After a fun-filled week in Delhi, we hopped on a plane and headed southeast to Bangkok, Thailand. We both love Southeast Asia. The kind and friendly people, the delicious (and cheap) food, the warm weather and sunshine…it really doesn’t get much better than this part of the world. For this reason, Thailand is somewhere that we had been looking forward to for a long time. Our plan was to start our time in Bangkok, then head to Chiang Mai and onto Phuket after that, but COVID-19 had other plans (more on that in a future post, but for now we’re back in the U.S.). We were excited to begin our Thai adventure in Bangkok with the opportunity to explore the Thai capital and learn about this amazing country.

I (Haley) had visited Bangkok for about a week in 2011 while staying with some friends (who are like my second family) in between my time in Beijing and India. We took a short trip from their home in south China (Shenzhen) during the holidays. It was just enough time to dip my toes into this amazing country and know that one day I had to come back. And oh how I’m thankful we did. Thailand is already a beautiful place, but the people and culture make it even more beautiful. Bangkok is full of some incredible cultural sites. The city sits on the Chao Phraya River, and on both sides of the river, you can find amazing Buddhist temples and Thai palaces. They’re colorful and detailed and absolutely breathtaking, and we couldn’t wait to see and explore them.

The first temple that we visited is called Wat Arun. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, its full name means “Temple of the Dawn” because of the god that it is named for but also because the first glimmers of light in the morning are said to shine off of it brilliantly. It was built in the early to mid-1600s. And it is beautiful. The detail in the tile work is incredible to see up close and far away.

The second temple that we spent time in is Wat Pho. It is located on the other side of the Chao Phraya River, opposite from Wat Arun. It is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, being constructed sometime in the 17th Century. It is similar to Wat Arun, but on a much larger scale. It is HUGE. And it even has a 150.9 foot “reclining Buddha” in one building. The temple is so colorful and amazing to see.

Another amazing cultural site that we visited is the Grand Palace. Built in 1782, it is a massive complex of buildings and temples that the Thai royal families still use to this day. Similar to Wat Arun and Wat Pho, it has unique Thai architecture and colors throughout that are incredible to see.

Aside from the Palace and temples, another interesting place that we visited is the Jim Thompson House. Jim Thompson was a U.S. WWII army veteran who was an architect and businessman before the war. Following WWII, he decided to settle in Bangkok where he established the Thai Silk Company that still exists today. After he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967, his house was turned into a museum that you can visit to learn about his life and the Thai silk industry and to see his collection of Thai artwork. It’s a really interesting place and a unique look into what life was like for an expatriate in Thailand in the 1950s and 1960s.

We were also able to visit the Thai National Museum, which is one of the largest museums in Southeast Asia. It is filled with Thai art and history, and we really enjoyed getting to learn so much about a country that captured our hearts.

Something that we had most been looking forward to in Bangkok was a food tour with Bangkok Food Tours. It was at night and took us around to several different restaurants and areas of town in a tuk tuk. We were able to have local delicacies like papaya salad, tom yum soup, grilled pork, fried noodles, mini pineapples and of course, pad Thai. SO, SO DELICIOUS. We were even able to visit the local flower market as well as see Wat Pho at night and get drinks at a bar across from Wat Arun. It was so fun and a memory that we will definitely treasure forever.

Aside from seeing all of these sites, we really just enjoyed being in Bangkok and exploring it. We loved walking the streets of downtown and areas like Chinatown and Khao San Road. We got 2 hour Thai massages one afternoon (for $20). We took a Chao Phraya River boat tour one day, and we ate some delicious food. Bangkok truly stole our hearts.

When we landed in Thailand, I remember telling Perry that the biggest thing I remembered about Thailand is that the people were so happy, friendly and genuinely kind. And turns out that memory was correct. 

We have a confession…Perry and I have become a little jaded over the last several months. It’s terrible we know, but almost every time someone talks to us or offers to help, then we almost automatically assume there’s an angle and they are trying to get something out of us as tourists. This  cynicism mostly started in Egypt, where the tipping culture was a lot to handle…like if you asked someone a question on the street then they wanted a tip for an answer. And if you do tip and don’t give the amount they want then they’ll often argue with you over wanting more. And I love my precious India, but most of the time, if someone offered us help or advice then they would almost automatically ask for money. Now this is not true for every person we encountered, but it was for most. And honestly, it gets pretty exhausting having to constantly avoid eye contact with people just so you won’t be hounded for something. So needless to say, we got to a point where we wouldn’t ask for help (unless we really needed something).

After months of people semi-harassing us, Thailand really threw us off when people were just genuinely interested in helping us if we looked lost or confused. Our first day, we went to a cultural site that was running on different hours than we expected so it was closed when we arrived. The sweetest man noted our confusion and came over and helped us figure out how to plan out the rest of our day, even giving us a map so we could see the route he recommended taking. Tuk tuk drivers, who in India would have argued with us over the price, would either agree to the price we set or if they wouldn’t go that low then they would recommend to us a different method of transportation (such as a water taxi) that would be cheaper…and they would do this all with a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts. ”What is this place??” we kept asking ourselves. Thai people are just different. They aren’t out for the hustle. They just want you to feel welcome in their country.

Looking back, I feel like there is an important lesson to be learned from this. As we spent more and more time in Bangkok, we started to let our guard down and be grateful for the kindness of strangers. Not everyone is out there trying to take advantage of someone. Sometimes they’re just trying to be nice so I don’t need to be so jaded and suspicious all the time.

In this world of COVID-19 and chaos, this is something that I really needed to be reminded of. Now more than ever, we need each other. Even in social distancing and quarantining, we cannot do this life on our own and we must learn to open our hearts to others and accept help when we need it without the assumption that there are strings attached. I think if there’s anything we’re learning through this epidemic, it’s that: there is kindness and generosity and helpfulness left in the human race.

So for today, I’m beyond grateful for the time, be it shorter than we wanted, that we could spend in Thailand- a country filled with beautiful landscapes and beautiful people. I’m dreaming of the day that we can return there and continue this wonderful road. I’m thankful for lessons learned about kindness from the Thai people. And I’m praying that I can spread that joy and love to all that I encounter because the world needs it now more than ever before. May we all follow the Thai example and find ways to help others genuinely and selflessly both now and for the rest of our days.


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