Sunday, May 23, 2010

More thoughts about Thailand

I take it back about Thailand being kind of like India. In India, we had adversaries. In Thailand, we had helpers. It felt safer than lots of places in the states, walking across Chiang Mai at midnight. (okay, not Bangkok; I'll take a mulligan on that one.) Maybe I'm more confident or more naive now. Also, large parts of Chiang Mai are tourist ghettos.

Here's a story about A. how I was a hero this one time, and B. it sparked some thoughts or something; it's going to sound self-congratulatory, but I kinda want to make sure I remember it, although I probably will anyway. So I'm riding my motorbike around Doi Suthep National Park, where there is:
- a temple
- some nature
and I had already been to the temple so I went past it this time. Signs pointed to a Hmong village. Y'know, cool, so I went there, though the LP called it "touristy." Okay, it was touristy. But I wandered into the Royal Something Conservation Project HQ for the city, and a couple young folks working there sold me some coffee and discussed lychees with me. (along with what they did, where I'm from, etc.) And this guy had a crossbow-ey thing that shot bamboo arrows, and for 10 baht (30 cents) I got to take 3 shots at a papaya. So this was touristy, but still awesome. I'll come back to this later.

So then I rode on, and the road got more smaller, then more dirt-like, then more bumpy, but there were signs to another Hmong village. Might as well; I was really digging just being outside and exploring. Eventually I found it. No tourists, just people living their lives. So I felt a little out of place, wandered a little, and left. Followed another path until I met another biker who warned me that it was too bumpy ahead. Okay, so I turned around. I noticed he was pushing his bike, so I asked if it was broken. Now I think Thai was not his first language- probably Hmong or whatever he spoke in his village. But between the two of us, I found out he was out of gas. He was going to push the bike the 1/2 mile back to the village! So I offered him a ride back. Hooray, I thought, I did a Good Deed today.

Then with some broken Thai, he showed me around his village. His name was Yen. We sat at a place with a view and watched the krung-bins fly into the Chiang Mai sa-nam-bin. That was neat, thanks, Yen! But I should be going. Why don't you get some gas and I'll drive you back to your bike. Pantomime plus my broken Thai: oh, you have no money for gas. No prob, I'll buy you a liter. He didn't understand.

Then who comes along but another farang! Her name's Luna, she's from Russia by way of Vietnam, and she was not having a good day. She was not digging the northern Thailand way of life. It wasn't jingoism or Ugly-Americanism, as she lived in Vietnam for years. I think it was just that certain areas don't sit well with some people. 's fine with me, I like hills, but to each his/her own. She didn't know Thai, but she needed gas.

And my bits of Thai came through: as I interpreted between Luna and Yen, we all understood that she needed gas. And then "hai kun" came to me: "to give to you." "She'll buy some gas, and I'll buy some gas to give to you." Understanding all around! We then went to some guy's shop who sold gas in 1L liquor bottles and worked it out!

And it didn't feel unsafe, or weird at all, like I was being taken advantage of. That's nice. Tourism feels nice in Thailand. It's big (6% of their GDP; don't know what ours is) but as a result, they're totally cool with it. I didn't encounter any anti-tourist snobbery like you get in the US or Europe. If you're into traveling, I recommend Thailand.

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