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The International Writers Magazine: Adventure Travel

Thailand Adventure
Tabytha Towe in Thailand Part Three

I left off (on Part #2) describing some of my observations on the Thai livleihood and culture, for example their work ethic and almost too-relaxed-laying-in-the-shade attitude, except of course when it comes to farang, foreigner, whom they can make money off of with tourism and gimmicks. Much of which is actually quite mercenary and cruel (ie: elephant trekking), but what they have to do as a price for survival in a third world country, especially without having being better educated. Take their commonly, world renound sex trade for instance.

Of course I ended up spending most of my dough on cheap beers, taxis and bottled waters so I am just as guilty.

If you didn't know any better or have enough common sense -like many travelers I met whilst there- it is easy to get ripped off. No deal is a special deal and no route is a faster one. Always be confident in what you want, pronunciate exactly where your destination is and negotiate a price beforehand. You'll find that the people of old historic Siam can indeed be very friendly, if they aren't trying to persuade you into buying something or yelling at you for not. They will sell you anything they can, especially in Bangkok, from cheap clothing to the most ridiculous extravagances possible.

On the infamous, backpackers soiree 'Kao Sahn Road' you will find old ladys stroking wooden frogs that make calming, croaking noises for you to buy, kids will wager you a thumb war you to sell you roses and of course they make sure they win every time, no matter how big or skilled the opponent. Young guys will interupt you at the bar to show off their stupid fake, tattoo sleeves or push their gigantic, burn-your-face-off lighters. You name it, on Kao Sahn, they have it, and you can too!

To there own they sell a lot of amulets which are a prized obsession, even have an Amulet magazine(?!) and sell many symbolic flowers as gifts to their Gods. I even saw street stalls selling plastic teeth!

Most food off the street stands is ready to eat and tasty, maybe not the most hygeinic, but your immune system can handle it. The only thing that fucked me off was that there was so much waste of leftover food at the end of the day and that they used so many plastic bags. Every drink was served with a straw. Even the damned plastic bags holding the meal had a plastic bag!?

Oh and the poor animals, there is nothing you can do for sick and starved street cats and dogs or even the cows and roosters that flop around on the side of the road, except hope their final fate is quick and painless. Some are not as severe, but the unlucky ones can be deseased since they don't get vaccinations or treatment. Witnessed puppies with a terrible ithching condition that basically drives them to scratch themselves to death. It tore my heart apart seeing puppies crying from the torment of pain. Even considered putting some out of their misery, but it was not my role. There is always going to be animals running around undomesticated as there is no such thing as neutering homeless ones.

The admiration for their King still fathoms me, as I mentioned previously. I went to the cinema and prior to every film viewed there is a mandatory stand up tribute to him that lasts four minutes. There are guards behind the audience keeping an eye out on those who do not pay their respects, for you can get arrested for it. One day I wasn't able to cross the street for 10 minutes as the King was to drive past at any moment. It stopped traffic and after several black cars leading him through safely, I was allowed my right of passage as a pedestrian.
People actually make a living by selling posters of their adored Royal. A man got sent to jail for a year just for drawing a moustache on one of his hundreds of statues.

Coming back from seaside Hat Huin (geared towards a richer, middle aged crowd to this resort-like town wth a massive mall ) I was on the train back to the hustle and blitz of Bangkok with my friends when I decided I needed some quiet time to myself and so chose a random stop to get off at for the next day or two. It ended up being a quiet, traditional town with plenty of sights for me to venture, so it was absoultely perfect. That night I found a sweet and decrepit backpackers place to crash in, which I later found my window was non exsistent and therefore had a million mosquito bites in the morning. (I never would have thought I'd ever have
ankles untill they swelled so much form those bastards!)

In the evening I went for a stroll to discover the place and desperately craved a cold beer for the walk. Blessed 7/ 11 (a Thai Haven apparently) I got my beer for the equivalent of 75 cents and realised that I wasn't able to drink it in public after all because it was yet another Voting day. Don't want to vote for the wrong party whilst intoxicated I suppose, doesn't make much sense to me. By the time I wandered back to my hostel, as not a lot of excitment happens at night in sweet Phetchuburi, I drank my by-then warm beer and befriended some German bikers.

The sunrise promised a great idea of renting a bike for the day and checking out an old Wat, ancient caves and an abandoned Palace (all but the monkeys that have taken over.) The Wat was beautiful but also typical, after Ayuthaya and a dozen other temples it becomes monotamous so I was eager to find these damned caves. An hour later in the scorching heat I was sweating buckets and out of breath riding up this steep hill when I came across an army of monkeys. These ones were cautious of me but I had never seen so many wild animals before. Eventually they let me pass and families of elders picking ticks out of each other while babies clung to their mothers bosoms and watched me carry on. It was an extremely endearing. The caves were derelict, ancient and exceptionally dark. All I could hear were the sqeals of bats above my head and see the shimmers of sunlight through the cracks of the roof painting bright fairy dust on the withered monuments and Buddhist stautes. The stairs were a nice work out on the thigh muscles, but the fee to pay the Monks were far steeper.

After that I was blazing downhill to find the Palace belonging to a Rama from nearly a century ago -but don't quote me on that. It again had an invasion of monkeys, but this time instead of being the cute and humble kind that moved out of your way, they hissed and threatened you. They were clearly not afraid of humans. I watched one drinking a Nescafé coffee for christs sakes, showing that they were theives and dominant. A viscious, fat and greedy one bore his fangs at me and swiped the loot of treats I had in my hand as an offering, sneering away proudly.

The Palace was a huge and grand space, a maze of little roads to each little building. There were some strange shrines through bizaree tunnels that consisted of golden bricks lodged into the walls. I had no idea what their significance was. It was a massive, abandoned property and so when I had enough wandering about this famous endurance I went to where I had parked the bike and those bloody monkeys knocked itover and stole my water bottle! I was parched, dehydrated and furious. My adventures for the day were done and all I wanted was a cold shower, a cold drink and anti-itching cream for my horrid bites.

I packed my bag and headed off back on the train.

I hung around Bangkok another week or so and had many a great, long nights and dire hot days, then took off with a friend to Kanchanburi. It wasn't a very long journey considering how much I hate buses, and when I arrived I was relieved it was well worth it. Again it was a quaint town, bigger and more touristy than Phetchuburi, but with forests instead of jungles (Phetchuburi has amazing jungle hiking and camping, only you need to gear up and be able to afford a 3-7 days adventure.) Coincidently my friend and I bumped into a wacky character we knew from our beloved nude Wreck beach in Vancouver, and inevitably it became a big, mixed bag of culture from around the globe to party with for the next few moonlights. During the daylight we went exploring, deciding not to see the tigers at the temple after all due to the cruelty of them being sedated for the tour (which would have been amazing to see these sacred animals in retrospect), but we chose other options. I had to drive the scooter with passenger, which made me nervous as the last attempt I made at riding I crashed into a pole (and I say I want to be a rebel motorbiker!) But I had a friggin' blast after I got used to it and the wobblys eased down a bit. I loved racing around town with the wind blowing in my hair. There are basically no road rules or helmet requirements, but somehow it works without being an utter catastrophe. We went to the Death Bridge that the POWs (prisoners of war) built and died at, and of course I had to go for a swim underneath it, but then creeped myself out wondeing how many dead bodies were lying at my feet. We visited another cave that was a low maze and rather eerie, as we found out a drug addicted Monk had gone crazed and killed a traveler in there, trapping her where the old POWs were kept and tortured. Later in the trip we went to Erawan Waterfalls which I highly reccommend. It's a two hour bus ride and you can rent tents on the spot and take a refreshing hike through forestry with absolutely gorgeous clear water to dip in, except for the koi fish that bite your toes, though they feel like sharp kisses.

After Ko Chang I desperatly wanted to go to another island as it was indeed my highlight, so I saved the last leg of my trip for my birthday and new years to spend with my friend. Christmas was a dud and for that I am grateful I didn't have to buy into the commercialised holiday and instead had a nice, nothing to worry about sunny day like any other. It's different when there's no family or turkey anyhow.

I spent my 25th not as I had hoped, but what did I really expect? Turning a quarter of a century is a pretty big fucking deal to a girl, I mean, shit, a woman. It's as if you are no longer in the cute nor as fun category anymore, that now you have to re-think your career options, your expiring womb and what are you doing with your life? I know I'm still very young, but it gets scary when all you have figured out is maybe commiting to another course or two somewhere down the line when you get home. After you make some more money, after you've got enough travelling under your belt to be satisfied for another year, before you're too old or too pregnant to leave the country in the first place! Anyway, just a typical, quarter life crisis, cry me a river!

So my birthday sucked ass for my pure loathing of long bus rides (14 hours with peircing air-conditioning and discomfort) and then a three hour wait for the boat, (which actually became fun by 4am when I met these Potuguese guys and persuaded them to play a dare drinking game with me) then after two hours on the boat at last I found my friend on the island!

Ko Phang Nang is notorious for it's full moon parties, and as I arrived there just on time for the eve of 2008 without sleep and a restless journey, I was ready to get messy and dance under the stars over the waves with the sand between my toes. It turned out to be a pleasant spectacle and ran into some friends there whom I met earlier on. There was a lot of pacing back and forth on the beach and a lot of Thai Red bull which is so strong that after three you felt like you're high.

My partner in crime was perfect and made up for my poor me - I'm 25- boo fuckin' hoo- mood, and we made for an awesome New Years Eve! She and I slept outside at this resort and partied again almost right away after a few hours shut eye. We got to bed at 7am and were ready that evening to go to this amazing bar on top of a mountian where we were convinced to have a gloroius buffet of colorful beverages and some wicked Shakes (Mushroom shakes, in other words.)

What a beautiful view and a perfect night with a great group of strangers and new friends for the next few days on the island, melting together beneath the galaxy. Except for when we were leaving I was leading the way down the dark, long and quiet pathway minding my business when the guard dogs scared the living shit out of me and chased me back up the hill with their salvating, wild growls while I screamed bloody murder! These ones were ferocious! I was paranoid I had been bit and had rabies, but then I relaxed when I realised I still had cold beers in my hands and saw no teeth marks.

The shakes probably made the situaton far more intense. Now there are massive chunks of either private or personal matters pertaining to why I didn't get to go to Chiang Mai, Loas or Cambodia as originaly planned, I had not the time nor funds this trip. Neiher did I go to a Muay Thai boxing fight, get a Thai massage, go to a yoga retreat; but unfortunately in this case certain details cannot be explained as why I didn't make it all, but nor can I complain. My time there was unforgettable and precious and I do intend on going back to visiting this wonderous and surreal part of Asia soon again and finishing what I started....just like this aricle!

Do yourself a favor and start planning your next trip!

Thanks to Azaria, Rad, Bryan, Johnny, the 2 Jonnos, Andrew, Peyman, Marco, the Portuguese, the crazy Brits, Darell, Eak, Chad, Simon, the Scots, Sunanda, Laura, Ty, Buddah and everyone else who made this Thailand experience unbelivable. Cup coon ca!


©
Tabytha Towe April 2008
tabythat at hotmail.com

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