Sunday, January 29, 2012

new, New, NEw, NEW!

Well hello there! How have you been? We haven't been in touch for a while. I know, I know, it's all my fault. I do hope you can accept my sincerest apologies and look forward to picking up where we left off. 2012 is still young and I hope to do all I can this year to revive my dying, if not already dead, travel blog.

To begin with, I left my job at the chocolate company and took up a teaching position. I now teach English oral to primary school students (1st-6th graders or 6 to 11-year-old children). I'm loving the new gig and the time it frees up for me to travel, explore and breath life back into The Amateur Explorer.

I started my 2012 explorations in Thailand, a country I have been dying to visit since I arrived in Asia nearly a year-and-a-half ago.

I hate to sound cliche, but the Thailand trip was amazing. Amazing in the sense that I have never seen or visited a place like it. As the only country in South-East Asia that was never conquered,  Thailand has retained a certain sense of self that its neighbors don't possess. Its identity is clearly its own.  Thailand's people, language and alphabet, infrastructure, food and drink, Muay Thai (AWESOME) and countless other aspects that make up the country's culture all exude a distinctly Thai attitude.

Now, that's not to say that other cultures haven't influenced Thailand. They have. China's presence is strongly felt there as is the West's. But still, there is something in the air that distinguishes it from other places. I guess I cannot quite explain it. I don't mean to sound like I experienced the country on a deeply profound level because in truth I only skimmed Thailand's surface in the 10 short days I was there. Nevertheless, I felt that shit! It's real and when you go you will understand.

Visiting Thailand was also an eye-opening experience. Eye-opening in the sense that traveling to Thailand for the first time as a Western white chick wasn't as I'd expected. I fell victim to the ol' tourist traps more than once. Everything from seemingly friendly civilians leading me to expensive custom-suit makers and jewelers to "tourist friendly" travel agencies that convinced me to take the pricey "air-conditioned" bus to the Gulf. Needless to say, everyone was trying to squeeze money out of my seemingly fat tourist's wallet. Unfortunately for them (and me), my wallet is rather skinny and all to often toes that precarious line between starvation and healthy weight loss.

I was angry about all this when my naivete first came to light (oh, so you didn't give me those pointers and directions out of the goodness of your heart?) but it's all pretty funny now. I guess I have to accept the fact that I will be the stupid Griswoldesque tourist from time to time during my travels.

There is so much more to tell but you will get bored with my rambling if you haven't already skipped over the text. Take a look at these photos from Bangkok and Koh Mak. I think they came out very well!

By Justin

By Justin

By Justin

By Justin