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essays | places
Ko Pha Ngan / Thailand · 2015 walking sea
Thailand, smiland. But the smiles weren’t always real and that’s fair because the tourists that hopped in and out of the country weren’t real either. It was a cancerous form of tourism that metastasized wherever those who craved it found those who catered to it, from the North to the South. Sex tourism, Full Moon parties, deep yoga cleansings – maybe some of these were worse than others, but they all had the same smell of entitled, mid-capitalist consumerism.
passages PARADISE CAVE | As the vacationers piled up along Krabi’s beaches, the empty caves eyed them with sadness. Sitting all alone in the limestone, their paradise vistas were second to none; yet none of the beachgoers second guessed their beach day, none had a second to spare for the serene and cool grottos. The light at the end of the tunnel was Eden indeed, but nobody was willing to venture an inch of darkness first.
Hard to find something you don't find at Chatuchak Market.
Bangkok / Thailand · 2015 neon fish
Thailand · 2015 rusty rain
Phra Nang / Thailand · 2015 overachieving jogger
places / stories
Nong Khai / Walking in on Pseudo Awareness
Nong Khai / Thailand · 2015 baby mangroves
To me, Nong Khai was just the closest border town on my way in from Laos, but apparently it’s a secret haven for hardcore yoga, the likes of which you don’t find in Pai's shallower waters of consciousness. I felt like I was walking in on something. And I would have walked right back out if I hadn’t come down with Dengue. The people were mostly innocent and bearable, but, weakened by the fever, it was harder to tolerate all that pseudo awareness thickening the air. As though the awareness in you could only come out after a laxative-induced cleansing in Thailand. If you need guidance to find your awareness, I might as well wish you good luck and that will help with your quest just as much. After some days, I felt strong enough to lift myself into a night bus to Bangkok.
Bangkok / Dengue Days
With the Dengue still having a blast inside of me, I kept vegetating in the cheapest, windowless, fluorescent single room I could find. It was painfully close to Khao San Road, that dark tourism vortex where you could find everything that is wrong with consumerist hyper travel, from silly – think meaty Caucasian feet being nibbled on in fish tanks – to depraved, like taking advantage of underaged sex workers. Powered by only the most obvious contemporary music and buckets of alcohol, the bravest knights of hedonism would muster the courage to bite into deep-fried scorpions and other such critters. You’d need to hose that street down with water cannons to get all the body fluids and cheap decadence out.
Bangkok / Thailand · 2015 serene religion
After a couple of days, I was back on my feet, so I could go to the hospital and find out what had lived inside of me. It was a coin toss between Malaria and Dengue. It was Dengue, like I said. My intermezzo in Bangkok coincided with three different parties of friends being there and I had a jolly good time catching up even though I looked like a sick ghost.
Bangkok / Thailand · 2015 buff build
Bangkok / Thailand · 2015 downtown field
I’m sure Bangkok is a place to be, much better than I could give it credit for. I just didn’t have it in me then.
Krabi / Shoveling Beachgoers
Phra Nang / Thailand · 2015 like ants on sugar
There is no secret beach left in Thailand. No The Beach beach for any Leonardo DiCaprios to discover by virtue of swimming the opposite direction. And the more beautiful the beach, the less secret it is. When I was there, the sexiest mainland model was Krabi’s "Railay" – so sexy, so bleached, they had to anglicize it from Rai Leh. Wrapped in a thick coat of people at all times, you never saw it naked.
Rai Leh (Railay) / Thailand · 2015 model beach
Rai Leh (Railay) / Thailand · 2015 tourist armada
Next door Phra Nang was smaller but an even more precious gem. More precious, more people per grain of sand. If you climbed into the caves at the far end of the beach, it would shrink the beachgoers to the more sufferable size of beach ants. They would drop tourists onto that beach by the boatloads, pile them up like meat, and shovel them back into the boats in the evening like grilled sausages.
Phra Nang / Thailand · 2015 baybay
Phra Nang / Thailand · 2015 taxi stand
Phra Nang / Thailand · 2015 limestone love
Phra Nang / Thailand · 2015 rock body
Ao Nang / Thailand · 2015 alone in a sea
Ao Nang / Thailand · 2015 beach trio
Ko Pha Ngan / Tourist Terror
Ko Pha Ngan / Thailand · 2015 resort realm
Ko Pha Ngan was an experiment with a known outcome. I knew I was misplaced there, but it was part of my study on Venomous Tourists in Thailand. I’d followed the vacationers' psyche from the yoga retreats in the North – where sex tourism was milder – to Bangkok, where they threw sickening party tourism in the mix, to the southern islands where they injected the distilled DNA of ulcerated tourism into a bunch of douche bags who’d come for the Full Moon havoc on Ko Pha Ngan. Once the clock struck full moon, I drove myself to the party and infiltrated that hedonistic hive. Everybody was there for the party of their lives. I was there to do some research, knowing full well that it would be the worst party of my life – a life that has consumed and been consumed by a great many parties.
Ko Pha Ngan / Thailand · 2015 land licking sea
Enkindled by the most flammable EDM music this side of the asteroid belt, they put on a bunch of overblown fire shows – beacons that shone all along the beach to let everyone in the universe know that this was the most mainstream party there is. Some people were doing it in the surf while others vomited, pissed, and littered next to them. The entire beach was a giant dumpster. You could tell nature was gagging. I couldn't see her like that, so I left.
On my way home, I stopped at a supermarket and my scooter kissed a taxi-truck in the parking lot. The scratch was benign, but the outrage it caused wasn’t pretty. Within seconds, I was in a knot of shouting humans. One was the driver’s wife I supposed, the other three or four or ten women bystanders that closed in from all sides. It was a nasty, monetary energy that drove their team spirit as they tried to squeeze every last penny out of me. Meanwhile, the driver just kept sitting in his seat, looking at me with a mix of embarrassment and kindness and “what do you want me to do about it?” My eyes replied: “Nothing dude, I get it.” We both knew that a scratch like that doesn’t exactly merit the exchange of insurance details (what insurance?) in those latitudes, or even just an ounce of drama, but I empathized with the hostility towards me. He and his wife drove entitled, drunk Caucasians to and from these parties for a living, parties that ravaged cultures and natures.
The women were still yelling at me from the bottom of their pipes, and one of them had seized my keys. They wanted nothing less than all the money they believed I had, but for technical reasons I could only give them what I actually had. That discrepancy in realities ossified into a semi-awkward, semi-creepy form of harassment when they started pulling on my pants to see if there was another truth in there. That was enough. With an exploding voice shouting I don't know what, I pulled down my pants in the parking lot and showed them the naked penniless truth. That did it. I grabbed my keys and drove off, feeling dirty and a bit like some Christ who had been crucified for all the sins his fellow humans had committed in Thailand. Fair enough.
Ko Pha Ngan / Thailand · 2015 hermit hut
The other side of the island was quiet as cotton, so one could live and breathe there for a moment or two.
Himalayas / Hiking Alone, Astray & Everestless
when you set out to see Everest, but Everest doesn’t care
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