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THAILAND | Saturday, 3 April 2010 | Views [632]

BANGKOK, THAILAND – Since deciding to take a small side-trip back to Kanchanaburi before I go to Cambodia, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past, the future, what shapes us, what guides us.

Sorry, but I’m no closer to having a coherent answer, despite the Chang.

There’s been talk of widespread Red Shirt protests around Bangkok, but there’s little evidence of it in my enclave of writing and beer and Thai soap operas on the nearby TV. Instead, I consciously sealed myself away to work on the novel I started last November during NaNoWriMo. I’ve not left my guesthouse all day except to go to a café to leech off their free WiFi and have an iced coffee to make it look like I’m not a total sponge. It was actually a pretty damn cool way to spend the day, especially when you don’t have to go far for food and drink[1].

As I typed away and sipped at 6.4% strength beer[2], I marvelled at how little I think Bangkok, or at least this area of it, has changed. It’s almost as though the area around Thanon Khao San has reached it’s saturation point a several years ago, that is simply cannot cater to the tastes of the backpacker crowd any further than it has since at least before 2004 (which was when I first set foot in the middle of this craziness, but probably earlier). The only thing that seems to have changed are the prices, and even that has been such a slight upward shift that it barely registers to someone from the West.

Its been fun to sit here and write and see the various travellers come in, from the Thailand trail veterans who’ve been swinging through this country for decades to the utter newbies with stars in their eyes and the desire for ludicrously cheap alcohol in their hearts. Even though this is only my second time here, I feel like a veteran myself. I can’t really explain what it is, but there’s something that I’ve absorbed unconsciously, by osmosis almost, that seems to set me apart from most of the other Westerners in this area. I’m not hassled by tuktuk drivers, tailors and various touts to anywhere near the same degree as the majority of non-Thais. It reminded me of how I was left completely unhassled by all the transport and accommodation touts near Psar Thmei in Phnom Penh when I stepped off the bus there in late July last year.

It’s obvious just by looking at me that I’m an outsider. It doesn’t matter how well I speak the language or how accustomed I become to their various forms of etiquette and social order, I will always be farang. But what I can do it try to display a modicum of cultural sensitivity, unlike a lot of the Westerners I’m currently surrounded by.

The problems that I have with Bangkok in particular do not stem from anything inherent. Yes, it’s a hot humid tangled polluted chaotic loud city. So is Sydney, depending on the time of year. No, what I dislike are the tourists. Hence, it’s time for me to go.

First, though, I have to revisit the town where I met Jen. I don’t know why. All I know is that my heart is telling me to go back. I don’t know what’s there. Maybe nothing. But I feel as though I can’t go to Cambodia before I go back to the place where my life took a different turn all those years ago.

[1] – The coffee, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired…

[2] – Chang, the Thai word for elephant, so named in my opinion because it can knock the arse off a concrete one.

Tags: bangkok, dreams, indochina, plans, southeast asia, thailand


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