When the Thai Bug Exits the System
Reading the posts of those new to Thailand always takes me back to a time when I first became enchanted with the country back in 2000. Count me amongst the countless who quickly became enthralled with the country, the culture and people during my maiden voyage. I was infected, and leaving the country that first time had me immediately planning a return trip 3 months later.
But like most bugs, the Thai one worked its way out of my system. Four years of non-stop visits eventually wore me down. I’d visit every 3 to 4 months, work permitting, for stays varying from 1 – 3 weeks. Fortunately, my boss was supportive in granting leave, as he said he’d noticed I was much more relaxed and happier upon my returns (go figure). I worked extraordinarily hard – one of the top billers in the office – so he gave me a great deal of latitude in taking holidays. It also helped that I had a client in Singapore, so when I’d need to have a meeting there, I’d tack on a week in Thailand after (since I’d traveled so far already).
But by my last trip in 2004, I was done. I realized trips there had become a bit boring and fairly predictable. I’d exhausted the main tourist sites after the second visit, and had started a relationship with a lady I’d met in Bangkok, who took me to her home village up north near Chiang Rai. I’d stay in the house, drink with the father, uncles and brothers and do my best to speak with them (or at least those who could speak a smidgen of English). That was good fun the first couple of visits too, but by the third or fourth time, became tiresome. We traveled to other parts of the country, but again, my interest was fading.
As an aside, I have no horror stories about being cheated on (there was no discussion of exclusivity, and I couldn’t care less as I recognized the relationship for what it was), I didn’t lose large sums of money and thankfully, I encountered no scams regarding pregnancy, sick mothers or dead water buffalos. I may have been lucky or simply wise beyond my early-30-something years at the time, but I didn’t experience some of the things others have. I say this not to gloat but rather to provide context that it wasn’t a bad experience with a girlfriend or spouse that cured me of my Thai bug.
Although I never particularly enjoyed the long flights from New York to Bangkok, I remember the anticipation I’d have prior to trips to Thailand during the first couple of years, so excited to know that in 24 hours time I’d be stepping out at Don Meuang Airport, basking in the humidity and inhaling that unique smell of Thailand. By the last voyage in 2004, I was dreading that flight and the taxi queue that would greet me when I arrived at DM. I realized the bug had finally passed through the system when I found I was more excited to depart Thailand than I’d been to actually go there.
What led to this? With 14 visits between 2000 and 2004, was it a case of familiarity breeding contempt? Of overdoing a good thing? Perhaps. But actually, what I’d discovered was that I wanted to see more of the region – the world really – and what was once a novelty and diversion from daily life had become common and just as routine as the life from which I was trying to take a holiday (notwithstanding not having to work). The same bars, the same hotels and sometimes even the same people!
It would take me 4 years before I returned to Thailand, when I took a buddy of mine there to introduce him to the sights and sounds of the supposed Land of Smiles. I enjoyed my visit, much more than the previous trip years earlier. My friend had a great time, but he seemed to have immunity to the bug, and I don’t think he’s been back. I returned again in 2010, also having a good time. By then, however, my interests had turned to neighboring countries, and I stayed longer in Vietnam and Cambodia than I did Thailand. Two years after that, however, I would take another trip to Bangkok, this one leading to a move there… But that’s a story perhaps better left for another post.
So to those who catch the Thai Bug, enjoy it while you can. But don’t allow it to infect your mind so much so that you make what could be disastrous decisions about women or your careers or whatever. And realize that for many people, one tends to build a resistance to it over time, eventually ridding themselves of it entirely. Or perhaps you’ll be one of those that just can’t shake the disease…