As tacky as it might sound (and it does, indeed, sound tacky), from the perspective of an English speaker, Thailand definitely has some words that really lend themselves to being initially mistaken for being... how to politely put this... slang (or worse).
For example, you already know that we visited Bangkok a week or two ago. However, while we were in Thailand, we did NOT have enough time to get to go visit
another city with a name that just BEGS to have English speakers abuse it, though I've heard that it's supposed to be pronounced "foo-kett" or some such, but please. I'm the sort who tries really hard to be polite, but when I see "Bangkok" and "Phucket," well, my brain immediately and automatically discards them to the sidelines as being impolite, and I have to consciously tell my brain, No, they're fine, you may use them in polite conversation, for there's no other way to discuss your trip!
Not that it really matters, though, because as everyone knows we were actually in Thailand for some
This, my friends, is ice. Ice is wonderful and amazing and worth traveling a gazillion miles for. Ice graces our drinks and makes us happy on warm days and darned if China DOESN'T HAVE ANY ICE ANYWHERE AT ALL, EVER. How Chinese people live without ice I cannot begin to fathom, and if I stop and reflect upon the fact that on hot days Chinese people purposefully drink plain *hot* water (why? Why? WHY???) in their homes for normal hydration purposes my brain will explode at the sheer wrongness of it all.
Know why else you go to Bangkok?
This is the part where my father, a foodie of nearly psycho proportions, will freak out and go into apoplectic seizures because we ate MEXICAN rather than THAI food in Thailand.
And while eating Mexican food while you're in Thailand may make no sense at all whatsoever to an American who can eat whatever sort of food he so chooses any random day in America, this makes PERFECT sense to an American visiting Thailand who gets basically only one meal during his visit and who has been looking forward to eating REAL, HONEST-TO-GOODNESS MEXICAN for as long as he's had his plane tickets because he can't eat Mexican in Chengdu and, besides, Thai is Asian and all he ever eats in Chengdu is Asian food. AND HIS NAME IS JAMES.
Deal with it, Dad.
One thing we did not know before visiting Bangkok was that Bangkok has a king. And a queen. And that both the king and queen are memorialized on every street corner, building, sign, window, shelf, etc. (or at least it feels that way) to the point where all of the banners on the side of the road leading up to the airport and all of the decorations across the airport's facilities were in honor of the king because of his birthday.
These were separate from the images, paintings, shrines, etc. that featured the queen, which were basically on every street corner and beside every building.
You probably can't read what is written on the king's blurb at the airport (sorry, my picture sucks, an iTouch can only do so much), but it's something like, "The Great King, whose every action is to benefit all Thai people in all respects," or something super positive like that.
The whole king and queen thing is such a big deal in Thailand that when you go to see a movie in a (clean!!!) movie theater, while drinking a drink with ice in it (!!!!), you must stand before the movie starts in honor of the two to three minute advertisement that comes on before every movie that is basically a propaganda piece about the king and how wonderful he is and Look! Here are pictures of him feeding the homeless and walking around with normal Thai people and spending every minute of every day doing wonderful things for Thailand.
James and I stood as expected, though it felt sort of strange to be doing so, and then we had a long conversation later about how, um, THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN AMERICA.
~ ~ ~
Me (incredulous): Can you IMAGINE if, in America, before any movie started playing in a movie theater, every single person in the theater had to stand up and be silent in respect for a three minute short film about the current President of the United States and how wonderful he/she is and how every minute of every day all he/she does is stuff to benefit all Americans? Complete with pictures of him/her from childhood on up and then feeding the homeless, etc?
James: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha!! No matter who the President is, half the movie theater would stand, the other half would stay seated and start yelling and screaming, and fights would break out all over the place!
Me (nostalgically): I know! We're the greatest country on earth!
~ ~ ~
James and I pretty much only had one day in Thailand before we had to turn around and start the travel process back to Chengdu because, hello, our children were home alone and we wanted them to be alive when we got back. (Which they were.)
We flew out of Thailand and landed in Guangzhou in order to change planes to get to Chengdu.
Ah, being back in China:
We had a bit of a layover in Guangzhou and decided to try to get something to eat. GONE were the restaurants that we had just seen a few hours before in Bangkok... restaurants that sold sushi or gourmet ice cream or sub sandwiches or anything even remotely familiar to an American.
We tried to choose between:
Spiced Small Intestine *or* Belly Juice Tripe...
...Edible Tree Fungus with Mature Vinegar *or* Hot and Sour Kelp...
...or some nice Belly Juice Radish.
It was so hard to choose. Everything sounded so totally delish. In a CHINA-EY sort of way.
Forget what we ended up ordering. Something with noodles?
Glad we ate during our layover in Guangzhou on our way back to Chengdu, though, because LITTLE DID WE KNOW AT THE TIME, but while we were in the air flying from Guangzhou back to Chengdu, it rained a tiny bit in Chengdu (for all of a half and hour), and China began diverting planes away from Chengdu because evidently no one can land a plane somewhere where it has rained in the last three hours.
So we got diverted to Chongqing and sat in the plane on the tarmac for four hours. Interestingly enough, James and I were sitting in the exit row seat lane and at one point, the Chinese stewardess (who had been physically guarding the exit row's emergency exit door that leads out of the plane) had to leave her post and turned and told James very seriously that she needed HIM to guard the plane's emergency door. One can only presume that she was worried that someone was going to come along and try to pop that door open and plunge to the concrete below the airplane just to get away from being crammed in a plane with no air conditioning or food or water for hours.
Just the sort of task James has ALWAYS wanted to do. NOT.
No one got past James (and, mercifully, no one tried, though they all would have failed), and after four hours we were let off the plane and herded to the Chongqing airport terminal where we waited another four hours. Meanwhile, an American man on the plane kept us posted on the weather back at the Chengdu airport ("My girlfriend has literally been standing at the Chengdu airport these last eight hours and not only has it not rained once, but planes have been taking off and landing the whole time!") until we were put back on a plane and sent to Chengdu eight hours later, thank the LORD.
We were supposed to have arrived home at 8 pm on a Saturday night, but we actually got home at 5:30 am Sunday morning. OH. HOW. FUN.
But I won't complain. Know why? Because another lady from the Consulate trying to get home to Chengdu that same night was traveling with her three children all under the age of six, BY HERSELF, while one of her children was vomiting, and SHE got waylaid in Chongqing at the same time as James and I did, but SHE wasn't let off the plane for the whole eight hours. She and her children all sat on the plane on the tarmac in Chongqing while the plane ran out of food, ran out of water, had no air conditioning, etc., and while her sick child vomited.
And THAT, my friends, is the glam life of the Foreign Service sometimes.