My last few days in Thailand were bittersweet. I was certainly ready to leave when I bought the tickets, but as the days ticked away I came to realize how much I would miss it. My girlfriend had left for South Africa a few weeks before, so I was spending a lot of my time alone: reading, researching Australia, meditating. I spent a few nights in Chiang Mai, but I didn’t really go out and party. When planning on staying in Thailand long term, I didn’t really care to spend too much time chatting with people that would soon be goon. Now, a short-timer myself, I still didn’t want to hard to get to know someone because I would soon be gone.
However, one of my friends was in Chiang Mai whilst I was, so we got a chance to sit down and catch up. Knowing that I was on my way to Australia, which is supposed to be quite expensive, he even picked up the tab for my farewell meal. We didn’t really have any late or raucous nights out drinking, and before I knew it I was on the night bus for the capitol. Although now that I’m actually here in Oz, I really don’t think the cost of a meal or a night out in Thailand is going to make even the slightest difference.
Bangkok was considerably less overwhelming the second time around. First of all, the bus on the way down there wasn’t full, so I had plenty of room to stretch out. I remember being sat next to a fat, smelly Israeli who spilled over his seat the last time I took that bus. Secondly, having been in Thailand for months already, there wasn’t as much to take in. I was already used to vendors calling me on the streets, people drinking at all times of day, and a crowded amalgamation of drunken people from every corner of the globe; it wasn’t that much of a shock. Sure, the big city is bigger and dirtier than Chiang Mai, the ‘big city’ in the north, but it certainly wasn’t the culture shock I experienced when I first arrived back in April. Again, I wanted to save money for my time in Australia, but seeing just how expensive it really is here, I almost wish I splurged a bit in Thailand, the land of smiles and cheap everything. I did, however, go to see a bit of a risqué show unique to Thailand, which I wouldn’t dare describe in such a public forum. For those of you who know a few things about Bangkok, you’ll know what I mean. While the show was more horrifying than anything else, I’m glad that I can now saw that I did it.
The airport was definitely a lot easier the second time around. I didn’t get ripped off my way there, like the first time. In fact, I probably only paid a tenth of what I had paid all those months ago. It was a breeze. Although I don’t claim to speak Thai, just knowing a few simple words like ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you very much’ made everyone I interacted with happy to help me along my way. Before I knew it I was sitting on a plane, closing one chapter of my life and starting a new one.
I spent months in Asia, and I don’t regret a moment of it, despite the mistakes I made. I learned a lot about their culture, as well as my own. I met some really interesting, genuine people. I also met some really shallow, non-interesting folks. All in all, it’s an experience that I wouldn’t give up. I think all people from Western countries should try to step out of their own culture, and not just for a visit but to live for at least a few months. The opportunity to live in a place so foreign and different from your home is an experience like none other, and I recommend it to everybody.