Early Monday morning we took a flight to Bangkok and said our final good-bye to Chiang Mai. This was our last week of the program before everyone went home, and for the most part we were given a lot of unstructured time to just explore. First impression of Bangkok: yeah, much bigger than Chiang Mai. It’s a sprawling city where every turn seems to bring you face-to-face with some random city street hosting its own array of shops and random buildings.
There also seems to be a greater mix of cultures in Bangkok (or at least more noticeably so) and on our first day we went to the China Town there and it was massive. I’m not talking about it being a few reasonably sized streets that you can walk down, but it was an entire section of the city that it felt like you could easily get lost in. We had a fun time walking the streets and then of course stopped for lunch to eat some traditional Chinese food.
I know that you probably wouldn’t imagine it, but Bangkok is kind of like the Venice of Asia in that it has a main river that it is built off of with lots of canals connected to it. This used to be the main mode of transportation back in the day, and as we took a boat tour through some of them you could still see little mail boxes and whatnot on the side of the water where it appeared that people were still using them. Traveling via the river and canals was interesting because you were able to see the newer buildings towering in the distance contrasted with some of the old wooden buildings on the water’s edge that were crumbling both from the decay of water and time.
We had a day with our professor where we took a van around the outskirts of Bangkok to visit some more historical places. One of them was the Summer Palace which was built during a time where they were trying to mimic a lot of the architecture of the West, so just walking around through it you felt like you could have been in the countryside of France. It also had a few random buildings stuck in that had different architecture, such as a tower that was modeled after a Chinese of architecture.
We also visited the remains of the capital of Ayutthayan Kingdom, also called Ayutthaya, which was a massive kingdom that covered most of central and southern Thailand until it fell in the mid 1700s. Most of what was left was in ruins, but you were able to get a feel for how massive and powerful the kingdom would have been at its height.
Among the other activities that we did, we went to some of the huge shopping malls, explored the Grand Palace and its complex, and watched a performance that highlighted Thailand’s history and culture. Overall, it made for a great week!
On the Sunday that we had there, we found out that the English-speaking branch wasn’t meeting that day, so me and another girl from my group found a Thai branch to go to. One of the speakers in sacrament meeting had just returned from a trip to China to visit some family there and spoke about some of the differences that he noticed between China and Thailand. He talked about how limited talking about and practicing religion is in China and how people who want to go to church or read The Book of Mormon have to be very careful about their actions. He reminded the members in Thailand just how blessed they were to be in a country where the church is so expansive and relatively freer from government intervention. Listening to him talk about how blessed they were caused me to take a step back and realize that if the members here in Thailand were blessed, how much more grateful I should be to be in a country and live in a state where it is much more convenient to practice my religion. It was another one of those moments where I was able to see thing from a different perspective and look back on my own life in a way that helped me to better recognize the numerous blessings in my life that sometimes can become hidden or looked over.
I’m going to miss Thailand. It has been a wonderful three months and I have learned so much from my classes and the research that we have been doing. I have been given the opportunity to become closely acquainted with the culture and politics of another culture in a way that I never have before.
Now back to America to finish my research! Look out for my hopefully being published by the beginning of next year🤞