|Ok, well -- I'm still around today and this prompt sounded like a lot of fun, so here goes.
"Tell us about the area you live in."
The town I live in is a quaint little village at the foot of the Phanom Dongrek Mountains. At a high enough altitude to be safe from the floodings that frequent Thailand, we were barely touched by the disaster that happened only a few months ago. High up on one of the neighboring mountains is something people here call, "The White Buddha." This is the largest sitting Buddha statue in all of Asia. To reach the foot of the Buddha requires climbing the 1,250 steps up the mountain. A tiring task, but worth it for the incredible view. Our little town resides in the shadow of this great work of art and it is quite often that we are graced by the sight of the striking orange robes of monks at work early in the morning.
Coming from the deserts of California to these verdant mountains was an incredibly drastic change. The trees here come in shades of green that I only dreamt of back home. Vibrant flowers are scattered around our town in every color you can imagine -- especially orchids. The Thai people love orchids. Along with these flowers come a plethora of butterflies as well. White squirrels dance along the power lines, and monkeys frequent the temples here. It is truly a magical place to live.
The houses aren't too different from Western style housing, however, in the front yards of Thai houses are ornate shrines known as Spirit Houses. The wonderful aroma of incense accompanies the atmosphere around these houses, and soda bottles and various Thai foods are left to satisfy the needs of the spirits who reside in them.
It is rare to see many cars around my town. Motorbikes frequent the streets. The driving is hectic and crazy here when compared to driving in the States, however, I've found that a sort of rhythm and structure accompanies the supposed chaos. It took some getting used to, driving on the left side of the road -- but now it seems completely natural .
While the food is incredible and the scenery is nearly unbelievable, the people are what truly have me in love with this country. As a farang inhabiting their world, I may be the recipient of many uncomfortable stares -- but a simple smile will break the tension immediately. As I attempt to speak Thai to those I come in contact with, we may share a laugh at my terrible pronunciation, but friendships are quickly formed and negative thinking quickly forgotten.
The night markets here are something I will miss terribly as well. Wandering down the aisle of vendors, you will see a large variety of fruit that, upon arrival, appears to be unreal. There is the dragon fruit that is a vibrant pink and looks a bit scaly. Rambutan, who's name means hairy, is a red fruit which is, in fact, quite hairy looking. Then there are the mangoes and the durian. Wonderful pineapple. And the mangosteen. Mmmm... The markets sell just about anything you could possibly need, and on special occasions, baby elephants may be led among the aisles. Fish, eels, crabs, frogs, and turtles are gathered in buckets -- an occasionally fish flopping out and into the road in an attempt to find freedom. Women sit and bash them on the heads, chopping them up while still alive to hand to customers to bring home and cook for their families.
Games of football (soccer) and sepak takraw (a mix between hackey sack and volleyball) can be watched along the roads. Students from preschool until University can be spotted in an instant -- donning the government-specified white and black uniforms. Farmers are seen transporting fruits and other goods in the sidecars of their motorbikes. And many of those seen wandering outside are covered as much as possible (in spite of the heat) to hide from the sun. Because. You know -- dark skin is so terribly unattractive. (Sarcasm).
Anyway. That's just a little glimpse at my village. Life in Thailand varies greatly from place to place, as even Bangkok is filled with everything from the extreme upper-class to cases of intense poverty. I live in the happy medium -- big cities are a bit too crowded for my taste, but we still have our decent share of comfort. Unfortunately the insects/snakes/scorpions find that true here as well .