India v. Thailand

India v. Thailand

My first impression of Thailand after arriving here from India was… Wow, this place is TAME! And a bit boring! It’s also cleaner and more expensive.

I missed India a lot! I thought India was colorful, chaotic, and exciting. Thailand seemed so… vanilla, in comparison.

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Dirty Old Men

On March 11 I flew up to Chaing Mai from Bangkok on yet another ginormous plane (I was in row 72 and it had nine seats across!).  During the entirety of the two-hour flight I chatted with the girl next to me, Por.  Por is a Thai girl who married a British man when she was 17 years old.  He was 54.  They met online and he basically purchased her as his wife.  She said they chatted online for a few months before he came to Thailand to meet her and her family and make the marriage official.  After they got married, they moved to Dubai for the guy’s job. They lived there for seven years, but eventually moved to Thailand.  She has never been to his home country of England.  They have been married now for nine years and have three children together.  She told me that she is happy, that her decision to marry him was a good one because now she has a better life, and that she loves her children.  She showed me numerous pictures of them on her phone. She is now 26 and her husband is 63.
I’m glad she’s happy with her decision.  She had no reason to lie to me about her feelings; her hubby was not traveling with her.  But personally, I find the whole thing pretty gross.  But who am I to judge?

Elephant Nature Park

Many months ago, when I decided that Thailand would be included on my trip, I booked a week-long volunteering gig at Elephant Nature Park.  ENP is a brilliant organization in Northern Thailand founded by Lek Chailert.  Lek has made it her life goal to rescue and rehabilitate as many elephants (as well as dogs, cats, water buffalo, and monkeys) as she can from the tourism and logging industries in SE Asia.  She is an incredible woman who works extremely hard for animal and human rights.  She fights back against inhumane practices, educates locals about better ways to treat/train animals, and works closely with the Thai government to try to enact laws of protection for elephants.  When you hear her speak about these issues, you realize that Lek herself is the embodiment of love, strength, perseverance, and determination.  She is an inspiration to everyone who meets her.  She spoke to our group for about two hours one afternoon about the abuses that elephants face here in SE Asia, about the struggles she encounters when trying to fight against these abuses, about the slow but positives changes that are being made, and about how horrific animal tourism is.  For two days following her presentation, I would just burst into tears every time I thought about it.  I still, as I’m writing this, feel on the verge of tears.  But I’ll get more into the awful truth later.  For now, I’ll tell you about what is was like volunteering at ENP.

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Thailand’s Grand Canyon???

In Chiang Mai there is a red rock quarry that has been popularly dubbed “The Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai.”  You can Google it.  I’m not sure why it’s called the Grand Canyon because it’s neither grand NOR a canyon, but whatever.  It’s still pretty great nonetheless and has earned itself a high spot on the “things to do in Chiang Mai” list over the years (although it is actually in Hang Dong, 17 kilometers away).

 

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Chiang Mai, Part 2: The LadyBoy show

*Disclaimer:  The photos below may be inappropriate for young audiences.

Kathoeys or “ladyboys” are transgendered women in Thailand.  Unlike in the west, there is very little stigma attached to being transgendered in Thailand, and it is often viewed and accepted  as a third gender. Several Thai models, actresses, and singers are kathoeys. They live their lives as females and typically work predominantly female jobs like in beauty parlors, shops, hair salons, and also in tourism as entertainers (but also, of course, in the sex industry, which is huge in Thailand).  During my time in Thailand, I saw no less than 6 recognizable kathoeys just out and about.  And there may have been many more that I just couldn’t tell the difference.  The last time I saw that many transgendered individuals in one place was at the PRIDE festival in San Francisco.

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One Night in Bangkok…

Okay, so it was actually TWO nights in Bangkok, but I just had to quote that song.

On March 9th I said goodbye to India and “sawasdee ka” to Thailand.  I flew from Delhi to Bangkok on a giant dreamliner jet plane, and even though the flight was only 3.5 hours, I got a full meal and unlimited movies on Air India.  After two months in India, all I wanted to do in Bangkok was decompress, relax, catch up on my sleep, and catch up on my blog.  So I found an amazing hotel (iCheck Inn Sathorn) for only $30/night that offered a full suite, king-size bed, pool, balcony, full kitchen, daily cleaning and it stocked with two bottles of water daily.  It was pretty swank.  Too bad the wifi sucked because it took me five hours to upload photos for only two blogs.  As I said, I stayed there for two nights and literally did almost nothing during my time there.
These are the highlights of my Bangkok visit/first 2 days in Thailand:

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