For this trip, we’re headed East. Our friend Brittany has family who are expats living in Thailand and we've been talking for years about going to visit them and explore the country. In the way of many plans, it stayed as a “maybe some day” thing, until they mentioned they might be returning to the States soon. With a deadline staring at us, schedules for our traveling companions suddenly cleared up: funny how that seems to work.
As travelers (and observers) from a Western background, we've long wanted to get to Asia. I subscribe to the parallax theory of understanding a thing: multiple perspectives help you comprehend it better, and the more and further apart the better. For an American, Europe is a substantial dose of new perspective, but Asia is, well, half again a world away.
As a first Asian destination, Thailand has some special character. Being smaller than China and India, Thai culture is less exported in the west: other than pad thai or The King and I, many Americans have less sense of what to expect of it. Similarly, because it has never been colonized (a fact that Thais are fiercely proud of), the culture is both unique and ancient. We don’t know exactly what to expect, and that’s part of the fun.
So, Thailand, here we come.