inside thoughts on China and beyond

Golden Triangle (TT.2)

Golden TriangleWe checked in our guesthouse, left our luggage and hit the streets, finding ourselves in a street of massage shops and bars. Both rampant businesses. Both with an obvious unlimited pool of short skirt women of all ages picking their noses and long-nosed men, eager to pick up a short skirt but instead lurking around not able to make up their minds.Masaachee, su, jus for you!” Just too much choice! Head and foot and back massage are quite straight forward, just as the ear, nose and tongue massage, oil massage (olive or diesel) and fragrant oil massage, bamboo massage, herb massage and vegan massage. Then there is the shower massage and the whole body massage for those ready for more adventure. The ultimate experience though, and specially developed for the die-hards, and offered with considerable discount for the many elderly tourists around here was the full mummification massage. We were glad to reach the end of the street and discover that Thailand isn’t only about massage. Or women.

At the corner, a woman looked at me in a way that would make unmarried men feel charmed (and quite some married men too, how else would I know), but there was something odd about this woman. Her layers of make up, her large curly eyelashes, the well rounded and well revealed breasts and even her high heals couldn’t conceal that her features were hard and sharp, her chin heavy set and her hands large and rough. And when she first spoke in a deep baritone voice that made my son jump, I couldn’t stop myself from looking around to find the invisible man to whom the voice belonged. By the time she stopped eying me I still hadn’t found him.  And thus a new world had involuntarily opened up for my son and I wasn’t altogether sure he was able to process it. Just when he was discovering his growing manhood -an extra hair here and some new hormones there- he was confronted with men who had found their womanhood. And that was before we entered a museum and restaurant that focused on tribal jungle people and carried the catching name of ‘Cabbage and Condoms’. Myself, I couldn’t wait to see that menu list!

In these parts of Thailand, life is slow and simple. It crawls, with only Vespa’s flying by constantly. The air is clean and the temperature is pleasant. Many of the old wooden teak houses, often on stilts, are still in use and green hidden gardens with ancient trees can be found where least expected. Trees are never chopped. While in any other country trees are chopped by the dozens to make place for stupidities like some extra parking lots or ice cream stands, here, when space is needed for, say, a shed, it is simply built around the tree. Sacred trees are wrapped in orange cloth. Monks too. They carry their begging basket and bald head leisurely from temple to monastery to temple. No hurries. Aging aristocratic Western ladies spend days in yoga pose worshipping the Buddha in hope for nirvana. Local men spend all day each day fishing in the omnipresent river Ping where the kingfisher rules and swallows perform and the tropic mountains are always near. Cars stop when pedestrians want to cross the road. Old men pumping on the peddles of their tricycles will get you anywhere, given enough time. Tuktuks get you there a lot faster and songthaews will get you beyond that. Vespas swirl between modern pickup trucks and old time Beatles. The town buzzes and has a healthy heartbeat that attracts many visitors. Of those, you’ll find that most fit in 3 categories: young teachers working in China looking for some sunny downtime, retired hippies (and in case you ever wondered what had happened with all those hippies that once roamed the earth and seemed to have suddenly vanished like the early Neanderthals before them, well, rest assured, they’re all here) still looking for their dream of 50 years ago. The third group are retired Swiss, and I’m still not clear what they are looking for.

Trying to get the answer, I had a talk with a retired traveler from Switzerland. Retired from work, that is. Each year he tours South East Asian countries, apart from a short month in Switzerland. He loves to travel but isn’t much impressed by today’s fellow travelers. A long what-has-the-world-Um-Gottes-willen-become monologue followed and I wasn’t sure what to say. Nor was I expected to, since he was perfectly content doing all the talking. I only had to give a nod here and a response there. I lost interest, though, checked my emails, send a message and realized with much delight how easy it was to multitask while listening to crumbling old Swiss men. But when he complained about those unadventurous travelers now a days whom were always busy with those electronic things and not connecting like we did in our days, I no longer felt the need to know why he had come to Thailand and, instead, was more curious to learn of his departure plans.

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