A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

The Land of 7-11's



With smushed nails, crossed fingers, and armed with letters from my boss, landlords, and printouts of plane tickets I boarded a plane to Thailand hoping India would let me back in when I planned to return. On exactly no hours of sleep I met my surprisingly un-jetlagged American friend and spent a day exploring temples where disciples walked in slow-paced circles around huge golden Buddhas and through an entire market of amulets. After dinner we decided to go to the Central Palace grounds for a traditional Thai New Year. We wandered among crowds sipping bright orange soda out of plastic bags, past lines of women on blankets with buckets of cucumbers and bottles of vodka, past one stage of traditional Thai theater, one stage of a modern Thai soap opera with women in sparkly Southern belle hoop-type dresses, another stage of Thai pop music that sounded surprisingly whiny and screechy, and a tent surrounded by a rapt audience eagerly watching a man speaking to a cobra that lay still on the ground. And did nothing. For more time than we had an attention span to continue to watch. We wandered through shopping stalls, from cookware to clothing, and through a carnival with bingo and balloon-popping games where you could win stuffed animals the size of Thai women, kiddie bumper boats, and past a most structurally unsound ferris wheel my friend called The Box of Death. And just before midnight we discovered my favorite: rat roulette. This consisted of a rat under a bucket in a circular enclosure with numbered holes so people could bet which hole the rat would run into when the bucket was lifted. Attached to the holes were plastic tubes finished off with water bottles. And yet for all its high-falutin’ technology, rat roulette was infinitely more entertaining than watching some marble slide into a colored slot. And more interactive as people urged the rat into their hole of choice. Vegas: take note.

If you’ve heard of the waking dead, I was the walking sleep by midnight, so after fireworks for the King (careful! say anything bad about him and you can be imprisoned), we took a pink Camry taxi home and crashed. The next day we rode a bus to the small town of Trat where we connected with European travelers for an un-understood attempt at ordering dinner, and I got my first gluten poisoning (Mono Sodium GLUTamate) that made me feel like half a person and half an asleep person for four days of our South Pacific adventure complete with beach, snorkeling, swimming to an island with a temple dedicated to the male genitalia, elephant and motorbike-riding (so weak-motored I had to walk up all the hills—the motorbike, not the elephant), poor fisherman villages with satellite TV, and a Swiss Family Robinson-style clubhouse hotel called The Tree House.
After one of my many $5 massages, a Thai woman told me that fisherman make a penny per kilogram selling their fish, her family doesn’t farm enough sticky rice to feed themselves, topless dancers make $1/day and spend half of that on rent… and so Thai women turn to prostitution ($25/session) and old white European boyfriends (practically unlimited $ if you marry or are willing to put up with multiple girlfriends at once) who give them money to do things like build houses for their parents and children, keep them in clothes, feed them more than sticky rice with fish sauce for dinner, and pay for them to go to massage school. This, along with some manufacturing in Bangkok, appears to be the main industry in Thailand. Call it tourism, Asian female exploitation, or as one jilted recently-divorced-from-a-young-Thai-wife Britisher said, sharks and rip-offs searching for white bait. Maybe he’s unhappy about being stuck in Thailand and having to use Kimberly Clark tissues and toilet paper on the tables as napkins, or towels as bed sheets, or is just angry at himself for “thinking with [his] pants.”


 (Photo: scribbling notes at a Bangkok temple)
For the rest of the trip I saw cute young Asian women hanging on old fat balding white men everywhere.
“I’m worried he’ll leave me and I’ll have to find a new boyfriend. He says he won’t marry and I really just want to settle down and stop looking,” the massuse said.
“Does he love you?” I asked.
“Oh, no, he’d never say that.” But after she took care of him for three days in the hospital when all his other girlfriends refused to visit, and then agreed to have dinner with another girlfriend who said she wanted to see him (but who never showed), she made him agree she would be his only girlfriend.As far as she knows, she still is.
“Do you love him?” I asked.
“I do, yes. I pity him. He was in hospital and his daughter in Switzerland, his girlfriends and friends here, his friends in Europe, no one comes to see him. He has no one take care of him but me.” The implication, rightly so, was if she were in the hospital, she wouldn’t deal with such a dearth of support. At least these women have that.

Posted byValerie at 12:04 PM  

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