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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Chiang Mai – This certainly isn’t the slow lane!

THAILAND | Saturday, 4 October 2008 | Views [1305]

Mon 29th Sep – Was hoping that my package was going to arrive from the UK today so headed off to the post office to check…no luck unfortunately.

The rest of today was nice. I met up with a lovely lady for a meal and chat which turned out to be interesting and hopefully the beginning of a long friendship. Afterwards spent some time with another friend at a local bar talking about stuff which got very personal, but that is a good sign when someone trusts you enough to talk about things they need to resolve in their lives. There are many people here with issues and it isn’t easy, but I spend much time listening to people and what brought them here and what they want out of their lives. It is an odd situation when I am sort of doing the same thing myself. But it all puts things in perspective. Off next to visit a bar that an acquaintance has just bought a few days ago to see what shape it is in. Had a nice time as familiar with the staff there, and did some dancing too which was a bonus. On the way back stopped for a chat with a portuguese guy working in the middle east but taking a break here for a while. He had just been to a bar where they attempted to drug him. Apparently a couple of girls in one of the more dodgy bars were acting as a double-act and whilst one girl was distracting the guy, the other was putting a drug in his drink. He spotted the other girl doing it and stopped what was going on. Had he not noticed it, the stories you hear are that they then might have carted him off to steal his money or do other stuff to him. You have to be careful and not take unnecessary risks and maybe he was reaping the results of that risk….they have a saying for it here…”Som nam na’ ..it’s your own fault!

 

Tue 30th Sep  - Got a call this morning that my package had arrived, so Back to the post office again to collect it. Spent the rest of the day getting my accounts back in order as new cards meant that most of my direct debits were now wrong, and set up for the old card, so had to sort that stuff out. A fairly boring day. Went to a nice vegetarian restaurant on Tha Pae road in the evening. Only one couple in there, so very quiet, but meant that I got really good service from the friendly staff. Afterwards it threw it down again, so ran for cover at a pancake stand nearby. Whilst I was indulging in some dessert, I was chatting to a great old lady who had so much character. She gave me some sweetcorn to eat whilst we talked. Originally from Bangkok, she left because her son suffered with his health due to the increase in traffic pollution, so came up north to the fresher air. I do wonder about the state of even Chiang Mai, as the traffic here is excessive on the ring road around the moat, and the roads into and away from it. The rest is ok though.

 

Wed 1st October - A nice wake-up call from a friend this morning. A bit too early for my liking, but made me get up and on with the day. Off for breakfast and read the newspaper. As you know, some articles catch my eye and I have to mention them.....

One article from Tokyo, entitled 'Knicker Fisher Netted' was amusing. A 51 year old guy was caught with a fishing rod stealing the knickers from washing lines. The police followed him back to his apartment and arrested him....he had a stash of around 500 pairs of women's knickers which he said he had collected since he was 18. Didn't know why he did it of course!

An article from Thailand about law students who were forced to have their hair cut whilst they were taking their law exams...they were trying to set a standard of course...odd thing is they will end up wearing a wig in court anyway! I wonder if any ladyboys go in to be lawyers here...would they cut their hair or are they exempt? The students also complained that people would enter the room during the exam and attempt to humiliate them...Lawyers are said to be called to the 'Bar'...this form of humiliation is normal isn't it when you go to a bar?

An article about the future of education was interesting. Sun Microsystems, the major computer systems designer has this great plan....think of the old fashioned university education system as 'Education 1.0'...a professor stands up in front of a class and the students go to the library to borrow books and read about the subject....no technology. Now for 'Education 2.0' where the students do a lot of the research on-line and don't read books as much...enter 'Education 3.0'....no professor or attending lecture theatres. Instead enter your virtual world on a computer and wander around what they call 'Wonderworld' in search of your global information. Qualifications would be global ones rather than country specific and your professor is there on-line if you just need a guide. The philosphy behind this is that knowledge is universal and should not be contained within one person's location, but available anywhere at any time. Will be interesting to see if this cyber-world of virtual reality students really works out for the best, or just develops an anti-social world where people don't gather to discuss subjects anymore?

And finally...a british economist was awarded a prize of 5,000 euros by the venerable 'Institue of Venice' when he suggested that the whole of Venice was turned over Disney to manage. He claimed they had people's interests in mind and could manage tourists better than they are currently doing. He didn't get the job to carry his plan through of course...could you imagine the beautiful canals of Venice alive with the sound of cheery little tunes like 'It's a small world after all' whilst you get paddled along in a gondola! You Know the tune....sing it now! The gondoliers would be wearing cheery little McDonaldesque hats instead of their present hats and St Mark's square would have theme rides whizzing thought the lovely alleys.

Erstwhile...now that's a word I haven't used in a while....have now....that feels better! Have decided to try and use a new word every day...now that's exciting isn't it?

Further on in the book I am reading and Rene Descartes...the man who came up with the immortal phrase..'I think, therefore I am'. Monty python added that line into their 'Philosopher's song'....one the highlights of my early musical life....I was only a kid!

One of my life's great dilemmas (have a few of those at present) is a backpacker's worse nightmare. The decision to replace my backpack with a wheeled suitcase has been dwelling on my mind recently....scary thought! Could I cope without my backpack...a life changing decision such as this takes a lot of thought and prepration for the stigma of no longer being a backpacker. Sorry world...it might happen...oh no! My decision to use a backpack in the first plae was that I wanted to backpack around the world. The problem is that I have gathered some more stuff along the way and the weight starts to become a problem when on and off buses etc, although it has its advantages too. I have also being thinking of buying myself a guitar as I have been missing playing so much. Recently even bought a guitar music book....just need the guitar now! All signs of going crazy and missing some of the things that I enjoyed before I started travelling.

 

Whilst I procrastinate over the suitcase situation, stopped off at the excellent Kalare bazaar food area in the night bazaar area. Every type of food you could want. They use a coupon system, so you have to decide what you want by looking around first and find out how many coupons you need to buy. Then go to a booth to buy them and return to buy your food.

 

Thus 2nd Oct – Not too exciting a day. Had promised a local bar and restaurant to provide some salsa music for them to play, so spent an age Compiling a CD. Had also made a local contact who runs salsa and ballroom lessons here, so made contact to see what the possibilities were. The outlook is bleak as the thai people aren’t committed to this kind of dance form, other than is Bangkok. As part of this research I ended up on a Yahoo Groups dance site for what events are happening in the Chiang Mai area. Definitely a bit bleak,  and doesn’t look to be much prospect of future improvement.

The evening was spent with a lovely friend at the Cineplex cinema at Airport Plaza. Unfortunately chose the worst movie in existence to see. Called the ‘disaster movie’ . How true that was…it was a total disaster!

 

Fri 3rd Oct – Had breakfast at the Leprechaun Irish pub on Loi Kroh. One of the best places for a good breakfast here. Had decided that it was time to move south for when my visa expires on 15th October and cross into Malaysia for a while.  So booked a train to Bangkok and subsequent travel to Ko Samui for Monday 6th Oct.

Total random change of subject…..

Have you ever pondered on the microscopic world of an ant? You should do…Just think...these tiny little creatures, some no bigger than a couple of millimeters have brains and needs and can move at an amazing speed for their size. Watch an army of them scurrying around in random directions and see what happens when two of them come close to each other. They hover for a while…who knows what is going on their minds and then scurry off again in search of something else. This goes on every second of their lives so it seems.  Do they sleep…don’t think so….do they read books, listen to music, go on holiday? Nope, just scurry around all day…until some giant of a finger comes hurtling out of nowhere…and…silence…end of an ant! Not sure what the moral is here, but I dislike ants and feel as guilty as possible for terminating an innocent life, but my bed has been crawling in them and cannot put up with that…sorry ants!!

 

A lovely afternoon spent talking with Kan then picked up an MP3 player from someone who I had promised to add some music onto as a favour. Turned out this was riddled with Viruses and porn and caused me no end of trouble!

 

Here’s another thing regarding the vicissitudes of life….when you promise to do a favour for someone…what happens when that favour turns out to be a total pain in the backside? I have on previous occasions offered to give people some music for their iPods and ended up with a virus on their iPod infecting my system, so causing me lots of pain and wasted time in sorting it out. Today was one of those occasions. And I started to wonder if doing this sort of favour is worth the effort. I always like to do things for people, but this particular exercise seems to end up causing me more trouble than it is worth, so part of me says not to do it anymore, and another part of me doesn’t want to ossify into a person who doesn’t do things for people because of always being put off by the potential risk. Such is life eh?

 

In the evening went off to the Guitar-man again as the music is always good there. Was interesting in many ways as there were a few people I got talking to. One couple. an American guy and a thai lady, are due to get married within the next few days, and it was lovely to see a couple genuinely happy and sorting out their plans together. For the guy it was his first time ever married…wonderful for someone in retirement to finally find a happy ending to his life’s story!

Everyone who lives here long-term has plenty to say about life here. And as a newcomer looking at possible options, it is always good to get as much info as possible.

 

After the music finished…off to the infamous ‘Hotshots’ discotheque, only a short walk away on Charoen prathet. Free to get in and a live band was in full flow singing some well known thai songs…must have been well know as everyone was joining in. It wasn’t what I expected of a disco…no dance floor! Nobody dances…just wiggles around and jump a bit. The main aim of the game here is for thai ladies to attach themselves as firmly as possible to a farang’s wallet and not let go until he promises to marriy them for life…or until they have removed as much cash from his bank-balance as possible, from which point he has served his purpose and it is time to get rid of him and move on to husband number 300 or so….not cynical am I? The music was good anyway, but I was tied as it had been a long day and so left early and went back to bed…A bit unusual for me…must be wearing down with the late nights!

 

Sat 4th Oct – Didn’t get out of bed until nearly noon…proof from last night that I definitely am wearing down…Will be glad to take a break from this city. Breakfast at the Gatehouse inn, always enjoy it there due the great quality of the food. As it happens, I met an interesting guy from Glasgow living here. In the course of the next couple of hours we must have covered every subject possible to do with living in Thailand. In no particular order…here’s a few interesting insights into life in Thailand as we know it (some I will have already mentioned)…..

 

Most girls in the working part of this city come from an area of Thailand referred to as ‘Isaan’ or ‘North-East Thailand, comprising 19 provinces. There is a lot of poverty there and not much in the way of prospects for a happy future, so parents either send their girls to the city to work or they go because there isn’t any work locally. These girls are money-hungry and in general send money back to their families for support. Many cannot be trusted to tell anything near the truth about anything, and so prey on unsuspecting foreigners/farangs who are seen as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…a life of support and no more money worries. All sorts of lies will be issued to find out your worth…A story about one guy many years ago who had shown an interest in an isaan girl, who told her brother where he normally drank, who was desparate for money and came armed with a shotgun and threatened him to hand over all of his money. The irony was that the guy with the gun was a police man! Nice girl and nice family eh! Not sure that would happen now..who knows?

Most people here have to work 6 or even 7 days a week. They do not have an entitlement to any leave from work. If they need the money they work. They take time off, they don’t get paid. Many foreigners come here to find their perfect wife and land themselves with someone they never see, as she is always at work. Many of Them get up early in the morning to do their praying to Buddha ritual or give alms to the monks and then go to work. By 9pm they are tired and have to go to bed,  so many couples don’t get to have a social life as their partner is asleep, unless they can afford for their partner to not work, and support them in entirety. The isaan girls who choose to be bar-girls of course have a different life…most start work at 8pm and go through until 2am or later and get money in whatever way they can…leave the rest to your imagination. Most ways are back to the earlier approach of leaching themselves to at least one guy’s wallet for the duration of the evening, until he has to leave to see a bank manager for an overdraught so he can sell his soul to another thai beauty the next night!  For someone who marries a thai girl….never have a joint bank account…unless you really really trust her. Even if you do…never give her a credit card…disaster disaster…red alert!!

 

On a different note, the thai government love people to come and retire her. They do their best to make sure you have enough to live off and spend here…must have at least 800,000 Baht a year and a monthly income above a set level. Every year your 1 year retirement visa expires. And you have to prove to them again that you have enough funds for the next year. You are not allowed to work if on a retirement visa either. If you come here and want to build your won home, you cannot theoretically work on it ad that requires a work permit…even on your own home! So, you have to pay for everything to be done, and they don’t always understand what you are asking of them, and often give you something you don’t want…frustration abounds! Once you have built your home though, it does change and you can then do what you want with it…it is just tricky whilst it is being built. Another comment was made here…sounded like from bitter experience…to never have your property in your spouse’s name…something that is commonly recommended. Instead have it in a lawyers name….only joking here but I wonder who I would trust the most…wife/lawyer? A story was told about a guy who’s new wife insisted on the house they were having built being in her name, and further insisted on the best of fixtures and fittings. The husband being gullible and dewy-eyed by his thai lovely…duly complied. When the house was completed….she got rid of now red-eyed and seething husband (from empty bank-balance) and sold the house. Another nice girl. Don’t you just love a story with a happy ending? One thing that is paramount here amongst thai people in general, is that they cannot be seen to lose face amongst their family and friends.  So they will do anything to come out of a situation smelling of roses. If they lose, then that entails many hours of wailing in front of Buddha to rid themselves of the terrible thing that has happened. Take some of what I say here with some degree of artistic licence. This is partly why the first thing any girl here will ask you when meeting you for the first time is…where are you from? … not because they want to know where you are from, but to calculate the exchange rate to your currency so that they know how to rip-you off in your own currency and potentially how rich they think you might be! They will freely tell you they are no good at mathematics, but can calculate 10 different currency conversions in their head in 2 microseconds!

 

Well, with a few interesting stories under my belt and a nice breakfast, I had to go and sort out this damned situation with what to do with a suitcase or keep my backpack. The trials and tribulations of life on the road! Ended up deciding to keep my backpack for a while longer. Not sure whether this is an image thing or a practicality issue? Will see. I have been ruthless (just tell me…what is the opposite of ruthless? Has anyone out there even been ruth..if your not being ruthless?), and got rid of so many things recently that I am now genuinely carrying more weight in IT related stuff…cables and chargers for my technology….and books, than clothes! I also have a nice guitar music book that seemed like a good idea at the time..but still have no guitar! Que? Must have been something someone put in my tea that day that stopped me thinking straight.

I am adding a disclaimer to anything I have said in the above text...I might have been in a state of dillusion or modified euphoria when I said some of the above comments. This message will self destruct in 5 seconds!

That’s it for now folks….

 

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