Of course, we’ve enjoyed Thailand for those things it’s well known for: Thai cuisine, elephant treks, and Buddhist wats. However, we’ve truly fallen in love with this country in a short time for quite a few other reasons.
We picked out a few words to describe how we felt about Thailand after our first few days here.
Even in the sprawling, smoggy metropolis of 8 million that makes up greater Bangkok, spotless sidewalks and streets are the norm. Thais spend a tremendous amount of time sweeping and cleaning, and then sweeping and cleaning some more.
Secondly, despite its precarious reputation, even the street food seems to be very clean and safe. Of course, with kids we need to be more cautious and make sure we’re ordering street food that is pre-cooked and very hot to avoid illness.
But it’s a delightful surprise to see such an abundance of fresh, clean fruits and vegetables available. We’ve been enjoying loads of fruit smoothies and stir fries made to order in less than 3 minutes.
And by minority, we mean us. Our four your old daughter strikes up conversations with new friends by asking “Where are you from and what languages do you speak?” Yes, languages, plural.
We’ve begun to feel fairly inadequate among other travelers and locals, since we only speak one language with any sort of fluency. We also stick out traveling in Asia with two pale white children, one with bright blonde hair. Walking around with blondie Blythe, locals stare continuously, request photos with the kids, and ask to touch their skin and hair. I think the kids enjoy the welcoming smiles, but I just hope they don’t expect this attention when we’re back in the States.
Thailand truly is the “Land of Smiles”. Perhaps these smiles can be attributed to the peace and compassion taught in Buddhist cultures. Over 95% of the locals are Buddhist, and there is a sense of happiness here that we haven’t seen during our travels anywhere else.
One of the primary criteria when selecting locations for our RTW trip was safety since we travel as a family. We try to avoid sticky situations by getting home early and avoiding places with a bad reputation.
One of the main reasons we chose to travel in Thailand is because of its reputation as a land of gentle and compassionate people. Now that we’re here, we feel even safer than we anticipated and have experienced great kindness, patience, and generosity from the locals.
During our travels, the kids seem to be very interested in learning more about people personally. We haven’t seen many beggars in Asia, but rather people who might have a disability or may be homeless, yet find creative ways to make a living, from helping guide drivers into a parking spot to blind or burn victims displaying exceptional music talent at night markets to make a living.
Rather than just talking about respect, kindness, and compassion, the kids are taking part in these lessons first hand by learning to bow to locals when meeting or greeting, placing offerings on a shrine as a show of respect, or stopping with the locals at 8:00am and 6:00pm as they hold their twice daily moment of silence to praise the King.
In Thailand, it’s often less expensive to eat out rather than buy the ingredients to make the same dish at home. We may just save the new culinary skills picked up in our cooking class until we get back to the States. When we eat out, not only do we get to feed ourselves inexpensively, but we also get to sample authentic Thai street food. A dinner out for four typically never runs more than $10.
Is that one word or two? No mater, as we have had so much fun zipping through the crazy streets of Thailand in these 3-wheeled vehicles, a uniquely Asian cross between a scooter and a taxi. It has become one of our favorite Thai pastimes and we’ll often spend the 50 baht required to ride, even when it’s only a short walk to where we’re going. If we so much as mention a tuk-tuk, the kids talk all day about riding home in one.
I promise. I‘m not a bad mother. But, no, our kids are not in a car seat, nor is there a seat belt and, yes, we are dodging traffic in a big city. As we say, when in Rome do as the Romans. In the States, I used to get nervous if there was a twist in one of the carseat straps, now we joyfully travel by tuk-tuk. For parents who don’t understand, think about it this way. With your first child, you would sanitize their pacifier for 10 minutes in boiling water if it so much as touched the floor. With your second child, you pick it up and blow on it before popping it back in the kid’s mouth. Your perspective adapts to the risk and rewards of your environment.
I’m sure we’ll have more words to describe our time here as we stay longer. But it has been an amazing country to experience so far and we’re very glad we’re here.