The photo above represents a lot of what I have learned about Thai culture so far. It was taken at a park near Flight of the Gibbon zipline adventures, and the time I spent there calmed my spirit and inspired a feeling of connectedness I have not yet known.
There was a definite path leading up to the top of the waterfall, which was appreciated by all of us who traveled there to experience its majestic beauty. As I walked up, I started to wonder what “path” means to me, and why I have certain expectations about what a good path should or should not be. When I came to a section of the path where water was flowing, I stepped through the running water without even thinking about it – we had all gotten drenched in the rain earlier that day anyway. I found it made me very happy, to feel like I was a part of this natural beauty instead of just admiring it from afar. In the US, most parks will put up walls or stones to redirect the water when they make a path for tourists. That way people can still observe nature, but don’t have to really participate in the natural phenomena that are happening all around them. Here, however, the water is allowed to flow over the path and continue on its way down the mountain, and those who visit must adapt to the environment in order to reach their goal. If your feet get wet, they get wet. Water is here, and so are we.
I have found the Thai people to be very fluid in their ways of living with and adapting to the environment around them. This is true of the natural environment, from accepting moths and other flying creatures on food outdoors to wearing cool clothing and driving on rural mountain roads that are more nature than road. I have also experienced this with the flow of people; driving here is much less structured, as is walking. Where we are staying there are no sidewalks, but street vendors line the busy roads. People walk on the side of the road, just far enough away from the speeding cars to not get hit. Dogs and roosters roam the street, and people simply move around them as they would anything else in the environment. Drivers flow between lanes and around slower vehicles with a deftness I have never experienced, and one that is not created by having strict rules on traffic etiquette as we do in the US.
The harmony of the Thai people with the environment around them is remarkable. So often I feel in the US we work to control and/or avoid interaction with our environment; we climate control our homes, put high fences around everything, and pour concrete paths with barriers to protect us from the environment. Here people use what they find, live together with other creatures that are not their pets, and go with the flow of time and nature. They also seem to have a strong sense of community, and welcome new visitors with open arms. I have felt welcomed by all we have met here, and have learned so much already. I am excited to experience more of this beautiful culture and environment, and hope to be more like the Thai people someday.