Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles and for good reason. We’ve been here for less than a week and I haven’t stopped smiling yet! Okay, maybe once when I was thrown into a one person Tuk Tuk with two people and six bags. Nonetheless, the past week has been full of new experiences, beautiful places and wonderful, welcoming people.
If I were to put my first impressions of Thailand into 40 words, it would look something like this:
Natural Beauty. Sweat. SMELLS. So many smells. 1970. Tourist. MOUTHWATERING FOOD. Sincerity. Confusion. Chang. Noise. SMILES. Enthusiasm. SPICY. Elephants. Wild Transportation. Heat. Stray dogs. Bottled Water. SO CHEAP. Love. Passiveness. SAWADEE KA. Squatting Toilets. Motorbikes. Buddha. Markets. FLAVOR. HAPPINESS. SIMPLICITY.
As you can see, this country is very diverse! I’ve seen people living in metal huts on dirt floors and have also attended a professional soccer game at a massive stadium. For only one week, we have seen both ends of the spectrum. Here are some of my highlights from my first week in this beautiful country:
Hiking Erawan Waterfalls:
This National Park located in Kanchanaburi was our first adventure in Thailand. Erawan is a three-headed elephant famous in Hindu mythology. The seven-teired waterfall is named after the mythological creature because it is said the falls resemble the elephant. The entire hike took about three hours. Note when I say, “hike” I actually mean climb, crawl and roll up/down this mountain. It wasn’t easy but by the time we reached the seventh fall it was certainly worth the hard work.
The water was a shade of blue that I have never seen in liquid form. Each tier was different and more beautiful as we ascended to the top. By the fifth tier I had slipped and fell into a puddle, completely soaking my sneakers. I climbed the remainder of the mountain barefoot and let me tell you, by the time we reached the top I was so happy that I nearly sprinted into the waterfall.
The water was so clear that we could see the fish below us nibbling at our feet (an experience within itself!). Hiking Erawan was the first real encounter of the weather in this country. The heat and humidity are almost unexplainable but this is of course all part of the journey!
Attending a Thai Soccer Match:
My friend Susie is teaching for one year in Thailand so we stayed with her for a few nights in Suphan Buri, which is a very authentic, non-touristy town about two hours north of Bangkok. We attended a Suphan FC match against Bangkok. Between the delicious food we discovered outside the stadium to the chanting we did inside the stadium, I think it is safe to say that we are officially SUPHAN FC fans.
Finding the Infamous 100 Year Market:
Markets are HUGE in Thailand. Anything you could possibly need/want can be found at a Thai market. This one, located in Samchuk, is known as a “living museum” because it exemplifies true, ancient Thai culture. The aisles upon aisles of food, clothes, household goods, souvenirs and other odds and ends weren’t east to conquer in the 95 degree heat. As always, it was well worth it.
Going to School:
As I mentioned before, Susie has been teaching English in Thailand since last year. We were fortunate to be able to go to school with her and sit in on a couple of her classes on Monday.
The dynamic at the school differed so much from the American culture I am so accustomed to. The students actually seemed to be happy to be there! They were obedient and respectful. In fact, they actually taught me. I now know how to say pronounce numbers 1-10 in Thai! I was taken back by how interested they are in Westerner’s. I felt like a celebrity walking around campus. My time at the school was short but it certainly made me realize how privileged I am to have English as my native language. Seeing how eager other people are to learn English really made me feel grateful to have been born into an English speaking country. It also reenforces my desire to become fluent in another language!
The first week of my journey around Southeast Asia hasn’t even come to a conclusion yet and I already know this is one of the best decisions I have ever made. My eyes have been opened, my mind has expanded, my comfort levels have been tested and my desire to travel has grown even bigger. I can’t wait to see what the next week will bring =)