Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. The King is revered as a near diety. It is illegal to insult the royalty, a fact that makes political manipulation and oppression easy to do by the well connected.
The Army has been in charge since it ousted the Prime Minister in a 2014 coup. The motto on Army headquarters is "Country, Religions, Monarchy, People."
Thailand supposedly has one of the world's lowest unemployment rates at less than 1%. The data is open to question.
Buddhism is mixed with ancient spiritual belief and practice. Our group was welcomed to our homestay with a ceremony in which each of us had a length of holy string wrapped around our wrists. The ceremony called all of our 32 souls to return to protect us, the souls bound to us with the string. I felt it was a privilege to be so blessed.
Homes and businesses usually have a shrine or spirit house out front. It is a place for ancestors and spirits to dwell so they will not haunt the property.
I have not seen so many 7-11 stores since Stockholm, Sweden.
Massage and coffee shops are everywhere, outnumbering 7-11 maybe ten to one. One massage shop put up a sign reading "No sex." One does notice older Western men in the company of much younger local women.
Some gay men find city employment in drag shows. Called "lady boys," the drag performers can be strikingly pretty. At the lady boy cabaret we attended, the best routine was two men dancing as men to the song "I am who I am." Our leader told me that attitudes toward gay men have changed for the better in recent years. They are no longer killed or disowned by most families.
I asked our leader about women's rights. I asked if a girl and a boy were born today, would they have the same or different outcomes in 20 years. "The same," he said. I hope so.
We are having our last two days in Bangkok away from the tourist center. It is much more agreeable than our first few days.
Overall, Thailand has given us a rewarding experience. It was well worth the time. We are glad we chose Intrepid to do most of the work. However, I find that I am not drawn to Southeast Asia. I would not soon return.