After spending a couple of weeks in New Zealand, it's interesting to analyze the differences between life in Bangkok and life in the more 'civilized world'. I realise that fifteen days is not always enough time to get an angle on life in any particular country but I'll take a shot anyway.
The first thing you appreciate when you take that initial morning stroll is good old fresh clean air. The purity of the air has you almost gasping for breath and reeling with dizziness. It takes a good few days to get used to it. Chilly winds and morning frosts are something you forgot existed but experiencing them once again is a sheer joy. How lovely it is to walk on organised and well-built footpaths with proper paving slabs and quality curb-stones. Oh the bliss of walking along the roadside without the fear of suddenly disappearing down a great big pot-hole that's been carefully marked out with a wooden stick and a plastic bag. It's great to walk in a city where the humble pedestrian is both recognized and well catered for.
The biggest shock to the system is when you get behind the wheel of a car. My wife found driving in New Zealand incredibly hard to get used to. And there was me thinking that if you could negotiate the traffic in Bangkok, then you could drive anywhere in the world. Alas, it's not quite as simple as that. You suddenly find yourself in a world of speed limits, courteous driving at right-hand turns, motorists who signal, motorists who stick to their lanes, and heaven forbid - the dreaded roundabout, where you have to signal right and then signal left as you exit. I'd never really though about it but Thailand doesn't really have roundabouts like the ones in the civilized driving world.
But although there were many things I adored about New Zealand, I was glad to get back. You miss the 'cheekiness' of Thailand. You miss the 'lawlessness' and the twinkle in its eye - however much they get you down at times. There are little things you appreciate like the personal service at gas stations instead of having to pump the gas yourself and spilling four litres down your trouser leg. And there are the big things you miss such as supermarket shopping. Thailand may not have the greatest selection of goods on earth when it comes to supermarket shopping but oh boy you can't beat those prices. There's nothing like a trip to another country and paying over 60 baht for a can of Coke to give you a firm reality check. Yes, I guess there's really no place like home.