Thailand – where to start?

I often have people asking me advice on traveling to S.E. Asia, especially with regard to Thailand, I think probably because it is the most popular destination for South Africans in S.E. Asia and I suppose for the rest of the world also.

This series of posts are specifically for budget travelers…if you are looking to do Thailand being shuffled from the airport straight to a resort you are doing it wrong. The whole experience of a holiday in Thailand is the people and the adventures you come across when you least expect it, not a mani pedi next to your pool at your over priced resort.

So my first and most important piece of advice would be:

DONT BOOK ANYTHING! Besides your air ticket of course.

Anyone who tells you to book accommodation before you depart has either never been to Thailand or stands to make some money off your booking. Not only is accommodation of all kinds available at the ‘drop of a fake dreadlock’ but it is cheap!

Cheap in SA is around R500 a night for a decent room….in Thailand it’s about 6$ a night for a room with a bed, aircon and a TV with a western toilet…and a window if you are lucky. This accommodation is a dime a dozen but make sure you ask to see the room first to check if it’s clean. My first night in Bangkok back in 2010 I made this mistake and spent the night on mattress stained with what looked like a large amount of blood, I had already paid for the room though so I tried to ignore my gag reflex and thank God for remembering my sleeping sheet.

Start on Khao San Road

Now KSR, dunned the Gateway to S.E. Asia is not everyone’s cup of tea. On the 7th day just before God decided to rest he burped and out came KSR. It’s definitely one of those things you just must see when you go to Thailand but like a lot of those ‘must sees’ once you have seen it there’s no real reason to go there again.

Having said that, it is a hub for cheap accommodation, cheap drinks and cheaper women…or men. Especially if you are travelling alone or in a pair KSR presents a great opportunity to meat hoards, literally hoards of fellow travellers, ask advice or find a travel mate. I would recommend asking fellow backpacker’s advice over going to a travel agent or a tout along the street.

Here is a little snippet of writing from my last visit to KSR:

Khao San road the only place in the world where you can enter a shy first time traveller and emerge a weary looking hippie with fisherman pants, various woven bangles, the obligatory tribal tattoo and of course a set a fresh dreadlocks…all for under $20.

KS road really is a inner city jungle, where hangers replace vines and gazebos and hundreds of intertwined electricity and telephone wires make a great canopy.

The much feared hill tribe women and the touts replace the jaguars, stalking you wherever you go with either a ‘crrrrooaak cccroakk’  or the rather awful ‘puuut’ …which supposedly represents the sound of a ping pong being…well you know popped out. The hundreds if not thousands of drunk English and Australians, put any elephant drunk on Marula fruit to shame, managing to make a ridiculous amount of noise, break anything they come across and still have the thick skin to think its normal to act that way.

Lets not forget the kings of the jungle…the famous lady boys…distinguishable by their adams apples…and if that’s not enough to tell them apart they are usually singing :

“Now I’m the king of the swingers
Oh, the jungle VIP
I’ve reached the top and had to stop
And that’s what botherin’ me
I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I’m tired of monkeyin’ around!”

But I digress!

I arrived in Bangkok and headed straight to KS road for a much needed nap…traveling with flu really isn’t fun. My driver Narathorn war really awesome and I found out he lives in his car and every 3 months he travels South to the border of Malaysia to give his family the money, even more surprising was that he is the same age as me…what different worlds we come from.

I stayed at a hostel/guest house called Lucky house just of KS road so there was no noise, its a really nice place value for money AND its clean…something not common along or near KS road. I met up with Craig my one friend..fluent in Hebrew…which was surprisingly helpful. After assuring me that he ‘hated’ shopping and ‘didn’t see the point’ we spent about 4 hours traversing the jungle deciding what shorts made his legs look better. =)

We decided that while we were weighing up which colour palate best suited his complexion to get a beer from 7/11…because they are much cheaper and you can walk around with them.

JACKPOT we found a beer for BHT25..about R6 only to find out it was rice wine and even the Thais don’t drink it! I even tried to give mine away to a beggar who blatantly refused it. Lesson learnt!

After getting hit on by a few more lady boys we decided to get some rest as we both had early starts the next morning.

Bye for now!

ABC

Some useful links are:

Lucky House – I have stayed here 3 times and have been satisfied each time. Be sure to get on the good side of the receptionist and she will give you a few much needed extras for free! Its also just off KSR so there’s no noise!

Official KSR website– Everything you need to know about the place and more. They are generally rather good with keeping their news stream updated.

 

 

Mr Fixit I presume?

A glamorous girl walks down the street tugging her chic Louis Vuitton  luggage across the cobble stone street, her elegant high heel slips on the smooth stones sending her stumbling into the strong arms of a dark skinned exotic looking man, they spend a wonderful evening together and then embark on a tumultuous holiday romance.

I met a man on my travels, I was not wearing high heels and he wasn’t what one would call handsome, yet he had a rather big impact on my life. Hi name was ‘Mr Fixit’.

It all began at the end of my holiday, after travelling by myself to Indonesia then partying with some of my oldest friends in Thailand I returned to Bangkok a lot more tanned, and a lot more clued up on the effects of Thai Red Bull and the partying habits of the lesser spotted Australian man. I was walking along the street when a middle aged man whom I had seen along Khao San road numerous times called out to me.

“Hey you! Hey you!” he said from his dirty plastic chair positioned in the street making it difficult for passersby to squeeze past.

“Mai tawngkaan khrap,” (No thank you) I replied. I really didn’t feel like buying anything more after a full day spent in Bangkok’s oversized shopping centres.

“Hey you!” the man continued to shout in a thick Thai accent, “You f*#ked in the head, you come sit here,” he shouted as he grabbed my hand and pulled me into the seat next to him.

“I fix 5 000 women and some men. They all have shit, you have shit,” he explained to me as I sat bewildered wondering what he was actually talking about. Not giving me much of a chance to say anything he looked at me, cocked his head and said “ You have operation on knee, your left side fucked,” (something that he couldn’t have known as I was wearing long pants which covered my scars) “Your kidneys fucked”   ̶ another thing he couldn’t have known just by looking at me, either that or my Full Moon party hangover was a lot worse than I thought, I made a mental note to check for any remaining neon paint left on my skin when I returned to my hostel room.

The conversation continued:

“You come with me; I fix you only 1 hour, I fix everyone.”

“No I really shouldn’t, I have to be at the airport in about an hour”

“You so F*$ked in the head lady, I fix you, you must let past go, I fix your chakra you too f*$ked in the head!”

After a while a got tired of Mr Fixit telling my how ‘f*$ked’ in the head I was and agreed to go with him for five minutes so that he might fix me. Next thing I knew I was being led down a dark alley way far from the chaos of KS Road and ushered into a room about the size of my bathroom at home. I think it’s safe to say that alarm bells going off in my head were shouting: “maybe you are f*%ked in the head! What are you doing here you stupid stupid girl. ”

Every surface in the room was covered in little Buddha statues or charms, with a huge TV on the one end and a seedy looking bed with cigarette burns in the sheets on the other.

Perhaps sensing that I was extremely uncomfortable Mr Fixit looked at me and asked: “You fear?”

“Yes a little bit,” I replied when what I wanted to say was: “Of course I fear I’m about to be murdered! I never got the chance to say goodbye to anyone! …Man my parents are going to be so rich from the payout of my travel insurance.”

“You no fear, look how many people I fix, they all happy, you look,” he assured me as he took out a huge photo album which consisted mostly of topless smiling girls on his bed after he ‘fixed them’. Needless to say my fears were all but subdued, yet somehow I ended up lying on Mr Fixit’s bed, politely refusing to remove my clothes and being told all about my life and how to fix it while getting poked and prodded with the odd ‘You f*%ked’ being thrown in.

After he was done he looked at me expectantly and asked: “You take top? You take photo now?”

“No! NO!!” I half shouted while choking on the lump in my throat.

“Okay, Okay you just smile then!” Mr Fixit said with a somewhat disappointed smile on his face.

He gave me a huge kiss and a charm to attach to my existing Buddha necklace I always wear…which accounts for the clinking noise every time I walk, although the sound may be annoying it’s a constant reminder of Mr Fixit and to relax and take life as it comes… or as he puts it: “You so f#*ked, you need to chill out lady.”

…right now a nervous girl alone in Bangkok is staring at my face in a photo album wondering what she has gotten herself into…trust Mr. Fixit he may be f#*ked in the head but in his own special way he changed my life!

KS Road at dusk - one of the most interesting streets in the world

What Burger King and the Internet a have in common

“There is a lot of talk about what Johannesburg is, what it was and what it is becoming. It is a city in, perhaps eternal, transition. This is a privilege for us, the people who call it ours. We can make Johannesburg whatever we want it to be. The city is here, asking us to shape it. While some look to European cities and envy their long established routines, venues and structures in the arts, there are those of us who see the blank canvas and embrace it. We see what we want our city to be, we see its place in the world, and we see the importance of our contributions. We have a dream and we want to make it reality.”

Look how pretty my home is!

On my recent trip to Thailand I decided to stick to traditional Thai food, starting off with a little restaurant in central Bangkok called Burger King, well known for their perseverance in upholding Thai culture…I ordered a Whopper…when it came I thought they had made a mistake as the meal on the tray could have fed an average sized family at home. The burger was the size of my face and the coke was taller than the elderly Thai woman begging for change outside the door.

After I had lugged the huge weight of the tray over to a table which buckled under the sheer weight of the burger I settled down to eat, halfway through my meal I was full but dissatisfied, filled with a meal that really didn’t have any substance to it. The Internet is much like Burger King, you can get anything you want, but you hardly ever leave feeling satisfied, and yet you keep going back over and over again only to be filled to bursting with useless information, sometimes the internet should just be ‘switched off’ as a friend of mine said the other day.

Having said that sometimes you find some real gems…for instance my fantastic blog! But seriously I stumbled across the most fantastic mixtape called the Sound of Johannesburg on http://www.domusweb.it/en/mixtapes/

The mixtape was compiled by the BLK JKS and Athi-Patra Ruga. The mixtape includes a really cool narrative that weaves a powerful and challenging narrative that jumpstarts from the streets and shines light on the unlit corners from houses to basements, warehouses to skyscraper.

Here is a snippet of part of the narrative: “…it’s not that they needed my purse” said the Shangaan queen as she scraped herself of the pavement. In this neckothawoods woods…Pritchard Street, this is a common sound at this time…Pikitup…the chariot that makes sure our streets are clean…for just a few secs… makes sure that …clean from whom…what?”     ̶ thought evoking to say the least!

So it seems it all depends on how long you are willing to stand at the counter carefully picking out what you wish to ‘eat’ that makes your experience worthwhile.

The Sound of Johannesburg -Listen NOW!

Tracklist
1. LETTA MBULU — NOMALIZO / Athi-Patra Ruga #1
2. SPIKIRI — MONEY TALKS
3. Athi-Patra Ruga #2
4. DIRTY PARAFFIN — EXHIBIT A
5. SKELETON CREW — INVISIBLE CITIES (the burning piano David KRUT eBOOK podcast interview)
6. GIVAN LOTZ — EASY NOW
7. FELIX LaBAND — JESUS AT THE TABLE
8. CHLLNGR ft BLK JKS, MO LAUDI of the very best and SPOEK MATHAMBO — ASK FOR (remix)
9. US KIDS KNOW — PROBLEMS
10. HUGH MASEKELA — NIGHTS IN TUNISIA /Athi-Patra Ruga #3
11. PROFESSOR — IJIMAPI LEWEIGHT
12. Athi-Patra Ruga #4
13. TSHE TSHA BOYS — UYAKWINI NA ROSE (where are you going?)
14. POLYPHONIC&SERENGETI — LATELY (remixed by JOAO ORECCHIA)
15. Athi-Patra Ruga #5
16. BLK JKS and THANDISWA MAZWAI for the ZAR ORKESTRE — UKUTHULA (cover)