Impressions of Thailand

The people!
Thailand is a country whose people are quite relaxed, easy-going, and humble. Compassion and tolerance – two very significant tenets of Buddhism – are prevalent and abundant in Thailand – make for easy and totally enjoyable traveling. The Land of Smiles is a superbly spot-on moniker.

The food!
Abundance indeed. Food is everywhere, in many forms; in the outdoor markets, on street carts, in supermarkets and shops, on the fruit trees and in the fields. Food security – a measure of the availability of food and individuals’ accessibility to it, where accessibility includes affordability – in Thailand is quite high. Chock full of variety, Thai cuisine is utterly unique and absolutely bursting with flavor. I think what makes Thai food so amazing is the combination of fresh ingredients and the way they are combined. Sweet, salty, spicy – garlic, cilantro, basil, hot peppers, palm sugar, salt, coconut, fish sauce – each dish is a delicate balance of distinct flavors in perfect harmony with each other. One of our favorite local foods, especially in the north was Khao Lam!

The Thai smile!
We loved seeing the bright, cheery faces of the Thai people; loved the warm non-verbal communication that comes from a smiling glance. For better or for worse, it’s not culturally acceptable to display anger in Thailand (I assume this is an extension of the Asian ‘save-face’ syndrome). We never saw an angry face; never saw anyone get upset. Most everyone wears a positive expression on their face, and the majority are quick to flash a sweet, gentle smile in return for meeting their eyes. Remarkable.

The Buddhist Temples!
Wow! So intricately detailed and extremely ornate. And, so much symbolism in the details. We most enjoyed the resplendent glow of the orange roof tiles and the glasswork on the buildings themselves reflecting the late afternoon sun. And the memorable saffron robes of the monks, young and old. And the peace and quietude of the grounds. Impressionable.

The Land!
From the southern beaches of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, to the northern mountains, Thailand is spectacular. After nearly twenty years since my last visit, it’s easy to recognize the incremental development and growth, as well as the overall wealth across this nation. Such is the world today, I gather; an ever-increasing population with an avaricious and unsustainable appetite for natural resources. Fortunately, through the growth, Thai culture remains strong and vibrant.

The markets!
Holy smokes! The markets of Thailand are a dazzling array of cornucopia. Within these omnipresent cultural attractions, you’ll find an enormous selection of prepared foods and foods cooked to order; raw fruits and vegetables; cooked and raw meats, fish and poultry; home-made sweets and packaged snacks; handmade and mass-produced crafts; plastic stuff of all sorts; clothing, shoes, and more. We loved going into local markets and simply watching the comings and goings of their purveyors and patrons. We also thoroughly enjoyed not knowing what we were looking at half the time! Thailand must surely have some of the most varied and exotic collections of food anywhere in the world. Going through markets, there were always a large percentage of prepared foods that we couldn’t identify and knew nothing about. We tried as best we could to be adventurous with young, limited palates and sensitive taste buds! One of our most laughable experiences time and time again was going into markets, finding a food we couldn’t recognize and asking (in English, only because we didn’t know enough Thai), “What is this?” The response, however, was almost always the answer to the question “How much does this cost?” Unfortunately, the language barrier was a factor in our market experiences.

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