming.  While I explored a few different tourist spots in Bangkok, I really just enjoyed walking around the neighborhoods, trying different street food and watching people move in their daily lives.  I really like the diversity here; street signs are both in English and Thai, store and shop names are written in English, Thai, Arabic and Chinese.  There are the famous yellow Thai flowers (Ratchaphruek) everywhere!  There are also shrines to the King and Queen, along with Buddhas in many building entrances.  For the sake of humanity, I think it's lovely to see people publicly praying to the Buddha and to see people visit the public Muslim prayer rooms. I didn't know they were so open with their religion here (another stark contrast to life in China!).

Tony, my tuk tuk driver from the metro to the hotel.

ALoft Bangkok Hotel, part of Starwood group.

Foot rub on Khaosan Road, aka backpacker central.

Smartest tuk tuk driver EVER--operates a fake handbag business out of his vehicle. See the poster above his head? LOL.

One of many "Wats" in the city--I forget which one this was.

Of course, a shrine to the King in front of the temple.

Temple souvenirs.

Sticky rice with black bean and sweet banana were inside this treat.

Cloth napkins inside the bathroom!  Genius!

Jewelry district in Bangkok.

My lunch at Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Super Plush!

I feel awakened from the anonymity of living in Shanghai; where taxi drivers don't care where I am from, where waiters don't care if I am thirsty, where people on the street never say hello.  I am so overwhelmed by the kindness of the people here.  It's almost an uncomfortable feeling, having such attention bestowed on me after 609 days of living in China (since Aug 2, 2011).  The Thai wai has also thrown me off! So much bowing and smiling!  The younger person is supposed to wai first, so I've been trying to remember that as these young Thai girls bow to me, just as I'm trying to bow to them--I hate feeling old!!

Blurry picture of Khaosan Road--I try to take pictures as I'm walking, and clearly the iPhone doesn't do well on the go!
This little lady was selling street food.. clearly past her bed time!

Inside the ALoft Bangkok Hotel Café.

Hotel Lobby

View of Bangkok from the 18th floor in my hotel room.

On the street.. scooters, food and flags.
Inside the train station where lots of barefoot, sweaty, hot people were waiting to travel. Do you see who I see in the background?
Love the VIP seating for monks! 
Group of Thai women chatting and eating.  Plump and happy!

What an equalizer to the human race!!  The rich and poor alike must remove their shoes before entering the temple.  If only that happened in church!

I love this shot, of mother and son walking with their shawl to beat the heat.

Those purple chandeliers are actually orchid flowers!  BEAUTIFUL!

View of the Bangkok Riverfront.

Yesterday afternoon I paid 90baht ($3.07) to travel five hours on a train that appeared to be from the 1800s, arriving to Cha-am at 8pm.  I was nervous to travel so far in such undesirable conditions; hard seat, no air conditioning, bugs, and sketchy-looking people.  Along the way, people were so generous-it made me feel sheepish for my initial reaction.  I was humbled by the yogis from India who were traveling all through the night for 15 hours!, who offered me some snacks in a Mickey Mouse bag, or the young Thai girl who offered me apples she had bought from the vendors roaming around the train cars.  They did it so naturally; so unlike everything I've accustomed myself to, living in Shanghai.  I felt guilty, trying to put space between us, averting my gaze back to my book, attempting to be swallowed up into another world.  They didn't take the hint, and kept trying to chat with me!

Vendors at the train station.

Vendor selling food and treats from the tracks as we stopped at different stations.
The countryside along the route was beautiful; scattered in the fields were blooming yellow and purple flowers and trees, glorious gold-gilded temples, and shanties and shacks.  The people at the crosswalks smiled and waved to us as the train passed through.  Children played in the tall grass while dogs roamed, looking for food scraps.  It was so unassuming; so unlike the fast pace of life in a big city.  

My iPhone didn't do the setting sun justice, but it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  It has been so long since I saw the sky lit up in a wonderful splendor of orange, pink and red!
When we finally arrived to Cha-am, it was pitch black dark as I lowered myself down the train steps. My feet were swollen from the heat, but the pebbled surface I found myself on, woke them up right away.  I panicked a bit, thinking I got dropped off at a random field, without a station, or any taxis, or any means of getting to my hotel.  The Indian yogis waved frantically to me, as the train rumbled onwards.  I waved back, with a big smile--their energy was infectious!  I followed a Thai boy, over the tracks to an area where people were waiting with mopeds.  While they exchanged some words, I showed one girl the phone number of my hotel, and she signaled for me to hop on her bike. With that, we were off, riding into the night, me with my day bag and no helmet; the girl wearing a helmet with a sticker that said, "Born Free" on it.  I couldn't help but marvel at the irony of it.  Is it true to say that those with limited resources really are the most liberated people? Or is it true that people with the most resources are the most free?  It is an argument that has no end, but certainly one could say that the internet and abstract thinking (the arts, creativity, problem solving) are equalizers in this fast-paced world.

I was happy to finally arrive at my hotel, and relax in a comfortable bed.  It was a LONG day, but extremely interesting, and well worth the effort!  Now I am off to the market in Hua Hin! Hope to find some bargains and some Buddhas.

Peace and love to you and yours in this beautiful world.


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