Posts Tagged ‘traveler’

Once upon a time Canadian youth were one of the most visible backpacking travelers anywhere in the world, now they have all but vanished. In the days before the Euro was born Canadians made up a huge percentage of the youth represented among the travel crowds opening new markets like the UK, Spain, Greece, France and Morocco. When Asia was a fresh new destination for young people you would hear the distinctive Canadian accent over many others in a given crowd. These days you’ll be lucky to find a Canadian traveler of any age. We’ve been enslaved into isolation by our own governments policies of hammering our national currency , the Loon, down to below what it costs to travel abroad.

Canada’s ‘low dollar’ policy has killed off the once prolific Canadian traveler. The Canadian dollar now buys half a UK Pound…forty percent less than a Euro and it falls almost every day against the American dollar, now at a forty percent discount in just twelve months. Where I live, Bangkok Thailand, the Canadian dollar has depreciated thirty eight percent against the Thai Baht in twenty four months. Canadians are no longer able to afford to travel as they once did. Today I’m asking why? Is there a concerted effort by members of the Canadian elite bureaucracy to keep Canada’s youth at home, poor and ignorant of world affairs?

Is it a coincidence that unemployment rates for this generation, The Millenials’, is higher than any preceding generation? There are no jobs for well educated Canadian youth, and those who do find work are paid lower than in any other G8 country for the same work. Are poorer and less well traveled people easier to politically manipulate? There must be a reason. It certainly isn’t because the zero interest rate policy has made Canada poor. A recent study proved that a ZIRP policy was the main cause of a lower dollar in Canada and made no economic sense.

In fact today’s elite civil service is being paid more and compensated better than any cohort before it. Why isn’t the benefit of the ZIRP explosion in wages for the elite union members not trickling down to the youth generation? Why aren’t the #elite civil service members vacating their positions upon retiring and giving that employment to Canada’s youth? Why is it allowed that the sitting civil service member is allowed to take early retirement and collect a full pension while being allowed to contract back into their positions, accept full pay and benefits, while also receiving a second pension contribution while Canada’s young grads are suffering in poverty?

Not only are Canada’s youth living in relative poverty, but they are being disallowed the same opportunity to travel and experience the world that the senior generation had done before they blocked the way for the youth of today? These are some of the questions and queries I’ll be exploring as this article expands in scope.

Sucks to be young & Canadian

Sucks to be young & Canadian

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

Robots scare the crap out of Stephen Hawking. “Humans are evolving so slowly that artificial intelligence will walk all over us”, he says. Personally, I’m more afraid of humans who switch their moral and ethical compass off when they leave for a ‘third world vacation’. Artificially enhanced intelligent robots of the future might be frightening in theory, but in practice human beings who conveniently forget to be human while on vacation do a lot more damage in the here and now. I don’t know about you…but I live in the present.

I was scouting competing travel video the other day and I wasn’t impressed. There’s a social algorithm popular with a certain alphabet demographic… that accessible hedonism is available at the end of every commercial flight, like unicorns are attracted rainbows,  that it is ‘a right and an entitlement’ to express oneself without morals or ethics in every imaginable way, while on vacation in the third world, where apparently…’everything goes’. Wow….I am not a person to be throwing ‘isms and ‘ists’ around…but the idea that ‘everything goes’ when you cross an international boundary’ is crazy weird.

One of the You Tube video’s I watched was a popular travel blog, plenty of views, with two passably blonde girls tittering excitedly about whether ‘ to go or no’. The topic du jour was whether watching a woman/girl pull razor blades out of her vagina in a Bangkok bar was a ‘go or no’. They enthusiastically doubled pumped one another to the affirmative…’GO’. OK… I’m choking back a little puke here… is it possible that two women can get excited about a razor blade vagina ‘show’ knowing the depths of depravity the performer must have plumbed to get to that state where pulling razor blades out of her vagina was her last option? Isn’t that on the moral level of ‘snuff porn’?

These were women talking…about another woman… having to pull razor blades out of her vagina..in order to make a living…for the sake of a few petulant, bored tourists amusement. How is it possible for anyone from any level of society to become so jaded and obvious awareness of the depravity they were watching…that they could laugh… not cry. It’s robotic…moral brain death…depraved to an nth degree of evil, it’s mind numbing. You shouldn’t be laughing when you see a woman have to sink to that level.

You should want to tell the bar owner to fuck himself with the business end of a garden rake and walk out..at the very least. Would you want that happening to any woman in ‘Your Town USA’? Why would you ‘rescue’ a dog at home and yet sit through a ‘show’ where a woman is pulling razor blades out of her vagina? Is it because the dog won’t bore you with his life story or need an education to find a better future ?

The depravity we see isn’t a ‘white/ brown’ thing. Tourists on holiday strictly for sex related purposes come in all colours and are of every nationality and social strata. They are equal opportunity exploiters. Today’s sicko social media is extolling us it’s OK to compete on experiences, where no limit of exploitation or depravity should hold us back from having ‘the best time ever’.

The travel video blogs are replete with solicitations to get the drunkest, the wildest…the most depraved regardless of the consequences to your moral being and the nasty crap you leave behind. Are today’s tourists just dehumanized robots on holiday, hyped by social media to ‘go one better’…to leave their humanity behind for the sake of a ‘good time’? Stephen Hawking has more immediate reasons to fear for the future of humanity.

robot holiday

robot holiday

Two thumbs up from us to the folks at #Air B&B for inventing a service that has freed us from restrictive, expensive hotels and greedy landlords. Another thing I like is where many of the properties are located….away from the sterile tourist frenzy environment of downtown cores. In the past there was no choice, there was hotels or nothing. Traditional hostels aren’t much better, always located near some transportation hub where tourists congregate like flies.

The experience of travel has improved with break out technologies like Air B&B. I don’t want to stay where T-shirts all seem to carry the same message…”Hi, I’m boring”. I like the fact that Air B&B properties are primarily located in average neighborhoods where travelers can rub shoulders with ordinary people. With Air B&B you are dealing with average people. The process is much more flexible. In my experience the owner of the suite you’ll occupy is more of a host.

As opposed to short term rentals where a landlord or property manager won’t supply anything except a bare bones flat…and you’ll be responsible to hook up your own electricity, internet and TV…plus buy all the sheets, pillows, dishes etc that you’ll need for your stay…the Air B&B comes with everything included…nice…very convenient.

Unlike hotels, the Air B&B flats are competitively priced and always come with full kitchens. Unlike property managed condo’s there is no restrictive “last month, first month and two month security deposit” to pay before you move in. BTW….good luck getting those security deposits back from a landlord or property manager. I know dozens of people who have fought without success to get their money back. Some have lost thousands of dollars. I’ve had a property manager try to rip me off in the same way…I fought to get the money back….very unpleasant experience…which I don’t want to ever repeat. With Air B&B there’s none of that.

In addition…it’s all paid on Visa….it’s guaranteed…you get travel points or cash back…depending on your card. We always take the travel points option….they add up fast this way. I know I’m paying a bit of an upfront premium by going Air B&B when long term rental would be 20% cheaper. But…I sign no contracts, no leases, no deposits, pay only for the time I’m using the flat, have every thing supplied….so….it’s up to you. I like the ‘no stress option’ of having nothing hanging over my head and no monthly bills to pay, sign up for…or be responsible for.

We ‘LIKE’ Air B&B for the freedom and no stress aspects of the service.

feeling free with Air B&B

feeling free with Air B&B

Recently my wife Trisha and I reached an age and time where we could fully retire, and we had a choice to make. We could hunker down in our comfortable home in Vancouver Canada, spending the last of our working years commuting, playing golf on rainy weekends, upgrading our house and furnishings, leasing a new Cadillac to impress the neighbors, and occasionally cruising with people older than ourselves. Life in North America wasn’t ‘doing it’ for us anymore. We decided to swing for the fences and try to land a dream job in some exotic place.

We’ve done the backpacking thing and budget travel has become less fun than it used to be while we were younger. Our stamina and willingness to be less comfortable is wearing thin with age. We like our creature comforts and the society a better quality of accommodation affords.

We have been ‘living away’ much of the time over the past ten years. We didn’t feel guilty about it, our only son was off at University and didn’t need us around. ‘Plan A’ as we call it, describes a life of traveling for six months and then returning home to work on short term contract. Was it possible to make our dream a permanent reality? Plan A works great, but not working at all and living on the fringes of a far flung community as a tourist is neither stimulating or interesting to us…been there done that.

I should premise this post by saying that we spent decades raising a family, becoming financially secure, investing for income and upgrading our academic qualifications and skill sets. We were ‘done’…and money wasn’t the driving force behind every decision. The question became, “What do we do next to accomplish our goal?” We wanted to live an exciting and interesting life before we were forced by old age or ill health to stay home.

Our travel credentials are extensive, in our personal and professional lives we’ve traveled to every destination that suited us. By that I mean countries where it is safe for people like ourselves and offer the ‘mod-cons’ we feel we need to stay healthy. In spite of our interest in European culture, we decided that visiting museums and galleries couldn’t form the basis of our everyday lives, and the overall weather isn’t to our liking. Honestly, we find the cost of every day life in Europe excessively expensive. I guess growing up frugal makes you ask if your getting value for your money. Europe wasn’t answering all the questions. Europe is boring.

End of Part One

 a day in the life

a day in the life

I was talking with my buddy ‘Aow’ in a clothing market up the street from my Bangkok condo. He sells jeans and t-shirts from a stall alongside hundreds of other vendors. Aow and his wife ‘Kid’ have been friends and neighbors for twenty years, where we have lived, on and off, in this tiny Thai suburb of Bangkok. These are closely knit communities, where families of a clan or particular Baan, Tambon or village, have lived together, and intermarried, even fought bloody battles together for various political causes, over generations. Bangkok is made up of thousands of these invisible villages. Outsiders are not accepted out of hand. Foreigners stick out like a sore thumb.

We helped Aow and Kid arrange their first family vacation, by booking their flights and hotel on-line, with my wife’s laptop, while sitting in a modern KFC franchise, to a resort in Thailand’s southern island of Phuket. They’d heard so much about tourism and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. They’d never flown on an aircraft before, their three kids were thrilled. To afford a vacation meant success, a step into the modern era, it was a proud moment, and made Aow and Kid local celebrities. We were ‘acceptable farang’.

Because there is little direct contact between foreigners and average Thai people, they look at us through the lens of a narrow stereotype based on sensational stories passed through by the media. ‘Farang’ ( foreigners) are known to do tasteless, strange and often unseemly things according to the media. Thai people in these outlaying area’s, outside Bangkok, treat foreigners with reservation, temerity, and suspicion.

Contact between Thai and Foreigner is limited to persons working in the tourism industry. Most Thai happily will spend a lifetime without meeting an outsider and never learn more than a few words of English.

What is a ‘farang’? Why is the word used as a derogatory pejorative these days? The colloquialism is the distillation of a Thai accent, describing the original white travelers from France, who were the first foreigners to present themselves to the court of the King. ‘Francia’, pronounced as ‘Falangset’…(Falancia) and shortened by slang to ‘Farang’.

The lingua franca was applied to describe every foreigner who came in later years, whether British, Dutch or Portuguese. All foreigners are now collectively known as ‘farang’. In recent years it is a term spit out by the Thai people rather than spoken. Thailand was never colonized by foreign powers and the Thai have always looked down their noses at those who were over run.

What is the difference between ‘acceptable farang’ and ‘falang spit spit spit’? Ask any Thai and they will tell you. When Aow and I had become close enough to have an informal honest, personal conversation he asked me, timidly…if I had ever been to ‘Patpong Road’, the notorious red light district.

I replied honestly, “Yes, but not for over forty years”. I told him that when I had first come to Bangkok as a young man on business in the early 1970’s there were only two bars on Patpong Rd, in use by American soldiers, deep cover spooks and diplomatic workers, on R&R from the Vietnam War. The now notoriously mob controlled Pattaya Beach was a dusty village beside a minor naval base for shallow-draft American ships patrolling for communists and smugglers along the coastline of Cambodia. I told him how I had ‘discovered’ a pristine Phuket before a single hotel had been built.

Aow was obviously relieved, that the trust he’d placed in his judgement to accept me as a friend and sponsor into his community wasn’t misplaced. I told him that I would never take my wife or family any where near a place like that. “Yes” he said. “That’s what I think”.

Aow nodded in agreement. “We don’t go there”, he spoke of the red light tourist areas that had sprung up after battle crazed soldiers refused to leave ‘exotic’ South East Asia for the bleak perilous streets of Detroit and Chicago. I understood Aow’s comment to be a general statement, true of all Thai people he knew. Nice Thai people just don’t visit the human toilets that grew out of infamy and corruption to shocking notoriety.

Today, the area of downtown Bangkok, between Soi Nana and Asok, which represent the worst of the human spirit, isn’t overtly recognized by any decent Thai. They block it out and don’t recognize the existence of such places. Thai people who reside for work or business in towns like Pattaya and Phuket will not admit to living there. The mere mention of these places is an embarrassment to polite Thai people.

But, whether by road or transit through these bleak tourist ghetto’s you’ll see sidewalks crowded with ‘farang…spit spit spit’, stumbling out of go go bars with desperate prostitutes, vomiting in the neon lit gutters, passed out in the darkened alleys, biker gang members from global crime groups, wearing full regalia, marking territory. You’ll see the most disreputable scum in the world, Caucasian, Arab, Asian, all within spitting distance, as if tiny cracks in the gates of hell had opened and the devil was showing his bum to the world.

Yesterday, in the Central Park of Bangkok’s version of Manhattan…Lumpini Park, my wife and I were listening to the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra playing The William Tell Overture in the band shell as part of an annual concert season. We were surrounded by Thai families, living the modern moral life most Thai enjoy.

During a break we were approached by a group of timid students, asking our permission for a video interview, as part of a project for the business course they were taking. We agreed of course.”We so happy you can speak to us”, one of the youngsters said. “We’ve been walking for an hour and couldn’t find a single foreigner willing to talk to us”.

Our interview was extensive. The kids were very happy to finally speak to foreigners who could teach them honestly about world affairs. They had stereotyped outsiders into a narrow range as we had expected, and they were delighted to turn the subject away from a focus on ‘Thailand’s Developing Nation Status’ and dependence on tourism.

Our perspective on Thailand had changed over forty years based on observation of the  visionary development that has taken place over the years we had been ‘in-country’ . This was the Thailand they could be proud of. As if on cue, the six o’clock chime from Lumpini’s famous clock tower rang out and from speakers set throughout the park the national anthem rang out. Every one stood up, the joggers stopped running..in silent respect for the nation.

The kids were knowledgeable about how many kinds of Eskimo’s there were in Canada and how Thailand also hosted many indigenous peoples. Of course, our polite conversation didn’t enter the ugly territory of the vice and corruption existing a mile away.

“We don’t go there”, the Thai will say of the tired prospects of the tourist who comes for vice. There are ‘Falang spit spit spit’…and ‘Farang’ who are part of Thailand’s accepting culture. The old Thailand is obviously behind them, the kids were on track to a better future…they are hungry for knowledge and communication with the outside world. The biggest problem said one ‘was a lack of English teachers outside Bangkok’.

I left the children with a word of advice, much the same as any parent would anywhere in the world. “Be careful who you talk to”. But… I suspected these kids were well aware of the pitfalls of dealing with certain ‘Farang’…as they were media savvy and modern, and had read all about the sordid behavior of some visitors. The fact that my wife and I are mature as well as being a couple was a signal they could feel comfortable approaching us.

The Thai are too polite to mention such things in conversation…but it isn’t if anyone isn’t aware of the sex tourist industry as being problematic and distasteful, let alone out of place in the modern age of this rapidly evolving Asian Tiger nation… within the vision these children see as the inheritance we will leave behind.

 'El Rey'

‘El Rey’

Living in Thailand and visiting as a tourist are two completely different experiences. Culture shock is a very real issue for people from the west who come to live in Thailand. Many people are fooled by the postcard modernity of Thailand when they visit as tourists. When they use that delusion to base their decision to move here for work or retirement, only to find that the fiction and the reality are worlds apart, some of these people freak out. Anyone who comes to Thailand expecting constant efficiency, fluidity, similarity, consistency, workability, on time, on budget… total honesty, return policies, generosity or fair treatment …or the rule of law…( hahahahahaha on the last one) or any other western concept are in for a surprise.

Thailand has adopted western features without developing any supporting western infrastructure to support them. What drives many westerners crazy is that the modern facade of Thailand makes it appear like everything is going to function properly….except it doesn’t. Everything from going to the bathroom to banking, to meal times and transporting yourself around the city are skewed in such a way to vary ones habitual understanding ever so slightly…and every once in a while you’ll see an unbalanced foreigner standing on a street corner , a bank, a post office line or restaurant screaming because they’ve let the frustrations get to them. At the other extreme you have foreigners who try to overcompensate by becoming overtly Thai in dress and mannerisms….and appear as if they’ve had a psychotic episode when the pajama pants are out of place and ritualized gestures are used incorrectly.

Carl Jung called this effect of an third world culture on the psyche of a western individual ‘Tropo’. It’s more or less describing what happens when the white man goes crazy in the jungle. Firstly…Thailand is not a modern country…it is not a modern society. Thais have adopted a western appearance in the span of one generation, they do not understand half the things they import…but they love anything western or modern…because it’s western, even if it’s spelled wrong or has no useful application in Thailand…..like furry parka’s worn only in the mall. Thai’s want to look progressive..but they are more conservative than you can imagine.

Thai’s are not a modern people, they are a tribal society dependent on a traditional hierarchy to guide their every move. Thai’s don’t think independently…nor do they want to. The Thai’s revolving door experiment with democracy should give you an insight into Thai’s appreciation of what democracy entails. Democracy is western..ergo it’s modern…. so Thai’s adopt it…and spell it wrong..but when it comes to ‘one man one vote’…no way! Secondly..remember that you are a ‘farang’…a foreigner and Thai’s have been taught by example to treat you with disdain.

Mistreating foreigners is a national past time. It makes the Thai’s feel better about themselves because they have a huge self image issue with low self esteem. It’s also because they perceive westerners as having wealth…while they are ‘poor’…that the west is modern..while they are third world bumpkins…which is hogwash. This drives westerners really crazy…it’s the basic dishonesty of all Thai-Foreigner relationships on every level. Thailand..aka..The Land of Smiles….is also the duplicity and backstabbing capital of the world.

Usually people who don’t like you will tell you so or simply not deal with you….not so the Thai. They will lie to your face as long as they think they can take you for something..even to the point of granting sexual favors…which Thai’s view as no more significant than blowing their noses.. Thai’s smiling…is always phony…and while attempting to take whatever they can from you with guile….they smile. Thais learn from example to overcharge and mistreat foreigners.The government overcharges foreign guest as much as two and three times the going rate for every service and fee. The Thai see this and emulate the governments own actions. We call it ‘getting ripped off’. Farang is a word used to show contempt by the way…not a nice thing.

If you come here, remember why you came here. You come here to get away from where you came from. In the west the predictability and boredom is what drives people into cascading fits of depression. You come to Thailand to experience a lively chaotic atmosphere…don’t confuse the two. You can’t let the Thai way get you down. Instead accept Thailand as if it were a night at the circus….with lot’s of thrills and spills….but don’t take it seriously. Smile at the unexpected…laugh at the many surprises, disappointments and misdirection. Thailand is a gong show…enjoy it. Don’t come to the circus if you don’t like clowns. IMG_0076-Optimized