All Around Thailand in 15 Days or Less
by Lennart Lövstrand
This journal is from a trip I did to Thailand in the early winter of
1993. Together with Nepal, Thailand had long been one of my dream
destinations and now I was finally going. Wow! Unfortunately, the timing
wasn't great. 1993 had been a pretty poor year for me with a relationship
breaking up, stress at work, and two moves. When the time came to do the
trip, I was pretty run down and sorely tempted just join a group trip with
Boulder Adventures instead of my usual independent style of traveling.
Still, I couldn't help feeling that it would be copping out and that I
really ought to do it by myself instead. Besides, I calculated that it
would be much cheaper that way. So after having fretted back and forth for
over a month, I finally decided to go independent anyway, booked a ticket
and started packing. Of course, I then immediately started feeling like I
had made the wrong choice, but now it was too late to change it. Sigh.
Well, you can imagine my state when I finally took off...
In the end, I returned with many good memories (and pictures), but not
a whole lot more relaxed than before I left. Here is the story of how it
||San Francisco Airport
OK, I'm finally here in my UA
seat awaiting the departure from San Francisco International Airport. It's
been a hectic few days getting everything ready for my trip, but I guess
not much more so than usual. I can't say that I really feel ready to go,
though -- dazed is more like it. But going I am and glad at that am
I too, at least intellectually. Still, it feels very strange, unreal. I
had a few glimpses of travel excitement when I picked up my tickets last
week and when I left work yesterday -- teasing and tantalizing. I'm sure
they'll return as I get closer to my destination. Right now, though, I'm
clearing my mind and letting my thoughts and worries go. Once I arrive in
Bangkok, I will really have to come alive again as I have no reservations
or other advanced preparations. Dum vivimus, vivamus!
||Somewhere over the Pacific
There are large bodies
of clouds covering the Pacific. They have been with us almost continuously
since we left California and has been making the ride slightly bumpy.
Funny, I thought it'd be clear here.
||Somewhere else over the Pacific
I've just been
served a little "snackbox" with a dry bun and various sorry-looking
condiments [a few slices of roast beef, fluorescent mustard, perfectly
formed "natural" cheese, a pack of crackers that have more ingredients
than I can list here, a "tamperproof" micropack of raisins and a "fun
sized" Milky Way bar (not for retail sale)]. Hurrah! No more American food
for 3 weeks (almost -- I'm such a food snob).
It's almost impossible to sleep. My back is aching and I can't find a
comfortable position. I get up and exercise a bit. It helps. I finally
sleep 2-3 hours in fits.
||Friday, November 26,
We're landing in Taipei in heavy rain.
It looks dark and foreboding. What am I doing here? (Nothing, I guess
since I'm continuing to Bangkok.)
The duty free shop is closed and so
is the café. We're not allowed to go back into the main building, so I'm
sitting here in a drab holding room and waiting for time to pass. I'm a
bit nervous about arriving to Bangkok because I'll have to find someplace
to sleep when I get there and it'll be late when I arrive. The airport's
arrival hall will probably be full of touts too. I've been looking through
my Lonely Planet travel guide for guest houses that look reasonable, I
just hope that they'll still be open at midnight.
||Back in the plane, Taipei
Damn those dog fleas! I
think I'm unintentionally exporting one to Asia.
Finally arrived. The humidity is
striking. I slept for another hour on the plane, so I'm tired, but not
very sleepy. On my way in to immigration I hear a voice on the PA system
that almost sounds Danish. Wait a second, it is Danish! The speaker
is telling us that the SAS flight to København is just about to take off.
It's a small world after all.
OK, I've just successfully avoided the official "toutess" that insisted
that I should get a taxi from her for 350B. Instead, I got one myself at
the public taxi counter for 230B. I also made a reservation at Hotel Royal
(960B/night) using the free telephone before the customs check. It's a bit
expensive, but at least I have some place to stay for my first night.
[As of 1993, the exchange rate is about 25 Baht to the
I woke up after 4 hours of sleep and
can't get back to sleep again. I'm feeling disorientated and depressed. Is
this supposed to be fun? I have to buy a train ticket to Chiang Mai ASAP.
||Rose Garden Guest House
I've got my ticket to
Chiang Mai. 375B for an upper berth, 2nd class sleeper without air
conditioning. Cheap! The taxi to the station and back was 160B, which
probably is 10-20% more than it might have been had I been better at
haggling. Never mind, I've just moved over to the Rose Garden Guest House
a couple of blocks away and I'm having this extraordinary feeling --
I'm alive! The Guest House is a bit scruffy and has barren doubles for
150B a night, but it's real! I feel alive here, free and released.
(A bit of deja vu from my Interrailing days, I guess.) God, how I
loathe the lifeless "luxury" hotels. Time to hit the temples...
||Outside the Grand Palace
Man, I'm sweating like a
pig! I walked to the main wats from my Guest House, but it was all in vain
since today is a Buddhist holiday and the temples are closed to tourists
until 14:00. I think I'll go to Jim Thompson's house instead. Taxi!
||Monkey Show below Golden Mound
OK, life isn't so
bad. I've seen Jim Thompson's beautiful teak mansion, taken a "river taxi"
to an unknown destination (for a ridiculous 5B), befriended a monk,
visited the temple of the Golden Mound with him and I'm now sitting down
in front of what appears to be some kind of monkey show. There are
millions of kids around me and I can't understand a word of what they're
saying over the PA system. Talk about a language problem! Still, it is fun
-- probably more fun -- this way. OK, the show is about to begin. They're
closing the curtains behind us. Shhh!
||Rose Garden Guest House
Thoroughly exhausted and
soaking in sweat, I have returned to my humble château. I'm presently
reclining on my simple berth and quaffing a cold Singha. I'm also wishing
that I'd have some company to share it with. I've only been on the road
for a day, but I'm already feeling lonely.
||Still Rose Garden Guest House
I've just come to
realize why this room is only $6/night -- there are no hot water showers.
Well, that's OK, it's refreshing. I also realized why I keep writing this
diary: It keeps me company and is a good listener. ;-)
||Hello Restaurant, Kao San Rd
Ouch, I don't know
what I've done but my lower back is really hurting. It's a strange pain
too, not like your usual back pain. I just hope it isn't anything
internal, like my kidneys. In addition, I'm beginning to get royally tired
of Bangkok. The heat and the humidity are pretty tolerable, but the smog
and the pollution aren't. This city just wears me out (although jet lag is
probably doing its job too). I'm presently sitting down with another beer
at the Hello Guest House & Restaurant after having run around the
backstreets of Banglampoo in a failed quest for a certain excellent fish
restaurant. After having walked down the same side street for the third
time, I decided that the place most likely had ceased to exist, so I
headed for the backpackers mecca instead in a desperate attempt to get fed
before closing time. I made it, and it was good, but not exactly a
gastronomic delight. Oh well, next time. By the way, this street (Kao San
Rd) is weird: Only farangs as far as the eye can see. I'm glad I'm
not staying here -- I think; it has its pros too, e.g. the cute couple of
girls at the table next to mine. I wonder what language it is that they're
speaking. Sounds a bit like Dutch... or Yiddish? Uhm, close: It turns out
to be Hebrew and they're Israeli. (I just asked.) By the way: It just
struck me -- it is definitely weird; I've been here less than 24 h, but I
already feel like I know Bangkok, at least a bit. In any case; I'm fading.
I think it's about time I got to bed (my own bed, mind you, alone -- as
there was any chance for anything else, hah).
||Sunday, November 28,
||Grand Palace Grounds
Woke up around 6 am. Tried to
get back to sleep, then decided to try to make it to the floating market
before 7-7:30 instead. Didn't. Started heading towards the Grand Palace
and had breakfast at a street side noodle stand: "intestinal soup!" (Hmm,
talk about living dangerously. I just hope I'll make it without any
incidents until I get on the train... and that the train will have
adequate facilities.) I arrived at the Grand Palace around 08:20 only to
find out that they don't open until 09:00. Sigh. I don't think I'm doing
very well today.
||Somewhere in Bangkok
I'm getting tired of playing
tourist. There are so many things that I want to see while I'm here -- or
at least things that I think I ought to see -- but I just want to stay put
and practically do nothing. I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad sign.
I know one thing, though; I need to get away from this temporal panic that
seems to pursue me.
||Monday, November 29,
||Rendez-Vous Guest House, Chiang Mai
Bummer! I found
out too late that yesterday was Loy Krathong -- a big festival when they
put out floating candles into rivers and shoot off fireworks, etc.
Unfortunately, I was on a train when it happened. The train trip was OK.
The sleeping car was perhaps a bit more basic than I had wished and food
in the restaurant car boring and overpriced. Still, it was fun to be on a
train again. At Chiang Mai, I was greeted by hoards of touts who all
wanted to take me to their special guest houses and go on their
special treks. I couldn't stand it, so I headed straight out to the road
towards the city center and walked the whole way in a desperate
attempt to get away from it all. Man, this is one dirty (dusty) hectic
town too, at least if the main road from the train station is any good
The teak house where I wanted to stay was full when I finally got there
(or at least so I was told after the guy found out that I was traveling by
myself), so I ended up across the street at a place called the Rendez-Vous
Guest House. It's OK, but it doesn't have much charm. I was tired and
sweaty, so it'll have to do. The shower head is totally disconnected from
the handle, but that's OK, because they don't really have any pressure
anyway. Man what am I doing here? I'm feeling depressed... I don't
want to go anywhere, I don't want to do anything, I don't want to think...
I wish I'd taken that organized trip with Boulder Adventures after all. So
much to do, so much pain to get it done. I'm toying with the idea to bail
on my plans to go hiking and just head south to some island and hang
around there until I find myself. Still, I'm here now and I'd
better make the best out of it. Maybe I'll feel better if I get something
to eat... (Gotta get laundry done too.)
||Hut between Rice Fields and Forest
I finally have some time to write again. We're 1/3 through our 2nd day
of trekking and have stopped at a little hut on the way. Yes, I went on a
hilltribe trek yesterday and have 2 1/2 more days before I see the sight
of civilization again. Actually, that's not quite true. The farmer at the
hut is selling us warm Coca-Cola that had to have taken him many hours by
horse or mule to get here. Pretty amazing -- or scary, depending on how
you see it.
||Opium Poppy Fields
We just stopped by a hidden
opium poppy field in a tiny, secluded valley. The poppies aren't in bloom
yet, so it isn't much to look at now, but I'm sure it will be spectacular
in a month or two. So, how did I end up here? Well, contrary to my initial
understanding, Loy Krathong wasn't completely over when I arrived to
Chiang Mai. The day before yesterday turned out to be the last day of the
festival, and I had the good fortune to see the parade. As I was watching
the floats go by, each one more amazing than the other, I stopped by a
small trekking outfit to read their signs. It looked very interesting and
within a few minutes, a British woman turned up and wondered if she could
help me. I asked about the treks, saw some pictures, read the reviews, and
asked to come back in the morning (when the trek was due to begin). I had
originally planned to go to Pai or Mai Hong Son and do the trek from
there, but this sounded so appealing that I decided to go for it. In the
evening, I got some sandals and sunglasses at the Night Bazaar and then
headed back to my guest house to sleep. The next morning, I joined one
other trekker (Steve, British) at the shop and hopped on a truck with the
rest of them (Rafael & Sabine, Swiss; Piere, Italian; and Angela, German).
An American woman (Diane) joined us later. Off we went to the mountains
north of Chiang Mai. After a couple of hours ride by car we were let off
in the middle of a dirt road close to the Burmese border. It was then that
I realized the catastrophe -- I had packed down my exposed film and left
my unexposed rolls behind! Oh no! The roll in my camera only had 12
pictures left on it too. What a fool I am sometimes. I had taken both the
bags up and simply selected the wrong one without thinking about it.
Ugh, I'm sick! I started feeling
queasy yesterday afternoon and when we arrived to this village, I
immediately hung my face over a fence and expelled all remnants of
yesterday's lunch. The rest is history, as they say. I threw up again this
morning. Right now, I'm feeling week but basically OK. A bit of stomach
pain, but that's mostly it. Luckily for me, today is going to be an easy
trek. We first raft down the river for a couple of hours, then we go by
elephant, and finally we're going to wander through a cave for a while.
Maybe two hours of walking altogether (but we'll see). Last night was
fairly fitful; both because of my stomach, but also because the local
rooster decided to call the new day every hour from 1 am onwards. Around
the 3rd time it happened, everyone in the group were ready to kill that
$#&@* oversized chicken!
OK, rafting is over; time for the
elephants. I'm still weak, but otherwise OK. I'm drinking lots of water,
but not eating much. The rafting was fun, but I was a bit too tired to
really appreciate it. I think everyone's pretty tired, because the
consensus was to save the caves for tomorrow and only do minimal walking
today. That suits me just fine, thank you. On a side note, I'm a little
surprised and almost disappointed that no one has offered us any opium to
smoke. It's supposed to be commonplace on these treks, but apparently not
on this one. Doesn't matter, I would have been too sick to have tried it
||Sunday, December 5,
||Chiang Mai Airport
It's the King's Birthday --
another great festival and I'm going to be on public transport once again.
I contemplated stopping by in Bangkok for the day, but the mere thought of
the heat and the crowds quickly convinced me to continue south. I'll be
arriving in the island of Ko Samui a little bit after noon today and am
looking forward to becoming a beach bum for a few days. Yesterday, I said
farewell to Steve and Diane at JJ's, then rented a motorcycle for the day
and drove around Doi Suthep. That was excellent, almost the highlight of
the trip so far! At Doi Suthep, I visited the King's winter palace, the
temple, and the national park. The first two were crowded with tourists,
but the higher up on the mountain I got, the fewer people I saw. Up at the
park, not a soul could be seen. That is, not a soul except the group of
park rangers I met at the entrance. They were all young guys in their
twenties and when they saw me approaching, they immediately waved me over
and invited me to have dinner with them. It was great! I ended up sampling
all sorts of strange morsels and had a devil of a time warding off their
insistent attempts at getting me drunk on rice wine. Normally, this would
have been fine, but I was riding a motor vehicle in foreign traffic after
all. When I finally returned to my Guest House, I was much more relaxed. I
just wish I had done this sooner. I'm now seriously contemplating coming
back to rent a bigger motorbike and tour the countryside up towards Burma.
The little trip I did today gave such a sense of mobility and freedom --
as well as being close to the environment.
The trek was good too, although I never felt like we got much contact
with the natives. Being sick didn't help either. Still, I'm glad I went. I
still kind of regret that I didn't take Boulder's trip just for the ease
of mind it would have given, but I've learned a lot instead.
On the airport monitors, I can see
that CNN is reporting a snow depth of 24" at Alpine Meadows in Tahoe.
Here, it's 30 °C and humid.
||Samui Palm Beach Resort
Samui Palm Beach Resort --
well, it may not really be worth 600B compared to other places around
here, but it's convenient as a first night's place. I decided to join two
Dutch women I found on the plane and ended up in the bungalow next to
theirs. Actually, pretty much every bungalow here is next to the other --
it's like staying in a small village of pink-brown mother-in-law units.
Not much to do but to take a swim and drink beer from the minibar. I'm
presently engaged in the latter activity and plan to do the former in a
few moments. Tomorrow, I think I'll rent a motorbike and start exploring
the island (and find another place to stay, methinks). Uh-uh [looks up],
those big gray clouds up there sure don't look too good to me! Still, it's
warm so who cares if it starts to rain?! [Bzzzt!] Uh-uh, here comes the
mosquitoes too. I definitely do mind them. [Who said Paradise was perfect
anyway?] Anyway, after "roughing" it for a week, I look forward to talking
it a bit easy and have some vacation in my vacation. Sigh, I must be
getting old or something -- I just want to be in the lap of luxury and
take it easy. I'm sure I'd get bored of it pretty quickly, though. Still,
it'll be nice to lay back a bit, just a little bit...
||Monday, December 6,
||A restaurant in Bo Phut
Fuck, I'm such a pathetic
depressing little shit. I just don't seem to be able to get it together
"up here." This morning, I had another bout of decision angst and ended up
staying in my bungalow crying -- except I couldn't even do that very well.
I feel like I'm under constant pressure to always find & choose "the best
/ right thing" and doesn't seem to be able to just sit back and relax.
I've been moving from place to place pretty much every day during this
trip and I'm never satisfied. I want so much to just find "my" place and
settle there for a few days, but I never seem to find it. Oh God, I'm so
depressed -- and tired, so tired. Today, I hesitated forever before
getting a motorbike at Na Thon. Why? Because I wasn't sure where I wanted
to get it and how long I wanted to stay.
It's been another cloudy & windy day and I don't really see any change
happening. So, shall I continue on to Ko Lanta or Ko Phi Phi, or shall I
just stay here anyway and hope for the best? It would probably be wise to
stay, but this isn't "it" and I feel my time here running out. In a way,
it will be a relief to return "home" to California. Sad, isn't it?! I'm at
one of my life's dream destinations and I'm incapable of enjoying it. God,
how pitifully pathetic. This isn't to say that there hasn't been any "ups"
during this trip -- even today -- but overall, I almost wish I hadn't
gone, at least not right now. It seems like such a waste. Uhm, food is
Well, the Kweatheo [Thai/Malay fried noodles] was quite delicious! On
the other hand, their Tom Yum was quite a few notches below the one I had
yesterday at the place next door.
||Tuesday, December 7,
||At Ziggie Stardust's (bungalows)
I thought I might
head over to the action at C. beach last night, but I was too tired and
just faded away at the wee hour of 9 pm. I woke up around 8 this morning.
It rained all the time last night; today, it's cloudy and quite windy
again. I'm thinking harder about going to Ko Phi Phi, but I've already
missed the direct connection that left at 07:15 this morning, so I'll
either have to overnight at Krabi or wait until tomorrow. It's only 5 days
before I return... It's beautiful here and I have so little time, so why
can't I enjoy it? Sigh, I'm feeling pressure even on my vacation.
I don't understand it -- why do I worry so much? My father is a calm and
easy going person, but my mother tend to be a bit more nervous so maybe
it's hereditary? Or perhaps it's something I've picked up from my
ex-girlfriend? I don't remember being like this before.
At times, she's said that I am overly sensitive and too much of a
perfectionist -- always wanting the best (or the "rightest") in life.
Perhaps she's right, although I think she's a lot like that herself too.
Still, that combined with an impeding feeling of precious time passing
seems to be creating a kind of panic that immobilizes my mind and soul. I
can't even think about what to do next -- I just hide behind the next few
minutes. Instant life, what a joke! So what is it that I want to do? I
don't know, but I think I'll recognize when I see it. Unfortunately, this
means that I travel around somewhat aimlessly, searching for my own
private happiness and home. I wonder how long it will take before I find
it -- if ever. Maybe I should just change the roles sometime and decide on
what it is that I want and go find it, although it would mean that I'd run
the risk of missing out on the things I don't know about. Well, that's
simply life. You can make your life into a good one, but you can't make it
perfect. I know it intellectually, but I haven't yet accepted it
emotionally. So I still strive forward, or rather wherever my nose happen
to be pointing at the moment.
Decision #1: Decide on what I want.
Decision #2: I want to snorkel and I can't do it here, so:
Decision #3: I'll go to Ko Phi Phi [or some other island that I can "find
on the way"]
||At restaurant next to Coral Cape
Well, I'm in a
better mood again. I've stopped for lunch at a seaside restaurant and am
watching the white waves break over the rocks. I think I tend to write
mostly when I'm depressed. Right now, I'm just waiting for my stir fried
squid with garlic and coriander root. It's somewhat sunny today; that
helps too. Here comes the food! Yum, it's excellent!
||At the Reggae Pub, Chaweng
This is such an absurd
joke. I'm at this weird place that looks like a cross between Disneyland
and a Bob Marley Museum. It's a huge outdoor-indoor bar with a dance floor
(complete with glitter globes), pool tables, and adjoining restaurant. The
music is blaring out Exodus and Bob's face is staring at me from
all directions. I have to stop and admire the absurdity in it all: Reggae
and a super-commercial entertainment center with staff dressed in Rasta
hats. Geez! As I'm thinking this, Pink Floyd's The Wall is replaced
by In the Air Tonight with Phil Collins. At least their music taste
is pretty decent -- as is the Mekong & Coke I'm sipping. I should probably
go back and sleep. I'm getting up early tomorrow morning. Still, before I
take off I have to tell you about a certain champion of a game called(?)
4-in-a-row. I found her behind the desk of one of the small street bars at
Chaweng. She was 25, from Bangkok, and had only learned English from books
-- but she was a devil at this game! Beat me 4 times out of 5. Those bar
girls are funny too. Four or five of them in a tiny bar and every time a
stranger (preferably lone male) pass by, they all shout and point to make
him come over and have a drink. I only had one beer, so I don't think that
they were too pleased with me. C'est la vie, mes chères!
||On the Surat Express
This is more like it! I'm on
my way to the mainland to continue to tiny island of Ko Phi Phi. The sea
is in my face, the sun is shining, and I've just heard that a typhoon is
on its way to Ko Samui. Wow, I got out of there in the nick of time. On
the top of all this, I almost didn't make it this morning. I got up all
right, but then took longer than expected to pack and get myself ready. I
arrived in Na Thon with no ticket and only 20 minutes to spare -- only to
find that the MC rental place (a spot under a tree) was closed with no one
there! Luckily for me, some guy who knew the owner happened to pop by on
his way back from the morning market. When I insisted that I needed my
passport right now ("no, I can't come back tomorrow"), he checked
my bike number and took off again. A few minutes later, he was back with
my deposited passport. I paid him 240B for two days' rental, dashed into
an open travel agency, bought a ticket to Ko Phi Phi, and ran off to the
ferry -- and managed to get on board with several (3) minutes to spare.
How about that for "just in time" travel? I'm probably crazy, but I
actually like it, at least to a certain degree. I don't really need the
stress of cutting it that close, but does add to the sense of freedom and
||On the bus to Krabi
This is beginning to be
ridiculous, but this area appears to be crawling with Swedes. In the last
48 hours, I've meet five Swedes who all are unemployed and spend their
time traveling around SE Asia while collecting dole back home. A pretty
good life if you ask me -- hey, maybe I should try that too! Unlimited
vacation, paid for by the Swedish government.
||Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi is really a little Paradise
Island in the middle of nowhere. Although it is rapidly being
commercialized, it's still a haven of tranquility and natural splendor. It
is also a diving center without comparison. There must be 10-20 diving
shops in the little village that otherwise mostly consists of bungalow
resorts, restaurants, bars, and travel agents. They sure cater for
tourists here. Prices aren't cheap compared to, say, Ko Samui, but you
can get rooms for as little as 100-150B. I stayed at a 250B place last
night, but moved to a 400B one today. They are essentially the same,
except that the more expensive one is closer to the beach and come with
towels. This morning I went out snorkeling off the north bay where there
are some shallow corals. I saw some beautiful fish, but didn't stay long
partially out of fear to turn into a Swedish lobster. I think I'll jump on
one of those 1-day introductory diving courses tomorrow. Although it's
prohibitally expensive -- 1500B (~$60) for instructions and two dives.
Still, it would be worth it. I'm at the end of my journey and still have
money to burn, so... BTW, I'm such a pig. I just had a squid curry for
lunch, but decided that I was still feeling a bit peckish and added a
noodle soup from the untranslated part of the menu. After this, I think I
might rest a bit -- maybe read for a while -- and then head up to the
viewpoint. Oops, it turned out that my untranslatable noodle soup was Rad
Nahr -- not exactly what I was looking for. Oh well, it will be a nice
comparison with the one I had the other day. [...] Better (less sweet)!
||Friday, December 10,
||Breakfast at the Oasis
Somewhat hung over, I'm
awaiting my breakfast at the Oasis where I had such excellent Penang
Chicken last night. Last night, I also bumped into Yvonne & Anneka, the
Dutch girls I met on Ko Samui. It was great to see them again! We sat
around and drank at the Lazy House for a while before going over to the
Crazy House for some dancing. I got one of the girls up on the dance floor
a bit, but although I was really interested, I never really got any
reaction from her. Still, I think she liked me a little at least, and she
promised to write. [Well, we'll have see about that. I don't have too high
hopes.] At 02:30, they took a long tail boat to Hat Yao ("Long Beach")
where they were staying and today, they're heading back to Bangkok for
their return flight to Holland. I'm heading to the scuba shop for my
diving lesson (in Swedish) at 08:15.
Bye, bye... I've left my paradise
island and am on my way back to Bangkok. Although I feel that there are
many things undone, I'm nevertheless ready to return. It's almost a
relaxing thought. Yes, the past two weeks of independent vacationing in
Thailand has been good, but rough. Sometimes a bit more strenuous and
stressful than I had wanted, but I'll blame that on too little time and me
being a bit too worn out before I left. Still, I want to think that I've
had more good times than bad. In any case, I've certainly learned at lot
about SE Asia and traveling there. Do I want to come back? Probably, but
I'm not quite as sure as I was before I left. The heat and humidity is one
problem; the touts another. Still, the parts of "genuine" Thailand that I
have experienced -- the village wedding, the streetside food vendors, the
park rangers, the monk -- these have all been well worth the visit. And it
sure is inexpensive here, although the mass of tourists seems to quickly
be changing that. As well as a lot of other things, including those
retched touts, the high rise hotels on Phi Phi, the extravagant Reggae Pub
on Samui, and the overtrekked hills north of Chiang Mai. It's
unfortunately true that too much tourists can ruin the natural splendor of
a country. I feel like large parts of Thailand are going down the drain
due to some greedy individuals and the easy money that we vacationing
visitors bring with us. It's not that I want to turn the tide and go back
to the way it may have been before, but I do hope that there is still a
chance for a more graceful transition to a state when this country will be
better able to cope with the crowds that come to visit -- even if it means
to put a cap on the # of visitors that any one are will accept (preferably
by limiting the # of hotels).
||Sunday, December 12,
||In the Air
In just a few hours, I will return to
the US and civilization as we know it. I'm a bit ashamed to say that I'm
almost eager to return just for the comfort it represents. Maybe I'm
getting old... Nah, just bloody complacent -- or run down. (I can still do
it; I'll show you!) So anyway, here I am sitting on this plane back to SFO
with this cute girl from Hongkong next to me. She lives in Bangkok, but is
on her way to visit some friends in San Francisco and Vancouver. We've
exchanged cards and she seams interested in going out sometime in the
coming week. Hmm... 8-) She seems interesting herself too, but I'll have
to write more later as she's sitting next to me now and it's hard to keep
my diary secret. Instead, I'll tell you about last night.
Last night, I strolled around Chinatown after having arrived to
Bangkok. It was pretty nice, although I had problems finding the
restaurant I was looking for, so I ended up having Indian food instead. It
was OK, but not quite as good as in the UK. Afterwards, I went to Lumpini
Stadium and watched Thai boxing. Ouch! Those guys really get to beat up
each other! From there, I walked over to check out the Patpong sex strip
that I had heard so much about. Pretty interesting! Although some of the
touts there were very insistent, I stayed outside and enjoyed the (free)
scenery. Well, almost -- in the end, I slipped in on the bottom floor of
KC and got a better look at the "merchandise" in exchange for 55B for a
coke. It was a strange experience. The inside was like a small strip club
full of (mostly) western men and young Thai women scantily clad in thongs
and bra. A group of them was moving ("dancing") back and forth on stage
while the rest were working the marks by socializing with them and making
sure that they ordered as many overpriced drinks as possible. The girls
were quite cute, but man, what a job. After a while I slipped back out
again and started chatting to one of the door men. He told me that an
upstairs visit to the live shows and other extravaganzas was around 250B
while a steam-bath-massage went for ~1000B and additional private services
another 1000-1500B. I was both repulsed and attracted at the same time,
and being the curious kind, I have to admit that I was tempted to check
this out a bit more in detail. Fortunately, I neither had enough cash nor
time, so it will have to wait to some other time.
The morning after, I got up early and had a last walk through the
streets of Bangkok before I took the morning train to the airport. I was
feeling both sad and relieved. Sad because I felt that I was leaving
something behind and because I thought there was much more to see and
explore. Relieved because I was going back to my normal life as I know it
and all the creature comforts that it implies. In the end, I'm glad I
went, but a bit disappointed that I wasn't able to relax better. Next
time, I'll make sure I take a vacation before going on vacation --
that ought to get me ready to enjoy myself better. Next time...
Copyright © 1993, Lennart Lövstrand. All rights reserved.