Friday, January 13, 2012

Around the World: Beachside Thoughts

January 13, 1992

While I'm soaking up the sun, sand and surf, I'm trying to get a sense of where of I am.

Just on the horizon is the island of Ko Pha Ngan, an idyllic tropical paradise known for it's monthly Full Moon parties and openly tolerated drug culture.  According to Shirley, who spent a few weeks on the island, it's not uncommon to meet a handful of Westerners who have sold their passports to fund their drug habits and long term stay.  She also mentioned that tourist-on-tourist crime is fairly common.  Ko Pha Ngan is also popular among divers for the islands plentiful coral reefs and exotic fish. It's wise to know where to find what you want to do, and easy to accidentally stumble upon trouble.

Photo by Our World Travels

Despite very strict laws, Thailand appears to tolerate casual drug use within its borders without much concern, however, the authorities are explicitly clear that death is the penalty for attempting to smuggle any illegal drug out of Thailand.

Bangkok, it is said, smells like sex.  To me, it smells like a combination of incense and car exhaust.  The pollution in the city is so thick, when children draw pictures, they colour the sky yellow.  Behind all that particulate matter, however, is a thriving sex industry, where almost one third of the country's estimated 2.8 million sex workers are children.  Although prostitution in Thailand is illegal, it is conveniently disguised under the term "service worker", where a specific interest can be chosen from a sort of showcase in the country's massage parlors, karaoke bars and bath houses to provide the establishment's advertised service, but behind closed doors, actually do a whole lot more.

Even as a tourist, on a tourist-industry fueled island, the sense that women are not equal in Thai society is transparent.  Although women have the right the vote, they don't seem to have much of a voice.  Pausing for thought, I realize that Harvey's beach-side beer consumption has convinced him to embrace his inner chauvinist. 

The beauty of the scenery suddenly seems to have lost its appeal.

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"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."
~Elie Wiesel