A Very Happy, If Older, Wendy

So a couple of you may know that it was my birthday yesterday and I can honestly say that it made me realise how much I love traveling, and especially Thailand. My 21st last year was spent being Lara Croft in the temples of Cambodia and this year, having spent a week in Cambodia to arrange a new visa, I got to spend my birthday, this year, back in my adopted home town of Surin.

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Belated Birthday celebrations in Bangkok with two AMAZING girls, Caroline and Becki (2012)

I can honestly say it was one of the best birthdays I have had, although I may not of had all the people that matter to me celebrating with me, I know that they were there in spirit and luckily I had all my friends here to make up for it. I got to hang out with my two big brothers, have my favourite local band sing one of my favourite songs as well as sing me Happy Birthday and I got to do it all after having some great Skype calls with people who I cherish around the world.

But like I said, my birthday this year really did make me appreciate what I have in life and appreciate even more the wonderful place I get to live and work in. I have never really fitted in in England, I don’t so much like the culture, the way people treat each other and the lack of morals of many of the people that live there. Thailand on the other hand fits me very well and these are a few reason why I, and you, should love this, the beautiful ‘Land of Smiles’.

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When I step out of my house each day the heat wraps around me like an embrace and the familiar smells waft up my nose. This might be the smell of rotten fruit, previous evening’s garbage and left over food for the Soi dogs, but I a 2 minute walk to 7/11 conjurers the beautiful and mouth-watering aroma of roasted pork, noodles and petrol; most people won’t know that petrol is one of my favourite smells, and when you mix this with pork you are on to one of the most beautiful smells ever imaginable!!

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One of the cute Soi Dogs that lives near my house

Every place and every step in Thailand brings you something new to savour: tastes, smells, warmth, humility, friendliness and spiritual peace. I have never found anywhere else that has managed to always surprise and humble me at the same time, even on a journey I have done a thousand times, I can’t bring myself to close my eyes and sleep as this amazing environment still instills so much excitement in me.

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Cannot get enough of the food here

So here are some reasons why I love Thailand so much.

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A sunset in Khao Yai National Park

Freedom

England is a culture that is rigid with rules, fees, fines, taxes and expectations. Humans are meant to be free and able to enjoy this wonderful journey. Being ferried from one part of life to another, because that is ‘what you do’ just doesn’t fit me, or what I think life is about.

I love what seems to be almost an absence of rules in Thailand. Despite this people generally go about living their life making responsible decisions and being kind to one another; I think this is mostly down to their Buddhist upbringing but also Thais seem to just have a much greater level of respect for each other than Western society does.

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Tom Yam Soup

Food

Even though I only tend to eat once a day, I could honestly eat Thai food constantly, if I could create some kind of portable Thai food conveyor belt that was always stocked with my favourite foods then I would be a very happy rainbow 😀

The Thai create dishes with ingrediants that if you saw them on their own, you would think to be completely inedible, but as with most things in life, Thais find a way to make something beautiful from nothing. If you want to see a couple of beautiful Thai dishes you can experience whilst here, then take a look at my ‘Top Ten Thai Dishes’ post from a couple of weeks ago.

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Phi Phi Islands in South Thailand

Exoticness

(Unsure if this is a real word or not haha)

For me, Thailand is the height of exotic. There are countless different sides to this beautiful diamond of a country that, even in my 9 months here, I still stumble upon new and beautiful places and things that I wasn’t aware of.

I love the cultural celebrations, the religious ceremonies, the strange food, beautiful beaches and most of all the charming and welcoming people that no matter how stressful a day has been, will always make me smile.

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My two big brothers!!

People

I can’t explain how homely Thailand feels, if you are in the tourist hotspots you probably won’t experience this but if you are in ‘real’ Thailand then you will defintily know what I am talking about. When you come to Thailand, the people here make you feel as though you are part of their family, the people at my local 7/11 for example have included me in so many of their staff nights out, in jokes and general banter. This all comes from Thais being very open and kind people who accept everyone for who they are, no matter how silly or brightly coloured their hair is 😀

You instantly feel good around Thais and all your guards drop because you know all they bring to the table is acceptance, warmth and love. There have been a couple of times I have had a bad day, either from stresses at work, people giving me a hard time or just from getting out of bed on the wrong side and one kind word from a random Thai person on the street, in a passing truck or at Big C has completely lifted my spirit and made me smile again.

They want to laugh more than they want to argue, complain or be bitter. Life is all about being happy, so why waste time being anything other than that?

Buddhist monks participate in a procession to mark the anniversary of the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, on the outskirts of Bangkok

Monks presentation

Spirituality

Thai people are very much in tune with their religion, they live everyday in order to be a good person. Following the teachings of Buddha and accepting life as it is makes Thais very laid back and appreciative of the small things in life.

Their attitude is to be kind always.

Choose happiness, be respectful, consider others, laugh often.

I love how they stop to honour Buddha and the King at every photo and statue they see. They bend low to pass you something with two hands. They greet you with a Wai blessing. They are so reverent and believe that your actions have consequences, so choose the actions that bring about those happy, positive results for all people involved. More people need to learn from these peaceful and loving people.

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Language

I don’t know why I love Thai. I think it has a lot to do with how different it is from any other language and that it is still very mysterious to the vast population of the world. Hundreds of thousands of people learn Spanish or Japanese every year but nobody learns Thai. In the touristy locations the Thais speak English and for the places that Thais don’t learn English you can get around with hand signals and Google translate. For me though, I want to learn one of the lesser known languages in the world, not only to improve my own life experience, but also to show that even though my skin may be white, that I can put in as much effort to learn a language as the Thais do.

Thais are very humble and kind but they will happily laugh with you at all your silly mistakes and pathetic attempts to speak their language!

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A boy enjoy Songkran – Thai New Year

Living For The Moment

Thailand forces people to live in the moment. When you walk down the street you can’t do so whilst worrying about all the silly things in life as you are on an adventure of sorts with the countless tuk tuks, cars, mobile street carts, motorbikes, people, all moving amongst one another. You are forced to be present or die. And when you think about it, that is what life should be. Live for the now, not for the past that is gone or the future that will never be.

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There really is nothing like Thai traffic

Living With Chaos

When you first see Thailand, all you see is the hundreds of busy and bustling cars, tuk tuks, motorbikes, people, children running around barefoot, dogs chasing each other for territory, cats stalking their pray, vendors hollering about their wares and school children on the way to school.

Yet despite all this chaos their is a constant essence of calm in Thailand.

Take a second to stand and watch the chaos unfold and you will still see a beautiful moment of calm amongst the storm whether it is a stolen smile between to young Thais, a child’s beaming smile after being given a sweet snack or an old dog just observing the territory he has spent years protecting.

Seeing butterflies is my personal reminder to just take a second to appreciate the here and now.

When I am busy with things in my own mind, or worrying about things I really have no control over, I always see a pair of butterflies playfully chasing each other in the warm breeze and it makes me realise that I need to stop.

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Miss International Queen Pageant in Bangkok

Acceptance

One of my favourite things about Thailand is that you will be loved and accepted no matter who you are and what you believe in. You aren’t treated differently for anything, whether it be your skin, your hair, your gender, your sexual preference or taste in fashion.

I have always admired how gay/lesbian and ‘ladyboys’ are  treated with respect and love within society. They are teased in a friendly way that is not meant with any malice, much the same as people who aren’t stick thin are. There is absolutely no bullying at all, so snickering remarks about people you see on the street or in a club or bar. Everyone is a person and for that are honored.

Thinking about it, the only times I can think of any sort of derogatory comments or behaviour towards anyone seen as ‘different’, is from Westerners who can’t seem to accept that, just because a person doesn’t think the same as you that they should be ridiculed and made to feel worthless.

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All you need for 1 day in Thailand – around 2GBP

Cheap Living

I won’t lie, I have lived here for 9 months and haven’t once used the kitchen in my house, if it wasn’t where the cups and bin lived then I wouldn’t even know where it is. It is only 30-40B to eat out for any meal so I really have no reason to make my own food. Travel from Surin to Bangkok is 407B, around 8GBP or $12, I couldn’t even get from my house in York to Leeds on that much money!!!

You can live well in Thailand. And life is for living well.

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Beautiful Beaches

The beaches are stunning, the sand soft and white, crystal clear, blue or jade water, depending where you are. The water is calm and gentle and beckons you to come snorkelling and play with tropical fish up close.

Fresh fruit is available everywhere, with the added bonus of being locally sourced and organic. The catch of the day is cooked on an evening, the smell of roasting fish, crackling and spiting over hot coals, always makes me smile and my mouth water.

There are still many beaches that haven’t been taken over my 20 something Westerners so don’t loose hope when you see most of the beaches are advertised for the bars and pub crawls.

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The Famous Tuk Tuk

Transport

One of my favourite ways to travel in Bangkok, whenever I am there, is my motorbike taxi. I love being a part of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok traffic. Your driver will career around bends with oncoming traffic from every direction but does so with such control and experience you don’t bat an eyelid.

Having a tuk tuk drive on the way home after a night out is one of the best parts of my night. I love tumbling into a tuk tuk and knowing that all the local drivers know where my house is so there is no worry to getting lost. I haven’t found anywhere else that remembers where I live!!

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Enjoying a night out with my best friend Nangfa!

Night Life

In Thailand life begins at night time. This doesn’t just mean the bars or clubs but includes the night markets, the street stalls full of tasty and delicious food by the park and the generally more relaxed vibe on an evening. I have sat outside 7/11 with friends just people watching, trying the food of the various stalls and joking with the 7/11 staff; I really don’t miss my Playstation in times like that haha

So those are the things I really love about Thailand. I would to hear what you love about Thailand and what makes it a truly amazing travel destination.

If you haven’t made your way to this incredible country then you need to check out the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, where you can pick a project that will change your life as well as the lives of the Thais you will work with.

And as always have a look at my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for my own Thailand experience!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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