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The International Writers Magazine: Thailand 12 December 2007

Let Sleeping Dogs Thai
Tabytha Towe


Every dog you see here are either lying on the ground dehydrated and too hot to move, or either scavenging for food. They are hungry, lazy and have scars or unhealthy scabs on their flesh, but seem very content and free regardless. Street dogs and cats are scattered in every crevice, grass land, side of road you see.

I was extremly lucky to spot the cutest, mishievious little monkeys on our bike path one day, they were playing with us, like, watch me if you can, jumping from brach to branch as fast as they could so we could never catch a glimpse for more than 2 seconds. Much like the native Thai people, they work hard to live, but they also have a lot of relaxation time and that's just the way it is.
 
In Bangkok there are too many people and everyone is trying to sell you something. Street vendors with grilled skewers, veggies, or necklaces, tee-shirts, all for sale at 'special price' just for you, but if you don't buy you 'get out'.
5 minutes within landing I already almost got ripped off by 1000 baht for a taxi, good thing I'm not a sucker! My friend got pulled over in a taxi by the police and got money taken out of his wallet for nothing, was pat on the pocket and allowed to go home afterwards. Cops can randomly search you anywhere, any time. I held a close eye on my wallet when it was my turn, on a seperate occasion.

On the roads it's tuk tuk and fuck fuck, ping pong and sam song, all tourist traps {tuk tuks are bike taxis, sam song is alcohol, the rest you can figure out.}

I don't belive I need to go to a ping pong show ever and I've bought off the stands what I needed already, so I should be ok to avoid the trap from here on in. The food is amazing however, such a deal!!! Don't trust street meat or truck duck so much, but after a week here you forget about hygiene, people haven't appeared to die from street food, as far as I have seen, and it's cheap and tasty.

I'm on an island called Ko Chang which is so refreshing compared to the city. I want to stay away from Metropolitan areas as much as possible. In Hong Kong I rememeber that traffic was so horrendous that often pedestrians couldn't even cross the street, there was no cross walk, so you had to walk through the underground subway tunnel paths to get to the other side of the road. And man there was construction and development on nearly every second corner.

This island is fairly small, my friends and I (one on a short visit here whom I met in Europe, the others from my hometown who temporarily live in Thailand) have pretty much covered the place. It's been quite magical and very peaceful, exactly what I wanted. We had no internet whatsoever where we staying and noelectricity till evening, just the sights and sounds of nature for a few days. To me that was paradise. The Thai are so laid back and very friendly over here, always smiling and just completely chilled, no stress and not even trying to enforce you to buy anything, relief!

It's as if they are asleep and yet awake, caught between a dream and reality, neither a nightmare nor purgatory. The lifestyle  here is sincere, it's not just survival, it's a way of life. Even if a family of six has to sleep in a tiny hut and fit four to a scooter bike, usually father driving, biggest child in front, holding the smallest child, and mother barely clinging on to the back carrying bags of produce. Everything here is so very honest and content. I am, of course, in the resort side of Ko Chang right now to use a computer, where there are motor bike rental shops, bars, more grand hotels and clothing stalls all over, with white people getting more tanned and fat.

I prefered living by the water. By the jungle side forested area we are in, there is supposedly wild elephants. I did witness them in their natural habitat, except that they were still chained and whipped and used for tourist entertainment. I could not morally justify taking an elephant for a ride while he's been yelled at and hit. This is the way people and animals live, off a dollar. Except the unique creatures don't really get to live.

There is this horrendous and constant scream in the trees vibrating throughout miles of these small insects doing a mating call that lasts infintly. It's like a broken ambulance siren, makes your ears bleed and make you stir crazy the first half an hour, then you just adjust. But wow, such a loud and huge screech from such a tiny insect! You hear them as you drive along the winy, hilly roads. The dirt roads are a fun challenge, I could never do it however, only as a passenger, but they are bumpy and wild and scenic views are astonishing!

Last night at our bungalow (we slept outside on the floor actually) there were a mix of cultures playing music together with guitars, an improv bucket drum. For accompaniment the sounds of the jungle like a echo in the night, with the vibrating hum of crickets, bustling hisses from the bushes, whispers of dried bannanna leaves crunching against the warm wind, the blissful snore of an old dog, all in harmonious synch. It was as if I had my own private symphony under the stars. It's nearly too pretty here. Everyday, at least 2-3 times, I get to swim in the crystal clear sea which always seem to be the perfect temperature, whether first thing in the morning under a scorching sun or a private skinny dip in the dark evening under a gentle glow of the galaxy. I haven't had a "proper" shower in nearly a week, but I am so over the princess freak out now. I'm used to squat peeing in a hole in the ground and showering either by a swim or dumping a bowl of cold, shared water over myself, maybe a shampoo here or there. My feet and my friends are absoultley tarnished because we are frolicking barefooted and flip floped all day, with our wounds on our feet constantly re-opening and tightening, getting sorer each step. I don't mind though, it means we have had great fun. There is an endless amount of exploring to do.

I am very eager to get back outside so I will keep you updated again soon for my next adventure, a seven hour bus ride away....

Dec 12 2007- Update

Attempting to tan on the beaches of Ko Chang for more than 10 minutes seemed near impossible, as it was too hot to lie there for so long without getting agitated - apparently I have a hard time relaxing. So going for another dip in the inviting water was always a keen idea. I remembered that in choosing a spot to chill out was a problem. First off it had to be private and quiet to further ensue peace, and second, that it was not under a coconut tree regardless of the enticing shade it provides. People die here from coconuts falling on their heads and cracking their skulls more so than from motor bike injuries or diesease.

This isn't an actual statistic mind you, only rumoured horror stories, but these trees are plentiful and vast, so lets say it's very likely. I rode on the back of a bike for a week helmet-less and was safe and happy with the wind blowing my hair into an Elvis wave. I have been bitten a hundred times and am covered like a Van Gogh canvas in foreign bites from undetectable insects all over that make me itch and ache, and yet I remain without any illness. Phew, thank god I got my shots! My poor legs and feet are an utter mess from cuts and scrapes and those fucking mosquitos, but at least the swelling on my hands from the dozens of feeding, tiny teeth marks have gone down. I slept outside a fair bit, which would have been completley romantic under the stars listening to the night lullabies of crickets, but noooooo, all the bugs just keep you up all night hitting, swatting and scratching yourself!? I flipped out thinking one even crawled inside my asshole, I manifested that I was retching with creatures sucking my blood, they bugged me out big time man!!!

When we went on a kayaking adventure it reminded me of the Gulf Islands back home and tripped me out. I forgot I was in Thailand...over and over.

Back to the array of tourists and craziness in Bangkok again, much to my dismay. Had to get out of here quick so caught a train to Ayutthaya, more of a little old town. It was very traditional and had lovely locals. The two hour ride drove through the townships and lives of the homeless who literally live off the train tracks, and sometimes in passing you'd witness the rich man's gleaming flats oppisite, right across other side of the tracks, blatantly dividing the classes.  You wonder how neighbors could be so distant.

Ayutthaya is famous for ruins from historic battles. It astonishes me that the Burmese conquered Buddhist Monasteries in the 1500's considering how sacriligeous that would be?! It's quite worrying when you see such beautiful Buddhist statues beheaded. I felt kind of empty inside. These ruins were incredible, themere fact they lasted so long with wear and tear for centuries. Those walls were built thick to survive battles. I definitly recommend discovering this town on a day trip if you ever visit Thailand. It gives you an actual sense of ancient beliefs and history.

Woman are not allowed to go near, even by accident, for fear that in using the same street they rub their feminine contamination on Monks robes. They move away when you approach too close. Perhaps we may corrupt their Holiness, or tempt their manliness?

Parched dogs and cats still invade, but you never see their poop and wonder where they get water to survive if they only eat what they find in the garbage? Mothers nipples and horny fathers ball's droop to the ground. No exaggeration, they are like pumps and moist tea bags, eeww! Frightening. Puppies and kittens live in crevices of shade with dry mouths and matty fur. But they are not vicious and content enough to be free and left alone, they don't know any better.

Garbage is dispersed on the ground in which everyone walks on (which upsets me because I am encouraged to wear shoes now) but they have taken away rubbish bins under the impression it will keep it from over flowing or unabashedly steer bums clear of rummaging through them....so after the street stalls are closed there is a swarm of left over junk floating on every corner. I haven't actually seen with my own eyes any city workers who clean it up, but somehow the next morning it is always gone. But where does it go and do they fucking sort out the recycling goods from the trash? Another place you cannot drink tap water, I hate wasting bottles!

Street vendors waste far too much food. In a place where you can't walk half a mile without a legless beggar or starving mother and child, you'd think they wouldn't even be able to afford to sacrifice any "leftovers", for what they do not sell cannot be digested a day later. Everything you see is raw and fresh on the day, but they cook too much at a time so that inevitably it can't all be eaten within a few hours, as there are is an explosion of competitors next door frying more food into your nostrils.

I've heard they give the rest of their food to the Gods, to statues...I find it ironic because I don't think Gods would even eat an animal, a creature of the earth, and would not condone their praise to a waste of life, whether alive or in form of tribute. I secretly hope the dogs, cats and famished families sneak the goods from under the blessings if that's the case.

The homeless here try to be unique with their little hope of survival each day. I have never seen so many blind people sing by a boom box guided by a brother or sister to make a single baht, at least (a baht is Thai money, 25 baht for a coffee if you can figure the math in currency.) I'm used to homeless mosty being drunks or junkies, but here with a population of 12 million, there are bigger issues than drug addiction.

The King....what can I say? If I say anything aloud a Thai may overhear my blasphemous tone and get me arrested. He is kind of a big deal, Thai people absolutely cherish him. He is put on the biggest pedestal ever. For example, if you were to see a picture enthroned with a gold frame, trinkets, flowers, incense or what have you displayed throughout England of the Queen, would you take her or the Brits seriously? There is a picture of him every 3-5 minutes, you cannot turn away from one without seeing another behind. They are always the same five photos too. The King thinking deeply, the King waving, standing, sittting, and never goes without being in yellow or pink. Yellow being the colour of Monday, his birthday (in which was just celebrated on going for the last six days. I don't want to elaborate further) and pink to represent his old age. Do you have any clue how many yellow and pink shirts I've seen? Enough to make me nearly despise the look of either colour. I sound harsh but maybe I don't know all the good things he has done, but honestly, what has he done? It's unfathomable to see such a devout country down to one man, especially considering how many problems there are.
He is their everything.

Lady boys are hard to tell apart from ladys. Men are either quite feminine or very big. Woman are either petite and pretty, or masculine and rotund. One extreme to the other in Thailand it appears. No in betweens. Back in Macau I found myself struggling with the idea of peeing in a smelly hole without toilet paper and soap. I am relieved now when I rarely find a proper seat that FLUSHES, but otherwise have been accustomed to squatting and using a hose. I may have even peed a little on my own ankles at first, not being used to it and being a priss, trying not to get to close to the putrid and vulgar ground. Today not even large cockroaches make me flinch. I have come a long way in under three weeks from city-girl princess status.

I would kill for a decent glass of wine. A restaurant honestly had the audacity of serving a chilled glass of red (faux pas instantly) which is indeed expired cherry cooler! The nerve hoping to fool a wino! It's all beer, beer and cocktails here, except hard liquor is bloody expensive. I go to 7-11 for cheap whisky mix, that I won't have to explain for it is as it sounds. Don't get me started on 7-11's. it's like a palace over here, I thought Hong Kong was bad with them and their hair salons, but in Thailand it's 7-11's and massage parlours and The King and tuk tuks and ping pong EVERYWHERE. Getting a little repetitve. Can't wait to leave the Kok again. I would also kill to devour an avocado. Strange what foods you crave and miss. But I have inall sincerity eaten tremendously well here, spoiled with delicious curries, but then I really miss having my own kitchen and making MY curry dishes. Arroy d!

Ok wrapping up, tired and too sweaty. Sometimes it stings my eyes shut for a few minutes. Showering only temporarily helps. But man I am glad to be here in the sun and surroundings!!!


© Tabytha Towe 12th December 2007
tabythat at hotmail.com

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Hong Kong Dash
Tabytha Towe in Hong Kong

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