Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy Songkran everyone! Thailand is just finishing it's celebration of the Thai New Year and it's back to work tomorrow for me. The New Year lasts for 3 days here and each day the streets are filled with people throwing water on passersby and dancing like maniacs.

Of course I had to partake in the festivities and I had heard that the best place to be in Bangkok was at Khao San Road so I bought a giant water gun and headed over there on Saturday. It was pure chaos with tons of people filling the street so that you felt like cattle being herded to the slaughterhouse (o.k. maybe that's a bit dramatic). People were throwing ice cold water down my back and smearing plaster on my face; good times. I think they took special pleasure in attacking me because I was a farang (foreigner).

I could only take so much of the crowds because I tend to get quite claustorphobic so we headed down one of the little streets to relax and have some coffee and lunch. This was more pleasant because we were able to do some people watching and squirt people with our water guns without being man-handled by a giant crowd.

After spending most of the day in Khao San, the sun was going down and it was actually starting to feel quite cold so we went home, soaking wet and exhausted. It was a fun experience but probably something I would only want to do once. One more experience to cross off my lists of things to do in this lifetime!

More pictures uploaded to Flickr!

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I made it back to Thailand after visiting home for about a month. It was so great to be home that it made the transition back to Thailand a bit difficult. I was worried about my reaction to coming home because it had been quite a while since I had been back but it was like never leaving.

The flight was long and arduous, although not as terrible as my flight to Bangkok had been. I flew EVA Air which I highly recommend and luckily the plane was comfortable and they had on-demand movies and T.V. to keep you occupied during your flight, plus the food was edible so I had no complaints other than the fact that as soon as I fell asleep (I have a terrible time sleeping while traveling) the flight attendant woke me up to give me a towel. I mean really, was giving me a towel so important that it necessitated waking me up? I think not. So, I was very tired and emotional as a result because when I was going through customs and the customs agent asked me how I was, I nearly started crying. It had been so long since I had been asked that by a stranger and I thought "He cares, he really cares." Oh man, that makes me crack up. In Thailand, I feel it is very impersonal, which is probably because I am a foreigner so they assume I don't speak any Thai, but in general they are not quite as friendly as they are in the States. They laugh at Americans because we say "Thank you" so much. I never realized how much we do say "Thank you" and I know they think it's weird when I'm always saying thank you in Thai but I just can't help it.

Driving back from the airport I felt a little dismayed because it all looked the same and I felt how boring it was. No people walking around, nothing new to see. It was pretty much the same as when I left it. In Bangkok there are always people around and it always feels crowded. In America there seemed to be a void that needed to be filled with clamorous activity: people pushing themselves through a crowd, motorcycles whizzing by, vendors selling things on the street.

After a while I adjusted and felt quite comforted by the familiarity and also realized how extremely CONVENIENT it is to live in America. I still had my car so it was easy to go to the store to pick up the random odds and ends or to visit a friend. Driving seemed so orderly and relaxing compared to the insane traffic of Bangkok. At first I almost forgot that seat belts actually served a purpose and it felt unnatural to put it on because in taxis the backseat seatbelts are there but there is no buckle to put the seatbelt into so you can't really wear them. Crazy, right? I felt like life was so easy, so harmonious, almost idyllic. People all seemed sooo nice and there was a systematic order to things that I had craved so much in Thailand. We are always talking about the lack of "logic" in Thailand and I don't think we realize how anal retentive Americans are. Maybe its a little bit of the Puritan spirit left in us, I don't know, but I was glad to have efficiency in my life again.

The one thing I didn't like about being back in America was how expensive and how easy it was to spend money in America. I would go out and easily spend $100 in one store without even realizing it and that horrified me. It would take me all weekend to spend $100 in Thailand! Even eating was expensive but I realized that the cost was proportionate to the amount of food you receive. It really is ridiculous the size of the portions a restaurant serves. Most of the time you probably shouldn't eat more than half of what is given to you so you end up either wasting food, sharing food (if you both want the same thing), or taking food home as left-overs which most of the time don't taste very good reheated. Why don't they serve half the amount of food for half the price? That would make a lot more sense.

So I enjoyed my time immensely at home, being with friends and family and my cat. It was so nice that I didn't want to go back to Thailand but I didn't have a lot of choice. Going back was very hard; it was like starting over from square one. I hated the crowds. I hated the people and how unfriendly and rude they could be. I hated the inconvenience. I missed my friends and my family. I hated the lack of logic.

But luckily, I got used to it again. I'm enjoying my time in Thailand again and things don't bother me like they did when I first came back. It's just a process of adapting to the cultural norms and luckily I feel that my personality is flexible enough to move between the two with only minor discomforts.

This weekend is the Songkran Festival which is a big New Year's Celebration for Buddhists. We have a five day weekend (woo-hoo) so we are going to celebrate by going out and playing with water guns in the street and getting completely soaked. Most of the Thai's end up leaving Bangkok for the long weekend but I plan on staying in town, mainly because traveling seems like a hassle and prices go up so much during that weekend. Hopefully, I'll be able to take lots of pictures, that is, if my camera doesn't get drenched.