Thailand Summary Part 2

Thailand Summary Part 2

Friday morning – July 28, 2017   (Eighth post of this travelogue)

I will use this final Thailand post to make some general observations about the trip.

Most of our travels around the towns were done in some very neat Toyota vans.  The model is Toyota Commuter  (link to information).  Everywhere we went there were dozens of them.  They are quite a bit wider than a normal van and comfortably hold 8 passengers.  They have 3L diesel engines and most were 5 speed manual transmissions.

Toyota Commuter

Toyota Commuter

The lane markers on the roads were, at best, “suggestions” of where the cars should be.  The drivers made tons of lane changes to avoid scooters and just plain used all of the road.  Perhaps part of the reason was that there was not a straight street in any town that we were in.  The drivers made the street a bit straighter by cutting the lanes.

Drivers were very courteous and seemed very calm.  That is a good thing, as the cars darted every which direction and streets quickly changed from 4 lane to barely two lane.

The Thai people seemed to try to keep everything as clean as possible.  Everywhere we looked, we saw them using unique brooms that were made from, my guess, rice straw.

Straw brooms

It would seem that Thailand has quite a bit of rain normally, but our visit was during the monsoon season.  We experienced some unbelievable rains – some of which lasted over an hour.  We did not experience any flooding, although one of our guides said that they do have problems at times.  As you can imagine, there was standing water everywhere, yet there were almost no mosquitoes or flies. 

I made this observation in an earlier post, but the subject still amazes me, so here goes again:  As some of you know, I tend to observe obscure things (Pat just says I am weird).  The latest is that the days here are much shorter than in Denver (because of the time of the year).  The sunrise/sunset here is:  6:15/6:49  (12 hours and 34 minutes)  vs  5:42/8:30 (14 hours and 48 minutes).  We are a bit north of 8 degrees north while Denver is a bit south of 40 degrees north latitude.

It is very obvious that Thailand (and probably all of Southeast Asia – or the world for that matter) does not have OSHA or any of the related safety regulations.  For example, the Long Tail boats would never pass Coast Guard regulations – not even close.  Another example is the scaffolding surrounding buildings.  Everywhere you looked three was very primitive bamboo scaffolds (picture).  Some were several stories high.

Bamboo Schffolding

Bamboo Schffolding

Without exception, the Thai people were very friendly and accommodating.  I tired to judge if this was just a “front” because of their huge dependence on tourism, or something basic to their culture.  I believe it was genuine.  About 80% of the Thai population is Buddhist.  While I don’t pretend to understand the religion, it would appear that a main element is to be at peace with yourself . 

One of our daughters made the observation that the temples were so lavish, yet the general  population lead very frugal lives.  That is a correct observation, but it is not unique to any religion or country.  We have seen some amazing churches and temples that spared no expense and were ornate beyond description.  The explanation is way beyond my comprehension.

I had mentioned that coffee in Thailand is almost a religion unto itself.  Everywhere you looked there were coffee shops – many very fancy.  They had all the same categories that we do (latte, espresso, Americano, etc) and it is almost like walking into a Starbucks in the states.  I suspect that most of the coffee was grown in Thailand.  My taste buds would suggest that their coffee was among the best I have tasted – anywhere.

Seven Eleven stores are everywhere.  On some streets I would guess that there could be three stores in a mile or so.  Some were pretty primitive and some were quite modern/fancy.  We did not  visit any of them, but they appeared to have about the same product format as ours.

One of our guides mentioned that the Thai people respect their elders.  Without question, they really went out of their way to help us and watch out for us.  At first it kind of upset me that they were treating me like an old man.  Then I realized that I am {grin} and embraced the help.  They really watched out for Pat as she often struggled to get in and out of vehicles/boats/etc.  In one of the airports, we were escorted away from the normal security area to a “Senior Line” that was much quicker.

Airport security was quite a bit different.  There were no long lines.  In many cases the actual security check was at the gate.  While the checks were about the same as ours, the process seemed much shorter.  Of course, Pat’s new knees set off every alarm, but they quickly made their check and there was no extra delay.

Cell phone technology was fantastic.  The speed was a bit slower than our 4G, but the towers were everywhere and we had a signal virtually everywhere we went – even on some rather remote islands.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that almost everyone was focused on their phone – almost more so than in the US.  One annoying factor is that they tend to stop in the middle of a walkway and read their phone. 

We signed up for AT&T’s International Day Pass for each phone.   That gave us service identical to our US service in all areas (data, voice, and text).  The cost was $10 per day per phone, but the value was worth it given all family health issues and the ability to stay in touch.

It would appear that a fairly high percentage of the land is farmed.  By far, the major crop is rice, but there was also a lot of corn.   In places the corn crop looked almost as robust as Iowa corn.   We did not see cattle or pig farms.  We did see a few cows now and then, but it would not appear to be enough to meet the meat demand.

Without question, the trip was fantastic.  We would not have put it on our bucket list, but since Pat earned the trip we wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity.  We got to experience a part of the world that was very different from  any of our other travels. 

Thanks for putting up with all the minutia of these posts.  As we have stated many times, the primary reason we document our travels is so that we can go back and recall some of the great times we have had the opportunity to experience.   Having said that, we are most happy that we can share these experiences with a few friends and our family.

That is all for this trip.

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