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The first night we stayed in Railay - a lush, rocky peninsula south of Krabi, with beautiful, isolated golden beaches - we partied hard in an open-air bar with Jess and David, two South Africans who happened to dine at the table near to ours earlier that evening. I yelled in their ears for a few hours, trying to make myself heard above the deafening music, until I lost my voice and could talk no more. That was the only time we had some late-night fun, because for the remaining days we spent in Thailand’s southern islands I kept nursing that sore throat and Angela had to fight a stomach bug she had most likely acquired while we were still in India. As a result, we had to drop our plan to go diving in Thailand (equalizing ear pressure is problematic when one has a cold) and we were lucky to be able to go on a snorkeling trip on our last day in Ao Nang, when we both felt finally healthy enough for an outing of the kind. Yes… Ko Phi Phi Leh Island (where The Beach was filmed, that dream-vacation adventure flick with Leo Di Caprio that made many a backpacker fantasize about never returning home) is as beautiful as they say, however I have no pictures of it. For once I chose to enjoy the water and the sun without worrying about the perfect camera angle and the direction of the light. We enjoyed the elements a little too much because we both got a bit burned despite then 45-SPF waterproof sun-block we used.
The southern coast of Thailand seems to have become a favorite vacation destination for the Northern Europeans, mainly Swedes. You know that the powerful hordes of Euro-loaded Vikings have claimed the place as their own when the signs on shop doors are often written in a strange language that is obviously neither Thai nor English, when the restaurants advertise Swedish-Thai cuisine, and when the grocery stores sell you fresh tabloids from Stockholm. The Thai sellers of juicy and salacious news have smartened out and entered the digital age like the rest of us: the sheets on the display racks are not actual newspapers - which would have to be shipped from Sweden and would invariably be at least one-day stale by the time they got to the shelves - but stapled printouts of pdf files downloaded from the mighty internet. Whether the Thai merchants actually have a license for duplicating and selling those newspapers is doubtful; there is just too much pirated music for sale here to leave place for an honest, subscription-paying reseller. Every music CD you can imagine can be bought for 100 baht (that’s about $3) on the main tourist drag in Ao Nang, complete with color-printed album cover. Can you even imagine what Bangkok is like?
Thai food, anyone? I would carefully avoid staying in a place like the Railay peninsula again – there is no in and out except by long-tail boat and you are stuck with a range of expensive restaurants that aren’t even living up to their prices and bring you insipid food to the table… and that in a country which lives to eat! After we moved to Ao Nang – a real town for a change – things got as bit better. I wouldn’t lose faith in the culinary delights of this country yet, but Thailand is certainly not India; hunger and the mere sight of a restaurant menu don’t make me drool with anticipation.
Still smoking? – There’s nothing like the cigarette packs for sale in Thailand to convince you to quit! Last I’ve checked cigarettes sold at home and in most of Central and South America still didn’t have any visual deterrent against smoking besides the mild warning of the surgeon general in minute print; Canadian and European packs had the big bold front prints with “smoking kills” and other horror stories that wouldn’t even send children scurrying away in fear… Well, Thai cigarette pack front panels have full-color pictures of cancerous lungs and lips, tracheal bypass tubes, and for the milder version, an man wearing wife-beaters (obviously a bad adult!) blowing the smoke in the face of a baby he holds in his arms… This explicit display of death may not instill the expected fear of smoking in too many potential consumers but it makes holding a pack of cigs in your hand somehow gross and certainly un-cool. Will this ever happen in the US? Maybe if one of those two lefties wins the next elections, who knows…Published from Bangkok.