I am having a hard time loving Thailand. Well, maybe it’s not quite that… I am having a hard time seeing how Thailand is treated, thus, what Thailand is turning (has turned?) into.
Before returning here, I was scared that my romanticized memories from my 2012 trip would be exactly that: romanticized. I was scared that my memories would not match up to what I remembered (and hoped) Thailand to be. And surprisingly (thankfully!) that is not the case; This experience, this country, this whole everything, is just as beautiful as it was last time. I am loving the big, beautiful Thai smiles, the inescapable Buddhism, the jungle and the heat, the flavorful food. I am loving being an outsider, coming into this culture so different from my own and sincerely appreciating it for what it is. And in addition to appreciating in ways similar to what made me initially fall in love with it four years ago, it’s really freaking neat to return to these places as the person I am now. Returning to Thailand as a significantly more blossomed being, with the seeds of my spirituality, independence, and essentially my whole identity at this point, planted here! In Thailand!
This was a big country for me. My first experience with such a different culture. My first country in Asia! My first time travelling away from my family! My first time on an extended trip. My first time backpacking. The list goes on… Thailand was significant for me.
And maybe this, combined with the fact that I am simply just a sentimental, sensitive person, is what is resulting in my anguish. I’m starting to wonder if things have significantly changed in the tourism here over the past four years, if there is seriously a huge dichotomy between high and low season (I visited during low season last time), or if it was just
Am I just more aware this time? Do I just have a different perspective than the other tourists and backpackers? Has my education over the past few years enlightened me so much that I’m no longer able to hide behind the naivety and ignorance of my 18 year old self?
I’m finding myself sad. Sad for this land, for this culture. I am sad that foreigners come into this country with absolutely no understanding of how things work here, and instead they get angry when they all of a sudden aren’t bowed down to as they believe they should be.
I want to say to the old white man that kicked the van that drove a little too close to him:
“Are you kidding me? If you stand in the middle of the road, you’re at fault… of course you’re going to come close to getting hit. This is Thailand. They don’t move for you, you move for them. You’re a visitor here. You play by their rules. And how freaking disrespectful of you to kick a vehicle of someone who is just carrying on with their daily tasks, as they are living their life here in Thailand, because he is Thai, and you sir, are not. The least you could do before entering a country that is not yours is pick up a Lonely Planet and read the ‘how to cross the road’ section.”
I am sad that the land is so terribly disrespected that upon arriving the Koh Phi Phi you have to pay an environmental fee to help counteract the effects of the high tourism. I am sad that the beach is covered in broken glass, the beach that has been overtaken by bar after bar after bar. I am sad that people rave about this being such a beautiful island and all I can see is garbage, a ton of clueless people, and overprices souvenirs. I am sad that the religion is not being admired, not even respected.
I want to say to the cocky (no pun intended) Americans obnoxiously acting out at the Phallus shrine:
“Do you realize how disrespectful you are being? Not only are you being loud and offensive and are bothering all the people around you, but you are actually being horrifically disrespectful to the Thai’s that actually use this as a place of worship, and have for probably hundreds of years. (Which in fact they have – all those wooden penises are offerings from fishermen in hopes to be kept from danger on their journeys). Yes, sure, the variety of numerous penis carvings are a strange sight, but must you pick them up, place them over your own crotch and take seriously inappropriate photos? Do you not notice everyone staring at you with disgust, especially the local men that are right next to you? Perhaps if you’re not going to do a little bit of research about a country that is so different from your own, you could at least just open eyes to notice that that is clearly something to be respected.”
I am sad that all of a sudden I’m that backpacker… the one that thinks she knows better (maybe I do?), the one that looks at the drunk twenty-somethings who have probably been drunk every day for the past 3 weeks with at least some degree of disgust, the one that is sure this isn’t romanticized. Thailand is something better than this. I’m sure of it. I don’t like to be this traveler that walks around always on the edge of a cringe, trying not to have it come across as “over-cultured snobbiness“. I am simply, genuinely sad to see a country that has so much to offer, be appreciated for so little of it.