Sunday, March 12, 2006

Last notes from Thailand

March 10th, 2006:

Its interesting to observe the social effects of the Bangkok Ladyboys: most conversations among western blokes, if discussed long enough, end up about them in either a humorous or near phobic manner, depending on the perceived proximity to one.
For example, SCUBA diving. What has SCUBA diving got to do with Bangkok Ladyboys?! Well, there is a checklist which must be done after putting on your equipment, before jumping into the water, to check that you are ready to go. The checks are:
-> Buoyancy Compensator (an air jacket which can be inflated / deflated to aid buoyancy)
-> Weights (used to help you sink, they must be attached to a belt but should be easy to remove)
-> Releases (check that the quick releases for the equipment are ok so that you can get the equipment off in an hurry)
-> Air (check the air cylinder, mouth pieces, etc)
-> Final check (one last check of everything)

The acronym BWRAF is used for this list and is most parts of the world a normal sounding phrase is used to remember this list, such as (if you don't like Bruce Willis) "Bruce Willis Ruins All Films" :) . Do you know what phrase is used to help remember those letters in this part of the world? "Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas"!

In general this subset of society is seen positively, bringing fun and variety to society while demonstrating how free and open this society is. The only negative comments about them relate to how completely convincing they can be: the perceived trickery and the potential for an unwanted surprise results in most foreign guys tending to avoid meeting female Thai strangers in social situations just in case all is not as it seems. This probably leaves a major section of Thai society (naturally born females) feeling left-out/marginalised, which is a pity.

It was also fascinating at the airport, as I was leaving, to see the number of middle aged English blokes leaving with Thai women who were 15-20 years younger than them. It looked like the young women were being groomed for living in England and I overheard comments such as "Eat with your mouth closed, love"! and "That's it, stand up straight!". When I had arrived ten days ago, a taxi driver had joked that we Europeans come to Thailand to steal their women(!) I can see now that he wasn't entirely joking...!

Technology wise, if bringing a mobile phone from most countries in Europe, good luck getting it working. I'm with Vodafone Ireland and was able to receive text messages, but was barred from sending messages and making calls. People from Germany and Sweden were in the same boat. The British seemed to be ok. There is probably a way of getting it working for the rest of us, but it was not obvious.
Also, if you're lucky enough to have a high megapixel camera, and you intend to upload your pictures to an online photo gallery on the Internet, you may want to change your camera settings to use fewer megapixels. For example, my 7.1 megapixel camera takes images which end up at over 3.5MB in size: uploading 150 such pictures at over 400MB in size in total is no fun when paying by the minute at an Intermet café... I've my camera now set to use just 2.1 megapixels per picture resulting in smaller file sizes (0.8MB) with only minimal reduction in image quality (i.e. The same lens and image processing chips are used in the camera: the resulting image is just stored in a smaller size file).

Regarding the nationalities of my fellow foreigners, it was the British who were the most prolific travelers in Thailand. In second place were the Japanese or Chinese (its tough for this untravelled gaijin to tell the difference). Some had a passing level of English, but most conversations with the Japanese or Chinese involved overly dramatized hand signals and gestures Still, its great that you can still laugh with someone even though though ye don't share a common language. In third place came people from Scandinavian countries and in last place were Irish travelers: I did not meet any Irish people in Koh Tao and haven't met any since the three Cork women in Bangkok. For many foreigners I was their first Irish person. It appears that we rely all too often on Ryanair for choosing destinations and those countries not on Ryanair's routes rarely if never get to see us...

Finally, some people have a near phobic reaction when it comes to insects. If you are such a person, you'll be glad to hear that the insects are few and far between (in the places I visited in Thailand at any rate). I didn't see anything big, and those insects that I did see tended to be few in quantity (so no clouds of flies, or anything like that). Just watch out for mosquitoes at dusk and don't be too shocked if you see a small spider which can both scurry along like normal spiders but which can also... gulp... JUMP! Lets hope other spiders don't also evolve this creepy spider-superpower :)