Just a few day before we left on this trip, I was at Fav's for lunch with Mom, Grandma and Aunt Madelon (note to Charlie - Ken S was our waiter, he says "hey Mr Kennedy"). It was my last chance to ask Madelon for Thailand tips and advice. (For those outside the Murray clan, Madelon served in Thailand in the Peace Corps.)
After the term "3rd world" came up, Madelon disputed that Thailand was not a 3rd world country now and wasn't when she was there. I found this a surprising statement and figured that Madelon was just trying to make the point that we would be comfortable and safe in our trip. I'd taken enough poli sci classes to know that my professors thought of Thailand as "3rd world". The closest I'd ever come to 3rd world was a trip to the Bahamas and I don't think that really counts.
Lisa and I had an itinerary that allowed us to see Thailand in stark contrast to its much poorer neighbors. After 4 or 5 days in Thailand, we spent 2 weeks in Laos and Cambodia before returning to Bangkok. In our first foray, we noticed news stories that hinted at Thailand's comfort: problems with illegally trafficked workers from Burma and Cambodia as well as the emphasis on green, eco friendly choices. An economy whose business sector wants low wage workers more than it fears legal repurcussions is a booming economy.
Upon our return to Thailand after the Mekong Valley sojurn, we noticed other, smaller signs: Thais dining in Western restaurants, grand public transit and infrastructure, exhorbitant rents and teenagers with braces.
I presume that the old academic notions of "1st world" and "3rd world" are breaking down, so I'm sure that the poli sci classes of today would have a new designation for nations in Thailand's sector.
As for these two travelers, our eyes have certainly been opened in new ways.