Thailand, the land of smiles. In my mind, a land of freedom and stress less. The kingdom of Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia. Thailand is well known for its beautiful tropical beaches, temples displaying figures of Buddha and other ancient figures within Buddhism and Thai culture, ancient ruins, and magnificent royal palaces. Thailand sets beside Cambodia, Laos, and is below Myanmar (Burma). Thailand has a rich history filled with ancient stories that will keep you wanting to hear more.
My Dream, Thailand
Since the early 2000’s I have always wanted to visit Thailand. I somewhat kept visiting Thailand a secret because of what goes on in the United States and a lot of people would be against me for it. I have spent countless hours learning about the country and its cultures. Buddhism changed me. Before discovering Buddhism, I felt lost, nothing to believe in, I was young, cocky, and arrogant, I was an American. I befriended families who owned and ran Thai restaurants who introduced me to a Thai temple in Ohio. Through the restaurants, temple, and Thai friends online, I was able to learn as much as I could about the Thai culture. I would spend hours almost every day at the Thai temple studying not just the culture, but Buddhism. At one point, I came close to wanting to become a Buddhist monk. I was meditating and chanting almost every day close to 2.5 hours. Every month at the temple, we would hold a celebration such as the Songkran Festival (which I will get into later in this article). During every celebration, there would be tables of freshly cooked Thai food and this was not Americanized Thai food that you would get at the restaurant, no, this was authentic Thai food, it was a Thai buffet. I was surprised here and there when I found a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken with the Thai food, some people did not want to cook. I would load at least five plates with Thai food and pig out. Anyway, the best part about the temple was the people and the monks. When I first heard about the temple, I was nerves about going there because I had a lot of experience going to Catholic churches and hated when religion was forced on to me. So, I emailed the head monk at the temple and right away I received a response. I was told to come on by the temple, so I did just that. The first time I showed up at the temple I drove my car up the driveway and parked in a spot next to the driveway. I wanted to walk the rest of the way because I did not feel confrontable with them seeing me with my car. This is so I can run back fast and get into my car and escape dodge. But, was I surprised. When I walked up the driveway I saw a lot of people, mostly Thai’s, but there were Americans there as well. I knew what the monks would look like because of my recent study plus I watched Thai movies such as Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior. When I saw one of the monks I approached him and right away he knew who I was. Not only was he the monk I spoke with in the email, he was the head monk and a high-ranking monk in the U.S. I sat down with him and spoke with him. He gave me a lot of information about Buddhism and the Thai culture. Afterwards I felt a bit relieved, but it wasn’t until after the Thai people at the temple welcomed me with open arms. They respected me, hugged me, and treated me like I have never been treated before, with honor.
This day would be the first day that would change me for the best. Since that day in 2006, I have been going to temple almost every day chanting, meditating, learning, volunteering, and giving back to the Thai people. There are also Americans there who suffered like me or are married into the Thai culture. There were former military soldiers there who changed their lives through Buddhism and became better individuals. Before every ceremony, I would help the monks and the temple goers set up. During the summer for the anniversary of the temple which is in June, it can get very hot, but I would not let the heat stop me. Thai’s would stop me and tell me to take a break, but I told them that I cannot stop until the job was done. At the time, I did not know that my actions were impressing them and I was earning even more respect. Honestly, I truly do not like to take a break; I always try to get the job done. I have done a lot for the temple, but I have always felt that I could have done more, that I could have been more. The temple to me was not just a place of worship or a place of learning and interacting with others, it was a place I liked to call home.
The Songkran Festival has always been one of my favorite Thai holidays, this is also known as Thai New Year’s Day. It’s not just one day, but a few days and everyone celebrates with a little water. Wait, did I say a little? I mean lots of water! It is a tradition to pour water on people, but today they go further with water guns, hoses, etc. They even put powder on each other. This is a great holiday. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and had some funny moments. During one of the Songkran Festivals, I spoke with a senior Thai lady that I was friends with, she was not wet. I asked her why she was not wet and she stated, “Joe, I am just not looking to get wet.” Therefore, I told her to just stay where she was so I can come back with a bucket of water. She looked at me in a surprising way and started running. I was not going to show mercy and I got her with just a little bit of water. Afterwards we all were laughing. I do miss her, Gal made me laugh a lot. One other ceremony that I enjoyed was the King’s birthday. I respect King Rama IX. He has done so much for his people and is a hero to me. I have always wanted to meet him, but now I will not have that opportunity. He will be missed, but never forgotten. He was not just King of Thailand, he was my King, he was King of all that was good. A few times I participated in the King’s birthday ceremony, I realized that I was the only non-Thai participating. This was an honor and I believe I got everyone’s attention with this, although it was not my attention. All I wanted to do was to show my respect and thank the King. I felt honored participating. I do miss my temple. Once in a blue moon I will email the head monk.
My Trip to Thailand
In 2017 my dream came true, I went to Thailand. I studied, a lot about Thailand and I am married into the Thai culture, yes, my wife is from Thailand. Anyway, I visited the great kingdom of Thailand. Was I up for a bunch of surprises. There was no negative surprises, just good ones and funny ones. My wife and I stayed at her parents and they somewhat live the old ways of life in Thailand which is not bad, it actually brings you closer to nature and saves money. Imagine living on a farm with lots of property with animals, rubber trees, fruit, vegetables, and more. You could just step outside and there was food. The shower system where we were staying was old fashion. It was a bucket of water with a bowl and yes it was cold. My first time taking a shower there was cold. I actually screamed because the water was cold. It also brought back a past memory of the time I was just a kid. I had to take a few bucket baths in the past. Therefore, I took a few cold showers before my wife told me that there was an up to date hot shower in the main house. Yep she pulled a prank on me. But yes, people still do shower the old fashion way. If you live in rural Thailand then prepare, you also live with bugs. When it rains, the bugs come out. I have dealt with millipedes, centipedes, little spiders, big spiders, ants, big nasty butt spraying red ants, flies (lots of them), beetles, cockroaches, a dead scorpion that washed up in the rain, and more. I also had my share in dealings with reptiles and amphibians. One night I could not sleep, therefore I went outside to just walk around and I looked out to the street only to see something small slithering towards me. Yep it was a little cobra and then out of nowhere a cat showed up and beat the heck out of the snake. The next day I found the cat alive and doing well. As for the cobra, well I found that too and it was dead. Cat 1, cobra 0. During the night, I see geckos on the walls and ceilings. They are neat to watch and are very scared of their own shadow. They are too quick to catch and I wouldn’t try to catch them (wait, I have tried) because they will bite. Even though they will bite, they are harmless to humans because their first instinct is to run. They are good to have around to eliminate bugs, I have already seen two geckos’ catch a fly. The only problem I have with gecko’s is the fact that they poop and I have to clean it up. I also saw two geckos have sex, yep this was funny and I have a picture. I have also seen other big lizards. I have also come across frogs and toads. I had to kick out two small toads who were hoping around in our room and then kick out a big tree frog that was in the house. I swear, this tree frog follows me everywhere as I find the same tree frog in the house and in the restroom, I also found a baby tree frog. They are good to have around to eliminate bugs. As far as I am concern they can stay in the restroom or outside near the house. My parents and law were great and for the rest of my wife’s family, they are great as well. I have never been so respected by family before. I am glad to be married into this family. They helped us a lot. My father and law and my two brother in laws gave me a bunch of Thai Buddhist pendants even though I have a huge collection of them. I collect them not to collect them for fun or as a hobby, I collect them because of my overall respect for Buddha. The pendants they gave me were special and not only that, but my father and law gave me a traditional Thai necklace that holds five pendants. I had five pendants encased in cases and attached them to my necklace, I wear them with pride. Also, my wife’s best friend’s father gave me a nice pendant. My wife’s family and friends I know will not stab me in the back as they are too traditional for that. A lot of people in Thailand drive motorcycles. In fact, there are probably more motorcycles then cars and my wife’s family drives both. I was allowed to drive a motorcycle and it was easy and I drove pretty far with that. Driving a vehicle is not that hard as I use to be a U.S. Postal Service employee. In the Postal Service, the driver’s side is on the right and in Thailand for every vehicle it is the same. As for the roads in Thailand, you drive on the opposite side.
Rural Thailand might be somewhat set in the past, but they do have some up to date technology. But, like technology in other countries, it is best to get away here and there. I enjoyed being away from my TV, Netflix (even though today Netflix is not that good), and games. Rural Thailand is pretty nice and beautiful. I am a survival expert and a martial arts expert and for years I have always said, no matter how good you are, no matter how much of an expert you are, you will always learn something new and that I did. I learned some new jungle survival skills even though I knew jungle survival skills I was able to up it with this information. One thing I really enjoyed was preparing coconuts. It’s not as easy as it looks on TV. Les Stroud from Survivorman is my favorite survival expert and he is the only one that is realistic and sticks with the truth. On his first episode of Survivorman he was able to start a fire with a fire bow pretty quick, but in a later video he admitted that it was cut and it was cut for good reasons. There is no way the network will show an 8-hour video of Les Stroud working on a fire. It shows that no matter how good you are, you will still have a hard time and nature does not work with you, it works against you. I knew how to take husk off a coconut, but this was different. I had to use a knife to peel away the husk and after a while it got easy. This was the biggest thing I learn in jungle survival because coconuts is extremely important. Anyhow, living in rural Thailand you learn a lot of survival especially in the jungle.
Let’s go outside the rural area now. Right into the city. Yes, I was in Bangkok, but only at the airport. I was in a Northern Thai city and went there a couple of times and I was amazed with what they had. They had a mall which from the outside looks like a small stadium for baseball, but on the inside, it is clean and the stores they had were nice. They even had Asus and Dairy Queen. What caught my eyes was the Auntie Anne’s pretzels. I love Auntie Anne’s! They had everything at that mall. Outside the mall yes, the city looked dirty, but a mission in Thailand is to clean up the cities. If you go into a modern store it is clean and in most stores, you have to go in bare footed as if you are entering someone’s home. The mall you go in with shoes on. The stores outside the mall in the city are indeed nice. I went to one store that had an Oreo icy. Yes, an Oreo icy and it was not bad. The thing that sets Thailand apart from the west is that whatever you put your mind to you can make money and not only that, but this gives the people more, for example different foods, gadgets, drinks, etc. and you don’t have to worry about some corrupt bully taking the money you earn. In the U.S., you pay more taxes for owning your own business, that’s greedy. Even taxing Americans for living abroad and working for a foreign company is evil. Its a shame, to me its like the Empire from Star Wars.
My two brother in laws and their families were great. My wife’s little brother is actually her cousin, but they are like brother and sister so I call him my brother and law. He is great and loves food. Really, he loves food. He fed me way too much. At one point I even told him that I need a break from eating. My brother and law is funny and is caring. His wife is a successful nurse and has worked with my wife when my wife was a nurse in Thailand. There two kids are great and I had a lot of fun with them especially during the Songkran festival. Yes, I celebrated Songkran in Thailand. My wife’s other brother visited from the south. He and his wife are great and their son was awesome. My little nephew likes samurai’s and ninjas and likes to play with swords. My father and law furnished him two wooden swords and I taught my little nephew some katana techniques. We visited a lot of my wife’s cousins, uncles, and aunts. This is a big happy family.
I spent two days celebrating the Songkran festival. I was use to celebrating this in the United States, but in Thailand it is crazy. During the Songkran festival, some of us rode on the back of a pickup truck driving pass people in the city and throwing buckets of water all over them, they did the same to us. Really, it was a water war in the city. If you wanted to stay dry, then stay indoors because it is hard to stay dry during the Songkran festival. On the last day I was dumping water on people from the truck, another vehicle drove by and I thought they were going to get us wet, but instead they through brand new unopened condoms on us. It was a very funny moment. A lot of people also used ice water. Now that is water that can get your attention. We also used ice water and when we splashed some people their reaction was funny.
My father and law took me and my wife into the jungle to look at some rubber trees. There was a lot and he had us both work on some rubber trees. I will admit; getting rubber from a rubber tree is not as easy as it looks. Also, I got to kick a banana tree with Muay Thai kicks. Because I condition my shins with a rattan stick, kicking the banana tree was not that painful. I really do not want to kick many banana trees as they produce fruit.
My wife and I stocked up on Thai food to bring back to the U.S. while we are living here. Also, we went to a lot of pharmacies and bought a lot of medicine, this includes antibiotics. Yes, what you need a prescription for in the U.S. you do not need in Thailand. Not only that, but let’s say you have no health insurance in the U.S. and you see a doctor and get prescribed antibiotics. Well you are going to probably pay thousands of dollars. In Thailand they have universal health care and it’s not bad, it’s pretty nice. You may have to pay for some services, but it won’t cost much. Surgery to get a tumor out of the stomach in the U.S. will cost a couple of thousand dollars, but in Thailand it may cost up to thirty dollars. I know a Thai in the U.S. who survived a heart attack in the U.S. and even with the health care he has he still had to pay lots of money such as around $600,000 for services. That charge is a crime and in Thailand all he would have to pay is nothing. Thailand and a lot of countries have a better healthcare system then the U.S. The U.S. healthcare system is a major joke.
My last few days in Thailand were great and I miss it all. We went to the Golden Triangle which is a section of Southeast Asia that consists of Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Laos. That was a lot of fun. I found in Laos some snake whisky. Yes, snake whisky. If you are asking yourself what that is, here is what it is. It is real whisky with a real life dead cobra in it along with a real life dead scorpion. Talk about crazy. The market place at the Golden Triangle is fantastic, they had more than you can imagine. When my wife and I returned to the U.S., all we heard was negative information such as politics and war. It really made us feel depressed. Plus it was snowing where we live. There are some obstacles standing in our way and here is my belief. If you try to keep me from living happy then there is bound to be problems. Before leaving Thailand, my wife and I informed her parents of our future plans. They were happy to hear that and it raised their hopes, now we cannot let them down. It would be very disrespectful and make me feel dishonest if we change our minds.
Thailand is a great country to visit. More people should leave their countries to visit others. Come on, get out there and visit Japan, China, Korea (south), Russia, England, France, Mexico, Canada, etc. A friend of mine once said, “Americans should at least live in another county for about two years. Their belief in a foreign country would change for the best because the U.S. government puts out false information about a lot of foreign countries to scare Americans from traveling there.” My friend was one of them, he was afraid to travel. He listened to his government and believed them until one day a foreigner showed up and told him that the information was false. My friend did not believe him and went out to prove him wrong. A month later my friend returned and apologized for believing in the false information from the government. Today, my friend travels the world. I have not heard from him in a longtime as he continues to travel. There are great wonders out in this world that everyone should discover for themselves.
I cannot wait to go back to Thailand and not only that, but travel the world. So much to do, so much to see, so much to live for. But, I will tell you this, no matter the country you visit, you should always respect their traditions. If you force your traditions upon another country then you are destroying that countries beauty. The world is a beautiful place and is for everyone, not just one country or the rich and corrupt, it is for everyone.