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!