Thailand - my first impressions
After adventurously (and a little clumsily) missing my flight from Budapest and having to book a new ticket for a few days later thanks to the unhelpful Hungarian airport workers, I finally arrived to Thailand on 1st December. Exactly at the beginning of the month. It is a story I will always remember, I guess. Also, I believe it had to happen this way. And I had to learn not to leave too many things to do for the last few days (and hours) before flying to another continent. I guess :)
So I've been here for a month now. And I love it here. I absolutely LOVE it here. Which doesn't mean it has only been positive for me or that everything is easy in this country.
Many times it is actually quite frustrating to have to deal with people who don't speak foreign languages. And just I feel ignorant in so many occasions. I do have the intention of learning Thai, it will just obviously take time.
Also, it just feels like people (and things) are not well-organized in this country. Everything is subjective of course, but for people from Europe it just feels this way. I have lived in different countries, yes, also in so called third world countries, but I do come from a European country. My country is not the most organised one either, compared to so many others in the Western world. I also tend to have problems with German "organisedness" for instance. And tend to prefer chaos to some extent. This kind of chaos is also so exciting and amusing to contemplate. Not much so when I would like to arrange or buy something. The process is not always easy :D However, I normally try to see these situations as good excercise for me to expand my scope and practice patience.
Also, Thai culture is so complex. Impossible to understand and see through in one month. High power distance (=strong social hierarchy) and collectivism are two aspects that definitely meet the eye at first glance. I studied international management and cross-cultural communication at university, which was more than 10 years ago, but I still remember this theory about cultural dimensions. Especially for me, coming from a highly individualistic country with low power distance, widely-accepted social inequalities and no independence are the obvious things to notice and sometimes feel frustrated about ;)
Of course there are positive sides to these aspects as well, such as seeing people collectively having fun all the time, hearing about how loyal to and responsible for each other they are (as it is obviously impossible to see by just looking at them and having some small talk and superficial conversations).
If you are curious about the culural dimensions theory, you can actually compare your country to other countries here. A truly interesting "game" ;)
I can also clearly see the contradiction of Buddhist culture and consumerism.
And the "land of smiles" combined with the land of not being direct nor confrontational and talking about others behind their backs is an interesting one. Not to mention the fact that they do not care about waste management, use loooads of plastic and throw away their trash just anywhere they please. Or their buildings and infrastructure falling apart. I know these facts and habits are not only true for this country, in fact these are the eternal shock-factors for Western people in "underdeveloped" countries. I find it truly fascinating to see how the human species has evolved in different parts of the world. So many similarities between Southeast Asia and South-America for example, even though they are so far apart...
All right, I guess it's time for the positive part now.
I just don't even know where to start. A month has passed and I am still so overwhelmed. Mostly positively overwhelmed. I can't stop marvelling at the city, the beaches, the temples, the nature... I love their food, their kindness, their chaos, their contradictions, our differences... I love Bangkok. I love the islands I have been to. (I chose three "non-touristy" islands on purpose. There were tourists of course, but all three were quite laid-back, not crowded and I met there only nice and friendly travellers and expats.) I am sure I will love the rest of the country I am going to discover in the coming months as well.
When other travellers ask me "Why Thailand?" I can't really explain. It just attracted me to come and discover first from all the Southeast Asian countries. The ticket was the cheapest here, that's true as well. However, that's not the main reason in fact. I feel like I want to learn more of this culture, want to learn the language, want to meet more local people and listen to their stories, try to understand them better, make friends, establish connections. And I prefer to spend at least 6 months (or maybe even more) here before moving on to the next country. I feel I need more time to process all the information and get familiar with the culture, have some kind of attachment, not just travel around the whole region quickly and have faint impressions, make assumptions and later mix things up in my mind.
Slow travelling, I guess.
I am not putting pictures in this post on purpose. You will find them in my next blogpost, where I'll explain what parts I visited in the first month of my stay here. This post is rather about my feelings, thoughts and impressions of the Thai culture and way of life.
I'd be curious to know what you think if you have visited Thailand as well ;)