Thai High

So the Thailand trip to celebrate 10 years of marriage happened and I’ve come back with rather mixed feelings about the place. The plan was to spend some days in Pattaya and then hang out with the rather mad Aneela and her delightful son in Bangkok.

It was a long and complicated holiday plan. The OA, kids and I drove half way around the country spending time with friends and family before we took off to Pattaya. I was the recipient of plenty of shocked comments – Taking kids to Pattaya?!

Yes, yes we were taking them. And we had a lovely time. Our hotel was right on Jomtien Beach and inspite of the Brat running temperature 5 days straight, we went out everyday and he lived to tell the tale. I’m glad we took the kids though, because it took us to parts of the city most others wouldn’t bother with.  From the Underwater World to running in the rain around the Million Year Stone park, we saw animals we’ve never seen and generally had a great time.

Bangkok was next and I have to say I was a tiny bit disappointed by my experience. For one, it felt a lot like many Indian cities, just, on speed! Rush, rush, rush. Which is like NY no doubt, but my God the heat and humidity were not for me. I can’t stand coastal cities, so to have to rush around in one, was my worst nightmare come true. Fortunately though, we had The Aneela to hang out with and it was amazing to have an almost local show us around and take us to cat cafes and cute little local parks.

I loved the motorbike taxis and recently someone on facebook suggested that India needed them. I’m not sure if India is there yet. For one, the guys driving them smell good and look a lot cleaner than our local auto drivers  – call me a snob, but if I have to hang on to a man for dear life, I’d like it to be a tolerable if not a pleasant experience. For another, I don’t know if Indian women would be happy to jump on and ride pillion with a strange man. I was most impressed to see women come out of office in their formals and hop on to a bike and zoom off home or to the tube. And finally, the traffic here is far more disorganised, making a bike ride as safe as tight rope walking over a river full of crocodiles. I certainly wouldn’t want to trust a stranger’s skill on it!

The malls were dazzling, prices were decent, but after a point I went nuts. When I got home and made a mental list of what I’d bought, I realised I didn’t need any of it. The consumer culture there is a lot more than one realises and there are huge collapsible suitcases on wheels for sale – shop, fill up a suitcase and roll it home.

I of course indulged myself with the famous massages and the OA and babies would quietly lie down on the comfy chairs with a book and wait for me to be done. I kept begging the OA to try one but he hates people touching him and has never been a massage fan. I finally succeeded towards the end of the holiday and he converted and how! Like all new converts he couldn’t stay away and was most disgusted at himself for not having given it a shot earlier.

The massage parlours also showed me how easy it is for moral and ethical lines to be crossed. The very same parlours that give you a full body massage are willing to, for a small price, give the men a ‘happy ending’. Apart from my rage at the unfairness of men being offered happy endings and women, not, I am also shocked at how easy it is to cross that little line. Unlike the effort it takes to cross a mental barrier and go over to a seedy brothel in a separate district, these parlours are safe, clean, shiny happy places, right in the middle of the regular shopping and residential districts. I could be sitting in a lazy-boy with my child reading a book by my side, while upstairs some guy is getting his rocks off. It shook me up.

I also finally saw what people meant about the flesh trade – its so in your face that you get immune to it after a point. Loads of older white men with young Asian girls, barely old enough to be out of school. The girls are picked up to keep house while ‘servicing’ the men. What an amazing deal. It’s like going back by about a 100 years or so. Young, beautiful, available, doing the laundry, keeping house, submissive, all for a price. We were chatting with the owner of our hotel who said they are called summer wives. That the men all say that this is a great break from their Western life where the women are equal, strong and expect them to help around the house. Food for thought. Where people can buy submission, they will. The desire to be equal, fair, is not a common one. And as women get stronger and less willing to take bullshit, there will be men who will hunt for other options, even if it means paying for them. And there will be women who will be happy to sell them that illusion. Le sigh.

I teased the OA that people probably thought we were one of those couples – he is almost fully white haired now and often gets mistaken for Italian/Lebanese – and I am almost always asked if I am from Nagaland. It was probably thanks to the kids that no one thought I was his lady for the night! Well that and the fact that I was in kurtis and tracks for the entire holiday, not dressed to the nines like those ladies.

What impresses one is the Thai willingness to work hard. Unlike the Western world where shops shut at 6pm and leave you high and dry, shops here are open till late night. And oh the hawkers! At any time of night or day, there are pavements overflowing with clothes, toys, quick eats.  I also learnt something rather interesting – apparently traditional Thai homes did not have kitchens. Even in villages, one home was selected to be the one that cooked and fed the rest, while others were given other responsibilities. Even now, many Thai people eat out and it’s easy to see why. Hot, juicy sausages on sticks, fresh cut fruit, sticky rice and glistening chicken in little takeaway boxes – I could eat all day!

We spent a lot of time on Jomtien Beach in Pattaya and that place was the best example of indulgence and hedonism. Lie back on chairs put out by someone, eat fresh sea food grilled right under your nose and then have a little old lady sit down in the sand by the foot of your chair and give you a pedicure. This is where I drew the line. I just couldn’t stand the idea of looking out at the gorgeous blue sea while my children built sand castles and my husband took a water scooter for a spin, while I lay back, stuffed my face with delicious prawns and a lady old enough to be my grandmother, sat under the hot sun in hijab, and pressed my feet. Call me a fool, but that’s probably what I am, then.

And perhaps that is what I learnt on my holiday. That money really can buy you anything. Except the ability to stomach some of it.

The very cool and rather anal, Cat Cafe. I like cats as much as the next person but they fussed so much and made us wash and sanitise our hands a dozen times - and even then we had to wait for a cat to decide if it wanted to come or not. Err.. whatever.

The very cool and rather anal, Cat Cafe. I like cats as much as the next person but they fussed so much and made us wash and sanitise our hands a dozen times – and even then we had to wait for a cat to decide if it wanted to come or not. Err.. whatever.

The Bean shows off her new slippers

The Bean shows off her new slippers

Stopping by a dhaba for chai as we drove through the country.

Stopping by a dhaba for chai as we drove through the country.

The beautiful Jharkhand roads.

The beautiful Jharkhand roads.

The cable cars at Science City, Calcutta

The cable cars at Science City, Calcutta

A traditional Thai dance performance as we ate dinner.

A traditional Thai dance performance as we ate dinner.

Jelly fish glow in the dark at the Underwater World

Jelly fish glow in the dark at the Underwater World

The beautiful tent over Underwater World

The beautiful tent over Underwater World

Don't pee or fart in a Baht bus!

Don’t pee or fart in a Baht bus!

Don't molest women either. Although the Bean read this as - 'Mama? Women shouldn't sing loudly on the baht bus?'  The Brat then enlightened her. :-/

Don’t molest women either. Although the Bean read this as – ‘Mama? Women shouldn’t sing loudly on the baht bus?’
The Brat then enlightened her. :-/

When you come from India, it's rare that you get to call a plant exotic.

When you come from India, it’s rare that you get to call a plant exotic.

Adjutant clerk bird - well named!

Adjutant clerk bird – well named!

Grilling fresh seafood on the beach

Grilling fresh seafood on the beach

You may say, I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one.

You may say, I’m a dreamer… but I’m not the only one.

A very funky mobile bar. And peace prevails around it. I can imagine what the Right would do if we set these up in India!

A very funky mobile bar. And peace prevails around it. I can imagine what the Right would do if we set these up in India!

A light installation made of sunglasses.

A light installation made of sunglasses.

A food court in a mall - never seen one so quiet or classy.

A food court in a mall – never seen one so quiet or classy.

A beautiful restaurant on a quiet lane. Moon River or something.

A beautiful restaurant on a quiet lane. Moon River or something.

Old electronics reassembled to make robots and figures. Chatuchak market

Old electronics reassembled to make robots and figures. Chatuchak market

Did not know they'd moved into the food business ;)

Did not know they’d moved into the food business 😉

Some of us indulged, yes.

Some of us indulged, yes.

The entrance to a mall done up with transparent umbrellas

The entrance to a mall done up with transparent umbrellas

Brat warming a shivering Bean at the airport

Brat warming a shivering Bean at the airport

Cal junta, have I done justice to your famous bridge?

Cal junta, have I done justice to your famous bridge?

54 thoughts on “Thai High

  1. Hi MM,

    Nice pictures!!! I have been to Thailand too with kids – But I did not got for a massage 🙂
    so many street shops selling food – was telling my husband may be they don’t cook at all!!
    so its true…

    the shoes look awesome on someone ….

    Sujatha

  2. Oh so much to say, but its late and I am a bit tipsy and need my bed so Im just going to say this for now and come back later. In Goa we have bike taxis. Cant say the taxi guys smell awesome (because I havent really gotten up close and sniffed hard, I tend not to do that when riding pillion with a strange man :P) but I have always had a fabulous experience. I dont know if it is the general Goan tendency to be good to people, or just my limited good luck but coming form BLR with its notorious reputation with nasty auto drivers, I have always opted for a bike taxi in Goa, when I am without conveyance. Also helps that they are more organised (have a union, have a fare system, better planned stands etc) than autos here. I have even used a bike taxi for a distance of over 25 kms one time, and opted to be dropped off a little distance away form home because I was mildly afraid of letting the guy know where I lived. When he saw me get off, pay and keep walking, he came up to me and asked why I didnt want to be dropped home and then insisted that I take full advantage of the service I had paid for!

  3. Where have you been MM? Its been so long that we heard from you. And do I need to say, lovely post as usual? you know that right? You can probably start a fan club.

  4. 😦 Much of what you say here could be true of Japan, too. Not everything, but plenty. They just don’t have all of it so much in-your-face, but it’s there. 😦

    Lovely pix. The one of the Brat hugging the Bean is so heart-warming. She looks so fragile in this one, while we know she’s…errr…not! 😀

    And what’s the Cat Cafe?

    • Oh sorry – I thought I’d explained. My mistake. The cat cafe is full of rather fancy, pampered cats. After many rounds of handwashing, and sanitising, you can order your food/drinks and play with the cats. Its got cat ramps, cat doors and cat toys – and you have to sit there and wait for the cats to deign to come to you. Much fun, even if the number of signs around telling you what to do, are annoying.

  5. Hi, such a dynamic post. I relived our trip to Pattaya n Bangkok!! N am not sure of its veracity, but have heard that 70% Of the population there is female n the trend to undergo gender change procedures favors females…most tall n glamorous Thai women were born men!! Am mot sure of this but wondering if you heard this bit on your trip? N i hope you had those humongous green coconuts chilled on ice?? Oh i miss our trip. N a quick observation – women feel quite safe in their chosen practice n there are hardly any cases of sexual abuse. A thought for Bhadraloks living here in Calcutta, perhaps.

    • Yes, Shohag, I heard the same. And much of my time was spent observing the women and playing guessing games with the OA 😀

      Also, I agree entirely – the moment you legalise something, it loses its charm and promptly becomes safer.

      And yes, our desi hypocrisy leaves a lot to be desired.

  6. Just back from a Dubai holiday and while it was fun, this is exactly what has been playing on my mind – ‘And perhaps that is what I learnt on my holiday. That money really can buy you anything. Except the ability to stomach some of it.’
    So much migrant labor, doing so much of the dirty work in a heat that can only be described as killing. Left me feeling guilty and sick.

  7. I visited Jakarta a few times and from my second trip I started using their bike taxis, at first I did it for the experience really as the office had a cab available at all times but later I was hooked. I was staying at this fancy hotel where the staff looked very amused every time I came on this bike taxi. Given Indian roads (and specially roads in Bangalore), the insane traffic and total lack of any rules whatsoever I agree with you, I’d avoid them completely!

    ‘For one, it felt a lot like many Indian countries’ you mean many Indian cities no? yes yes I know I am just crabby!

  8. I didn’t notice you had posted at all till now. I came here to tell you that I dreamt of meeting you yesterday – just like that, for no reason – and thought I should tell you. Came here to find a post from you. 🙂

    Off to read the post now!

  9. We went to Thailand on our honeymoon, just Pattaya and Bangkok. They are so similar to India in a lot of ways, and yet so different. I was fascinated with Pattaya, we didn’t grow too fond of Bangkok somehow. Got to go back again.

    Lovely pics and lovely account of your trip, MM. 🙂 Especially loved the pic of your sandals and that of the Brat and Bean hugging. The latter is so heart-warming.

  10. My favourite part of Thailand was the foot massage. I had plenty. Oh, those were glorious. So I kind of know how you feel. Sounds like a good holiday! I do wish though that the post was longer (like old times… those old holiday posts just went on…what a delight! 🙂 )

    And I can’t not comment on the sandals. How very pretty! Btw, are you back in heels? I hope the knee is better.

  11. Awesome pictures MM. Different from the routine. I am visiting Thailand this December. Your write-up excited me and I am relieved to know that taking kids along can be fun too!

  12. As long as there are rich men and poor women in this world, there will always be scope for exploitation, correct. But isn’t that what laws are supposed to guard against? Obviously the State looks the other way while this happens..

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