Monday, January 25, 2016
With few places more exotic, my lovely girlfriend and I embarked on January 13th to be foreigners in this distant land for a few days. And it was breathtaking.
But to make it to heaven sometimes you must go through hell, or in this case China. And more specifically, Beijing Airport. It was an experience in itself to say the least, having to connect here and go through a secondary security inspection just to walk through to our next flight. This behemoth of an airport, which feels and looks like a large plane hangar, but with high-end mall-style storefronts truly is where capitalism meets communism, and awkwardly. The outside temperature is 26°, the entire place is unheated, and the bundled up scarf wearing baristas, customer service reps, and store clerks surely don't seem to mind.
Soon however we were in Bangkok, and even though we arrived at the fantastic Amari Watergate Hotel in the dead of night, the humidity was punishing. Quite the opposite of Beijing. The entire time here, the day time temperature averaged 91°, the humidity continued to be punishing...and this was the cool season.
But the Thais seemed to be used to it, and even if they weren't, they probably wouldn't complain. What we encountered here on a daily basis was the happiest, simplest, and most humble culture of people. From our tour guide to the bell hop to the street vendors, nothing but the utmost generosity, and welcoming smiley faces. Probably a legacy of centuries of ingrained Buddhist thought.
For this country has nearly always been peaceful, not meddling in foreign affairs but also not allowing to be meddled with. One wouldn't even know that a royal family and King still run the county, or that just a year and a half prior a military coups took place here. Of course, a relatively civil and peaceful one somehow.
We were privileged to see pretty much all of what is Thailand, minus the resorts on the southern peninsula, which we had no desire to see anyway. Of course we had to be stereotypical tourists to do all of this, which included walking the bustling streets of Bangkok, viewing and walking about within the most intricately designed gorgeous temples, shopping for unheard of deals and eating the most delicious of food, driving through the countryside to Kanchanabori to ride elephants, stopping at the floating markets along the way. We sipped from the tops of coconuts and feasted on the freshest of wild fruits which could've been grown in the Garden of Eden itself, which alone is a good enough reason to visit. I stuck my feet into a tank and watched as hundreds of fish gave me a pedicure. We zip-lined tree to tree from hundreds of feet up in the forest canopy, rafted in the River Kwai, boated in the Mekong, crossed into the country of Laos where we drank snake whiskey and tiger penis liqueur, saw the border of Myanmar, and laid our heads for the last four nights in the beautiful moat-surrounded city of Chiang Mai.
It was the vacation of a lifetime, and it came to a close after we departed Chiang Mai to arrive back to the drab and coldness of Beijing Airport to connect to JFK.
Our 13 hour flight left Beijing at 10 am, and as if straight out of a sci fi novel, we arrived safely at JFK... at 10 am.
Before heading home though, we stopped at IHOP, succumbing to hunger for a meal that didn't contain any white rice and fighting back the intense jet lag that was coming, and just hours before the intense blizzard that was also coming.
Thailand is and was amazing. There really are no words.
But damn, three days later and I am still fighting that jet lag.