Thailand is often referred to as the “Golden Land”. This is not because the land is laden with the precious metal but because of the vast amount of diversity, natural resources, and disposition of the people. I have to say:
One, I definitely see the reason behind the nickname and two, the country is definitely at a cultural crossroads.
I spent my last days in Thailand bathing myself in a little luxury and western comforts. The day before my flight I checked into a 5-star hotel (at a very reasonable price) and shopped around Siam Square, Thailand’s evidence of global Westernization. The afternoon I stolled around the mall and picked up a pair of dress shoes and bought a ticket to the American film, GI Joe.
The theater was something else. For around 6 dollars US I got a ticket into the film, a soda, and a popcorn! Inside the theater I sat on a reclining couch, with a blanket, quite an interesting and comfortable way to see a film on the silver screen. The cinema was beyond any kind of movie experience I have had in America. On the way home I took Bangkok’s infamous skytrain and soaked in the views of the quintessential, cosmopolitan southeast Asian city.
As I stared off into the skyline I realized that I had traveled through Thailand at exactly the right time in my journey. Thailand is fascinating to me because it seems to me it doesn’t know what it really wants to be. Half the country is caught up in the western lifestyle, modern conveniences, and an influx of tourism that has brought along with it a new degree of wealth not common among its fellow south east Asian countries. However, there is another part of Thailand that remains hidden from the millions of tourists flooding the land. Here you can still find tucked in the mountains on the borders of Laos and Myanmar (Burma,) villages were life slows down to a crawl and people still live off the land. There are still parts of Bangkok where people don’t speak a lick of English and are happy to slaughter and fry up a chicken right in front of your face.
Thai people are the best I have seen in my travels over the last 5 years in balancing their cultural identity and sunny disposition with the wave of influence from the Western world. However, there is still a wave of uncertainty and I feel within my lifetime I could return to Thailand and discern no difference between America and the “Golden Land” (besides the fascinating Thai landscape).
Through my adventures in Thailand I have heavily observed the two sides to myself as well. One part is a little sad knowing that I am over halfway through my travels and the nomad lifestyle I have adopted will be put to rest for at least a little bit. The other half is very anxious and excited to get my life of service started as a ChiropracTOR in Singapore. Living life out of a backpack in new places, all the time, has been invigorating, mysterious, and exciting. At some point in my life I would like to do it for two years. However, tranforming people’s lives each and every day and seeing long term changes in the way people function while in practice also provides a feeling that I have found unparalleled.
To me, the Chinese Tao is one of the most powerful symbols in the universe. The yin and the yang represent the dichotomy in the universe, both sides of the coin, the balance between lightness and darkness. All of this is wrapped into a circle, representing the complete cycle of life and being separated by a wave. For me, it was a symbol that spoke loudly to me on this leg of my journey.
I was in the right country at the right time. During this part of my adventure I had struggled between the major dichotomy in my life right now. Trying to squeeze a couple more months of travel in versus committing to a definite date of arrival in Singapore. Much like the dilemma I faced in Thailand; sure I loved the convenience of travel and the comforts of the Western world. However, this minimized the adventure of traveling in a developing or third world country. In the end, right before I left, I saw everything come full circle.
How many times in our lives do we see things only from one side? Just like the wave that separates the yin and the yang, we waiver in between both sides. This teetering of emotions can get out of balance at times, and keeps our attachment to only one of the two sides. Seeing only one side of the coin limits our creative mind, it keeps us from seeing things full circle. However, when we integrate, we see the order, we see full circle. The world of possibility opens up. For me, it was helpful to the understanding of the dichotomy in my life: traveling vs. committing to buckling down, and Thailand’s western vs. adventuresome side. I was able to see that both sides are what makes the people, places, and things what they are, and not what they should be.
Do you see the full Tao of the people, places, and things in your life?