My spirits lifted when I touched down in the land of smiles.
At immigration I was offered a stamp and a welcoming “sah-wah-dee-kah!”
Tour desks and workers eagerly waited to lend a helping hand.
Bus drivers, street vendors, bystanders all spoke English?!?!
The culture appeared happy, open, and free.
Friendly travelers offered invitations and headed in packs for Khaosan Road
yet one turn down a small street revealed a charming, local world.
A woman selling young coconuts eagerly taught me Thai.
She beamed each day I stopped by.
The ornate temples humbled me
they were far more grandiose than I could believe.
In Thailand I began to remember what all of this was for.
Why I came to Southeast Asia.
Why I travel at all.
My heart ached less for Costa Rica.
Looking at the beauty around me, for the first time since I departed, I honestly did not miss it at all.
I began wonder… could Thailand in fact be too good to be true?
The deeper I looked, the more truth I saw.
If Vietnam displays its wounds like a proud war vet
perhaps Thailand conceals its darkness behind gilded temples
or beneath pure white sand.
The grit can be found in back alleys with prostitutes and “ping pong”.
Kind strangers become master scammers whose smiles turn aggressive when payment is declined.
Elephants in the jungle are not revered, but paraded like puppets in a show.
Majestic tigers laze with monks, are snuggled by tourists, laying docile from all the drugs.
The more time I spend here, the more shady corners I find.
And in this place that first felt so easy, difficulties within me have begun to arise.
I am reintroduced to sides of myself I thought I left behind.
Yet acknowledging these realities has not made me disenchanted with my world.
I see the beauty and the ugliness
in Thailand and in me
I continue to love them both regardlessly.
Our facets and our dimples only add to our intrigue.
Because I know that to find balance we need yin and yang.
For it is only when we know darkness that we can truly see the light.