Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Is the media silence on sex tourism the result of financial pressure put on them by advertisers? Is the current blanket dumbing down of the media really a de facto gag order enforced by foreign governments who don’t want the notoriety of the very ill kept secret of a sex industry in their countries made front page news? Are airlines and hotel booking giants applying pressure on the media to not blow the whistle on the sordid details and suffering of women with their power to withhold or conversely ramp up advertising dollars to a media which is suffering from an intense drought in the advertising dollar space?

Ad dollars are scarce today in a long standing recession that has been the cause of the job losses and bankruptcy of thousands of small and large names and journals around the world. Small country markets can withstand the pressure, their populations don’t contribute to tourism in a major way, but large developed markets in the USA and Canada, for example, where professional journalists rely on steady work and union pensions, can be easily corrupted by the withdrawal of support by advertisers if the media is not reading off the advertisers song sheet.

Popular Canadian journalist #Ezra Levant shed light on some of the more menacing ways that government can pervert journalism by sponsoring certain journalists and their parent organizations while withholding funds and accreditation from those it doesn’t like. If governments are actively perverting the truth for electoral reasons, is it not a possibility that the same tactic might be used in the fight for international tourist dollars?

Ezra Levant: The more menacing way that politicians control journalists

I think we have to understand that governments which derive a major portion of their GDP from tourism, like Mexico and Thailand might be willing to ‘ask’ journalists to print certain story lines and not others for the sake of public perception. In Mexico, for example, there is an extremely high murder rate and violent crime rate for foreign visitors, a fact that rarely leaks out unless the murders or violent acts have been so heinous that nothing can hold them secret.

During these instances however, it seems to me that advertising becomes more intensive and more sales are on offer to ‘popular destinations’. These so called popular destinations are usually hotels and resort areas owned by powerful political families…so is the increased advertising a panacea offered to the media in order to ‘forget’ the crimes that have just occurred and not focus on the problem at large? Can advertising dollars make the problem of murder and sex tourism go away? It certainly seems likely that prestidigitation is at work in markets where crimes like sex tourism and violence against visitors is common and pervasive.

being a tourist

being a tourist

What would happen if your city was invaded by an army of viagra crazed sexpat zombies. If as many gray haired pot bellied perverts arrived on your shores in comparable numbers to the current wave of refugee’s washing up on the beaches of Europe, wouldn’t it be cause for alarm? Because that is exactly what is happening in Thailand right now.

In recent years the numbers of sex tourists to Thailand has exploded exponentially. The arrivals curve has gone parabolic. You’d think this would be an issue of concern for the government, but so far there has been no reaction. I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. I can’t state categorically that I am any kind of expert, or even have an opinion, on what is good or bad for the Thai government or it’s people. I’m sure if this was happening in my country it would considered a national catastrophe.

In the past, the pattern for sex tourists coming to Thailand was predictable and simple…the pervs would arrive, hidden among the hordes of average beach and culture seeking tourists, then slither to the flesh pots of Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket to wallow in their disgrace….and then leave with as many STD’s as they could for the wives girlfriends and prostitutes to contract at home to spread among the local populations. I’m sorry to say that things have changed for the worse. Tourists are still coming in droves, but they’re leaving the perverts behind when they leave.

A demographic tidal wave of epic tsunami proportions has lifted a stinking tide of simultaneously retiring gray haired potbellied ‘Baby Boomer’ civil servants, and others of that generation; the jet fueled wave is breaking on the shores of Thailand, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of 55 to 65 year old flotsam and jetsam ‘men’ of the western world, high and dry, to rot on the humid streets of Thai cities. They have tax payer subsidized pensions to draw on. They want to stay and fuck and drink away their last deluded years, out of the moral trench they’ve dug for themselves.

These born again hedonists likely failed at everything in their personal lives, aside from union card status and the ability to wake up at the same time to make it to work every morning for forty years. Some have obviously thrown off the yoke of normalcy, which I assume may have included a similarly aged wife who no longer satisfies their fantasy. I doubt any children left behind are proud of Dad’s decision to throw Mom to the curb and take up with a twenty something village girl who speaks a total of fifteen words of Pigeon English. Yes, there are female sex tourists, but the numbers are minuscule by comparison.

These aging western sex tourists…who once left after two weeks of filthy frolic in the dark alleys of Bangkok’s skin pits, are choosing Thailand to retire. They’re not leaving any more. Instead they’re staying on in greater numbers than ever before. There has been an explosion of high rise condo towers purpose built to house this wave of perverts and the new love they’ve found in the arms of the mosquito bitten jungle honey who knows the location of every ATM along the neon streets of Sin City.

BTW, I’ve got a good view on all of all this. The area of East Bangkok I live in, is on the front lines of the new battle against aging with dignity, once far flung and bucolic has been invaded by elderly sex pat tourists zombies and their steely eyed gals. The sexpat disease is spreading through the western retiree population like AIDS and gays . Where once it was confined to two small streets in downtown Bangkok, and a few beach shacks along the coast, he pervs have put down roots.

My neighborhood was never that classy, but with the pervasive moving in and slithering of the ‘Perv Tribe’, the place has lost it’s poverty chic cache. This isn’t gentrification…it’s weird and twisted. I hate this invasion of losers, burn outs, rejects, flakes, wacko’s and perverts. I might have to move.

End of Part Five

I can't watch what I don't want to see

I can’t watch what I don’t want to see

Twenty year old travelers’ coming to Bangkok in 2015 can’t imagine a time before guidebooks, when there were no tourist hotels, beach resorts and not one local speaking English. There was no internet, no smart phones, one long distance call box at the main post office on Charoen Krung Road, a single lonely American clerk in the American Express Office, and telex for emergencies. From the 1920’s well into the 1960’s there were few English voices to be heard in Bangkok.

The only foreigners in town were found at the bar of the Oriental Hotel on the banks of the dirt red Chaophraya River, pool side at the grotty Malaysia Hotel on Rama IV Road where war corespondents and political spies hung out during the Vietnam War, or the deeply depressing Mississippi Queen bar on Patpong Road where disabled veterans retold stories about the time “they’d fallen out of a helicopter”. There were no newspapers or western television by satellite. If you’d made it to Thailand, you were the type of person who’d worked hard at escaping to the fringes of the civilized world.

Into this void was born the now defunct Bangkok World newspaper, precursor to the modern Bangkok Post, once South East Asia’s only English language newspaper. In the mid 1960’s a young columnist named Bernard Trink arrived in Bangkok and took up the task of chronicling the night life that grew like a cancer out of the train wreck of Vietnam and with it the deluge of war crazed soldiers and dissolute bureaucrats. The sex scene in Vietnam, where flesh was traded for a day away from poverty, was transported to Thailand with the NGO’s and political wonks.

For travelers like myself Bernard Trink was a prince and a fountain of information. In his columns he disparaged the perversions he saw among those of the ‘farang’ community. He took it upon himself to expose the seedier side of foreigners, which had given rise to child prostitution. Trink championed women’s rights when he witnessed the degradation of poor country women forced into prostitution through poverty or force. Trink made famous the now infamous expression…”TIT”…..’This is Thailand’. A phrase oft used when no rationale explanation can be found for what goes on here in the Land of Smiles.

Bernard Trink was like a friend to isolated travelers of the time. His voice was distinct and many times the only voice in written English that could be found. Often western magazines could only be found after being left behind by airline crews on layover. Bernard Trink and his Nite Owl column was the definitive ‘Guide to Bangkok’ a decade before guide books would be invented.

End of Part One

life could be a lot worse

life could be a lot worse

Ask any ex-pat professional and they’ve got a story about the ex co-worker who had a sudden uncharacteristic thermonuclear meltdown while on a foreign posting, and either left in an unannounced mysterious huff or had to be physically extracted due to ‘a situation’. There’s no telling who might go ballistic over some trivial event while in Shanghai, Bangkok or Riyadh. It’s as predictable as vulcanism. The clashing of civilizations is too great for certain personalities. In the traveling world, business or otherwise, is well described as ‘culture shock’.

Relocating to a foreign country, where language, extremes in weather, officialdom, expectations, going to the bathroom, the cuisine, walking down the street, banking, post offices, shopping, and social interaction are often the opposite of normal in ones home country can either be stressful…or entertaining, depending on personality. In some cases, you’ll either love…or hate your new home, and either might have consequences….for better or worse. You can usually tell who’s heading for a short stay by how much that person bitches and kvetches about local conditions. Some people adapt and thrive, others…not so much.

This is part of the reason there is always a significant ‘turnover’ in satellite offices. Human resource officers go to great lengths to attract and vet the right people for these postings, but there’s no way of telling how an individual will adapt to the local conditions. It isn’t always possible to attract the right skill set from the finite pool of experienced ex pats willing to relocate, in spite of offering lucrative compensation packages, signing bonuses, relocation allowances and RSU’s in a low tax country.

In spite of all that vetting, despite the beneficial financial offerings, newbie hirelings still bail in surprising numbers after short periods of time. It comes down to the effects of #culturetainment….you either like a challenge…or you don’t. In the case of foreign government workers and NGO assignments, these people are often fit into a compound type environment where they live entirely separate lives from the local population. To my observation this often leads to a neocolonialist attitude where the ex pats become entrenched in a game of ‘us and them’. In that case I have to ask, “Why leave home at all if you’re going to live in a sterilized bubble?”

#Culturetainment, as I call it, is to develop the right frame of mind to enjoy your new home, and find the good, rather than the bad, in the culture you have decided to co-exist with . The world as we know has gone western, or haven’t you noticed? No one traveling on business lives in a grass hut surrounded by half naked servants. The economic miracle of the past forty years has brought millions of people, in countries like Thailand where I reside, into the modern age.

Without exception it is possible to live a very satisfactory lifestyle here in the ‘third world’, often with more mod-cons than we have in the west. Thailand for example has embraced technology and provides internet services far in advance of those offered in Canada, my home country, at far lower price points. There are more fast food franchises than ever before. I’ll fess up and freely admit to making the KFC soft ice cream cone part of  every day.

Yes, the street life scene can seem a little weird at times. Society isn’t as stratified here as in a western city. You’ll get everything, across the spectrum, on any city sidewalk. There always seems to be a million people around you, and you have to get used to the idea that personal space rules are not in effect. Sensory stimulation is on overload, it’s never quiet, there’s always so much going on. Asians use loud music to block out the traffic noise. Trish and I appreciate the excitement, versus the sedate predictability of a western city.

I can guarantee you’ll feel alive in an environment like this, and when you’ve had enough, you can always go back to your modern little high rise apartment and stream Netflix. But…to go ‘ballistic’ because the ‘foods too spicy’ or some other excuse, don’t be absurd. Enjoy the free #culturetainment’ and remember, you can sleep when your dead.

sleep when you're dead

sleep when you’re dead

Last nights cathartic blowout was hard on people in Bangkok. Today is ‘the day after’ and I have seldom seen or heard the city in such a state of quiet. In the frenzied minutes rising towards midnight Bangkok became a carnival and a cacophony. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t experienced an Asian New Year can imagine the ritual.

Just some background. Bangkok is a metropolis more than it is a city. It became a city. It was never designed to be a city. Bangkok is thousands of little villages that grew together over many hundreds of years. Each of these villages has a distinctiveness to it that escapes most foreign travelers. Families intermarry and stay within the confines of their traditional social group for generations. Events are organized around the community, by the community, with little input from the greater national or regional governments. Bangkokians are not the rugged individualists you might find in the United States.

The events that took place last night were the exact opposite of what one would expect in the west. Instead of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people crowding into a small area…like Time Square or Sydney Bridge, having taken public transit, and promised not to smoke or drink, while standing like docile little robots to watch a prearranged and choreographed fireworks display…Bangkok went wild in a distinctly disorganized way.

In the minutes before midnight, against a backdrop of constant sonorous chantings being broadcast from loudspeakers out of the many temples in the area, the sky erupted like a scattering of fireflies shaken off the branches of a banyan tree. The thousands of villages that make up the metropolitan area sent up thousands of individual fireworks and rockets into the air. It looked like the entire city had caught fire in the most brilliant way. The landscape was literally writhing with coloured flame and bursts of light. How fantastic, the spontaneity and chaos was majestic…like sparks and embers from a crackling fire flying dangerously into the sky.

There was no grand organized scheme, only the joy of twelve million people celebrating the coming of a new year. From the balcony of my hi-rise condo in East Bangkok I had a brilliant 270 degree view of a fairytale land landscape that could only be seen by someone who shared my vantage point. People on the ground could not have known how their thousands of small displays would merge into something so fantastic with the larger community.

There is a magical symbiosis when people join together without knowing they’re doing so, creating an uncommon beauty that few will share, but do so anyway in a spontaneous expression of national pride. Just freaking amazing people. One of the worlds unappreciated ‘wonders of the world’. I don’t have a bucket list of famous places to visit before I die. This is one of the most amazing sights on Earth to witness….if only because it’s so secretive, under appreciated by the common tourist and exists to be seen for only a few minutes a year.

IMG_3532

My …how my little Thailand has changed since I first came here fourty years ago. It used to be so traditional, primal, positive. There weren’t any high rise towers or shopping malls in 1975. Of course those of you who’ve been here in the last ten years are aghast at the vision of no tall buildings in Bangkok. One thing many of you would be surprised over is that ‘way back then’ very few people wore western clothes.

In 1975 men didn’t wear shorts. There were tree lined streets where the rapid transit train now runs. Pattaya was far distant and there were so few tourists that the sleaze industry was a few US sailors and maybe four bars in Patpong Road selling flesh.

Today I was reading the Thailand News. I am shocked that Thailand seems to have turned into a place where crazies from around the world come to commit suicide. There were more deaths today of tourists in Thailand than the entire population of tourists in Bangkok in 1975. The number of genuinely sick westerners living in Thailand must have hit record numbers.

The last two years have seen record cold weather in December. It’s come down as low as 15 degrees Celsius …and some 21 northern areas have been declared disaster zones because of the low temperatures. Meanwhile in Southern Thailand the Northern Monsoon is causing flooding and landslides.

wayne

What a world of contradictions we live in. My own self administered paradox is incomprehensible, even to me sometimes. “How can you live like that?” an engineer we met in Dallas asked in astonishment when Trish and I  explained that we hadn’t been ‘home’ more than a few weeks in the preceding few years. In fact we’d lived in the Hyatt Las Colinas in Dallas for almost three years running when we bumped into him at the poolside BBQ one afternoon.

He’d just bought a house in his native country, the Slovak Republic, it was his goal to have security and a sanctuary. The mindset of our engineering friend is common, it just isn’t for us. “I don’t know”, I replied. “Things just have a way of working out”….and they really have. Our recent and free week long stay at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap Cambodia is an example of how ‘things’ can ‘work out’ if you’re organized and travel savvy.

Some people envy us, they covet what we have, but have no understanding of how we came to be the nomads we are. I wouldn’t describe what we have done as sacrifice, we just want different things. As a friend of mine once quipped, “You have to be very organized to be as lazy as I am”. That sums up our lifestyle succinctly, though not entirely accurately.

Trish and I have foregone many things. We don’t have a long term mortgage, own a boat or a car lease. We haven’t renovated the house and stuffed it with material goods. We have never been consumers of ‘stuff’, instead we collect experiences. Our life is personalized, we do only what we choose, and yet we have achieved a level of success by enjoying the banquet and the open bar, but never eating the worm.