Thailand is truly a whole other world–and a remarkable one at that.
It’s just not that easy getting here.
It’s not complicated. You just need a couple grand to spend (or stumble upon a good opportunity) and a willingness to sit in airports and airplanes for about 24 hours. Oh, and there’s the whole jetlag thing sure to color every aspect of your first few days.
But enough of that side of the coin. Check out the incredible results for making it to this other side of the planet.
And these were just taken in the first few days here.
And of course, more than these images are the stories and thought inspired by the exposure to such unique sights and people. Today I introduce you to our story getting here as well as some of our fellows in Thailand and their ways of life…
Three Weeks in Thailand
About six months back, I was blessed with an opportunity to travel to this country. Having just returning from Africa, I found writing work for a school in St. Paul. Part of their needs was to have someone document a trip they take each spring–an immersion and cultural experience for their many Southeast Asian students (Hmong and Karenni).
Impressed by the opportunity, I took it without hesitation.
The plan for our trip is to spend as much time outside the cities and the usual tourism fare, into the quieter villages where the Hmong and Karenni reside. (For more about the school and student experience, see our school blog and Facebook page.)
For a better handle on Thailand, let’s start with a map.
Thailand is one of a handful of smallish countries that make up Southeast Asia. Each of these countries has their own language, written script, and culture–as well as having many other minority groups within their borders. The region is chock full of fascinating history of migrations, border shifts, colonialism, and present-day independence. Thailand prides itself as being the one civilization here that wasn’t colonized.
We flew into the capital, Bangkok, early morning hours April 29.
This was our third flight, by now offering…
a few inflight movies…
a few measly (though precious) hours of sleep…
a constant white noise of the airplane in flight, and…
day and night outside the airplane window seemingly as arbitrary as a lotto numbers.
Airport dots connect the lines of flight: fancy LA, sour smelling Taipei, and finally Bangkok.
There, we 43 gathered our luggage from the carousel, exchanged dollars into baht (1:32) from one of several currency exchange booths, and then five prearranged vans pulled up just outside the airport exit at 1:00 am to drive us to our hotel.
Stepping outside the airport was like taking a lid off of a boiling pot of water. The heat and humidity was all the stranger because it was the middle of the night.
By the time we all arrived at the hotel, received our keys and room assignments, it was 3:00. Super late, but I didn’t sleep a wink. In fact, I wouldn’t get but 8 hours within a span of 72. Only under such circumstances could I imagine pulling off such a superhuman feat.
By the time I got done trying to force sleep, it was dawn in Bangkok.
I decided to tease myself with a few sights to be encored at length when we returned back to this city at the end of our three week stay. Here were my teases.
I moseyed on back to the hotel and when everyone rose, we enjoyed a complimentary hotel breakfast, a blend of Asian food: rice and noodles, which the students were happy to eat and me amenable as well. They also offered Western-friendly scrambled eggs, which my familiar eyes were grateful to see and familiar palate grateful to taste.
Overall, this chance to lay down, eat a good meal, and take a hot shower wasn’t yet our destination but just part of the commuting process, a long break between our third and fourth flights of our trip. See, our first Thai destination is actually to the north, to a city where we’ll really start our exposure: Chiang Mai.
This is a lovely, historic, lively city with ties to the ancestors of the students. Villages, nature hikes, and city markets would await.
They are what we’ll dive into next week.