Heelloo Welcome!!! You will hear this quite often in the kingdom of Thailand, mostly from the lovely Thai ladies who are trying to entice you into entering their store, or shop.
Thailand is known as, “The land of smiles”, and not without reason. Thai people are very friendly, and they are very welcoming hosts to visitors of their country. I have found this to be true from the person stamping my passport at passport control, to the person checking me in at my hotel, and almost everyone I meet. I have spent a long holiday in Thailand every year for the past 6 years, and boy do I have some stories to tell. I will never forget my first trip to Thailand, and neither will you... I guarantee it.
Picture this, it is your first time in Bangkok. Your plane got in late at night, and it is after 10pm when you get checked into your hotel. Are you ready for bed after your long trip? Heck no! You slept on the plane, and you want to see what is going on in the mysterious city of Bangkok right now. You have already seen as you rode in the taxi that brought you to your hotel, that Bangkok is a city that never sleeps. Now you are ready to experience the action, and all that is Bangkok for yourself.
You walk out of the lobby of your hotel, and to the main road. You hang a right down the sidewalk as you enjoy the atmosphere that is all around you. The traffic going down the left hand side of the road, the different sights, and sounds, and even unique smells fill your senses. Then you hear it, it is the sound of a motorcycle horn. You look back, and see a motorcycle coming up behind you on the sidewalk. This is normal in Bangkok, just smile, and get out of the way. After 10 minutes of walking you hang a right because you see increased activity down that road. Then it hits you, the smell fills your nose, and tantalizes your senses. You see a food cart off in the distance with several people in line next to it, of course curiosity gets the best of you, and you go to investigate.
Walking down the sidewalk as make your way to the food cart, you pass several street vendors selling various items to passersby. The food cart that is drawing you near is becoming clearer as you approach. Strange symbols that make up the Thai language are on a sign followed by numbers, and although you can’t read it you can tell this is a menu.
Watching in awe you see a simple Thai person working the food cart, preparing Pad-Thai with the culinary skills of a sous-chef. First he adds a splash of oil to his wok followed by an egg that he just cracked, and a handful of noodles. He has several bowls next to him filled with spices that you don’t even recognize, a pinch of this, and a dash of that are added to the mix, as he prepares the aromatic dish just as the customer ordered.
Mesmerized you look up at the line of customers, and realize that they are all watching the same thing as you are from their own angle, and point of view. The hungry customers are all watching with their eyes large, and you just know that their mouths are watering just the same as yours. There is only one thing left for you to do. Get in line, and wait for your turn to savor this culinary delight, and one of the most popular Thai dishes for yourself. This will cost you from just less then one American dollar for a simple order, to under two dollars with extras such as shrimp. There are usually tables nearby to sit down and enjoy your meal as you take in the new atmosphere that surrounds you. The sights, the sounds, the smells... Welcome to Bangkok. Your new adventure has just begun!
Have you ever heard the song, “One night in Bangkok“, by Murray Head? I know you have, anybody with a desire to go to Thailand, has heard that song. Let me tell you, that song takes on an entirely different meaning once you have been there. I remember this song being played on American top 40’s when I was a teenager, Yes I am showing my age. Back then I remember thinking, “Why would anybody want to go to Thailand?” Now that I have been there, I know first hand why people love Thailand. I hope that after exploring my little plot of land here in cyberspace, you will get Thailand fever too. (You know that is actually a book, Thailand Fever,
it is about Thai - western relationships.)
Thailand it means something different to everyone. Backpackers freshly out of college trying to find themselves, and enjoy a new life experience will look upon the land of smiles quite differently then retired expats looking for an inexpensive place to enjoy their golden years. For some it is the exotic islands to the south, for others it is the cooler temperatures, and mountains to the North, and for others it is the Bangkok experience that draws them there.
What draws you to the kingdom of Thailand? Is it the culture, and customs that draw you there, or is it the temples, inexpensive shopping, or maybe even the night time entertainment that calls you to Thailand? I know for me, khun Greg, it is that feeling of hominess, a sense of belonging. I felt it the first time that I explored the enigmatic city of Bangkok. It was so much different then the laid back city that I was use to back home. The Thai people I came across were friendly, and welcoming.
Home is not where you are from, it is where you belong. Some of us travel the whole world to find it, others seldom venture much beyond their own backyards.
I found it in the most unlikeliest of places. I found it somewhere that I never thought I would journey to. Who would of thought that a relatively small country on the other side of the earth, a half a world away both geologically, and culturally from the only life that I have ever known would draw me so much.
After exploring Bangkok for a few days, I found other places to explore in the kingdom of Thailand, such as the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. There is something magical about petting a full grown wide awake tiger completely capable of defending itself. It goes without saying that mutual respect, and trust were needed to kneel down beside this beautiful majestic animal, and run your hands down its body. The ancient ruins, and breath taking temples of Ayutthaya, Thailand were another must see for me, and I sure was not disappointed.
Don’t just take my word for it, you have your own journey to make, and adventure to explore... A whole new adventure awaits you.