Posts Tagged ‘thailand’

Our little perch in Bangkok is surrounded by a wide green space. I can smell the Gulf of Thailand on the morning breeze. The rising sun resembles an expanding supernova. Bird song and Soi Dogs are the melody of this neighborhood. 7 AM and already 90 degrees F. I hung our towels out last night and they haven’t dried. Humidity during this late monsoon month is well over 100%. What a shock to have transitioned so completely from Dallas in such a short time. We were away two years and it feels like we never left. This is the anniversary of my 40th year of coming to Thailand.

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We’ve only been back in Vancouver a week and already the walls are closing in. Fortunately we have only 8 more sleeps before we bug out to our traditional winter perch in Thailand via Hong Kong. I can’t fault the weather in BC in the time we’ve been back. The West Coast has experienced a ‘hundred year summer’ where the weather has been the best in memory. It has been warm and sunny as opposed to what we are accustomed to as normal when it rains and is mostly cloudy except for a few days now and again. It is normal for summer to occur the last two weeks of August and be raining the rest of the time. So…we got super lucky this year.

I would like to cheerlead for what has been my home town…but it’s hard to do when so little happens here. For a variety of reasons people in Vancouver tend be miserable. There’s a dearth of cultural activities and those are primarily administered by the social engineering wonks at city hall. Vancouver is not famous for it’s spontaneity. Now that the beaches have been closed due to fecal matter ( high coliform count includes hospital waste and viral waste) making the beaches and ocean a no-go zone for health reasons it’s hard to enjoy the coastline without that in mind. This is all because Vancouver continues to loose approx., 800 million liters of raw untreated waste into the waters surrounding the city every day. Yuchhh !!

I wouldn’t hurry to be a tourist to Vancouver due to the bedbug infestation of most major public buildings including hotels and hostels. Public health officials are warning people about possible rat borne diseases such as meningitis etc affecting children (and adults) due to an explosion in the rat populations. Sickening that rats have got out of control…but the famous ‘Mayor Moonbeam’ has no interest in tackling such things it seems. Video’s of the out of control rat population are abundant on YouTube. Not something any one locally is proud of…but the cities tourism mavins and politicians would have you focus on other
things…of course.

8 More sleeps….and we will wake in the Land of Yim (Smiles) …away from the malaise of Vancouver…The Land of Nod.

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I read the Bangkok Post this morning, as I do every day. It’s never completely amazing to read the words of yet another government official giving the nod to the sex industry in Thailand. Today’s announcement is to boost the numbers of LGBT tourists to Thailand to gain from “the increased spending ability of this group”. The official says ” the rest of the world has made sex tourism less accessible while we are making it more accessible”. Read the article here:

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/health/316371/malaysians-warned-hiv-risk-in-south

I found it somewhat contradictory to also read  that the number of HIV infections among foreign tourists has increased. Apparently, ‘they and their prostitutes get drunk and forget to wear condoms’. Now personally, if I was at the epicenter of a global health crisis I would not be promoting increased risk of  pandemic…but maybe that’s just me. The Thai government has their sights set on earning two trillion baht from overall tourism this year…sad that it has to be on the backs of poor women…many who have little choice other than to prostitute themselves to drunken farang.

I question the logic and morality of the governments business decision to encourage prostitution as a viable ‘profession’. The Thai government would insist that as a farang I can never understand Thainess and am therefore instinctively biased, unable to understand the Asian mind or heart. I answer by stating that many  ASEAN and aligned countries have decided that their uneducated women and girls are not irretrievably disposable.

There are alternatives to prostitution work…I refer to one program that has been very successful throughout South East Asia, Africa and India….The Barefoot Teachers College..an NGO that trains women in skill based knowledge that they can transfer back to their rural villages and improve their own and the lives of their families and communities as an example.

http://www.wipo.int/wipo_magazine/en/2009/03/article_0002.html

Barefoot Teachers started as a shoestring organization to teach rural Indian women how to address the poverty they faced in remote villages. The organization has developed into an international effort that gives women an opportunity to train in a variety of ‘professions’ towards a sustainable lifestyle. NGO teaching centers like ‘Friends’ in Cambodia have taken street children and the disadvantaged in that country and given them hope for a better future by teaching them food service and entrepreneurial skill sets.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friends-International

I will continue to pray for the future of Thailand’s poor to have something other than prostitution to rely on for a means to put food on the table.

I never use guide books. I’m not a ‘follow the leader’ type of person. If my imagination is ever reduced to walking the same path, seeing exactly the same sights at the same time and ‘hot bunking’ the same hostel/hotel flop as tens of thousands of other newly minted ‘globe trekkers’ , I will stop traveling altogether. In recent years there has been a spate of homogeneity that has brought traveling to a new level of boring. Mass tourism began with the publication of guide books. Starting in the 1950’s with the ‘Europe on $5 a day’ issues up until today’s ‘The Lonely Planet’ and ‘Rough Guide’. The ‘guide book’ has reduced the world to a deep overused wagon rut over a field populated by mindless unadventurous pap, all following in each others footsteps.

The guide book mentality has been followed up with a new phenomena, ‘the bucket list’. How non-spontaneous and unimaginative can life be if you have to plan your ‘fun’ in advance from a list mapped out by someone else that has been based solely on current popular trends? What if you were to miss out on line item ‘a’…’jump out of a plane’…would you go to your grave a failure? What ever happened to ‘live for today’ and ‘living in the moment’? The ‘Bucketeers’ now have a new resource with which to plan their lives, there has been dozens of ‘1000 must see places before you die’ books published in the last few years. This attitude to travel is an extension of the limited imagination expressed in guide books. “OK, everyone stand in a line and march like brainless robots and take a picture”. There are popular ‘travel destinations’ that more resemble meat processing plants than anything that might have attracted travelers in the first place.

I think the worst example of this lemming-like behavior can be exemplified in a movie, ‘The Beach’ filmed partially in Thailand. It starred a perpetually boy faced character who ‘left home’ supposedly ‘seeking’ a quasi-spiritual ‘experience’ by ‘finding’ a secret island already populated by people who looked, dressed, talked, obsessed and bitched in exactly the same jargon while expressing the ‘entitlement generations’ expectations as he had. Apparently the producers of ‘The Beach’ found communal ecstasy in sameness and this attitude towards accepting homogeneity as real life struck a popular chord with like minded simpletons the world over. Since then, one street in Bangkok in particular, Khao San Road has been completely made over to resemble ‘the tribe’ scene from the movie set. Freshly pressed dreadlocks and corn rows, newly cut tattoo’s, Bob Marley pants and every other de rigeur ‘beach’ fashion accessory is ubiquitous. A movie about life’s individualism’s has produced an entire cohort of followers that have descended on Thailand to be fleeced by sharp eyed trinket sellers, how apropos.

As expressed in Newtons ‘Law of Motion’, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”, there are people who refuse to be herded and corralled by the guide book mentality of homogeneity. They are impossible to meet in hotel hot spots deluged with ‘tourists’. These are people who refuse to accept that the grinding conformity that working and professional life imposes on a person should extend to their travel time. I’m certainly not talking about the dentist who pays a Sherpa to carry him bodily up a trail on Everest so that he may ‘conquer the mountain’. I’m talking about the people who can find their own path by visiting unusual places, places whose names do not appear in any guide books, bucket lists or ‘places to see before you die’ publications.

I am suggesting that a person accept more unpredictability by going outside their comfort zone. This may mean anything to any number of people. I don’t expect anyone to throw themselves into life and death situations such as I am fond of doing. But, I do suggest that when you have driven, de-trained or disembarked at your destination, don’t follow the crowd. Just for fun, next time you find yourself in some tourist hot spot, head in the exact opposite direction than the crowd is headed. Look for places on the map that don’t appear in any guide book. That’s where the real action is.