If Korea is a wounded country who refuses to let anyone into her heart, Thailand is a proud land who whores herself out to anyone–at the right price.
I only have experience with three (okay four) Asian countries at this point, and of Thailand I have merely a tourist’s knowledge. But I will try my best to explain my impressions of the three based on my limited knowledge.
Korea has been invaded, raped, pillaged, and colonized for about as long as she can remember. She clings to her alphabet for lack of any other uniquely Korean cultural trait. Of the rest of her attributes, she can’t quite tell what is Japanese, what is Chinese, and what is her own. She knows she can thank the U.S. for her greed to consume. She grasps for straws of her identity and licks her wounds, and teaches herself not to be fooled again. She won’t take another lover if it kills her…even if it means keeping out a Canadian born of Korean parents who has done his best to establish a life here. He can never be a part of her, no matter how hard he tries.
Thailand boasts that she was never colonized by a European power. For this reason, her culture is relatively well-preserved. Everywhere you go in Thailand, you can find shrines in people’s homes and businesses, cave temples, giant Buddhas, and great cuisine. Nobody here is crying over Japan’s or Spain’s burning of her books and temples. She did, however, lose pieces of herself to the French and British colonists, a side effect of the position she took as buffer state between their territories. Later, during the second WW, she allowed Japan free access to her lands, rather than suffer his wrath…only to emerge at the end of the war allied with the U.S. It seems that the great Kingdom of Thai is quite the opportunist, or at best, a fair-weather friend. From my entry into old Siam until my moment of departure, I felt that the land of smiles was really more of a land of bared teeth. Teeth bared in frustration, teeth bared at expatriates, teeth bared at tourists, at developers, at each other, at the sky.
India, a nation I romanticize to a fault and who has plenty of her own problems, seems to strike some happier balance in the world. She was colonized, but not destroyed. Her people seem to have been made stronger for the test, and they fiercely hold onto their culture and thrust it forth ahead of them into the future. They are ambitious: they are working quickly to achieve world-power status and India makes her mark in industries as widely varied as engineering and the arts. Yet she is open and indulgent. She wants to let you in, to make friends. She’ll make you feel you are her best friend, and 90% of the time, you will be. Where Thailand lacks in industry, Korea lacks in culture and congeniality. India seems to lack nothing.
Let me explain.
I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never planned to go to Thailand: we went because John’s dad generously gifted us with a week at a fabulous Phuket resort. Once we had decided to go to Thailand for our vacation, I had zero time to do a bit of research via tour guides or the internet. And we made the mistake of downloading LP to John’s kindle—BIG mistake. We love our kindles, but a word of advice: don’t try to use one for reference books. It’s a premiumly silly idea.
To Be Continued…