Why I Went to Thailand

Topiary, Bangkok

Topiary, Bangkok

Hernando de Soto, Cabeza de Vaca, Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci.

If you  went to primary school in America, you learned all about the European adventurers DISCOVERING the world.  There was no history of America—or anywhere—until the Europeans  went out looking for gold and treasures.

Of course, that isn’t true, but I became curious about  the culture and geography of southeast Asia.  Ankhor Wat—the whole Nak culture and Ankhor  civilization spread  out hundreds of miles, and the architecture. The apsaras, and  so much uniform, repeating  art.  The many  Buddist Temples.

There is so much about Thailand that  is amazing the the ‘white bread middle class’ American.  So much  history, and the  intricate temples made of laterite that still stand.  The canals.  The silk industry, attributed to Jim Thompson.  Their amazing infrastructure and use of it, and art, as well as hospitality to grow their tourism industry.

In the northern part of the country (that is, from the Gulf of Siam north), Buddism predominates, and the  dynamic is very much ‘live and let live’.  The Thai are very tolerant of invaders, be they tourists or  business people.  If you didn’t already know, there is a huge  community of  gay men:  transgendered and cross dressers, very much integrated into society as a whole, very much for the better.

Literacy is very high, and although there are complaints, the  macro economy  thrives.  I was  very surprised to find dog groomers in many Thai cities. This indicates to me that   there is a middle class population with expendable income.

Thailand is  known for  reasonably priced luxury items.  In Chiang Rai, in the north, by the Myammar border, you can buy rubies.  In Chiang Mai, you can  buy  so many interesting things on the street,, see the Buddist Temples, and also see the Maesa Elephant camp, where the  former logging elephants now  play soccer & paint.

If you go, you will want to get the book, Very Thai:  Everyday Popular Culture, by Philip Cornwel-Smith (photographs by Jolin Goss) to help you make sense of  what you are experiencing.

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