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WORLD JOURNEYS IN HACKTREKS

THAI-LIFE
Murray Walker in Thailand and Taiwan

'I met this guy from Sweden who was slowly getting hammered on vodka orange'

I'm in the frantic and frenetic city of Bangkok. I arrived yesterday and was immediately hurled into the spiral of chaos that renders one dazed and confused. It's like watching an imax film, total sensory overload. At this present moment I'm still nursing the abuse received last night.
I met this Scottish guy who knows all the good places. He's a bad influence and I'm doing all I can to thwart his insistence that I indulge in the local 'cultural' antics. "Not gonna happen I say, there's just no way!" I'm a fighter.

I'm shipping up north tomorrow. There's this cool town, Chiang Mai. I'll do the trekking and rafting thing interspersed with a Thai cooking and massage course. I will also attend some walk-in Thai boxing sessions. I'm sporting a delightful fold of loose skin under my chin that has to be dealt with. When I've done all that's available in this town I'll boat down to Koh Tao to do my rescue diver scuba course. The pristine beaches are calling my name clarion and I must respond. I'm scared that if I visit them first I'll not go anywhere else. When I get into chill mode I'm like a dead sumo wrestler.
I'm expected to start teaching English in Taipei mid-March. There may be a reason to postpone this somewhat as I may have another little sojourn planned, but more about that another time.
I'm back in the safe and quiet walls of the net cafe. I love this place. It's my portal to the real world.
22 hours of Thai massage class, 6 hours of Thai cooking class, 11 hours of Thai boxing and a 3 day trek left me feeling me part Thai. Chiang Mai is a wonderful place to try new things. Koh Tao to do the diving thing followed. Did a couple of fun dives and then started my rescue course. Got an ear infection, but fortunately still managed to finish everything. I couldn't do any diving afterwards though, which was a shame.

I arrived in Koh Samui last night. I was supposed to link up with a buddy that I met in Bangkok, but he didn't read his email so no red carpet on arrival. I wandered the streets in search of shelter for about 2 hours. Everything is so built-up on this side of the island that it's hard to find reasonably priced bungalows. I went a little further afield and succeeded. I was thinking about crashing early, but my craving for adventure would not allow such slug-like activity. So, off to the net cafe I went (I know, a real Indiana Jones adventure in the making!) where I met this guy from Sweden who was slowly getting hammered on vodka orange. We sauntered along the main street until we stumbled across the 'Green Mango' nightclub. It's big and it has two dance sections, the one side blaring techno and the other more conventional Top 40 stuff. We hung cool by the pool tables and were such treated to a cacophony of the two. This Swedish dude, Bjorn, is quite the shrewd pool player. He's also (if only in his own head) the smoothest ladies man in Thailand. He had his sites set on some action and would not sway even at the coldest rejection. I pictured a 4 seater Cessna in Iraqi colours flying above a US destroyer. He kept getting shot-down and each time he'd bounce right back. Quite admirable on some level, maybe stupid on another. At 3am we found ourselves at 7-11 buying more booze for a supposed beach party with some girls he managed to befriend. He was chasing them through the aisles with the intention of smooching either of them. Very flattering for both I imagine. I didn't see any future in the evening so I meandered along the beach back to my bungalow with a certain face firmly imprinted on my mind.

The Thailand experience has sadly come to an end. I spent the last two weeks island hopping. Koh Tao (where I did the diving) to Koh Samui (met up with my mate) to Kho Phangan (just for full moon) to Krabi (saw 'James Bond Island,' used as Francis Scaramanga's hermetic hideaway in 'The man with the golden gun') to Phi Phi (saw 'The Beach' beach) and then back up to Bangkok. After all that I'm entirely beached and partied out. Every fibre of my being is crying out in protest and begging me to just chill for a bit. I'm pretty good at doing that too.

I finally did the 'Pat Phong' excursion while I spent the last two nights in Bangkok. It's the red light zone for those who haven't made it this far yet. Not much to say about it really. I guess sad and dirty would sum it up. I befriended a Swiss guy who was also leaving the following day and we made the trip together - there was no way I was going on my own. Sitting in a club drinking a 300 baht (US$7.50) beer and watching young girls performing all kinds of sordid sexual antics filled me with a feeling of revolt. If I met one of these girls in a coffee shop and we ended up chatting together, how would she feel about what she does? Would she squirm at the question or would she answer with pride? I don't know. Western morality is just that, western. I had three sips of my beer and waited outside for my friend. I feel shit for supporting their business.

At this moment I'm sitting in a Taiwanese net cafe. Windows is navigated in Chinese and for the life of me I can't locate messenger. My quest to fill my stomach and buy an alarm click took a hefty chunk of the morning. With phrase book firmly clenched in a sweaty hand like a martyr's bible as the stake is lit, I meandered the streets inaudibly blaring 'tourist.' I'm desperately trying to reactivate the language gene, it seems a little reticent at this point. It is exciting to be in a place that seems so foreign. It's a safe place so that makes it comforting, but still confusing.

More coming from Murray on his adventures in Peru and Bolivia.

© Murray Walker April 2003
muzwalks@hotmail.com

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