I was very lucky when I was 14 years old to go to Thailand with my family. At this point in my life, I don’t think that I really enjoyed vacation but at the same time, it didn’t matter as it was a family trip that my folks took me and my brother on. We followed a tour of other Chinese tourists and were there for less than a week, how many days, I don’t remember as I was only 14. I had never thought about going there in my life but I knew that it was supposed to be a hot vacation destination. Good weather, sandy beaches, amazing nightlife (that I didn’t participate in), and it’s affordable. Thailand is supposed to a dream vacation destination. I’m sure it is for most, but for me it was a bit traumatizing. Fun fact, my parents honeymoon’d there.
I want to preface this article many not be the most PG, so there you go. I also wanted to say that I of course know that Thailand has a lot to provide to the world and that there culture is expansive and more encompassing than what I’m writing about but this article isn’t just about Thailand. If anything it’s about my experience in Thailand as a 14 year old and how it shaped my perspective on life in the future/present.
I remember pulling up to the hotel and seeing a lot of young girls wearing very little. Whatever, it’s the culture I thought. But it wasn’t until they were following men into the hotel that I realized what it was. I support sex work, regulated sex work, that protects all parties involved but I don’t think that this was the case. Especially when a lot of those girls were girls and looked like they should have been in math class with me. If you need to hire a professional, that’s totally fine but under these circumstances, it just put a bad taste in my mouth. It felt like foreigners taking advantage of a system that was built for them against the agency of a lot of these young girls. It set the tone for the rest of the trip.
I remember being in Bangkok, the capitol and being mesmerized by how busy the city was. Being from Hong Kong, you could only imagine how much it would take for a city to make me think that it was busy. But I remember a lot of homeless people as well. Being in Toronto and London, ON – you see a lot of homeless people but this was on another level. I remember seeing moms with their children on their knees, begging on the street. Again, something that stuck with me and a visual I still can’t get out of my head today. It gave me perspective of how sheltered I had been my entire life. You want to help but you won’t have the answers for them. If you stopped to give everyone money, you’d bankrupt yourself. So you just move on because you understand that while walking down the street in the moment, there’s nothing you can really do.
It was a hot and bright sunny day. Cars were whizzing by, it was loud, incredibly loud. The city was truly alive. But the most vivid memory I had was when I saw a live mugging in front of a mall. I was on the tour bus and I saw Man A with a knife and holding a suitcase, fighting off Man B who was fighting back for his suitcase. A mall security guard rushes out to support Man B but nothing really happens until another person picks up Man A on a motorcycle. Again, perspective. To see the underage prostitutes, the families begging on the sidewalks, and the crime in broad daylight, it just really changed how I viewed my life and that the only reason that I am where I am was because I was born to my parents in Hong Kong. I’m just lucky.
And it know that it sounds like I’m just talking ill of the country, but I’m not trying to. On the trip, we did go to the beaches, I paraglided, ate great food, and enjoyed the weather. I somehow even remember eating KFC with my brother and how good it tasted compared to what we had in Canada. But I just can’t shake that trip out of my mind. And when people talk about going to Thailand and having fun, I just can’t see it that way. I understand that vacation destinations are a certain way due to the societal construct of that area but I felt like I was taking advantage of the situation just because they needed money, and I a tourist had those resources, otherwise a lot of them wouldn’t be in that position. Yeah I’m virtue signaling aren’t I? I’m not speaking for all Thai locals of course, I’m just speaking with the interactions that I did have. It just gave me a lot of perspective as a 14 year old.