“It’s so touristy here,” I found myself telling me mom on a whatsapp call last night.”Oh I see, like Mexico?” She asked.
“Yes! Exactly… like Spring Break in Cancun. Every where I’ve been, the entire infrastructure is made for tourists. 10 hotels on one street block, and 5 bars, it’s insane!” I said.
Acording to worldatlas.com, Thailand hosts nearly 100 million tourists a year, making tourism responsible for over 20% the national GDP.
It’s the kind of atmosphere where everyone is getting drunk and partying every night, which can be fun- but of that was what I was looking for, I would have come on this trip just for two weeks and brought a squad of girlfriends. I mean vacationing can be great too, but I wouldn’t go to Cancun to travel. I want to understand the people of different cultures. I don’t want to be moving down a super shiny paved path that’s been marched down a thousand times. Thailand is beautiful in all it’s glory, and I’m happy to be here, but also I’m happy that this isn’t my first solo trip or I’d really be reconsidering whether traveling was for me.
It’s beautiful here. It really is, and I’m happy to have met the people I have so far. Of my favorites was someone named “Baer” in Chiang Mai. He was from Perth, Australia and Baer is his last name, but everyone calls him by it. We met because my hostel mates knew his hostel mates and we all got together for a night out. He is also just starting a year of travel, but because he recently lost his best mate, his dog. I found this out because he told a story of his dog as a puppy running into things and I asked, “Who’s taking care of your dog while your traveling?”
Baer is a big guy with tattoos up both arms, so it was the most endearing to hear how he couldn’t stand to live in his own house after his dog passed. “She had cancer,” he said, “I wasn’t ready. It was too soon. I had her do Chemo for a year, and she wasn’t in pain during that year. Really- she wasn’t or I wouldn’t have done it.”
There’s this big famous moat in Chiang Mai that separates what they call the “Old City”. There’s not much left of the old city except the moat and the deteriorating tall stone wall that used to encompass it. Each side of the wall is probably about a half mile. But in the center of the whole square is a huge gate where people gather for music and street food at night. We were walking around with our little squad and in my backpack I had one thing, a slackline. So, I set it up. It was between two trees that stretched over pavement, and it was a hit. All my friends tried, with holding two hands on each side, and I had some fun with it too! A bunch of Thai locals tried as well.
We had been doing some acro too, and I was bold enough to try a shoulder stand with a Chinese friend, name pronounced like “Ducky”. It was successful and when I was starting to bend down I said, “Ok just stand still I’m going to jump down…” and he started running. I fell backwards but not even for a second before Baer just gently lifted me down. So he also saved my life. Tip: when someone is standing on your shoulders, please never start running.
Now I’m sitting on a beach in an island in Southern Thailand. I have a few friends, a group of three sweet boys, that I met first when arriving in Chiang Mai. In line at the airport terminal actually! They were along the ride of all the flight transfers with me, and we stuck together to a hostel too. Or more or less, they had a plan and I stuck with them. I have since been about a day off of them. I went to Pai, then they go to Pai, I go to Bangkok, the next day they go to Bangkok. Now I’m in the south and so are they, but we are at different islands. I’m thinking the next time I see them will actually be in Malaysia, because they are in Kuala Lumpur the same time that I am!
Anyways, I haven’t really been able to walk much because I have some big gashes on the bottom of my feet (from painstakingly climbing a tree) and being able to find recluse on various gorgeous islands has been a much needed rest. But I am excited to venture on. Next, I am staying with a Servas host in Hat Yai! Finally, some of the cultural immersion I have been hoping for. He is a physician there, and I’m excited to hear about his life and family. Actually following those two days, I have home stays set up for the rest of the month. So I am excited to make new friends and see hopefully a bit more of the non-tourist side of this country because I have yet to find my way off the beaten path.
My thoughts on Thailand are, it’s super easy and super safe. You can walk around in a bikini all day and still no one would look at you twice. There’s adventure-seekers from all over the world, and it’s an accent melting pot. It’s visually euphoric if nothing else. But maybe bring a friend for this one. Just like you’d want to bring a friend for Spring Break in Mexico.