Thailand, December 1993


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 went.


Day 1 Thursday, November 25, 1993
14:20  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!


16:47  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.

Day 2 Friday, November 26, 1993
20:02  Over Taipei

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.)


20:41  Taipei Airport

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.


21:25  Back in the plane, Taipei

Damn those dog fleas! I think I'm unintentionally exporting one to Asia.

Day 3 Saturday, November 27, 1993
00:07  Bangkok Airport

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 US dollar.]


06:57  Hotel Royal

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. Still stressing...


10:45  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...


12:28  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!


16:47  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!


18:04  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.


18:43  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. ;-)


21:29  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).


Day 4 Sunday, November 28, 1993
08:24  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.


12:47  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.


Day 5 Monday, November 29, 1993
08:40  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 indication.

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.)


Day 7 Wednesday, December 1, 1993
11:08  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.


12:02  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.


Day 8 Thursday, December 2, 1993
08:33  Lahu Village

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!


11:49  After rafting

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 anyway.


Day 11 Sunday, December 5, 1993
08:56  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.


10:55  Bangkok Airport

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.


15:50  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...


Day 12 Monday, December 6, 1993
18:37  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 arriving..

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.


Day 13 Tuesday, December 7, 1993
09:38  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"]


13:36  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!


22:33  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!


Day 14 Wednesday, December 8, 1993
07:37  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 adventure.


12:14  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.


Day 15 Thursday, December 9, 1993
12:42  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)!


Day 16 Friday, December 10, 1993
07:39  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.


Day 17 Saturday, December 11, 1993
12:33  Phuket Airport

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).


Day 18 Sunday, December 12, 1993
05:25  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. 




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