After fastening my seatbelt for landing, Kimpo, a familiar word, caught my eyes through the window. It was the end of a 16 days and 15 nights trip, which seemed very long. I could see them still, when I closed my eyes, the clean green sea, white sand and innocent, kind Thai people. At the end of the trip, I watched Seoul outside of the plane. There were no changes. I returned to normal life. But through this trip, I could see and feel how the world was big and various. There was another country existed, Thailand, not just Korea or the US. I would never forget that a lot of people lived the same way, but within their own culture and language. It was the greatest experience that I`ve ever had.
When we, five people including myself, first arrived in Bangkok, we were at a loss on how to find our way to Kaosan Road. At the airport we discussed for a long time which mode of transportation we had to use, by bus or taxi. We got on the bus, and found out later that we had taken the wrong number bus. While on the wrong bus, luckily, we met a kind Thai who helped us get to Siam Square to buy a map. With all these happenings, including great dinner, were over, it was too late to find the place we planned to stay at. Again, we had a long discussion and decided to change our plans and go to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It took 9 hours to go there by bus. We thought it was the best idea we could do. When the car was moving, we watched the movie, “End of Days,” dubbed in Thai. We felt relieved to find a place for the night and fell asleep by watching the “can-not-understand-movie.” However, what interrupted our sleep was the air conditioner blowing out incredibly strong. We were very cold and almost died the first night in Thailand.
Chiang Mai was the best place we’d been to in Thailand and it was loaded with cheap prices and kind people. As we saw in the travel guide book, there were lots of white-skin beauties. The men who went with us looked around continuously and were pleased to find beautiful girls. We, women, did nothing but just agree with them. The city is full of temples and dogs, too. We saw those three things in every place we went. Even though they believe in Buddha, it was fabulous to see a temple every 10 meters or so. There were about 300 temples and most of the big temples have elementary schools. I found out the reason later after returning to Seoul, some temples were charged with education.
We stayed at a guest house, similar to a yokwan in Korea, paying 500 Baht for two double rooms. It was about 15,000 Won by converting Baht into Won. The cheap thing was not only the rooms but also the food. There, we could find many kinds of food: fried rice, rice soup, noodles, rice mixed with parboiled vegetables, etc. The food way tasted uniguely and with various Thai flavors. Some sweet, spicy and oily. In most food they put “Pakchi” in, which has the same meaning of garlic, onion or stone-leek in Korea. It was too strong to eat for a new comer to Thailand.
At night we looked around all through the Night Bazaar which was located near the guest house. We drove around Chiang Mai’s night for half an hour by Tuktuk. For your information, a Tuktuk is the only motor vehicle made in Thailand and looks like a modern three wheeled carriage, moving by motor, carrying a maximum of 3 people. But we, 5 people, rode in it. You could imagine how could we make it, 3 people on the seats, and 2 people on their knees. We felt uncomfortable, however, being a tourist and driving around in the free, unoccupied wind was exciting. I could never explain my exact feelings, but, it was a great time in Chiang Mai.
The next day we went to Chiang Mai University. It was the biggest university I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of motorcycles were parked in front of the each building, and it seemed that we were in a motorcycle market. In Thailand, it was common to see not only men, but women driving motorcycles, also. Even high school girls drove them. We looked around the campus on a unique school bus with a wonderful view. Especially a big reservoir attracted me. My friend and I were lying on the bank and watching the sky and the surroundings. The azure was same as in Korea, however, the fact that what I saw was not the pine needles but the coconut palms made me feel it was another country.
After these first days in the northern city of Chiang Mai, we tripped through the middle and southern parts of Thailand. In every part of Thailand, there were kind people. A Tuktuk driver even bought medicine for a sick friend of mine.
There were many things we had to see and experience as a challenge: a new life, a new culture, and its new people. That was wonderful time in my life. Although we had traveled by night bus to save money, slept in the open air, and begged for a night at a police station, I gained many things from it. I thought we could make it with youth driven by the dream to travel. Without that, we would never dare to do that. At the end of the trip, I made up my mind to put myself in another challenging place next year.