Tag Archives: reflection

People you meet

Rod is Australian. An ex police marksman, has a ranch, has a thai wife who lived in Sweden before. Here for a school reunion. Some People just talk and assume you accept their points of view. Well he has some rather extreme comments about Muslims and how Australians are arming themselves to protect themselves. He tells me how he ans sam,the owner of my guest house are good friends. Sam turns out to be a Mr big. He has a string of guesthouses, considerable land and breeds cattle. Rod tells me that he also has a number of guns and wears body armour when he's on his land as there is a lot of rustling.

When you travel you come across and spend time with people who wouldn't even give you the time of day back home. I guess being away and in Asia is a leveller. This is one of the things I like the most about travelling. I learn a lot about the world from who I meet.

 

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Kanchanaburi

Early start, for me anyway. Eggs and lemongrass tea, and oh my god Fran is already moving into my guesthouse and planning to follow me…..

The minibus to kanchanaburi is rapid, too air-conditioned and a bit bumpy. Only 3 passengers, so lots of space. It’s easy to get a room, and I soon discover there is a long farang stretch of pars and guesthouses. This one ain’t so bad, and I’ll keep the name hidden for the time being. I have the option of a bungalow on stilts on the river but take the cheaper option, online, which is free. Renting a bike is full of issues. They are all knackered in some way and the one I take in the end, going for something with gears rather than the usual rickety basket at the from number. Typically it’s too small and the seat is stuck so can’t be raised….

I cycle up to the fabled ridge over the river Kwai. On the way I look at a Japanese obelisk monument and enter the front yard of the kitschy war museum, a rusty steam locomotive with a car on its roof…for some reason. The bridge is a tourist magnet you can walk over it, and I attempt to cycle over it at night time. It’s kind of creepy and scary so I only get a third of the way over. 200,00 prisons of war and enslaved Asians died building the death railway for the Japanese in world war 2. What I don’t get is how the Thais let this happen on their soil. The weird thing is that now where there was death, disease, beatings, slave labour there are now luxurious floating restaurants. I know time moves on, but it seems totally perverse. I haven’t come her for this, but it’s fascinating. So are the huge allies cemeteries. Next door there is also a rather bizarre Chinese one full of pointy spires and a large outdoor crematorium.

Lunch is at on’s Isaan thai restaurant. A tiny place with 4 tables and where the kitchen is on the street in front of the shop, and On cooks non-stop. The food is terrific. Full of flavour, packed full of diverse and interesting veg; Chinese mushrooms, sweet potato, thai aubergine, to name a few. My green curry and red rice is amazing. The food is so good I return for dinner and have a banana leaf salad and sour large flat noodles with pak choi (perhaps). It is here I share a table with Jo, a professional poker player from Switzerland, a job which is location non-specific and, he says, allows him to live wherever he wants and earn all he needs to exist for a year in a couple of months…he is quite intense and has a curious stare. After a while our conversation has got incredibly deep and we examine the concepts of knowledge, understanding, being…..there were odd moments when it almost felt like I had entered into a scene from a film. Could it be Hitchcock? 2 strangers meet and decide to swap identities. It doesn’t go that far…but it’s true that when you meet someone for the first time you could, if you wanted pretend to be anything you wanted. Who knows if he was telling the truth. He could be some crazy guy on the run from Interpol…..anyway, it was an entertaining lunch.

Afterwards I cycle through the area that all these towns seem to have: a school zone with. 3 or 4 large school complexes, the buildings with an open space on the ground floor level, where kids often congregate politely sitting cross legged reciting something with a teacher. The kids are all smart and somehow noble looking in crisp simple uniforms. Their parents pick some of them up from school on their mopeds. It’s not untypical to see mother plus little son plus little daughter all on the same little bike puttering home. There is a new temple complex being built by the river. It’s very unusual. The central temple is still plain concrete, and the embellishments along the eaves and ridge of the roof are being attached. Some, strangely have been painted already. Dragons. Seems strange to be finishing the decorations before the structure is complete. There are 2 completed smaller temples. They are Chinese pagodas, and round with 2 levels. Garishly painted and with a recording of chanting resonating within.

I cross the river and cycle a few miles to Wat Tham Khao Pun, which is known for its caves. There is a serious of around 15 chambers, some requiring serious stooping to enter. 2 of these are used as temples, ie they contain Buddhas. The most striking and most beautiful thing was the sheer silence. Nobody else there, maybe 20m underground, I sat and listened to silence. Wonderful.

Travelling to phitsanulok

This is bus is more like a plane than the local one I caught from phi mai to korat. That one was rickety, jump on and off, and full of leathery faced older people and u overstay students. They all wear uniforms too. The boy going to the technical university has a dark grey military uniform. He stands to attention on the bus holding along set square like a gun. Schools are very visible and prominent in this culture. I’m sure you wouldn’t be aware of them driving through England.

Korat bus takes us past a huge school, with a green clad military sentry. The kids, all in orange shirts and black trousers, wai the guard.

Last night it rained incessantly. The night market packed up as the road became a big puddle. It must be tough when your livelihood as a trader can be rained off Like this. I do manage to get a bag of mangosteens, which always remind me of Cyrus, and longans, a huge bag of crushed dried red chillies, and a package of spring rolls which comes with an inconceivably huge bunch of salad leaves, including basil and some crunchy bitter shiny dark green ones. I have this for lunch on the bus to phitsanulok the next day.

As I was saying, it’s more like a plane: liveried purser, a welcome announcement on the mic, a box of cakes and water for each passenger, and a personal appearance by both drivers who stand in the door of the cabin(the crew is sealed off from the passengers, yes, like a plane) to wai to us all. This one has air conditioning as opposed to opening the windows at speed and letting the air rush in…..

When the Rain eased momentarily I did stretch my legs to alleviate the growing sense of tedium and isolation.i haven’t found a very sociable place to stay. The only other 2 guests are a cold French couple whose sum conversation is to ask if I know the whereabouts of the police station. In fact whilst over here in the east all the travellers I have met have been French. Funny how this works out. Last year in surathani everyone was German.

There are a few brave stall holders, who anyway look prepared for this, and a couple who have much better, dry and sheltered pitches. Under the ruined chedi is a barbecue stall. The woman perched on her motorbike watching a tv she has rigged and up and protected in layers of polythene…..

Dinner is a disappointing and overpriced plate of stir fried rice and veg, over which I attempt to plan meeting up with hon in ayutthya on fb. He hasn’t looked at my dates,says he is busy, says we can meet at koh Changan the end of my trip, but doesn’t factor in his starting work. A impasse. He then blocks me…wtf? Thais guys are flakey, confusing and full of shit……

Back to this bus. For the first 2 hours I have had to plug myself into my iPod. I should say, even though I have around 40 days of music on it, it doesn’t seem able to provide the necessary soundtrack for Asia. Most of the music I have is too rooted in uk,my uk past. Some is too abrasive, some too electronic….anywayi plugged it in to drown out what we were subjected to on the tv screens on the bus. It starts with some pop videos. There was one particular one that sticks in my mind. Beautiful young man arrives in his land rover at a school camp in the countryside. I’m not sure why he is there, but on arriving the kids are excited when they see him and there is a lingering meeting of eyes with a beautiful teacher. I think he has brought them gifts as he is later surrounded by the little munchkins waiing him as the open presents. maybe they are orphans….The following scenes show her to be wonderful, caring, loving, a perfect teacher, adored by her little kids. She tucks them in under blankets, by a camp fire. A few shots of the happy couple. Then he leaves again in his land rover…touching waving goodbye scene. All the kids and woman waving. The man drives off and has a quiet moment by the river. Cut to the woman. Se returns to the class room. There is a script in chalk on the board. It startles her and she reflects. Obviously he wrote something…I have no idea what. But judging from the tone of the video it has no sexual innuendo. Probably praising her qualities as a teacher! Kind of weird.it’s clearly a love some….but the kids element makes it quite obtuse.

The other videos were very amateurish. There was a rock band. I can tell this as, rebelliously, the sing had long hair. He was surrounded by a team of women dancers, who all. Had pink suitcases, the pull along type. In fact all these videos have beautiful long haired heavily made up Thai beauties, modestly dressed. Even the one with the old guy in the cowboy hat walking along the river singing and playing his guitar. Could be any of the characters I saw in pai!

There followed a video, could it have been a music video???of sepia footage of the current Thai king through the ages, looking noble, benign, respected, intelligent. Walking around villages, fishing, receiving guests, meeting the people.i can’t imagine anything like this being made in uk…if it is a music video…..

But the worst thing was an hour of something called he variety show. Tv at its worst.ridiculous looking hosts: a woman ( see description of eye candy for music video) and a guy who would give timmy mallet a run for his money in the worst dressed guy in tv history. Big glasses, a green striped shirt, bow tie, pink jacket with sleeves rolled up to the elbows 80s style, and 3/4 length skinny trousers. I not sure what happens on the show. There are 2 teams of possibly celebrities. One is a. Big jovial fat guy with a shaved head who play some games, such as eating some apparently revolting bright green food. These guys are dressed I really tasteless costumes: black and white check jackets with bright yellow or green spangly hoods, hats to match. The show involves a lot of standing around and saying things that result in a lot of guffawing.the studio Audience clearly loves it. There is an extended section with motor cycle stunt riders. Actually they ride 100cc automatics, so I guess the audience identifies with them.they wheelie, do rear wheelies as they stop, ride standing on the seat…nothing very jaw dropping. There is some young teenage oh who features here. I think he asks one of the riders some questions. Maybe he has been selected for this show. He looks bemused, bashful, perplexed…anyway eventually he takes part in the final stunt. Get this: two rows of riders lie perpendicular to the approaching bike. The rows are separated by a line of purple balloons, around 8 of them. The bike approaches. The boy is also on the bike, his back is facing forwards. On the first approach the rider pulls the bike into a rear wheel wheelie but stops just short of his prone colleagues, as he would have run them over. Gasps of horror from the crowd. Close ups of the celebrities, the pretty eye candy host looks bored. Second approach…this is the stunt….the rider takes a straight line this time, pulls the rear wheelie, the boy is now hanging backwards over the handle bars. He. Is wearing a crash hat with aspire on it. All the balloons are burst in sequence, the bike clears the lines. Cue applause and adulation. The boy is overjoyed and I am underwhelmed.

One more bus to get to sukhothai and it feels like an oasis of tranquility. Staying in a bamboo hut at 300 baht. Town is small and sleepy…good!had armed curry at choppers bar…styled around the Wild West and biking and Buddhism. There is a big group of chunky middle aged Thais with a German tattooed guy, who I presumed was chopper. One of their group has brought in a job lot of 80s style Motorola phones, which he is sharing around. I don’t get it it. It’s like something out of only fools and horses. I notice that waiting is the way to greet here. There is a 14 year old kid serving the drinks, unmeasured. The Thai guys great him like slackly and don’t make eye contact or thank him. My red curry is ok…needs much more spice. There. Ae several pairs of adventurous western females here. A guy is singing,and playing guitar and harmonica. His stage is a replica bull cart..I have 2 beers and return to sit in the near Silence outside my bungalow.

What does khaosan road, bangkok offer?

 

2 for 1 Chang or singha or Leo beer

Vodka buckets

Tattoos

Cheap suits

Pad Thai

Sexy lady, you want?

Smoking? You want? Opium, you want?……?.

Laughing gas

Neighbouring bars out- doing each other with deafening techno

Groups of ladyboys

Farang bars with reruns of premiership football

T shirt stalls

Laser pointers

Fried insect stalls (photo 10 baht)

Bemused European children in tow behind their ” cool” parents

Frazzled island hoppers

Amputee buskers

Fake degree certificates

Oh, and also McDonald’s, burger king, KFC

Tuk- tuk drivers and taxi drivers trying every conceivable way to meet whatever needs you have..or rather to tempt you

Babylon?

I can see how many people love this

But….

These are all things I do not come to Thailand for