Thailand (Intro)

Thailand has been a country that¡¯s synonymous to ¡°tourist trap¡± in my mind. But, for a Chinese who has never been to South East Asia, Thailand seems like the best place to start. In that part of the world, it is probably the only country that hasn¡¯t exhibited any hostility toward ethnic Chinese.

During my twenty-hour eastbound journey, I finished reading a brief history of Thailand given by Insight Guides-Thailand. It is a country that gave away 50,000 square miles of its land (Laos and western part of Cambodia to France, and parts of Malay Peninsular to the Great Britain) to exchange for Siam¡¯s independence. Thus, Thai was the only country that escaped the colonization nightmare that still plagues the rest of Southeast Asia. This fact along gained my respect.

Thais love their King, and seems rightly so. Gui laughed at me that I¡¯ve been brainwashed. But it seems hard not to love such a parental royal family, who single-handily established a nation-wide education system which was free and mandatory (prior to 1890s, the only education Thai youth would get was from the temples). As a result, today¡¯s literacy rate of Thai is at 96%! The Royal family was forced out of power during a coup in 1932, however they continued to command Thai people¡¯s loyalty and respect. The colors of Thai¡¯s national flag symbolized Buddhism (White), Country(Red), and the King(Blue). Here is a little excerpt from Insight Guides ¨C Thailand that I found especially interesting. It was the ending of ¡°Bloody May¡± in 1992, when students pro-democracy demonstrations induced shootings, beatings, riots, arson and mass arrests continued for three days.

The crisis ended when King Bhumibol summoned Prime Minister Suchinda and Chamlong Srimuang, the leader of the pro-democracy movement, to a meeting at the Royal Palace. What followed can only be described as extraordinary. The two leaders entered the room crawling on hands and knees and were told by the king to end the violence and work together. The even was broadcast around the world.
The next day, the violence subsided, and life returned to normal. A little later, an unrepentant Suchinda stepped down and left the country.

Isn¡¯t that amazing? I wonder what would have happened if China had a royal family during July 4th, 1989. Anyway, I think Thailand is lucky to have this particular royal family.

Unlike in China or in Japan, I didn¡¯t see super Americanized youth on the streets. Instead of Nike shoes, Chicago Bull¡¯s T-shirt, what caught my eyes the most were young monks in their bright yellow robes and sandals. Granted, we did see one monk getting money out of ATM and a couple of them smoking on the side walk. It was still very impressive to see the youth in traditional attire instead of Levi¡¯s. They held on to their tradition. It is a nation doesn¡¯t seem to have a national identity crisis.

The temples are ornate to the last visible square inch, their decorations are as flowery as their written scripts.

The rich mingles with the poor. According to Sarah, who has been in Thailand for the past six months working for a NGO, there is no rich district versus the slams. You are very likely to see a multi-million dollar mansion right next to a shabby wooden hut, which we did see on the water canal in Thonburi. Just like in their weekend market you are going to see a souvenir stand for the tourists right next to a grocer targeted the local. This is a people who don¡¯t pay attention to classifications; they are fluid and tolerant like the water in the Chao Phraya, which flew through the fertile land as well as the barren¡­