I just got back from Thailand! I spent a week in and around Bangkok with Katie, Garrett, and Kyla. This trip was much different than my China vacation. We didn't have a tour guide, which was both good and bad. It was much cheaper to just go ourselves, and we got to create our own schedule and do whatever we felt like, but I did miss being driven around and having someone to ask all my questions to. I felt like I could relax on this vacation. In China we did and saw a lot, which was great, but it was also exhausting. In Thailand we did a few things each day and had plenty of down time.
Thailand is very different from Korea. Granted, we were in the capital, but it was so much more diverse even than Seoul. There were lots of foreign restaurants, pretty much everyone spoke at least a little English, and nobody stared at us foreigners like we were zoo animals. In Korea conformity is a big deal - everyone wants to look and act exactly like everyone else. In Thailand everyone had their own style and you could tell that being an individual was valued. It was refreshing. And nobody used chopsticks. Interesting.
The Thai people are not afraid of color. The first thing I noticed about the country was the taxis. They had pink, blue, yellow, green, orange...no black or white. Most of the buildings were very colorful too. And the temples...oh my goodness. I wish we built churches that beautiful. They used tons of gold leaf, colored glass, and marble. Almost everything is done by hand, and its so gorgeous.
About 97% of the country is Buddhist. There are monks everywhere! There's a temple about every 5 miles, and lots of alters set up for Buddha in public. There was one right outside our hotel. Most people would bow as they passed it, and there was always food or drinks or flowers on the alter. We were told that the Buddhism a lot of people practice is not pure Buddhism. They've taken ideas from Hinduism and some other religions and incorporated it all into one. Thailand really needs Jesus.
They drive on the wrong side of the car, and the wrong side of the road. There aren't very many crosswalks, so a lot of people cross the street wherever it's convenient. Including us :) If we were lucky there would be a Thai person we could follow through the traffic. If not, we had to pay close attention and run fast. Lots of people drive mopeds or scooters, and it was pretty common to see at least 2 people riding on one. One time we saw a family of 4. There was a toddler standing in front, dad was driving, and mom was holding a baby in the back. And we worry about car seats in America. Another time we were stopped at a tollbooth on a highway, and the driver of the truck in front of us got out and walked back to the bed. Then 2 people stood up with their blankets and pillows and got inside the truck. They had been sound asleep back there and the tollbooth attendant wouldn't let them through until they got inside the vehicle. Thank goodness.
Thailand has a royal family, and they LOVE their king. There are almost as many pictures of the king as there are temples. It reminded me of seeing Mao all over China, except this is done out of love, not fear. He's about 85 and he's been ruling since he was in his 20s. The king is just a figurehead though, there is a prime minister and government that actually does all the work.
I'll make a picture blog tomorrow, but here's a preview from my favorite day :)