Just three weeks after Anthony Irwin arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, the Thai Army staged a coup to overthrow the elected government under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Irwin recalls seeing soldiers and tanks beginning to crowd the streets.
He had just graduated from State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz and decided to take time off. He had come to Bangkok, where his brother had recently moved, with the intention of living there for a year.
Soon after landing in Bangkok, Irwin traveled to Chiang Rai, a town in northern Thailand.
“I was just planning on going on vacation; I had bought a round-trip plane ticket,” he says. “But I really didn’t like Bangkok, and not just because of the coup, that wasn’t the only reason why. I ended up staying in Chiang Rai and finding a job there.”
In Chiang Rai, Irwin began to recognize Buddhism as more than a religion—but as a way of life.
After a year of living in Thailand, Irwin returned to the United States to pursue his master’s degree in southeast Asian studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In August, he will return to Chiang Rai on a Fulbright scholarship to work on his PhD dissertation.