My aim is to travel from the UK to Brisbane for one of my best friends' wedding. Plane travel is so environmentally damaging so I am looking for another way. I also think that by travelling over land and sea I will be able to understand our world better as I will connect with the people and landscapes and not just look at the departure board in the airport. Any tips gratefully received!! Departure date 1st September.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bangkok - The land where anything can be yours.... for a price

I started reading Satish Kumar's book 'No Destination' and it is a real inspiration. I especially wanted to read about his journey where he walked around the world delivering messages of peace to the people and Government's of the nuclear world. I can relate to many of his values and the experiences he had on his journey. I completely adhere to his principles of not placing such value on material goods (we alsways need more, more, more...) and respecting all living beings (sorry about the insects - see later on!) and the earth that we live on. I mean this in a real and practical way and not just an academic and intellectual way (as I believe he does too.) He also seemed to rely on fate and to go where he was destined and experienced great kindness in every place. I have seen many juxtapositions on this journey - I have seen what appear to be strong communities working the land and being fairly self sufficient and bartering between themselves. I have also seen huge disparity between rich and poor and also great monetary and materialistic desires (in foreigners and locals.) Bangkok was a crazy place. After last week's coup things remain pretty stable as far as I could see, the only evidence were the tanks and soldiers stationed outside Parliament and a few soldiers elsewhere. They had turned into a tourist attraction of sorts but were mainly surrounded by devoted Thais who love their soldiers and were glad for the action and to dispose of Thaksin (Also reflected in the wearing of yellow t-shirts by nearly everyone as a sign of support for the King and worn by all government workers.) I explored the city, saw a few sites and took the river bus. Then there was the Khao San Road. A small street which has evolved (or devolved) around western backpackers it seems. You can buy whatever you want; food, drink, flights, internet, massage, diving, train tickets, clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, handicrafts and even your very own dreadlocks (!?) You can even get cosmetics from your very own, well known British high street store and even another well known evil supermarket giant has mustled its way in. I wonder if some people never leave this street when they are here. In the evening I went to dinner with my new pal Tony and his American 'sister' and family who have come to Thailand to adopt an orphan and who were delighted to now be the parents of the lovely Mui or Isabel, lovely people. Then debating my options, I allowed myself to be escorted around some of Bangkok's more notorious districts (for cultural awareness.) There are many levels to the sex industry in Bangkok and Thailand and I felt like I should not ignore it blindly. I felt safe with Tony and we went to a few places which were very eye opening. Tony has read a lot about the issues and told me some sad facts but it was interesting to understand more. A short respite to try out some local delicacies (when in Rome...) Fried grasshopper, cricket and grubs.....I couldn't eat the lizard (it is a reptile and nearly cuddly!) or the cockroach...that was just too much. Onwards to Nana Plaza. Here I was bombarded with neon lights and the sex industry in full swing and it really did make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Watching some of the foreigners was sick, did they realise what was going on (I was unsure that the young 18 year old boys knew what was happening!) and what they were contributing to. There was so much deceipt and disparity here and I felt very sad because I know I am priviliged to have been able to make choices about what I believe and what I want and don't have to succumb to this world. I don't know what people will think of me for going to these places, and I certainly don't want to pass judgement on people that I know nothing about but I was extremely moved by my experience and it has shown me a world so far from mine it could be on Pluto. I feel that on this journey it is hard to stay true to myself, the self I left in Wales (I never thought I would do this for a start.) I don't think I have changed my basic principles and values but I do feel very far (not just physically) from the self that I left home with. Oh yes! I succumbed to the decadence of this city and bought some Thais fishermans trousers. They are so cool in the heat but sadly now I do look like a trendy backpacker. I challenge anyone to not buy something in this city!

5 Comments:

At 10:46 am, September 28, 2006, Blogger Pete said...

Hi,

I'm really keen to know how you were able to drop out of the ratrace...how did you go from regular job and having all the useless "stuff" we seem to collect and worries that most of us end up with to the slower pace of life in the caravan in the forest.

 
At 5:29 pm, September 28, 2006, Blogger andy said...

Hi from sunny (not!!!) Pilton, glad to here your having such an eye opening tme, don,t forgt i need some new sandwich recipies, so any ideas, email us. good lck on your next stage, Andy, Gill, Lewis & Freya

 
At 2:09 am, September 29, 2006, Blogger LimePulp said...

Hi Babs

Good to hear that you are getting around Thailand and Bangkok alright after the coup, I wasn't sure if the military would have put road blocks up or started hasslling tourist but it sounds like everything seems to be running fairly normally down there.

Your diet seems to have moved away from Vodka and Chocolate and on to fried grasshopper, cricket, grubs at least they are a lot more healthy than a fried mars bars.

It's good that you didn't go to Bangkok and just turn a blind eye to the sex trade that is such a large part of not only the day to day life of so many young Thai people but a hugh source of foreign income. Its heart breaking that so many young kids have to give up there child hood and start working in the sex trade in order to earn enought money for they familys to eat. Thats one of the other problems with such cheap air travel these days is the groups of men from europe and america can afford to go there for a long weekend as a 'Stag Party' for the grooms, other members of the party, to sow they last wild oats before geting married, the chaeper the flights to thailand have got the bigger the sex industry there has become. That a nice fact but a true one, thought probable not a good idea to let the Bride-To-Be hear about it.

Even in this country the some of the 'red light' areas aren't very nice places to go so good on you far having the guts to go and see for yourself what it's like in those areas in Bangkok.

Anyway on a lighter note, I see that your slow transformation from global traveller to tourist is this well and truely taking place, but if the locals wear them then the Thais fishermans trousers will just have to squeeze into your ever increasing backpack. Wonder if they are bright and coulorful or brown and orange?

Hope you get to back to seeing the beautiful side of Thailand on your next leg of the trip. Sounds like you could do with seeing soon of the nicer parts of Thailand after Bangkok, but remember that you have to go through some experience soom downs on your trip as well as the ups otherwise your true journey will never be complete...


Keep your stomach full and bladder empty for you never know when or what the next meal will be or how far away the nearest toilet is....


Lots of Love & Luck and funny fried stuff to eat...

Steve XXX

 
At 12:51 am, September 30, 2006, Blogger Bride-to-be said...

Hi Babs, Good on you for seeing some of the 'real' Thailand that other people would rather not think about. After all it's part of life and it would do a lot of people good to see what really goes on there. Don't think I've got anything to be worried about in terms of my fiance 'sowing his last wild oats' thanks Limepulp. Can't wait to see you Babs, hope the boat doesn't get too boring after all this excitement you've been experiencing. I'll make sure we have heaps of fun when you get here and I'm sure there'll be a few nights of reminiscing over a couple of bottles of wine! Bon voyage and see you soon xxx

 
At 3:33 am, September 30, 2006, Blogger Babs said...

Hi Pete and others who ask questions. I try to access your blogs through your name but cannot. I really am a luddite! If anyone wants me to write to them separately from here can you leave an email address. If you don't want it published just say and I won't. Thanks

Babs x

 

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