Sawasdee-khap! Hello! I hope that this journal entry isn’t too rambling and incoherent, but this has already been such a fantastic and intense time that I don’t think I can fully encapsulate my feelings in any other way.
So I have been in Thailand for a grand total of ten days now, and it is still difficult to process that I will be living here in Bangkok for the next ten months. I have never lived in a city before, so maybe that is why I am experiencing such a sensory overload every time I step out — the noise of the constant traffic, the smell of the countless food vendors (all of which are just absolutely phenomenal!), the sights of the sprawling urban jungle. It is difficult to process, but I am beginning to notice a certain strange and subtle beauty within the chaos. A little cliché, I guess, but true nonetheless. I think Bangkok is just one of those places in that commands your attention and appreciation.
This past weekend, I went on a four day retreat to Hua Hin with twenty-six other exchange students on my program. It was an incredible time – I not only got to meet so many cool students from so many different places, but I also got to see a glimpse of the beautiful countryside and the kindhearted people that call that their home. The challenge of venturing out into the unknown was thrilling and exciting – none of us really knew what to expect, especially with the language barrier! I realized that traveling around in a place like Thailand is pretty much like a trust fall — you jump in a taxi or a van or a tuk-tuk, and you don’t really know if it is going to take you where you want to go (and you don’t really have a way of communicating the specifics with the driver) so you just quite literally sit back, enjoy the ride and hope it all works out. Usually it does!
It was also during this trip that we all heard about the devastating news that came out of Charlottesville, which caught every one of us off-guard. It was shocking, it was terrible, and it should never have happened, but a moment during this trip reaffirmed my belief that we as humans can (and will) be better than that.
So this is what happened. We had booked an Airbnb for the trip, which was supposed to act as our home away from home while we went out and explored everything from the islands to the national parks to the caves and to the beaches. However, due to schedule miscommunication with the host, we ended up losing the Airbnb after the first night, which meant that we were effectively left stranded in the middle of nowhere. We dropped every plan and rushed to find emergency accommodation, which was made more difficult by the fact that there were so many of us.
Eventually, we came across a little hostel somewhere on the outskirts of Hua Hin. They had no other customers at the moment, so while they only had eighteen beds available, they were willing to let all twenty-six of us stay for a very reasonable price. Since we had no other option, we immediately booked the place out. We had no idea what to expect. All we could do was hope for the best.
Which, as it turned out, was enough. We arrived at the hostel, Host Hua Hin, and it was everything we could have wanted and more. Charming and comfortable, we all instantly fell in love with the place. The owner barely spoke any English, and the language barrier was initially a struggle, but once we got past that, I realized that he was perhaps one of the friendliest and kindhearted souls I have ever met. He knew nothing about us, he could not really speak our language, and he was probably concerned that he was stuck for the weekend with a bunch of rowdy farangs (foreigners), but that didn’t stop him from going out of his way to help us out in our time of need. Maybe it was because he was a business man and he was simply acting out of his best interests, but I like to think that it was more than just a matter of currency. I like to think that even though there are people in the world who choose to hate and divide and destroy the people they don’t understand, there are still many, many, many others who instead choose to welcome them with open arms.
Maybe I’m just being naïve. But I like to think that I am not.
Until next time!
P.S. And if you’re ever in Thailand, go stop by Hua Hin! And if you’re in Hua Hin, go stay at Hosts Hua Hin! You won’t regret it!