From my iPhone so excuse typing
09/28/2009 - 10/02/2009 86 °F
1. Coming from New Zealand the contrast in the way the Thais treat the environment is to be expected. When a country has a high quality of life for most of its people, the initiative can then turn to preservation and conservation. Kiwis now think of their country as a special place partially because it is and partially because they profit from the tourism. In yesterday's Bangkok Post the op-ed discussed why it was not in the
Thailand's best interest to adopt more restrictive emissions standards, to curb deforestation, or to increase the national parks. The Thais still need to exploit their land for self interest. In New Zealand only 15 percent of native forest remains in Thailand it's closer to 30 percent. Although I agree that the people need to provide for themselves before any sustained enivironmental initiative will work, it's still crazy to go scuba diving here and see the local boat captain fishing on the very reefs we are enjoying for their beauty.
2. You think a country of Buddhists would be, I don't know, kind and calm. In chaing mai where I currently am, I've been humbled by the earnest kindness the locals have shown me. Yet if you go to the islands and Bangkok only you are greeted to -- generalizations such as -- liars, cheaters, and scam artists...all one big group, more prostitutes and the culture they create than you ever see in western society, and sadly a terrible disconnect between native Thais and foreigners. It was important for me to see that the whole country is not like that.
3. Things are cheap, apart from actual time to get here, whatever airfare cost you pay, the food, lodging, shopping discounts make Thailand cheaper than a Bahamas vacation.
4. New travel partner. So on a boat to one of the islands about 10 days ago, I met Blake. Blake is from Oklahoma, 27, and has been on the road for 8 months. He lives in Texas but tried his best not to carry himself as one of those Americans. We ended up sharing rooms for about 9 days on koh phi phi island and in Bangkok. Why this is worth mentioning is that I'm now quite certain that I simply can't travel with people, at least not with complete strangers I meet on the road. It is me, not them. While Blake and I parted harmoniously and although we had good nights and some fun over all, I ultimately feel as though I am forced to tolerate a fellow traveler when I decide to team up with someone. I want to walk that way, he wants to go another. He wants to stay out late, I want to go home. The key in these situations is to let each other do as they wish, Blake, despite being an experienced backpacker, still wanted a partner in crime with him at all times. I'm clearly not nearly as dependent on having someone to hold my hand, and thus I initiated a very awkward backpacker break up. Awkward because we both have the same itinerary the next few weeks so in theory we should have just kept going down the road together, but I needed some time to myself.
5. On a similar tangent, Blake represented a type of backpacker that thrives in Thailand and southeast asia - the frugal kind. In these countries you can easily eat three meals a day and find a bed to sleep in for about $15 a day. The food would mostly be street food or local thai cuisine and the beds would be in shabbier guesthouses with fans and not a.c. Its all well and good, and I mean, I am currently staying in $6 a night bungalows and try my best to eat locally as its much safer than eating the western cuisine which the Thais dont know how to cook as well. That being said, you can sleep with bedbugs and with a fan for $5 or sleep in a three star hotel with A.C. for $10. I often verge into what the traveler world calls a "flashpacker". Basically backpackers with more than shoestring budgets have spawned accommodations that are still backpacker hostel type places but now also have wifi or nice cafes and cleaner facilities. It became a problem with Blake, for where I see the benefit of spending three extra bucks for comfort, he sees the cheapest room as an easy way to save three dollars. One reason we are no longer traveling together.
6. The food here is amazing. All of my preconceived fears of peanut oil and peanuts in my pad thai are more or less unnecessary. Most places put peanuts as a condiment on the table. The street food and general locally thai restaurants provide roughly a dollar a plate for a nice portion of noodles or rice dishes. Its true that my diet is rather uniform as I choose what I know, but Ive really been enjoying the food here.