Last week I returned from 10 days in Thailand, it was a last minute decision type of trip, the need to get away to do some thinking coupled with a temporary lack of somewhere to live. I had thought first of Bali, but i've been to Bali three times before and wanted a new experience. I didn't really research it very well, just picked a hotel that was nice and flew out there.
I didn't really enjoy the first place I stayed, Si Racha, it was nice and all but a bit boring. So after 3 days I moved down the coast to Pattaya. That led to an eye opening experience, some peaceful moments of contemplation and a realisation that poverty sucks, it really really does. Sure I know everyone knows that already but we mostly just assume that, but when you see it up close and personal you ... well you just get sad. I'm not going on any crusade like rant here, I'm merely writing down my observations. Poverty sucks.
I made some notes while I sat on my deck chair under my beach umbrella each day, these weren't expensive chairs and umbrellas, quite old and worn out, the plastic table provided was filthy, water rats ran over these chairs at night, dogs pissed on them. I know this because I saw this, but I still sat on them everyday. I gave a little old Thai lady 40 baht (about AU$1.50) for the privilege and a further 100 baht for a drink and a meal that she cooked for me on her little portable stove on another dirty table each day. I'm just going to post those notes below, in between some photos I took, they're raw and not well thought out, they're off the cuff and poorly edited but I think they best sum up my Thailand experience.
Sitting in a street side fish restaurant eating grilled river prawns dipped in hot chilli (12 prawns for $6) and fresh papaya salad, while Credence Clearwater Revival blasts from the speakers behind me. Getting approached by lots of people selling watches and bracelets, sadly the only bracelet i liked was too small. Her look of disappointment
Russians - everywhere Russians, except when there's Chinese. These are the new world tourists. Still a notch above the behaviour and attitudes of many Aussies, although I couldn't understand what they were saying so who knows
There's a Hard Rock Cafe here, trying hard to be cool. Staff probably are cool but it always feels forced and kind of a poor imitation of anything actually cool. That can be said of a lot of western wait staff too to be fair. Hot chocolate fudge brownie, fairly average and expensive but it destroyed the after dinner sugar craving. Could only eat half of it, glad for it too. The Chinese customers are lapping up the Thai Rastafarian floor manager. He fits all of their preconceptions of what is western cool, so that's good. As long as everyone's happy in their holiday, that's all that counts.
There are countless little finches in Pattaya, they're everywhere, sadly I just encountered a man who had a very small wooden cage filled with them, a few sang a bit, the rest just sat there confined to the cage, he tried to sell me one. Fuck poverty.
Sitting on my deck chair at the beach a jewellery or watch or food vendor passes by every minute or so. Food that includes whole char grilled fish, traditional Thai street food from bags of ingredients they put together for you with the rice from their buckets and trays stacked high with spring rolls, battered prawns and other fried items and even someone with a pot of steamed prawns, cockles and what look like yabbies.
I ordered a noodle and prawn dish that the old lady who runs this particular section of deck chairs cooked for me on her makeshift kitchen near the footpath. The flavours were gorgeous, a new combination for me. Loved it.
When I arrive at the beach each morning I am one of only a few here, slowly it fills up but mostly with middle aged and older men and their Thai girlfriends, it's sad and awful but I'm beginning to understand these arrangements somewhat. These men mostly appear to be a bit dysfunctional, socially inept or lonely and these girls seem to be happy to be with them, not always, it's often an act I'm sure. I know it's also a financial thing and the 60 year old man with the 20 year old girlfriend must surely be a financial arrangement 100% of the time. But I've seen middle aged men with middle aged women, old men with old Thai women, they all seem to be long time partners not just one week girlfriends. I guess it's all complicated and each case is a different scenario... what I do know is that it's not for me and that once again poverty is fucked. Many of these girls are forced to live this way because of poverty and a want to better their lives or perhaps that of their children and it's the only way they can do that.
Cafe Pascal for breakfast, I'm watching a well dressed Welshman describe how the granite bench at the egg and grill station out front was constructed to an unsuspecting fellow customer, how he exports the granite and how it is polished etc. The customer makes a dash for it when the chef asks the Welshman what he would like. I felt sorry for the Welshman and then suddenly he is joined by his stunning and much younger leggy Thai girlfriend, sympathy evaporates very quickly.
There's an old German guy (about 70) and his younger Thai lady boy girlfriend, they eat breakfast here every day, they seem happy.