Sunday, March 18, 2007

Final Thoughts on Thailand

Awesome, awesome vacation. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.

Like I said many times earlier, Buddhism was huge over there. Thailand has a higher percentage Buddhist population than any other country in the world. As a result, they don't call it the year 2007. Instead, they use the Buddhist Era (BE) system and right now it is the year 2550, which corresponds to the number of years since Buddha's death.

Many of the Taxis in Bangkok were the attractive color of......Pink.

Temple Attire:
Out of respect for Buddha, women and men have to dress very modestly to enter the temples. Also, shoes must be removed and apparently "foreigner" shoes are different than Thai shoes.

They were everywhere and for the most part just roaming freely. One tour guide told us that the monks would take care of them if they went to the temple, but there were still a ton of them lounging around away from temples.
Thai Massage:
This was the best deal in Thailand. There were Thai Massage parlors everywhere. An hour massage only cost $5-$8. However, it was much different than American massages. The best way to describe it is forced yoga. It kind of hurt during the massage but your body felt very good at the end.

Birth Control:
Back in the 70's the government started a campaign they called "Cabbages and Condoms" to cut down on AIDS and overpopulation. They opened up restaurants and other stores with this name as a way to educate the population. It worked, family sizes were reduced from an average of over 7 initially to only 2 today. Also, HIV and AIDS have gone way down. We ate at this restaurant. It was a little odd to have a bunch of condom pictures lining the walls while we ate.

Canal Boats:
They all had these huge block engines with the shaft going straight back.

There was no order to their electrical lines. They went everywhere and were jumbled into a huge mess at every electrical pole.

After a weekend in Los Angeles to start the trip I didn't think traffic could get any worse. I was wrong. Traffic in Bangkok is the worst I've ever seen, basically a complete gridlock all day throughout the whole city. What blows me away is that their great subway and skyway systems are less than 5 years old. I can't imagine what the traffic must have been like 5 years ago!
Motorcycles are also a big part of their transportation system. There was about 1 bike per car.

The King:Everyone loved the King. He has been King for almost 60 years and as a tribute many school uniforms are yellow, which corresponds to the day of the week the King was born on. Signs everywhere read "Long Live the King." However, there are some very harsh laws about saying anything negative about the King that make me wonder how many people don't like the king. Recently a British man vandalized several pictures of the King while drunk one night. The minimum sentence for that crime is 7.5 years in jail!

As I said before, the cities most often smelled like either sewage or Thai food. Phuket had some serious troubles with their sewage system because big sections of the city had a potent sewage smell.

By far the most common store in the country was 7/11. There was one on every street. It was about 3 times worse than Starbucks in the US (there were also plenty of Starbucks there as well).

The Thai don't like chocolate or ice cream! We had to search hard to find any ice cream and we basically never found any chocolate. They are missing out! Our guide told us the young kids like candy but adults basically never eat sweets.

While passing on a two lane road you don't need to wait for oncoming traffic to clear. You just honk at the person in front of you and go into the oncoming traffic. The person in front of you will slide off to the shoulder, and oncoming traffic will slide onto their shoulder temporarily creating a middle lane for passing.

Everyone was very nice and friendly. They really are a nice people.

It was super hot. Every day it reached the 90s and this was still their "winter" season. From March through June is summer and then July through November is rainy season.
I'd describe the food as a spicy mix between Indian and Chinese. Geographically, that makes perfect sense. Also, they had rice for every meal and seafood was very common. I liked their food a lot, but of course I'm not very picky.

Very safe country. Erin and I never felt unsafe the entire trip, which includes back alleys and walking around late at night.

The Thai shop owners were helpful and not too pushy. Of course bargaining was a big part of the experience but if we decided to walk away they accepted our decision and weren't too pushy. This was an unexpected sight on the other side of the world:
Markets were always very busy and crowded.
The most pushy people were the hill tribe women walking around trying to sell their crappy trinkets. Every 2 minutes one would walk up and just stare at you. If you wanted to buy one of their items, there would be 5 others hitting you up for more by the time you bought your first.

Gate 1:
Gate 1 was a great tour operator. They were very organized, very affordable, and provided excellent tour guides. Our guide was Pensri. She was energetic, funny, very knowledgeable, and could speak great English.

Chinese Influence:
The Thai have traded with the Chinese for a long time. They would send a boat full of rice to China in return for silk and ceramics. But the boat wouldn't weigh enough for the trip back so they also took a bunch of stone Chinese statues, which have become a part of the Thai architecture.


Blogger Duby said...

I can't believe they had UofM boxers, thats hilarious. Did you pick up a pair?

12:27 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

That picture of Jason getting a massage is the most seductive thing I've ever seen. No wonder they have to promote birth control so much over there.

I want to go to Thailand now...

12:57 AM  
Blogger Jason and Melissa said...

Beneath the ‘temple attire’ lies the irresistible man.

11:29 PM  

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