So farewell then, Thailand
Can’t say I’ll miss it that much
I’ve literally travelled from one end of this country to the other.
From the Malay border and my encounter with Maxim.
To the West and the death railway near Kanchanaburi.
North and the hills and jungle near Chiang Mai.
I’ve seen some wonderful sights.
Ate some great food (though not a patch on Penang if you ask me) Met some interesting characters.
Made some good friends
I leave behind good and bad memories.
But this Land of Smiles thing is a myth. A clever advertising gimmick dreamt up by some smart alec marketing man
Service here is generally accompanied with at best a shrug. And usually a scowl.
Maybe it’s just me. But the friendliest local I met was a Thai boxer in a karaoke bar.
In Turkey or Malaysia the locals are kind and helpful. If you try to speak a few words in their language and get it wrong they will usually just smile.
Here most people will just stare at you.
I know taxi drivers throughout the world have a bad rep.
But here the cynicism, greed and downright criminality take it to new heights.
They “forget ” to turn on the meter until you tell them – that’s when they agree to use the meter at all
One guy kept saying “no meter no meter…200 baht”
Until I threatened to get out. The ride eventually cost me 40 baht.
They’ll also put a cover over the meter so you think they don’t have one
And as for the Tuk Tuk drivers…
The scams they run are shameless.
Drive you round the city trying to get you to buy a suit or dodgy jewellery from a mate.
A lovely Australian girl I met on the train the other day ended up being pressurised into buying a dress for 6,000 baht (about £120)
The cities and towns are certainly lively. And traffic choked.
The train journeys are the best way to travel but don’t assume they’ll be on time.
Three hour delays are routine
I write this on a train from Bangkok to the airport. It has naturally ground to a halt again
It’s supposed to take 50 minutes but has already lasted an hour A Hong Kong girl next to me looks likely to miss her flight.
I believe it’s a country turned cynical by too much tourism.
The tourist attractions , the elephant treks, the theme parks where you can pose with a doped up tiger on a chain. Wrap its tail round you neck if you feel brave enough.
Although it’s likely to be too comatose to move.
The snake “farm” we stupidly paid to visit. A more depressing place I’ve yet to encounter with a monkey and magnificent eagle kept in small pens
I met a Swiss guy who runs river cruises in Burma and he knows this region
He told me Thailand was indeed a land of smiles about a decade ago. But the atmosphere has changed
I guess 14 million tourists a year will do that.
The only way to really see the country is to hire a motorbike or scooter and just ride.
And that’s what I’ll remember about Thailand.
Hill roads where the air gets cooler as you ride higher. The smell of roadside cooking.
Jungle waterfalls where you can sit and let the cool river flow over you.
And hot mineral springs where the water really does seem to make you feel better.
Or Sitting in a village restaurant while your new American mate piles on the hot spices.
Golden temples and palaces that shine in the sun. Where you can write down your name on orange cloth to wrap around an ancient pagoda
A 24 hour rail journey across jungles , mountains and rice fields. Me and an Indian bloke buying each other Singha beers in the buffet car while a disco gets going.
Yes Thailand had its moments and its sights.
But they say Burma is the real Asia.