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“If you judge a book by its cover, you might miss out on an amazing story”

After watching a few travel shows and reading a bit about Thailand, Tyler had an interesting thought. He said: “Thailand is the country I’m the least excited about, but it’s the country I feel has the highest potential for a memorable experience”.

Turns out, most of what travel writers and the likes of Lonely Planet have to say, is not necessarily positive. Films, books, and shows seem to focus on three things: sex, drugs, and danger. Based on our research, Bangkok (and other parts of Thailand) seems to be a place renowned for aiding tourists in their quest to partake in a good majority of cardinal sins:

Lust: Apparently child prostitution (and the sex trade in general) has spurned a booming (pseudo-illegal?) micro economy, fuelled by tourists and kept alive by the expanding divide between the very rich and the poorest of the poor.

Gluttony: Consumption. Of drugs. sex. food. Tourists flock to Thailand because the living is easy, cheap, and abundant. As a friend explained “When you are a tourist with money, Thailand offers an strange type of luxury. You can get a manicure for $2. You never have to wash your own clothes – even if they are dried over a tire fire”. 

Sloth: Known for it’s beach bums and laid back, slow paced way of life, tourists flock to pristine beaches to lounge, suntan, eat, drink, and not much else.

Greed: Keep your backpack close and your money belt closer, or a skilled opportunist might finnagle you out of your belongings. Bandits in the jungle, thieves on crowded trains, it’s “traveller beware” in the constant vigil to keep valuables secure.

Wrath? From March to May 2010, protesters took to the streets of Bangkok demonstrating an escalating rift between Bangkok’s economic elite and the growing clout of Thailand’s rural poor. Uprisings and violence continues in certain regions As of this writing, the Government of Canada’s travel advisories range from “Exercise High Degree of Caution While Travelling” to “Avoid All Travel” depending on where, in Thailand, you’re going.

On the flip side:  We recently had dinner with good friends who spent time in Thailand earlier this year. When asked about the country’s negative tendencies, they admitted “Yes yes, there is that, but…” and proceeded to elaborate on what sounded like some of the most amazing, unique experiences: a temple tour, Thai cooking classes, trekking to remote mountain villages, full moon celebrations, rock climbing, unsurpassed beauty of their natural surroundings, the hilarity of an invasive face shaving experience (where he received a thorough eyeball cleaning).

After watching, reading, and hearing about the many faces of Thailand, we’ve become conscious of creating our own path, which will hopefully lead us to places and people of beauty. If you don’t want to judge a country by it’s stereotypes, at least count it as a learning experience when you encounter them. As we approach this far-away land, we expect challenges, learning, and rich cultural experiences. We also expect preconceptions to be tested and our memory of Thailand to be shaped, not by what we read or hear about, but by our own, unique experiences.