Just returned from Thailand a couple of days ago. Pictures are on the way, I promise!
Made the trip with my mom, traveling with a Taiwan based tour. There was a far greater percentage of young people than I had anticipated and I was, in fact, one of the older tourists. Thailand is a lush and tropical country with much to offer the touring community, unfortunately, I didn't experience quite as much of it's authenticity as I had hoped. Our trip consisted of a whirlwind tour of a few major sites, some water activities and A LOT of shopping. (The exchange is currently running at 42.7 Thai dollars to one US dollar.)
Billed as a 6 day/5 night tour, it was more accurately as 5 day/5 night tour since we met at the airport at 8:30 PM on the first "day" for a 3.5 hour flight, getting into Bangkok at 1:30AM local time. Accomodations on the first night made a great impression which was subsequently lacking on the following three nights in Pattaya, a seaside town in which we spent most of our time.
Thailand, and the Pattaya area in particular, offered several historical sites, drag shows galore, thai massage, world-renowned spas, abundance of shopping and plenty of activities.
Though the beaches of Pattaya proper are a bit lacking in quality, there are several islands just a speedboat ride away that offer watersports and sunbathing on fine, white sandy beaches with clear blue waters. Our tour lead us to a platform off the coast of one of these islands. This platform churns out parasailing rides with assembly line efficiency. I, myself, opted for an additional two runs that included a dip into the water before returning to the platform only to be whisked out of my gear and off the launch pad. An exhilerating ride and can probably be surpassed by a dive out of an airplane!
Overall, the trip went well and we were well cared for, but on a philosophical and moral level, two issues confronted me more than any others. The first was the stark reality that this seaside town was built on local pubs featuring local women, that make "friends" very quickly with foreign men. I was disappointed at how clearly this stood out and was reminded of my plane ride from Vegas to Taipei when I encountered two seperate men who were flying out to see their "girlfriend/new wife." At the time, I thought it was a weird coincidence, now I that know that it's not, I ponder the moral, societal and philosophical ramifications of this reality. I wonder about the sacrafices of finding the "right" partner and what each person has to give up for the chance at a life that everyone dreams of.
The second moral issue confronted was the "training" of animals such as elephants, tigers, monkeys, chimpanzees, etc. for the purposes of entertainment and money making. Much of Thailand's tourist attractions rely on "wild" animal shows. Sure, I was excited about riding an elephant, posing with a tiger, feeding camels, etc. And yes, I did participate, but it definitely forces me to reconsider where my moral boundaries are in such a situation, torn between, extreme curiosity to be near animals that you'd never have another chance to encounter at such proximity and the desire for them to live out natural and happy lives. It's an issue that I'm still considered and one of the primary arguements for me to revisit vegetarianism.
Again, pictures are to come very soon. Hope all is well with everyone who reads this entry. Happy Holidays!