Monday, July 26, 2010

The Land of Smiles

Largest Reclining Buddha, Bangkok

Street Vendor, Bangkok

Kayan Hillstribe, Chiang Mai

Elephants from the Maesa Elephant Camp, Chiang Mai

Ayuthaya Ruins, Bangkok
Where in the world can you find the largest reclining Buddha, street vendors on every corner you look, women wearing rings to extend their necks, elephants bathing in the river, and ancient ruins? I mean sure, street vendors, that's no big deal... and elephants are a dime a dozen...and what place doesn't have an old abandoned building around somewhere...and big Buddha's were seen in Hong Kong and Japan... but long necked Kayan tribeswomen?! It's gotta be Thailand!!

A couple of friends and I caught a plane to Thailand, the Land of Smiles, last Sunday and took a week to explore Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The entire time we were there I kept thinking how great it was to be with friends. Jasmine, who was another volunteer in Leyte, is half Thai and ever since we met she's given Thailand such a great story and I finally got to put a picture to her words. She and her family took us around to see all the attractions, which included the pictures above, as well as riding those beautiful elephants, shopping in bazaars, and visiting a floating market where I had my first Thai massage and fish foot massage. Yay to thai massage, nay to fish massage... waaaay too ticklish! It's kind of exhilarating when you're in a lake and a little minnow pecks your toe, but imagine if you stuck your feet into an aquarium and a school of the little suckers comes and laches onto your skin like blood sucking piranhas. Ok, I exaggerate... but there were a lot of fish eating away at dead skin on your feet!

I liked Thailand, and was really surprised with Bangkok. It seems so clean to me. Maybe Manila has gotten to me too much. I think of the city, which before Peace Corps brought a picture of small Orlando where you just basically have to watch out for pooping ducks at Lake Eola, and now I think of pulsating Manila. Manila, where everywhere you turn there's a group of street kids, guys peeing on the street, women trying to get you to buy things, jeepneys pouring out exhaust, and taxi drivers trying to rip you off, where you just sigh and mutter, "uh, Manila." I didn't get that feeling in Bangkok. It was clean, I didn't hear any roosters, and don't you know those are my two criteria! I don't know, perhaps we stayed clear of the trouble areas, but on the whole, super impressed with Bangkok, and Thailand for that matter. I will say though, you got the traffic too man!

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