Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween: The Glow-Necklace Story

Halloween - as it's observed in the USA - is a mutation of its origins in the Christian holiday All Saints' Day, and the Celtic celebration of Samhain, for that matter. If there's anything still held "holy" about it here, though, it's the opportunity for adults to dress up in in costume and parade around wearing things they'd never dare wear outside of their own homes otherwise. Well, that and the entitlement to gorge ourselves on chocolate, but who needs another grossly over-commercialized holiday for that?

Along with adults making good use of the opportunity to appear in public in drag - sometimes under the cover of "it's all in fun, it's Halloween!", sometimes not (wink, wink) - children of all ages dress up as pirates, mummies, vampires, princesses, super heroes and the likes, and race from house to house in their neighborhoods, knocking on doors and crying out "Trick or treat!" when the owner opens it. They then hold out their bags, pillow cases or festive plastic buckets and wait for whatever treat(s) they may receive; sweets, 99% of the time here nowadays.

When I was a child (back in the Paleozoic era) you were likely to receive a small, flat paper bag about the size of a letter envelope with maybe a home-baked cookie or a small variety of edibles, or perhaps an apple or some such thing. Today, with the too-often valid hysteria over things that may have been tampered with (by people who's heads want seeing to) anything that isn't factory sealed is viewed as suspect and tossed out by vigilant parents when the kids get back home with their bounty.

For a few years a group of city councilmen in my area sponsored the distribution of flexible plastic necklaces that glowed in the dark for about six hours when you broke a capsule inside of them. It was a safety measure, since children aren't as safety conscious while dashing from house to house, across neighborhood streets. When budgets tightened, they stopped it; leaving those of us who felt that five kilos of candy each was plenty for any child to fend for ourselves.

The photo up top today is a night shot I took in 2007 of some kids leaving the front porch of a home where they'd received the necklaces, and you can see traces of them in the lower half of the photo.

In February 2008 I took 200 of those necklaces left over from Halloween 2007 over to Thailand with me, and had great fun walking through the club area of Bangkok and Pattaya, handing them out to the touts, dancers and workers in the clubs I'd visit.

At one smaller club in Pattaya - now closed - I handed out two or three to everybody there, and it was great fun to sit and watch them mix and match them, creating headdresses, belts, bracelets and all sorts of combinations back and forth between them. It certainly broke the boring routine for them, and the fun we shared that evening because of them is something I'll always remember. Two of those guys became friends, and theirs was the room I visited in "Where The Wild Boys Live" back on 23 March.

I did that again a few more times, and while I can't say with any certainty that it's what started the "Glow Nights" at a couple of clubs there (such as the Krazy Dragon), it may well have planted the seed of an idea. I like to think so, anyway - and now you know, too.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sex For Sale: "Not Your Business"

Taking photos one afternoon at the intersection of Silom Road and Soi Yipun I noticed a middle-aged Thai man approaching me, a wide smile on his face. Not expecting to run into someone I know at 15:00 in the afternoon, I tried not to make eye contact so as to encourage him. It didn't work - I was his next sales target.

"Hellooo, my friend!" he gushed. His clothes weren't fancy or new, but they were neat, as was his appearance overall. Again flashing the wide smile and extending his hand for me to shake he followed up his greeting with "How you?"

"All of my friends here are either working or asleep, but I'm fine," I replied, still walking; trying to avoid being drawn into a conversation and knowing full well he wouldn't understand my answer. Two or three steps further his hand was still reaching towards me, as if I were to stop and shake hands with him. I didn't. He walked along one step ahead of me; turning back to face me as best he could as I went along.

"You want girl?" he asked, eyebrows wiggling up and down in a sly fashion he may very well have learned from farang in the past. "Ah," I sighed, "Now the business part of this conversation begins." Again I got a puzzled look, but only for an instant, before he want back into his pitch. "I have girl. Young girl. Very young girl." This last was spoken in a low tone, as if anyone else could hear us above the roar of the afternoon traffic nearby.

I stopped, looked him directly in the eyes and said "No. I do NOT want a girl." Before I could even turn my head and begin walking again he countered with "Ohhh, no like girl. I know - how about boy? You want boy?" "No, nothing," I said again. "What you like? Boy? I have young boy for you. New boy." I stopped again, agitated and more than a little disgusted and said firmly "No." He tried again: "What you want?" "I want you to stop bothering me, that's what I want," I muttered and started walking away again, but then I stopped and turned to him.

At first he looked as though he'd gotten my interest and maybe made a sale, but before he could launch into his sales pitch again I asked him "Why do you do this? Do you think it's OK to sell children to farang for sex?" He thought for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said "It my job." "Not good job," I said, pleased to be keeping a calm tone to my voice. He bristled a little, stopped smiling and said "Not your business." It wasn't, but for some reason I continued the conversation.

"Do you have a wife?" I inquired. "Yes, have," he replied. "Do you have children?" "Yes, have. Five." "OK," I said cautiously, not knowing if this was such a good idea to bring up "Would you sell your children to a farang for sex?" He understood my line of questioning and got a little red in the face, saying sternly "If I do, is my business!"

Even I knew it was time to drop it, but I wanted to make the point, even if I had to make a feeble attempt to make a run for it, and even if it fell on deaf ears and was ignored. "It is your business and not my business, but it's a sad business. I hope your children are always safe and never part of this business."

He heard me and understood. He stood with his arms hanging loosely at his sides, then put his hands in his pockets and looked down for a moment. When he looked up, he quietly said "Thank you" and turned to walk away. I sincerely doubt it made him change careers, but it gave him pause to think for a moment. That was something, and more than I'd expected.

The whole encounter haunted me for the rest of the day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Video: The Grand Palace From The Chao Phraya

Extremely heavy rains in the Northern parts of Thailand have caused flooding in far too many areas as the water moves to the South along the three main rivers of the Kingdom with increasing volume.

One of the three main rivers is the Chao Phraya, now swollen to the point that millions of sandbags have been placed along its shores as it creeps through Bangkok: high, wide and brown with Northern soil.

Dinner cruise boats by the dozen sail up and down the Chao Phraya on a nightly basis, ferrying tourists and locals alike along for a few hours of food, music and dancing. This morning I was remembering several pleasant evenings spent with Thai and farang friends and thought I'd share a clip taken while sailing up-river past the Grand Palace.

It's a high definition clip, and relatively steady for being on a moving boat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Flowers, Part 4: Three White Beauties

A blossom from the Passiflora (Passion Flower) group of plant

The lush green fields of vegetation stretch for miles not only throughout Thailand, but across many tropical countries. You probably get the most impressive views from the air, although rocking back and forth on a train while meandering along train tracks for hours is a nice way to see it, too - but when time allows I'd much rather see it on foot while taking a walk. If you'll pardon me for repeating an image, here's an example from the July 23rd Panorama Photos 2 post:

(As usual, click on images to enlarge them to full size)

Being out in the countryside isn't a requirement, though; just taking time to stop and visit the parks within different cities, towns and villages is a rewarding treat, too - not to mention stopping to admire the potted plants and gardens that almost all homes have in one form or another for their own pleasure. They're there, if you stop and look. One of my favorite blooms (here, from Part 3) was just off in the corner of the yard kept by my friend's father (when he wasn't too soused to function). Had I not been creeping around in the yard I'd have missed it.

But before I wander too far off into story land let me again ask for input from anyone who thinks they can provide any identification for the three blooms posted today. These white beauties were all taken within the distance of a city block, but they were at least an hour from anything you could consider a city; out in the countryside, near a house a friend had recently mortgaged himself to.

The flower up top was about 1.5"/4cm across, as were the other two - none more than 2"/5cm wide. It was a lesson in observation for me, since I have a tendency to just stroll along, trying to take in the "bigger picture", but if I hadn't slowed my roll and paid attention to the greenery right next to me I'd probably have just thought "Oh, flowers... nice." and missed the difference between the three similar white blooms.

A white Mimosa blossom

When I'm in Thailand next time I plan to pick up a book on native flowers, but for now they remain a mystery to me. Beautiful... but a mystery. [Note: readers have provided the names that I've added as captions. Thanks, guys!]

Another bloom from the Passiflora (Passion Flower) family

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sleeping, Part 8

Unless I'm drunk (something that hasn't happened for over 20 years) or completely exhausted (which is more frequent) it's pretty difficult for me to do anything other than doze momentarily if I'm not in a recliner, the passenger seat of an automobile on a long drive, or in bed. Actually, the car isn't a good place to sleep, either.

Some of the folks in past entries to this series may also just be dozing, but my observation at the time - although I didn't try picking a pocket or anything like that - was that they were dead to the world. The woman up top today was above the sidewalk on a fairly quiet street, but look at the narrow spot she'd wedged herself into for a nap!

At least the guy in the makeshift hammock above had some palm trees nearby to lull him into slumber, but the man below was at a riverboat station on the Chao Phraya river, with the constant noise of the city broken only by the louder sputter and roar of the boats themselves. Add to that the fact that he's sleeping on a stone bench, and you have to figure he could sleep most anywhere.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Accommodations, Part 7: Regency Park, Bangkok

An indoor garden on the ground floor level

Tucked in a half block off of Thanon Sukhumvit on Soi 22 is a little spot of green among the concrete and high-rises known as the Regency Park Hotel, a place I've stayed a couple of times.

The Regency Park sports around 120 clean, well-maintained and well-stocked rooms. You can see a basket of items above, but I'll caution you - none of the items in it are free. The bathing water is plentiful and hot, the bathroom amenities (which of course are free) are more than adequate and the beds comfortable.

Room with a king-sized bed, a good writing desk and a nice view (below)

The hotel's about a five minute walk from the Queen Benjasiri Park mentioned in earlier posts about takraw players and butterflies and just another couple of minutes further to the Emporium Shopping Center on Sukhumvit.

Soi 22 is between the Phrom Pong and Asoke BTS stations, and although it's not anything like Soi Cowboy you'll find plenty of ex-pat bars and clubs, which means the streets are also adorned with ladies in the evening, however I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe while walking there. The hotel likes to call itself "family friendly."

While there were plenty of nearby places to eat - including a vegetarian restaurant - none stood out enough for their name to stick in my mind. If you don't care to try the in-house 2nd floor restaurant (to the left) you can either explore the immediate area or easily catch the BTS to another part of town.

I've had a meal or two at the restaurant in addition to their breakfast buffet which I thought was very nice, even if it wasn't as expansive as some places.

The food is well prepared, well presented and kept at the temperature it should be, hot or cold. The lunches I had there were quite tasty, too.

Breakfast buffet items: fish, chicken, pork, vegetables and pastries

A couple of items I should caution you about, though, as these are deal-breakers for some of my friends: the internet is a little overpriced, and there is no swimming pool whatsoever (although I recall there being a gym). When I stayed there I didn't have a laptop along with me, so the internet cafes were fine for my needs.

Another thing I'd be less than honest if I didn't mention: I did have a problem with one of my friends coming to visit me - in fact, the very friend who'd originally recommended the hotel as being gay-friendly.

He'd had several other friends stay there and visited them without incident, but when he arrived to meet me for an evening out he was stopped at the desk and I was summoned to the lobby where I was told I either needed to put his name onto the room or pay what is known at many hotels as a "joiner fee" of 500 baht.

I suggested my friend wait in the lobby while I ran up and finished preparing to go out, but he wasn't having any of that. Having come directly from the hospital where he was a staff physician at the time he took offense to the implication he was a prostitute (!!) and asked to speak with the manager. I backed away and let him have at it. When the manager arrived, my friend spoke politely but firmly in Thai to him, taking out his hospital identification which he then held up in the manager's face. My friend turned to me, said "Let's go!" and suddenly it was over, the manager giving my friend a wai and retreating to his office.

"What a jerk!" my friend said, as the elevator doors closed - although "jerk" wasn't the word he used. "Maybe I should gel my hair into spikes next time and really mess with him!" I laughed.

The following afternoon I was doing a couple of interviews up in my room with the help of an interpreter, and the guys I was learning about were more obviously gogo guys for rent, but nobody said a word as we passed by the reception desk.

All things considered, I'd stay at the Regency Park again. I've caught myself thinking of it more than a few times while doing the dishes, if that makes sense to any of you psychologists.

I also kind of miss visiting with the doorman (on the left) and hearing about his kids and home. With staff turnover many places being high I wonder if he's still there, opening the door with that smile.

If you don't mind walking a little the location's good, and other than that one manager the rest of the staff was professional and pleasant.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pantip Cheerleaders

Students and young adults doing product promotions is just as common an occurrence as groups collecting money for charities or schools. If you missed the kids doing their synchronized dancing back on May 7th, you can see it here.

One afternoon I walked out of Pantip Plaza (where I'd been having some fun with the "Sexy movie?" touts) and almost squack into the middle of the group in today's clip, promoting what I took to be an internet service provider - Three Broadband.

Unfortunately I missed the beginning of their last trick, and they disbursed immediately afterwards. Cute bunch of guys and girls, though - and they were having fun doing their bit.

As I post this YouTube is still processing the clip, but for those with a fast enough connection it'll be in HD when they get finished. You can find other video clips by clicking on the Video Clips label in the right hand column. Today's makes 12 clips, with a lot more to come.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Thai Smiles, Part 21: At Work Again

Another selection of smiling people at work today. The header photo is a machinist (with a great smile) at work in a shop in Isaan.

The woman below was slinging meat at a stall in a morning market (always smile back at a woman with knives within reach)

I still like the way the sewer workers from Part 18 were able to keep smiling while doing their job...

And finally the lead singer from an Isaan band, during a break between numbers. Busy day here - got to run. Have a good day today, everybody.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Patpong, Part 2: The Set-up Guys

Hundreds of countertop bases start to take shape

Assembling the skeleton of the Patpong night market is a noisy operation. Most of it's made from galvanized pipe, a lot of it partially pre-assembled but all of it heavy, in and of itself. It's brought out in loads by a handful of fork lifts, driven from the storage areas and down the street to where they're needed before being lowered noisily onto the pavement.

A load of wall/awning uprights being moved into place from storage

First comes the framework bases that hold the table tops - three or four rows of them, each nearly 800 feet long, stretching between Silom and Suriwong - carefully lined up and evenly spaced for crossing aisle breaks every so often. If I'm remembering correctly most of the market is stored closer to the Suriwong end of the street, although I can't say for sure if the skeletal framework and tarps are stored separately from the trunks of merchandise. I would guess they are.

Difficult, heavy work - done with the precision only practice can bring

The photos today give you a feel of the enormity of the project overall. Somewhere I have clips of the "roof and walls" set-up and merchandise unpacking, too. I'll keep looking and catch up with them later.

What's amazing to me is that this whole operation is unloaded from storage, set up, open for business for about seven hours and then broken down and put back into storage again before dawn, only to begin the process again in 10 to 12 hours. Every day. The demonstrations, and violence earlier this year certainly hurt the vendors there, but I don't recall reading that the night market was shut down entirely even then.

Many of the guys who work this afternoon shift are regulars I've seen several times over the past handful of years since I've made a point to wander through the area during set-up time. It's heavy work, done at a faster pace than many other jobs you're likely to see there; probably because of the timetable they're on. Nevertheless, they're willing to stop for a picture, bless their hearts.

Taking a break for me - but it was probably a welcome break

As you can see by the signs in the pictures, the Patpong night market is bordered on both sides with bars and clubs of a more basic carnal nature, so the area isn't really all that family friendly. However, I've seen many families there - and wondered what Little Johnny and Jane are learning along the way while Mommy is bargaining for a knock-off D&G handbag.

It's a tourist trap of classic proportions - selling most any copied, pirated items you'd ever want. Knockoff Rolex watches, share space with Nike and Adida copies, 150 baht DVD movies, software, baubles, bangles and beads. There are probably better bargains to be found, but there are certainly good deals to be found.

The uprights to hold the tarpaulin "roof" are in place

Even if you don't stick around to see the madness during regular selling hours (roughly from 18:00 to 01:00), it's a free show in the afternoon - and one I recommend all fellow people-watchers make a stop to see.

This guy has been around for a few years

Not my photo, but it shows the finished market open for business

Friday, October 22, 2010

Patpong's Afternoon Metamorphosis, Part 1

Thanon Patpong II, looking towards Silom Road

An almost unbelievable transformation takes place along Thanon Patpong II every afternoon, beginning around 14:00 (2:00pm). By "unbelievable" I don't mean a man juggles elephants, but if one did it would still only be slightly more amazing than the daily set-up and breaking down of the Patpong Night Market, in my book.

Thanon Patpong II is a relatively short street, somewhere around 800 feet between Silom and Suriwong, close to the Sala Daeng BTS station. As a point of reference, if you enlarge the vertical photo on the left you can see a green label for Suriwong Road at the top and a blue one for Silom Road at the bottom. Less than a city block to the right of the Silom label are the stairs to the Sala Daeng BTS station. You'll see there are almost no cars parked along it, and almost no vehicular traffic

There's also another image (below) showing the general area that will make more sense if you take a moment to enlarge it. In it you can see the BTS station, a few key restaurants and hotels (not yet covered here, but they will be) and another street I call "Soi Yipun" that we covered back in March.

The general area of Silom from Google Maps

At night, both streets share an explosion of activity: club touts, vendors, tourists and enough bright lights to probably make them both visible from space. The main differences are that Soi Yipun is still open to traffic, while Patpong II is a long stretch of multiple LONG rows of stalls and sidewalk vendors that fill the length of the street, making it only navigable on foot - and even that's sometimes a will of wits to get through the thousands of people who wander along there every night, looking for bargains and tourist items.

However, during the first half of the day Patpong is almost completely deserted. You can see in the top photo today - looking towards the Silom end - that there's nothing but an empty street, lined with businesses waiting to open late in the afternoon. The odd delivery truck stops to make a delivery (one guy sleeping on top of some beer here from Sleeping: Part 7) and there are of course folks living and working inside and above many of the shops, restaurants and clubs, but for the most part it's empty, and quiet - populated by street cats and dogs, scavenging for food in the leftover scraps from the night before.

Ah, but it's the flurry of human and mechanical activity while assembling this night monster that's the real show. Photos of that work and the guys who do it tomorrow.

Patpong II - before the setting up - looking towards Suriwong

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sharing A Gorgeous Photo

Another guest photographer today: a forum friend known as Trongpai was on an (almost) off-road trip with his good friend this week up in the Tak province, six hours by car from Bangkok. They'd rented a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but with the torrential rains lately it was a either courageous or foolhardy adventure on country roads, depending on your own comfort level.

At one point river water was coming across the road and the locals were casting fishing nets into the brown rushing waters, showing no interest in getting out of the way of their vehicle. Stopping would meant risking being washed away, so they just stayed the course and made it through. What an adventure!

Along the way they made a stop at Nam Tok Pha Charoen National Park, where they hiked the short distance into the waterfall above. I was so taken by it that I asked if he minded my posting it here today. He agreed. Thanks, Trongpai! Easily one of the most beautiful nature shots I've seen from Thailand.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Morning Serenity - Thai Style

The view from the window at the head of my bed

I can tell by the hue of the light coming into the room that it's past dawn, but it's not all that far past it when I'm awakened by the chirping of a bird perched on the ledge outside of the window just over my head, behind my pillow. I don't recognize the bird's song, but it's bright and melodic and I turn onto my back to stretch and listen to the sounds of the Thai countryside. There are other birds in the distance, and the chic-chic-chic of a gecko; perhaps up in the corner of the room behind the curtains, perhaps just outside under the eaves.

It took a moment for it to register where I was: in one of 10 bungalows along a river at a small resort in the Thai countryside, a couple of hours by car from the outskirts of Bangkok - a place where nobody other than myself knew much English and the only readable signage spoke of Pepsi and Coke.

It was so peaceful just lying there that I'd started to drift off to sleep again when I heard footsteps approaching my front door, creaking softly on the walkway, elevated - with no great confidence from me - on stilts above the river water below. My friend's gentle knocking brought me fully awake again as he announced "We need to go soon if you want to make merit to the boat monks." "OK," I replied "I'll go shower and meet you out front in 10 minutes for breakfast." I reached for my watch and saw that it was just 06:00.

The footsteps retreated along the walkway as I turned over, lifting the corner of the curtains and pushed open the window at the head of my bed. Other than the occasional bird flying over and the constant flow of foliage and water hyacinth moving lazily along with the flow of the Amphawa river all was completely still outside; the cool, green smell of the tropics drifted into the room as I rested my chin on the windowsill, gazing out over the mirrored surface of the river. "Magnificent," I murmured to no one. "This could be heaven."

A lone monk emerged from the dormitory of the wat across the river, but only one - the others all undoubtedly out collecting the morning's alms, he remaining behind to perform other duties. As he disappeared into the temple area I turned and sat up, stretching again before rising and heading into the hong nam to shower, thinking of the prawn and rice soup that would be waiting for me, and the simple pleasures of another day in Thailand.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Flooding In Khorat

The unstoppable power of Nature doing as it pleases, much of the area that is Nakhon Ratchasima - better known to tourists at Khorat or Korat - is currently under water, the result of the worst flooding there in 50 years. 24 of 32 districts are currently under water.

The land will survive, the homes can be rebuilt and the vast number of acres of rice crops lost can be replanted, but I'd ask you to join me today in stopping a moment to wish the people living there strength and courage in these most challenging of times.

Thai Smiles, Part 20: Still More Kids

Getting kids to smile while I'm out and about with a camera is almost too easy. It may have something to do with this Big Pink Guy acting ting tong (goofy or crazy) to surprise them into smiling, but I suspect it has more to do with the innocence of childhood itself.

In a healthy family surrounding they probably haven't been traumatized by the ills of the social world, learned to be afraid of climbing high into a tree, eating bugs in the yard (hey, Mom and Dad buy bugs to eat at the market, so why not?) and the many other lessons most of us learn along the way.

They see someone smiling at them, and they smile back. It's wonderful. The girl tending the family BBQ banana stand in a night market, the boy playing in the pipe at a playground, the two girls on the bench and the impish smile of our self-appointed tour guide at Erawan cave (with the unfortunate teeth he tried to hide) - these are all memories I look back on fondly.

Monday, October 18, 2010

School Graduation Portraits

Traditions and ceremonies loom large in Thai culture, and one they share with most of us is the recognition of academic achievements, such as graduation from a program, school or university. I can't speak for you, but when I graduated from what we in the US call "high school" and college both it was expected that you'd get cleaned up and go to some photographic studio, put on a borrowed outfit and subject yourself to having a portrait taken - for high school, at least.

I put mine away in a closet, hoping it would age like Oscar Wilde's portrait of Dorian Gray. Unfortunately - despite my most fervent wishes - it's still as youthful now as it was 40 years ago, while I've continued to age to the point that I look at it now and wonder if I was ever so young.

Just as you'd find in many countries, portrait studios are often found in Thai shopping malls, where - for a range of fees - students can have photos taken to present as an offering of thanks to their parents or to display themselves as a reminder of their accomplishment.

One afternoon I accompanied a couple of students I know (the two going together as moral support for this new experience) while they went through this minor rite of passage. They spent a few minutes out front, debating who should go first before announcing to the clerk what they were there for and the school they were graduating from. After the clerk agreed to allow me to tag along we were taken behind the lobby into the studio and the guys were put into their loaned robes, pausing to brush their hair, check their faces for blemishes (naturally) and then playfully push one another ahead of the other in an effort not to be "first".

I had my camera out and we took a bunch of photos just for laughs as the photographer adjusted backdrops and lighting.

Although we did a lot more joking around than the photographer wanted, doing odd shots - the "I'm so handsome" pose got a lot of laughs - when their actual turn came they quit fooling around and posed properly for the photos, paid for them, and off we went to dinner.

A couple of days later the three of us returned to the studio and they picked up their portraits, pleased with how they'd turned out. As an unplanned treat I took them both to Robinson's Department Store afterwards and let them each pick out an 8x10 frame for the larger prints they wanted to give to their mothers, and then helped them with the framing later that evening.

It was nice to visit the next trip and see the pictures in the family homes (not as prominent or highly placed as those of the King, naturally) and know I'd had a small part in the process.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The 200th Post

Morning light on laundry and plants on the 2nd floor ledge above a shop, Bangkok

When Bao-Bao's Blog began back on March 22nd (A Beginning, Of Sorts) I really didn't have much of a plan or direction - it was more out of discouragement with a forum I participated in at the time. I'd just returned from a few weeks in Thailand, and while I was eager to share about the trip, there didn't seem to be a place I felt comfortable to do that... so I created my own.

If you've never read the opening post you might do that today. It'll give you an idea of what the intent and idea of the blog was and continues to be.

I feel fortunate that many of the good folks from forums I belong to have followed me here - and joined in, as well. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 - 250 different visitors a day here, and about 50 that check in regularly - far more than I ever dreamed possible - and I am flattered.

When possible I check in a couple of times a day to read comments and messages sent to the email address in the "Standard Legalese" block to the right, and if you want to contact me directly for an idea, recommendation or whatever, you're always welcome to do so. I'll do my best to reply promptly.

Thank you again for your visits, your comments and your participation. I truly appreciate it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Did The Tourist Cross The Road?

Q: Why did the tourist cross the road?
A: Maybe he was tired of living and decided to chance it!

It's an indisputable fact that any time you step off the curb and into the anything-goes world of Thailand city traffic you're taking your life into your own hands. Any time pedestrians share space with machines it's wise to remember that the machines usually win.

Not only do pedestrians not have the right of way, they're expected to be nimble enough to weave their way between tuk-tuks, taxis, automobiles, trucks, buses and folks piled aboard all sorts of two-wheeled rides as they attempt to reach the other side of the street. I personally have almost wet myself at least twice while avoiding Death looming toward me.

Traffic signals give you the glimmer of a fighting chance, but they're small comfort. Age slows us all down, and alcohol in the system doesn't help matters at all so in the tourist areas such as Pattaya the newspapers have a full clipping file of items about folks not quite nimble or observant enough to avoid taking a hard bounce or three.

The saturation of portable music devices and cell phones further increase the risks, as distractions certainly increase your powers of observation, and not being able to hear motorcycles and bicycles hustling through sidewalk traffic can be another nightmare altogether.

In the past I've tended to try to gauge what vehicles coming at me are going to do, but learned that's a little like predicting the weather a month out, too. Naturally, you have to use some caution but I've heard the most reliable way to cross is just to look for a slower pocket of traffic and keep moving, not trying to stop/start/stop your way across the road, allowing the drivers to gauge how to avoid me... figuring that they don't want to damage their vehicle by slamming into some Big Pink Guy. If this blog suddenly ends with no farewell, though, it may be that the theory didn't work for me, but for now it's what I'm working with.

I don't post this today to discourage anyone from leaving their rooms and venturing out into the "real world" of Thai cities, but as a reminder than when you're putting things into your pockets or purse as you prepare to go out, take your common sense, and - as is always a good idea - your powers of observation along with you.

Be aware, and stay safe!