Thailand is the land of the polite people. What a huge cultural difference from China! People actually wait in lines here when getting on the skytrain instead of trying their best to shove the little kids and old people out of the way so they can secure a seat (Like they do in China). People bow to you wherever you go because it’s polite to welcome someone into your store/restaurant/hotel before you try to sell them something. Same with when you leave…the manners are important here.
However, I don’t know how they manage to be so polite all the time. At times, when sweat was dripping off of every surface of me and my face was flushed from heat and I was tired from being in a new country, I could not imagine how these amazing people could manage to be so nice all the time.
I have a hard time describing this city. It definitely defies pictures although perhaps I’m just not a good enough photographer. There are sex toys for sale on the street alongside the purses and dresses. There are ‘lady boys’ for sale on the street and the men who react badly to them (guess which country those people are from?). Food and drink and toys and clothes are incredibly cheap, even more cheap than China. Everywhere I go, men are trying to figure out if I’m available or not. I thought it was flattering until I was in the hospital, awaiting surgery, and had some old Arab men hitting on me. Gross. (Not the Arab part…the old part and the ‘waiting for surgery’ part). This place is beautiful, it is open, and it is religious. There are the Asian women in short skirts shopping alongside the Arab women who only have their eyes showing in the slits in their headdress (HOW do they manage to smell so good in this heat? I want their secret!) There are religious symbols and places to pray, light incense and commune with God, on every street corner. It is green and lush and yet parts of it has rats and smells like “garbage juice”, as my son describes it. There are gold palaces and temples, vast air conditioned markets and streets packed with people trying to make deals and make a living. There are babies being used on the street corner, begging for Baht (money), used so that the foreigner will feel more sorry. I don’t know how they keep those little kids sleepy all day (actually, I have a pretty good idea…)
There is even more of a downside to this culture too: Sex is everywhere. Now I know I am from a fairly repressed country and that is not healthy either. Usually I don’t judge but I saw a young girl about 10 years old the other day for sale on the street so I AM judging. Shame on the men that bought her virginity and shame on her parents for not protecting her from this life. Also for a culture and country that is allowing such horrors to take place on a regular basis. Also, in the downtown core there are these low-lifes that slink around the downtown core, trying to snare Marks for their various cons and schemes. I’m judging them too.
Then there are the hospitals. Medical tourism is very popular in places like Thailand. Surgery is cheap (my surgery cost $8000 and in Canada it would have been four times that). Treatment is cheap. You can choose one of the international hospitals or one of the street side ‘plastic surgery’ stands. People come from all over the world to access the best medical care in the world. Tests happen fast, doctors are super careful and hospitals like Bumrungrad have built an international reputation on being safe, effective, efficient and good.. However, that being said, when I was in the pre-operation room, I overheard the young woman next to me NEGOTIATING the price of her new boobs. She was pre-op too and I, personally, was terrified. She came in wide-eyed and scared and i was horrified as I overheard this doctor taking advantage. I could not believe she went under the knife under those conditions. So maybe it’s not all good…before she went under…she was still trying to make sure the doctor gave her the right size instead of making sure she came out the other side of it ALIVE.
Well that is the good, the terrible and the ugly. I kind of wish I had been more adventurous on this trip because now it’s over and all I’ve seen are the night market, the cheap (Bargain for it) mall and the nightlife. I have a feeling there is way more. I never did get to see the palaces or the temples. I spent the first week too worried about surgery and the second week recovering from it.
I am so looking forward to seeing my son tomorrow. I do NOT look forward to the familiar challenges of China and the wealth of things I need to do once I get there.
Thanks for reading!