travel | thailand

Thailand comes closest to heaven on earth, (unless, of course, you find yourself stuck in one of its cities, in which case it becomes a pure, pungent hell). 

I kept myself out of cities and close to quaint villages and lush countrysides, twisting roads and bustling night markets. It’s a different world altogether, one where bowing is a standard form of gratitude, monkeys rifle through your things and run off with them, and hidden, abandoned temples can be found if you look around. I rode on the back of a moped (clutching onto fellow COlaborator Shawn), for most of the trip and felt like a kid seeing the world with fresh eyes. We drove past the tiny shrines that marked each residence, a Thai tradition that honors the spirits left behind, with daily offerings to keep them satisfied enough not to bother those still living. We zipped past dogs and cats with no owners, lazing about in complete freedom. We rode into sunsets designed with its viewers in mind. We woke up to the mountains and fell asleep to the high tide. We observed monks and wandered through caves. We ate fresh fish caught a few feet from where we were sitting, in a secret restaurant with a kitchen entrance. 

Despite the vast beauty and welcoming people, at times I faced a filter of guilt. I was a tourist feeding and encouraging one of their major industries. The demand for English teachers in Thailand is high, and the main incentive for Thais to learn English is so they can get a better job in the tourism industry. This allows them to better serve us as we briefly satiate our thirst for something exotic. We can't be bothered to learn their language in their country. what does this ripple effect look like? How much of their culture is slowly being sacrificed because of our demand to communicate material needs in our own native tongue?

While this served a harsh undercurrent to some of my experiences, I still made many memories that I hope never fade. Should they tarnish in time, I hope to be blessed enough to return and experience Thailand all over again… but with a more extensive knowledge of their language and a better insight into their cultural practices (take off your shoes).

Places visited: Chiang Mai, Chiang Dao, Pai, Krabi, Ao Nang, Koh Lanta, Koh Rok, Koh Ha, Bangkok

words by carter