As the time nears to bade farewell to the Land of Silk I am looking forward to a new country, language, food, and people but I will miss Thailand alot. Although I am sure that things will not change too much once we cross the border into Cambodia and we will still walk around to a chorus of "Where you go?", "What you looking for?", "You want shopping?", "You want tour?". Unfortunately the people are unable to distinguish between strapped for cash backpackers and the well dressed, monied, folk staying at the 5 star resorts. I suppose we are all just walking Dollars really, and when even the backpackers can spend the equivalent of a day's wage on one meal, we are all fair game.
I will miss the smell of barbecuing meat skewers that waft at intervals on every street, and I will miss watching the strange mingling of home life and business on the streets, where people who run the night stalls seem to use their little patch of pavement as an extension of their living room. Or perhaps it is their living room? Tucked behind the stall, to the side, or even in front if space is tight is a small TV hooked up to the power lines overhead, and the family watch their evening programs as the street traffic passes on by.
This is a country where you can get almost anything you want, or need, on the street. A complete meal, a new set of clothes, maybe a fake watch or pair of sunglasses to complete your ensemble; souvenirs for all your friends; ornaments or bedding for your home or a relaxing massage whilst you watch the world go by.
All of this trade on the pavements does make walking anywhere a mission of weaving in and out of stalls, TVs, children, massage chairs and more often than not it's simply impossible to walk on the pavement at all, and so you join the scooters, Tuk-Tuk's and cars on the road. Thai people do not walk anywhere, which is why presumably the pavements are viewed as prime space for a business. Every journey, no matter how short, is done on a scooter usually with a small child balanced on the seat in front, or stood on the footbed holding onto the handle bars.
The countryside is a patchwork of bright green rice fields which sit in contrast with the red earth and scorched grass surrounding them. Little oasis of green with flocks of storks and other assorted birds steadfastly ignoring the scarecrow plastic bags fastened to bamboo sticks. Scattered in amongst the expanse of rice fields are fields of 2 metre high sugarcane making the scenery look scruffy and unattended in comparison to the neat, ordered squares of paddy field.
Driving is done at break neck speed with all bus drivers attempting to reach their destination in record breaking time. Bicycles are used as transport, not for human passengers but for crops and other goods presumably bound for market. These bikes are piled ridiculously high, and carefully wheeled along the edges of the highway in another old versus new juxtaposition.
When travelling some of our fellow vehicles on the road are huge lorries stacked high with cut sugarcane, winding their way in procession like a long, fume producing snake, to the sugar refineries. Perhaps to one day end up in our shops at home. These truck drivers drive like everyone else on the roads - sheer bloody lunacy! The Thai drive like they are riding bikes (pedal or motor) weaving in and out of each other with no regard for lanes. You can easily fit 4-5 cars/Tuk-Tuk's/scooters side by side on a 2 lane road so why not? There are inches, and sometimes not even that, to spare between these weaving manoeuvres, but everyone is very well tempered. There's no beeping of horns because you have just been cut up by a scooter that balances underneath 3 adults and a baby. The Thai just accept it and carry on.
We've been on the road for 5 weeks now and have lapsed back into things easily. There's plenty of time for introspection, digesting the latest strange sights and smells, and reading (Mike's averaging a book a week currently!). But hey, with the most pressing daily concern being what shall we have to eat for lunch/dinner, life's pretty easy! Onwards to Cambodia...
Here's a few more photos we took in Thailand:
Mike's burger chain
Cooking noodles at the market
ATV off roading in the jungle
Walking in the countryside
'Costa Del Tourist' aka Khao San Road, Bangkok. Home to cheap eats, cheap hostels and all the scams you could ever wish for!
At the Royal Palace
Kayaking in the mangrove swamps
Nightlife Koh Phi Phi style - fire dancing