Bangkok. Say what you will, there’s no place like the Big Mango. Pulsing, sprawling, raw and massive. Waterways, nightclubs, high rises, super highways, Buddhist temples, markets larger than life. I loved Bangkok the moment I set foot in it. One thing I love in particular is that even though Bangkok’s traffic is an utter nightmare, the taxis are brightly colored neon. For some reason, bright pink and lime green taxis make me happy. It’s a colorful city in more ways than one. Eat your heart out NYC.
Politeness. There are varying degrees of respect in the Thai language. When speaking to monks, one must use the highest degree of politeness. Even still, everyday conversation requires respect to the people around you, your contemporaries and your elders. Even the Ronald McDonald statues wai.
The smell of frangipani and jasmine blossoms. Whether walking on the village roads or motorbiking through the sois, every now and again a waft of frangipani or jasmine meets your nose and when it does, it is a delightful reminder that you are indeed in Southeast Asia.
Fruit. Mangosteens, passion fruit, coconut, lychee, dragon fruit, and the sweetest finger bananas I have ever tasted (see previous post). Thai fruit is amazing regardless of what form it comes in. Smoothies here drive a mean bargain. I’m most likely ruined for life.
Motorbiking. One of the main forms of transportation in Thailand, motorbikes are as common as 7-Elevens. From the cuteness of Scoopys and Finos to the speed and gusto of Ducatis, I am in love with my motorbike and wish I could take it home with me. I’d by lying if I didn’t admit I feel a bit bad ass on the bike. Myself aside, motorbikes provide endless entertainment as families pile on carrying umbrellas, sleeping babies, cartons of eggs, lumber, mattresses and anything else you can think of that needs to be transported.
Food on sticks. You name it, it comes on or with a stick.
The ubiquitous Thai smile. Let’s face it, Thais are friendly. Even if you meet eyes with someone who looks pissed off, if you flash a smile their way, you are guaranteed to receive a bigger one back. If I’m having a shit day, I inevitably receive a bright Thai smile from someone along the way and it always brings me joy. A smile goes a long way here. The West could learn a thing or two.
Saving face. Thais cultivate an attitude of mai bpen rai (no worries). It means never getting pissed off, losing your temper, behaving aggressively or making others feel uncomfortable. While this keeps the surface of Thai society easy going and laid back, it is problematic when serious issues arise and are not confronted, and not all Thais save face. That said, daily life is quite enjoyable. It also means no road rage!
Spicy food. Thai food is about as spicy as it comes. The spicier the better as far as I’m concerned. If I’m eating a dish and my lips go numb, we’ve reached our goal.
Ethnic minority hill tribes (see previous post). I’ve met several hill tribe people in my time here. While I’m no expert on hill tribe culture, I can say that the Akha are hands down my favorite to be around. While they are some of the most impoverished of the hill tribe groups, they are also some of the friendliest and fun-loving. I adore them.
Burmese. Thailand has seen an influx of Burmese migration over the decades as groups of Burmese people flee persecution, conflict and displacement. While Thai government and society generally look down upon Burmese people as a hindrance to their economy and civil society, I am in love with the Burmese people. Most of the friends I have made in Mae Sai that aren’t from the West are Burmese and I adore each and every one of them.