It's as though every annoying thing magically transforms into something romantic.
The oppressive heat becomes a warm and energizing hug.
Specifically, the entertainment extravaganza that are street markets brings everyone- tourist and local alike- together for people watching, gossip, shopping and eating.
In the soft light and even softer heat, everyone is looking and feeling good and the buzzy vibes and smiles are contagious.
You eat the shrimp and broth, but the kaffir lime leaves, galangal (Thai ginger), bird's eye chillies, finger root and lemongrass are all meant to stay in the bowl.
Turns out, it was a super spicy bird's eye chili and a bunch of woody lemongrass that I ended up spitting out.
I found the Thai embrace of secular and spiritual very inspiring!
The ubiquitous makeshift shrines on nearly every street corner had just as many offerings of flowers, fruit, and incense as magnificent temples. From beach lovers to backpackers to digital nomads, I used to wonder how a place with a reputation for heat and sleaze could be so popular with seemingly everyone? Delicious, healthy AND cheap, it's my version of the holy grail. I was, at best, neutral and even slightly skeptical about Thailand before we arrived, so what did this wary traveler encounter that changed her opinion? I've always enjoyed Thai cuisine in the US, so I didn't think I would have any problems, but little did I know just how much I would love it.Once I knew how (and what) to eat, however, I couldn't stop.I started the day with Khao Tom for breakfast (rice soup with ground pork) and a couple hours later, moved on to coconut chicken soup, green Thai curry or pad Thai.Despite the tropical heat and spicy food, Thais have to be some of the chillest peeps on the planet.There is definitely a laid back 'live and let live' attitude which explains why even in conservative Asia, Thailand is accepting of the LGBT community, including the famous 'ladyboys'.That first encounter was not love at first sight, however.The bowl of Tom Yum Goong soup looked and smelled delicious... Immediately, my tongue exploded into flames and my throat felt like it had just received a karate chop.When I took a cooking class later in the week, we visited the fresh vegetable market.The chef showed us the strange-looking ingredients for Tom Yum Goong and advised that they aren't meant to be eaten, but are strictly for flavor.