Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Finding my smile in the Land of Smiles

It's almost the middle of march and it's been snowing in Seoul for the past couple of days. I woke up from a nap yesterday evening, only to pull open my window shades and see a mixture of rain and snow fall from the sky. I quickly pulled down the shades, turned up my heater and proceeded to fall back to sleep, while willing myself to dream of a tropical getaway I'd traipsed around, just short of two weeks ago.

Bangkok, Thailand: colourful tuk tuks and motorcycles on hand.

Thailand stole my heart from the minute I stepped out of the airport in Bangkok. Perhaps it was the adrenaline pumping through my system after finally having arrived at my destination... or perhaps it was the shock of actually standing in a warm country; winter jacket tucked safely away in my backpack (it was snowing in Seoul when we left earlier that day). Whatever the reason, I was in sweaty, humid heaven.

Over the next few posts I'll share some specific experiences and pictures with you about my time in the Land of Smiles. And it's called that for a reason. Though Thailand is known to be a hot tourist destination for visitors from across the planet, there's something to be said about the locals, who radiate a warmth I never realized I'd missed while living in Korea.

From the moment we stepped off the plane we were greeted with the traditional "Sawatdee Kaa" (hello), gentle joining of hands at chest level, and beaming, genuine smiles.

This continued on throughout the trip, (well, minus the joining of hands, used mostly for formal greetings). This was such a refreshing change from Seoul, where a smile from a foreigner (especially one like me) ignites stares and 'deer in the headlight' looks from native Koreans.

Ayutthaya, Thailand: A serene view from the guesthouse we stayed in.

I was glad we'd left Korea at the 'end' of winter and just before the start of the new school year. It was therapeutic and rejuvenating to escape to a country where downtime included digging my toes in the sand, letting the fresh sea air sweep through my hair, and watching people from all over the world, as they too indulged in their tropical getaways.

Thailand is definitely not short of scenery. It doesn't matter whether you're in fast and heavy Bangkok, or lounging along the Krabi coast -- just a quick look up or into the distance promises cliffs, centuries-old temples, palaces and traditional markets that can't be matched by any other part of the world, I think.

This trip was of the healing kind for me. It had been so long since I'd been in an environment where people were relaxed, easy-going and worked to live rather than lived to work. My soul was grateful and my mind relaxed.

Now, I'm sure some of you will argue that I avoided scuttling through a lot, in terms of the impoverish pockets in Bangkok or other parts of the country. I'm very aware of all that lacks in this part of the world, but it wasn't the focus of my visit. I was simply looking for all the beauty it had to offer. I wanted it to engulf me and beam through my entire body as I boarded the plane back to Seoul. And it did.

Krabi, Thailand: Ao Nang beach, close to sunset.

It's amazing what a few days in the tropics can do to a person. I kept asking my travel companions why everyone was so much nicer and relaxed. They told me that it definitely had to do with their warm climate and 'island vibe'.

I've always said I'm a tropical girl at heart, though I live in Canada and have now experienced one of the worst Korean winters in over 70 years. I don't think this will ever change. Something about the pace, the heat, the tropical beauty and culture of this part of the world agrees with me. It's where I feel most like myself. Whether it be Goa, India, or Krabi, Thailand -- smiles just come more naturally to me in the tropics.

More soon!


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful... Would love to visit Thailand one day

    p.s just visiting from SITS
    Buh Byez!


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