|The beautiful White Temple, outside the city of Chiang Rai|
Traveling to places so far from home can be arduous, but the rewards of doing so far outweigh the pain, for me at least. I found what I expected to in Thailand - temples, rice paddies, elephants and tigers - but I also found much more. I was moved by the way Buddhism permeates life in Thailand, not realizing until our trip, that most Thai men will live as monks at some point in their life, even if only briefly. I loved the morning ritual of giving offerings of food to the local monks, and the way the Thai people give a small bow of greeting to each other as they pass on the street. I loved the gentle spirit we observed everywhere we went, and the presence of temples on virtually every corner.
Thailand is very diverse, containing areas of tremendous lushness and beauty, as well as areas of mass population and air pollution. We loved how affordable Thailand was (a full meal, including a glass of the local beer, regularly ran us about $3.00 each), and the friendliness of its people, even as we lamented the poor quality of much of the air and water, and the "ownership" of animals like elephants, that in a more perfect world would live in freedom in the wild.
We experienced poverty in Myanmar and Laos, each of which we visited only briefly, and I realized that the next time we are in a similar position I need to be better prepared by having a large quantity of small currency that we can hand out. Yes, I understand that it would be but a small ripple in an otherwise difficult life, but as our travels become more diverse, I'm learning I can't simply come in and "take" from another culture without also giving or leaving something in return.
Which is why we continue to crave travel, even as it often leaves us exhausted. We inevitably return home with a deeper understanding of this complex world we live in, and a burning desire to be better humans in whatever capacity we can.
|A woman from the Longneck Hill Tribe of Thailand. We were touched by the gentle spirit of those we met, as well as the beauty of their handicrafts, particularly their hand woven products.|
|Children in Laos, the one in the middle apparently charged with taking care of her little brother while her parents worked. I regretted that we hadn't thought to bring more money to distribute during our brief stop there.|
|Workers transplanting rice in one of Thailand's abundant rice fields.|
|This is a tuk tuk, a common (and fun!) form of cheap transportation in Thailand.|
|We saw this amazing sight in person. You may recognize it from photos - it's been displayed many times in travel books and articles about Thailand.|
|An ancient temple in Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO world heritage site dating back to the 13th Century.|
|Also in Sukhothai Historical Park . . . a beautiful Buddha sculpture. The yellow flowers are offerings given by the Thai people.|
|At The Grand Palace, from the Old Kingdom of Siam, in Bangkok. The temple behind us in covered in 24 karot gold leaf, pounded thin and protected by an acrylic-like clear coat covering.|
|Also at The Grand Palace.|
|A small portion of the amazing and enormous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok.|
|More beautiful temple artwork|
|We so enjoyed the sight and sounds of monks everywhere we went in Thailand.|