Friday, February 03, 2006

Chiang Saen, Thailand

Last post from South East Asia. I am currently kicking my heels in this quiet town waiting for some weird dispute to be solved between Thai traders and Chinese cargo haulers to come to an end. The official cause of the delay is that the river is low but it has been for the last month. The Thais reckon the Chinese are stalling in order to get more cash so they can make back the dosh they doled out to their employees as part of the New Year traditions. Therefore I can wile away the hours by watching the 2 protagonists yell at each other by the riverside. Fun, fun, fun.

This is also my last uncensored post until god knows when. China is going to be the biggest problem but I will try and work something out by using proxy servers. A lot of countries I am aiming to blight with my presence, as well as a few I have already been to, would no doubt also wish to silence the sweet sound of critical keyboard stroking but they don’t really have the financial clout to do it well. China, on the other hand, has the money to recruit the best such as Cisco, Microsoft, Yahoo and now Google to help them keep their kin silent and ignorant.

I am mildly amused by the way this much vaunted new generation of cyber entrepreneurs (with their Segways, crap haircuts and No Tie policies) stopped humming John Lennon ditties and sank to their knees in front of the Great Red Panda. I’m sure they contribute the odd thousand to Greenpeace or whatever but when real money is waved at them all they can do is try to suppress their gag reflex as the plums hit the gums. Yahoo even helped track down some poor sod who wanted to email some of his opinions to his friends and got himself a 10 year stretch as a result. That I was less amused by.

Enough ranting about China and rich geeks for the moment as it’s time for Arabin's Happy Report on Thailand:

To be honest I haven’t got that much to say about the place. I failed to connect with Thailand somehow (“connect” in the hippy sense of “giving a toss”). There’s nothing wrong with the place and I have had some fun but it was the type of fun that young, idle people with ample supplies of cheap booze and drugs will create for themselves wherever they are. I get the feeling that I enjoyed the peripheral benefits of backpacking (the party atmosphere, the ease of encounter etc..) without any real exposure to foreign weirdness, which is the whole point of this little journey. I also know that this is out of lazyness on my part and I could have tried harder.

Not that being in Thailand hasn't affected me. I spent the afternoon doing stuff that I will have to avoid once out of Siam such as getting lunch from the back of a pick-up truck and being trustful of the locals. Basically I’m getting soft and dopey and I will need to wake up before I hit China if what other backpackers say about the place is true. This happy little daze of mine is also disturbing as it seriously pissed me off in others when I first got here.

I remember being annoyed at people that made the same type of comments that I do now about Thailand and it’s inhabitants; they are so friendly and nice etcc. These comments riled me as it seemed to me as the flip side of racism . Though not as nasty, seeing people in a purely positive light is to negate their humanity just as much as making brutish assertions about a whole group when propping up some bar in Yorkshire. Thais are just as flawed and annoying as other humans and just as nice. Sometimes you are not sure if fellow backpackers are talking about humans or smurfs when they describe why they like the place

The real reason this fucked me off is of course hypocrisy. I do the same kind of generalizations constantly. No one likes a mirror thrust in their face especially when their reflection has 2 red braids in their hair, pupils the size of pinpricks and a nasty scab on their shoulder after getting a “tribal” tattoo.

I guess that’s why I just did not bother with Thailand. It is so easy to shift about until you find a place you like and a crowd you get along with that you don’t force yourself to stay in one place and experience it, warts and all. Also most of what I have seen lacks the extremes that usually get me all pensive and pompous. Thailand seems to be plodding along nicely, getting richer without obsessing about it Malaysian style and the locals seem generally content.

Even the politics did not interest me much despite reading at least one of the English language papers on a nearly daily basis. The PM of this place, Thaksin Shinawatra, is like a Thai Berlusconi without the entertainment value. He is in a spot of bother at the moment for a bungled sale of his company to Singapore but nothing to really scream about. Him and his friends are definitely bent but they do it by rigging the economy to maximize their profits instead of the Snatch and Grab Cambodian School or the Legislature for Sale sign that Indonesia’s finest have put up. This is not too detrimental to the population at large and is nothing that doesn’t exist in the west. Arguably it’s a fuck of a lot better than the Dick Cheney/Halliburton connection. At least here no one gets killed for stock options.

In a way this last post is an admission of failure. I hope to fare better in China, Central Asia and the Middle East. I hope that a slightly less defined backpacker trail will remove the easy options and make live a place a bit more even if it means I get less immediate satisfaction.

So in final, would I recommend Thailand? Not for the rucksack crowd. I suspect for backpackers the end is nigh in Siam. Dropouts such as me who are set to travel as long as their banker allows them to are the minority here. Holiday makers and expats constitute the bulk of the vast farang community. Thailand in a way resembles the Costa del Sol. A place where you should settle down and stay long if you really want to get to know the people and country or a place where you can assemble 20 of your mates and get completely smashed. Most backpackers now see Thailand as a hub and not their personal playground anymore. Things change.

Hope my next post gets through the Great Firewall.

Take care,



Anonymous Tim said...

Yo! Ok now whatever I write here will fail miserably in comparison to your witty writing but did feel the urge to send you a big hello from Norway. Sounds like you're really living it out in Asia dude ;) Good stuff! Take care and stay out of trouble! Peace, Tim

Monday, February 13, 2006 1:03:00 AM  

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