Lost in Confusion – Pai and Chang Mai, Thailand 19th September 2010

When the waves hit you, what can you do?  Become the ocean.
Sitting in a place called Mama Falafels, licking hummus from a salad leaf, in Pai, plastic Pai.  Once hippies danced naked around bonfires here, now tourists flop around jewellery stalls and delight in the two for one fun cocktails.  Buckets are downed (like a couple of pints of mojito) and stereotypes adhered to.   The streets are lined by over priced tourist agencies who will take you anywhere, on a quad bike, elephant or kayak for a price?  Indigenous villages are visited by large buses, cameras snapping, local people dressed up in all their finery and slightly bewildered.  No feeling here, just another pantomime.  Invasion as opposed to integration, no sensitivity.  No changes there.
The locals see nothing to inspire them in these strangely shaped, bewildered white types and therefore begin to believe the worst.  That this westernised mindset may not be the way forward, maybe its time to look back?  Maybe all this utter nonsense of whitening creams will fade?  Which is the one healthy thing to arise from the decimation of so many centres of love and understanding around the globe.  Maybe a worthy sacrifice.
 The Good Life cafe is an institution.  Great tea list and free shots of Wheatgrass, you sit on swings and read books on Vedanta whilst the mice play below you.  We also liked Don’t Cry Bar, open aired reggae venue with bonfires, fire shows and decent mushroom shakes.  We spent most evenings observing bamboo, huge stars and looking into the fires.
I stay in a hut in the middle of a paddy field, my toilet has no roof which allowed me to view the clear night sky whilst taking a late night piss.  I had a large pond in front of the hut where families of frogs sung all night long.
Most places I rock up to, Im at least 5-10 years late.  The interesting sorts, the special types are now scattered around the place, never congregating for long due to a fear of being uncovered and made into a commodity.  Branded hippy and Rasta bars are a viable business opportunity, as alternative living becomes trendy and appealing to the ‘Top Shop’ lot.
00000PEOPLE, make your own scenes.  Head to the woods, the flat lands, the spaces in-between and start something up.  Revel in your individuality and our greater similarities.  One amongst many, with a voice and an energy unmatched by anything else.  Something based on love and understanding.  Just watch as the brothers and sisters pile in.  This is my hope and dream for the future.  The people who realise and desire another way, a glimpse of the otherside, will begin to take some action and start moving things forward.  People unite, build huts and read books.  Get in a hammock and change the world (by changing yourself).  Then contribute to the greater good.  We are a gifted bunch, we just need reminding sometimes.  We also need to forget the past and what we have learnt, the systems and concepts that have been rammed down our psyche for so many years.  Are you happy???????  If not, get on the bus and make some changes.  Change the collective psyche, be selfish by contribute to a better tomorrow for all.000000000
What a dance.  What a colourful dance.  Thailand swirls around me, neon lights, confused tourists and lovely locals.  All come together on streets so clean, so quiet and pleasant.  Every bus I seem to take, every ride I thumb, the people want to take me home.  Feed me, ply me with Chang, introduce me to the extended family.  I feel taken care of.
Pungent aromas of dried squid, carcasses hanging from racks attached to a moped, blend with caramelised banana and roasted chicken kebab with fragrant herbs.  The smells and flavours of Thailand are vibrant and fresh, each mouthful a new adventure in taste.  Flavour explosions.  POW.  A country were the street food is the height of cuisine, cheap, quick and prepared by a person who cares.  Food from the heart, one bowl of noodles sets you back .50p, all done with a smile and fresh iced water.  What a place to get fat well.
For all its lovely attributes, to my tourist goggles, Thailand sometimes resembles a film set.  A place that lacks a certain reality, an edge, depth.  Things are too ordered, too in place, all works too well (and is normally a little expensive).  Mainly people seem to have embraced the western image of living, of building their own consumerist utopia where the shopping mall is the centre of that plastic, temporary universe.   I sense an underlying current of resentment, after all most people live a rural life.  Thailand is not a rich country, but the tourist trail neglects to acknowledge the experience of a normal Thais life.
In September alone there were 10 bombings, all kept quiet by the government.  The red shirts (anti-government group, prompted and bankrolled by Thaksin Shinawatra, ex-president, billionaire, ex owner of Man City Football Club and loved by the people of the North) protested regularly around Koasan Road.  Earlier in the year there were violent protests when the red shirt took over Bangkok, the main commercial areas and many died.  All this paid for in full by Mr Shinawatra from his Dubai billionaires pad.  This seems to be a critical time, the red shirts realising that force and violence is not the way forward.  Bamboo sticks vs Tanks will only go one way, no matter how inept the armies driving.  Talking to these guys, you realise the mistrust of politicians (worst in Asia apparently) and the deep divisions in Thai society.  One story that reflects Thai culture well is that during the battles and stand-off in Bangkok, lasting many weeks, the red shirts were having food brought in and prepared on the streets for the protesters and street side massages, in a war zone.  The majority of tourists miss this completely, instead focusing on ziplining through the jungle, stuck in aircon buses with tinted windows, the real experience zips by the windows at a speed of 60 miles per hour on a three laned super highway.
Thailand is the country of the great pamper.  I can see why so many older gringos and gringettes chose it as a place to pass away the later days of living.  The Thais have refined the art of relaxation on a daily basis.  Eat well regularly, drink well, massage daily, visit the temple and then eat some more.  Comfort is all around with easy women (for the gents) and alternative therapies (for the ladies).  Its safe (in the north), its friendly, its immaculately clean.  People care about their society, westernised as it is becoming, the King is King here.  It’s a place I will love to return in 30 – 40 years.  When I begin to slow down and seek the comfort rut.  A time to grow into a happy blob.
I liked the pace in Chang Mai laid back decadence on each corner, in the old town, a city with a village feel.  Traditional Thai teak houses make up most of the residences and hotels.  I have a memorable massage by a blind woman.  Incredible sensitivity.  Im floating around and regularly astonished by the connections Im making, each one a trip in itself.  Some amazing people coming out of the woodwork.  The coincidences that are occurring constantly spurring me on in the right direction.  Up and up.  Flowing on towards dawn, sitting in a camper van, warm beer and conversation, through the windscreen, the sun a peach blob in the watermelon sky.
Thailand has been a holiday within a holiday, within a trip.   It was a blur, a different wave of confusion.  So different from India.  I saw little, felt little, but will be back in a few months for another try.
For now I’m looking for the other side, the place where all is simple, natural and real.  When I find it, there will be no need for riding effortlessly on green turtles for a long time.  Maybe its in Laos?

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Mama Wolf said,

    This section is actually putting me off visiting these places, although there was a sense of this already from the kind of travellers I’ve met who hang out in these regions. But for you it’s obviously eye-opening and you are enjoying it. Good!

    India is special still….

    • 2

      leroywatson4 said,

      Thailand in general is a no go zone. As you approach the neon glare is blinding and you wander in the shallow end. India is special, calling me for the next cosmic plunge…………Its good to be aware of it all, but the priorities are different here, especially the travellers. Sense rather than the spirit.

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