Sunday, January 29, 2012
Thailand, 12 Years Later
So I took my girlfriend to Thailand for the last 10 days, my mid-semester break holiday. This was the first time I've been there since 1999, and I'd say in general I was more surprised by how much it hadn't changed, rather than how much it had.
It's much like it was -- only moreso. More tourists, more traffic, more buildings, but still very much itself.
A lot of people made the joke that taking your girlfriend to Thailand is like taking sand to the beach, but I can't say as I regretted it; especially down on the islands, where we spent most of our time, there always seemed to be a dearth of hot chicks compared to the men chasing them.
We spent a couple days in Bangkok and seven days on Koh Chang. My shy and conservative and provincial Russian girlfriend thought that Thailand was a bit scary; the lizards and transvestites especially freaked her out. But she was eased by the lovely beaches and the fact that there are so many Russians in Thailand now that most tourist restaurants have Russian menus.
I wanted to show her where English Teacher X was born so we stayed around Khao San Road in Bangkok; certainly it has changed a lot, in that it has expanded greatly, and the guesthouse rooms that used to cost $5 now have cable TV and aircon and cost $25, but the atmosphere is very much the same -- a non-stop global clusterfuck. It's a tourist attraction composed of tourists, an area that is popular with tourists pretty much solely because it is popular with tourists. Very post-modern. (And still a great place to rock out, it would seem -- far more bars and alcohol on the street than back in the 90's, when people tended to just sit in cafes and watch videos.)
I took my girlfriend around to some of the places I'd lived in Bangkok during the 90's, and gave her some very vague outlines of some of my less-offensive adventures. Unable to romanticize squalor and drunkenness as much as the average Westerner, she thought the whole tale a bit on the goofy side.
I can't say as I particularly disagree, in retrospect, but I also can't say I wouldn't do it all again without a moment's hesitation.
On the bus to Koh Chang I was kidding her as a female German backpacker lugged a 20-kg backpack around without the help of her metrosexual male companion.
"See, that girl always carries her own bag. Look at the arms on her. Don't you want to be like her?"
"No," she said, "I want to be feminine."
(Notice the only semi-ironic deployment of a bikini with a stars-and-stripes pattern. My baby is wearing her heart on her sleeve, or her ass, at least.)