I had never been to Asia. Not that I didn’t want to, I just felt I had to prioritise other things because I had always felt that I didn’t have so much time left. Very morbid I know. Destiny had other plans for me though, when Gayze was invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, to visit Bangkok and learn about the LGBTQ+ community there.
Prior to my departure I didn't really know what to feel or expect. Upon arrival I was struck by the intense humidity and warmth that felt wonderful on my skin and also my first Wai, the Thai greeting where you place your hands together in a prayer pose just under the chin. A Wai can mean Hello, Thank You, I’m sorry or Goodbye. You never use it for children, street vendors or labourers, even if they wai to you. I learned that it’s inappropriate and a simple smile or nod is enough.
This and the drive from the airport and through the city unleashed a very quick round of emotions. Everything was different. It felt different. More vibrant, more beautiful. It was as if a thin gray vail was lifted before my eyes. I had never encountered so many different and unusual plants. I quickly got aware of that flowers, gardens and trees are very important to the Thai people. The decorations on the streets and the temples. Flower garlands, Phuang malai, are often given as offerings or kept for good luck. The city is planting trees and creating parks and large baskets of flowers are hung on the riverside. The respect for beauty is felt very clear in Thailand. It’s an artform in the way you move, how you create the surroundings around you, how you dress and how you interact and treat other people.
For instance, the buzzling city's many tuk-tuks run on liquid propane and the BTS Skytrain will smoothly take you anywhere you need to go making Bangkok a modern conscious metropolis.
The transportation over the water will give you beautiful views over the cities landmarks like the sophisticated calatrava-style Rama VIII Bridge, the many beautiful temples and the Grand Palace grounds. I loved seeing them in cloudy rainy days, because the gilded rooftops of the temples stood out visually over the city landscape.
My favourite part? I have to say the people. Very friendly and extremely kind, but also with tremendous pride.
While returning to the airport, large signs towering over the road tell visitors that Buddha statues are not for decoration. This really struck me. Several people I met also told me that the Lord Buddha shouldn't be on tattoos or be souvenirs to bring back home and that one should respect this.
I take these memories with me because I love that in some countries, some things are sacred. Thailand is one of those countries. I love and understand that completely. Respect is one of the few things we have and afterall, this is what makes us human.
/ STELIOS VASILANTONAKIS, CO-FOUNDER