Ten days in and our stay in Thailand comes to an end. From Bangkok we traveled north through Ayutthaya, Sukhothai, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai. Each of these cities contain the rich, Buddhist dominated, history that was once the Kingdom of Siam. It is not the country of Anna and the King of Siam. While based on a true story, the Hollywood version, like most movies, is far from the truth.
That is not to say Hollywood hasn’t had any influence here. The movie, Bridge on the River Kwai, actually caused the change of the pronounciation of the river. Known locally as river Kwai, pronounced KWAY, they changed the name to accommodate the tourist influx after the movie release, since everyone wanted to see the River Kwai. It is indeed a small world.
One of the most interesting parts was our crossing the border into Myanmar, aka Burma. Once you cross the border under the watchful, but unobtrusive , local Myanmar authorities you are in a vastly poorer country than one can imagine. And yet, the people smiled, waved, tried to be circumspect in not staring at for what many of them was their first view of the strange westerners. Visiting such a place where, for less than the price of a cup of coffee from Starbucks, one could sustain a family for a day puts the fortunes of being born in America in perspective.
Living in a country where the borders are there to control entry is an entirely different life than living a country where the government works to keep the people in. The Myanmar government even set the local time to 1/2 hour earlier than the time in Thailand, just to make a point of who runs the show. The people of Myanmar, when they can, cross into Thailand to get basics for survival. It is an eye-opening experience.
Now we are on our last night in Chiang Mai. We are here in the midst of the old Thai New Year and the Water Festival. The streets are lined with both Thai and tourists, armed with the world’s largest collection of squirt guns (or buckets if needed), dousing everyone with water as a symbol of good luck. Tourists are their favorite target, all in the spirits of fun.
Even the cops wear body length rain covers; no one is exempt.
If I had to sum up the country of Thailand in one word, relax. The Thai, while going about the daily business of life, have learned to relax and enjoy their life.
We could learn something from that.
Here are some images of Thailand, I won’t bore you with descriptions of each one since they speak for themselves.
Suwadee khrap (Hello/Goodbye/How are you. You hear this, and they all bow with the hands pressed together, all day everywhere.)
On to Laos