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  • hardie karges 11:42 pm on July 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Kanchanaburi, River Kwai,   

    #Bangkok #Kanchanaburi #Thailand: Bi-Polar Syndrome of a Country… 

    Meals on Wheels

    Meals on Wheels in Bangkok

    It’s amazing how diverse Bangkok can be, depending on your chosen neighborhood. If you only stay in the backpacker enclave at Khaosarn Road or near the red-light district of Patpong, or Sukhumvit Road between Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy, then you’ve only seen the most obvious charms—or horrors—of the city. That was especially evident a month ago, when I happened to step out on Sukhumvit Road AFTER midnight for the first time in a while—YEOW! Unbelievable! There are prostitutes from all over the world, right here—brown ones, black ones, white ones, blue!

    Still I doubt it’s ‘traffficking’, just free market flea market, choice cuts of meat in the international section. That’s all chilled down now since the military coup, I reckon, but I don’t really want to know—too disgusting. So I stay far north of town this time, saving myself a chunk of change in the process. You know what they say about rental rates—it’s all about location location location.

    Portuguese Past in Kanchanaburi

    Portuguese Past in Kanchanaburi

    So this time I stay in an entirely different section of the city, one I’ve never really stayed in, and close to the Victory Monument passenger van pick-up points. This is where I’ll catch a van to Kanchanaburi, on the River Kwai, or something like that. There are no bars around here, but that’s just fine; there’s plenty of good coffee. Ten years ago it would’ve been Nescafe only. Vive la difference! Unfortunately bars dominate the tourist scene in Kanchanaburi, a real disappointment.

    These last two stops, Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, are the undoing of my little purist fantasy, full of tourists and ex-pats, too, back with a vengeance on their part and no small measure of repressed revenge on my own, the spreading colonization of the Kingdom beyond all reason, writing on the wall for years now, but I forgot to wear my glasses, so I know now that my time here is drawing short…

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand: City on Water

    Kanchanaburi, Thailand: City on Water

    In Bangkok it’s to be expected, of course, major world city with people from all over, but… Kanchanaburi? Sleepy little Kanchanaburi? Sure, there’s the River Kwai, of course, but does that necessarily imply a cliched ‘entertainment’ strip with all that entails? It looks to be about half-and-half old fart expats and young backpackers, so plenty of blame to go around IMHO…

    I mean: I’m glad the local economy is good enough to support a Carabao concert at one of the local clubs, but there won’t be any Farangs there, just locals. And there’s a historic district in town, with appropriate documentation for antique houses, all with Sino-Portuguese origins, then a house-boat city and floating entertainment district on pontoon ferries, but most foreigners will never see it from the bar stools in their own private little GI bar enclave…

    Bridge over the River Kwai

    Bridge over the River Kwai

    This bi-polarization of a city—and country—into locals and foreigners is not at all what I look for and no longer what I need from this Kingdom or any other. I need inclusion, not separation; information, not ignorance. What worked for me twenty years ago no longer works for me now. I’ve changed, and Thailand hasn’t, or only for the worse, I’m afraid. It’s time to move on, boo hoo. I’ll miss the coconut ice cream. I decide to forego the Carabao concert…

    Now for my last train ride on the last train line in Thailand, the only one I’ve never been on, from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok, or Thonburi, that is, across the river. Going the other direction will take you to Burma, a real temptation if I had the time, especially if I had a visa and they’d let me in. things are changing there fast. As it is, the ride back is pretty predictable, the only real excitement finding the ferry once there.

    My friend and I accomplish, that, though, and we even get a little river ride in the process. The SE Asia part of this trip is drawing to a close, but I’ve still got a scheduled stop in Istanbul, so I’m jazzed about that. That’s still Asia, right? Stay tuned.

    June 2014

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    • Esther Fabbricante 12:06 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      My daughter, Lisa, and her husband have just returned from a 10-day our of Turkey, including Istanbul. Did you get the picture I sent of Wilson and me taken at Camea Dobbs’ wedding reception last Saturday night?

      Esther

    • Sven 1:10 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Hardie, You see what you want to see and what you are looking for. Nana is Nana and Yet Yod is Yet Yod. I were in Kanchanaburi 15 years ago and I did not see any bars because I was not looking, I was there with a good lady staying in one of these floating resorts north of town. Then I was there with good friends playing golf 10 years ago, yes, they have some very good golf courses there, and there were enough with bars for us.
      I live 15 clicks outside Chiang Rai, 19 houses in the village, and the ice cream man comes every second day plinging his bell. My wife now and then gets a big bowl of coconut ice cream with sticky rice for 30 baht (1 US$).
      The old Thailand is still here IF you are looking for it!

      Cheers!

      • hardie karges 1:13 am on July 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Yep, that’s been my theme of the last month… nice experiences in places like Korat, Roi Et, Pichit, P-lok… Cheers, Sven, C U some day 🙂

  • hardie karges 12:58 pm on June 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Farang, , , Kanchanaburi, , ,   

    #Kanchanaburi #Thailand: Reflections, Wrap-ups, End Games and Swan Songs 

    Author Hardie Karges reflected in mirrors

    Author Hardie Karges reflected in mirrors

    For the last month, after abruptly cutting a tour of Laos short, I’ve been “looking for Thailand,” so to speak, just as others before me have gone “looking for America,” making my (probably) last tour (maybe, that is), seeing if there’s anything I forgot, seeing if there’s anything I missed, seeing if there’s anything I should come back for, and eventually writing it all up—my ‘swan song’ so to speak, for a country I spent about a decade of my life in, depending on how you count.

    This is after more than six months of continuous travel, mostly elsewhere, no more than a week in any one place—a sort of ‘personal best’ for me in forty years of travel—and including seven countries (five of them new to me), but more time in India than any other one, and including such popular destinations as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    If the past month started slowly with a (literal) whistle-stop tour on the train down to south Thailand, then it has certainly picked up steam in the last 12 days, with 12 cities, 12 hotels (none over $20/nt, all with WiFi, none with reservations), all five regions of Thailand, and some 3000km/1800mi (all by land, most by 3rd class train).

    Bridge over the River 'Kwai'

    Bridge over the River ‘Kwai’

    And in case you’re wondering, none of those places was Phuket, or Koh Samui, or Krabi, or any other tourist destination, just the opposite, in fact, places like Nakorn Sri Thammarat, Aranyaprathet, Roi Et, Khon Kaen, Phitsanulok, Phichit, and Lopburi. I look for places where I can be a person, not a Farang (Western foreigner). In fact (drum roll here, please): I saw only maybe a dozen other tourists the whole time, not bad, and no beaches, bitches, or booze, the things most people come to Thailand for, UNTIL…

    The last two stops, Bangkok and Kanchanaburi were the undoing of my little purist fantasy, full of tourists and ex-pats, too, back with a vengeance on their part and no small measure of repressed revenge on my own, the spreading colonization of the Kingdom beyond all reason, writing on the wall for years now, but I forgot to wear my glasses, so I know now that my time here is drawing short…

    In Bangkok it’s to be expected, of course, major world city with people from all over, but… Kanchanaburi? Sleepy little Kanchanaburi? Sure, there’s the River Kwai (sp), of course, but does that necessarily imply a cliched ‘entertainment’ strip with all that entails? It looks to be about half-and-half old fart expats and young backpackers, so plenty of blame to go around IMHO…

    Mixed messages at a Farang Bar

    Mixed messages at a Farang Bar

    I mean: I’m glad the local economy is good enough to support a Carabao concert at one of the local clubs, but there won’t be any Farangs there, just locals. And there’s a historic district in town, with appropriate documentation for antique houses, and a floating local entertainment district on pontoon ferries, but most foreigners will never see it from the bar stools in their own private little enclave.

    This bi-polarization of a city—and country—into locals and foreigners is not at all what I look for and no longer what I need from this Kingdom or any other. I need inclusion, not separation; information, not ignorance. What worked for me twenty years ago no longer works for me now. I’ve changed, and Thailand hasn’t, or only for the worse, I’m afraid. It’s time to move on, boo hoo. I’ll miss the coconut ice cream.

    I didn’t plan this final tour to coincide with my 60th birthday, but that’s the way it worked out, a time for new beginnings and end games. I think I’ve just graduated Thai school; that is: my graduate studies in Thai school. The new gap year is 60. I’ll expound on these themes later, my little swan song. This trip is almost over, just a quick stop over in Istanbul and a little side trip to Sarajevo. Huh? What? This is hypertravel, baby.

     
    • Esther Fabbricante 6:16 pm on June 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! Brandon will never be the same when you get home. Horns and whistles!

    • Traveling Ted 8:07 pm on June 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Only 7 countries in 6 months? You are slipping. Going to have to rebrand as semi-spasmic travel if you keep this loafing pace up 🙂

    • hardie karges 2:05 am on June 26, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      hahaha= 555

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