Bangkok/Chiang Mai, Thailand

It's so weird to get used to one country and then have to start all over again (in a way, at least) in a new one. Especially when I fell so much in love with Vietnam.

On top of that, Bangkok is a crazy loud huge city that I felt so overwhelmed by! Eric was so excited to get here (and also a little bit tired after 30+ hours of flying). Our first night was spent eating street food in a super popular backpacker area where techno music was absolutely blasting - we couldn't even hear ourselves speak. We spent just one day in the city yesterday and walked around Wat Phra Kaeo (the temple of the emerald Buddha) and the grand palace. 

It is super interesting to me to be in a Buddhist country. There are signs everywhere reminding tourists that they show respect to the Buddha. The Buddha is NOT used as tattoos or for decoration. It's so opposite of how it's used in western culture. So if you're using the Buddha in this way, you aren't honoring their culture, you're insulting it. (Cultural appropriation, ahem).

It's also a bit surreal in that everyone puts their hands in prayer and bows to you and there are little altars everywhere and you have to take your shoes off inside places and there are rules of respect like you can't put your feet up on things (something I have to constantly remind myself not to do.) 

It was also 97 degrees yesterday. And I brought a scarf to cover my shoulders for the temple, but a woman told me even that wasn't polite, so I had to borrow a shirt from them to wear over my outfit instead. So I was basically dripping in sweat and exhausted and had a pounding headache - the heat does not work so well for me. We went to a market and then to eat somewhere where nobody spoke any English at all and I had the best soup ever. Thailand for sure makes the best soups. 

Anyway this morning we flew north to Chiang Mai so I am once again surrounded by mountains which makes me much happier. We walked around this huge market and then had a tuk tuk (open air taxi) driver take us to the other side of town and then we walked back. We stopped and got massages too. 

THEN for one of my favorite things that has happened yet all trip!!! We took a Thai cooking class. This one was special because the woman who taught it is Akha, which is one of the indigenous tribes that live around Thailand. There are 12 tribes, which all used to form one community even though they spoke different languages, and she told me that Thailand didn't actually exist until after World War II. She said that no powerful country was that interested in conquering Thailand because they don't have anything special - no oil, etc. She said the word Thai means "free," and that the word Thailand translates to "the land free of the white man." Just think about that for a moment. 

Also super interesting to me was that the Thai language only has 800 words!! Languages have become so fascinating to me on this trip. She explained how the tone of each word is different, so the same word spoken in 5 different tones would mean 5 different things. 

We also actually talked about cooking haha and she was so amazing. We got to make 8 Thai dishes and 3 Akha dishes. I was honestly so distracted and immersed in the cooking and eating that I didn't think to take pictures until more than halfway through and even then I kept forgetting!!! Which is a good sign I suppose. 

Then she gave us a recipe book and a packet of dried herbs that might be hard to find in the States. I am extremely happy about this. I really had such a great time.

If you've been following these posts you might be curious as to how it is to have Eric here now. To keep this totally honest, it is interesting and challenging to all of a sudden have someone else with me after spending the last month by myself. It's wonderful in a lot of ways, but it's definitely different. I really, really, really enjoy traveling alone. And so to suddenly have to start explaining my actions or why we should or can't go here and trying to decide what we should do and to think about Eric having a good time when I'm really exhausted and just want to take a nap is a little bit difficult at times. I also tend to wander really slowly and aimlessly around places and don't necessarily care how many things I see which is challenging for someone who wants a direction and a goal and a plan. It's super fun to have someone to share experiences with. But is not quite the same experience for sure. Just different :)

Tomorrow we are off to play with the elephants.......... Stay tuned