December 17, 2005

Thailand or scamland?

It's a nice place, but of course as the title suggests...
It took a whole day of flying to get here, which surprised me. Yes, I have a re-entry permit for my return to Japan, but the travel agent told me I wouldn't need a visa for my stop in China. There is something about a guard in communist China being upset with you that feels a little ominous. Actually, all the Chinese airport guards were women in oversized generals uniforms (three stars). They were oddly flirtatious, even though I was causing them a big headache.
Somehow I got on my way again only to get stuck next to the most annoying guy on Earth during the next flight. No exaggeration. I have no idea what nationality he was, as he refused to understand the most rudimentary English (everyone knows the word "American", right?) and caveman gestures (everyone knows the gesture for "Me Tarzan; you are ?"). He was so obnoxious, I half wondered if he was trying to piss me off as some sort of joke. I'm talking... Look, if life was a Disney Channel movie, he would be the bad actor hamming it up cause the director thinks it will be appealing to the three year old demographic. He sang Asian songs at the top of his lungs along with the headset (which was turned up so loud I could hear it); he kept tapping a plastic knife against the lunch table thing; he kept leaning over me and looking out the window. Hey buddy, you wanna kiss me while your here? You're close enough to. No, no, that's fine. Keep looking for a few minutes. I'm sure the blackness of night is fascinating. He kept it all up throughout the whole flight.
Anyways, since stepping off the plane here in Thailand, I have gotten proposition after proposition. Yes, the majority of them are of a prostutional nature. Today a guy walked up to me and said hello. I can't not say hello. It's just not in my nature. I can't not reply to friendly questions. That's my nature too. So I ended up getting enrolled in a tour of the religious sites. My rationale: It's a Buddhist holiday (or so they told me) so the temples were free, and it was only gonna cost me 20 baht (48 cents). So I had about 5 sites lined up to see. I got to tall Buddha, and lucky Buddha (who looks like he has seen luckier days, I guess they don't believe in dusting), but my third stop suddenly became a suit store. "They give me a gas coupon if I take you here," said the driver. So I, following my nature, politely popped in. No, it was more than polite, it was frickin charity work there. I didn't have to put up with that. I came out a minute later, not wanting anything. My driver was suddenly sullen. "You only stay there for one minute; I don't get coupon for one minute." I ignored him. "Where next?" he asked.
"The next place on the list."
"I don't remember a list." So that's how it goes, huh? I asked to be taken back to Khao San road, where I'm staying. He sort of did. But we were close enough, so I gave him his 20 baht and got out before he could give me more offers of whores ("They give you free condom at this place, you want to go?").
The positive: It is really cheap here. I got one of the best haircuts of my life for about $3.50. The girls are friendly (you have to be wary of that of course, but it still makes one feel good). Most everyone speaks English (I myself am considering the old "I speaka no English" routine to avoid the propositions). And visiting the Buddhist temples was pretty cool. There are lots of stray dogs and cats running around them all. I enjoyed some monks chanting at one the temples.
Pics of it all forthcoming, naturally.
Tomorrow I'm gonna see if I can get a (legitimate) massage, and maybe the next day I will look into the beach thing. Holiday wishes to you all.
BTW, what's the craziest foreign place you've ever visited? I'm curious. Got a good story for me?