"The best thing you can be in the Philippines is a mixed breed- half White/half Asian. They will love you." This conversation I had a decade ago with my Asian friends came flooding back to me when I landed at the Bangkok airport. One of the first advertisements I saw was for Snail White, a skin bleaching cream. My immediate thoughts were, 'Oh my, are all these people bleached white skin crazy and will my dark skin be looked down upon?' As I entered the blistering hot city, one of the first women I saw was carrying an umbrella to protect her overly whitened face. I have subtly heard about the skin bleaching phenomenon before, but now here I was in the heart of it. It was fascinating and shocking all at the same time. As my days in Thailand passed, it was fairly noticeable if a girl bleached her face or not. Usually, if they went overboard, the results were not fantastic.
But I couldn't blame some girls for being brainwashed into thinking they need these things. It's the same influence as makeup, plastic surgery, and hair extensions in America. In Bangkok, more than half the ads I saw were with White people or people with white skin. When I watched the TV commercials on the train, it was once again- only white skin Thai people. Some of the people appeared to be half breeds, as well. I never like to pry into people's personal lives and thoughts, but when the topic of skin color and/or tanning was mentioned, my ears were peeled. I wanted more insight into what people think.
"I need this umbrella because I'm already too dark. I can't tan anymore."
"There are a lot of Chinese people moving to my neighborhood and they all have white skin. When they see my tan skin, they think I'm poor and working in the fields or doing hard labor."
"White people are in the ads because when you put a White person, it's cool. People want to buy it."
Bangkok is filled with an array of different colored Thai people, sprinkled with some expats and tourists. It is a lively city, and it is more than just skin bleaching cream! Throughout my experience, Thai people were very friendly and welcoming. I never felt any negative sentiments while I was there- only good vibes. Exploring Bangkok gave me the chance to learn a little bit about the Buddhist philosophy and how people incorporate it into their daily lives. I had the opportunity to visit and pray in a temple along the klong, learn what my day of birth represents (Monday), and skim through bamboo tattoos (also known as sak yant) which offer power, protection, and other benefits.
Bangkok was a successful checkmark that I can add to my world map. It was my first trip to Asia and I hope it will not be the last. I will be back in Thailand so I can explore even more, in a whole new way. For all those planning a trip in the near future- enjoy! To end this off, I've left you with 5 random tips I learned/thoughts of Bangkok.
1. Monks are not allowed to look at, touch, or even be close to a woman, so avoid being near them altogether. When you see them from a distance, put your hands together and bow your head out of respect.
2. If you're missing home, don't worry. There is literally a 7/11 on every other block. It's crazy.
3. The fashion is great! I saw plenty of malls, but the only one I went to was Terminal 21. It is huge. As many times as I went, I couldn't get through it all. Another gigantic, go-to shopping destination is Chatuchak Market. It's the largest weekend market in Thailand. There are so many shops set up and the deals are unbelievable. I got a pair of high waisted denim shorts and a jeans skirt for 450 baht (about $13).
4. The King is very highly regarded in Thailand and there are photos of him everywhere. I'm sure you have/will come across his photo if you're in Thailand. And if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.
5. Eat street food. And thank me later.