I’m in Thailand, a new country for the first time in months which is quite exciting. The thing is, and this is going to sound a little strange, I’m experiencing a very bizarre kind of culture shock. Ever since I got here I’m wondering around with a look of stupefied amazement on my face and wandering what on earth happened to all the chaos. I’ve been in India for four months, Nepal and Sri Lanka before that and I suddenly feel like I’ve abruptly arrived back into the western world. Let me explain.
- Thailand is clean – compared to India it is super spotless, I-would-eat-my-dinner-off-these-pavements, clean.
- There is hardly any rubbish, anywhere around.
- There are actual pavements, that people actually use to walk on.
- The traffic makes barely any attempt to kill you, the nearest I had was a motorbike using the pavement my first night, but it swerved far too early to actually pose a threat!
- There are no cows in the city, or monkeys, or buffalo and the street dogs look plump and glossy coated.
- There is no shit, anywhere, I’ve seen nobody spit and nobody pissing in public.
- The electrics look like there is actually a system involved in their wiring.
- Nobody is trying to sell me anything! Even the taxi drivers don’t seem especially eager to get a fare.
- Nobody stares at me if I walk down the street.
- The one beggar woman near my hostel looks cleaner, better groomed and dressed than I do, and sits with her hands clasped as if she is meditating rather than asking for money.
- Locals are walking around in skin tight clothing and half the girls have their legs out. I was shocked. I look positively conservative in my Indian tops and jeans now!
- The cars don’t use their horns, ever!
- They have lots of Tescos, and Boots!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful, everything is shiny, clean and very organised. It’s great, but part of me misses the crazy-ass chaos and colourfulness of India. I feel like Alice coming back out of the rabbit hole or returning through the looking glass to her own side. It’s very odd.
I arrived on Friday night and went to a guest house near the airport, just for the night. I had one beer around 6pm and had to go and lie down for an hour. The liver is sorely out of practice. The next day I had fun in the sub zero air conditioned sky train and then took the bus 2 hours to Pattaya on the coast to visit my godfather Nick who has lived here since the late eighties.
It was really nice to spend the weekend in a house. Nick has two gorgeous dogs, a barrel-bellied Doberman called Sadie and a white puff-ball called Tommy. I relaxed with a cup of Earl Grey tea outside, reading the papers while he was playing his weekend bridge. Just what I needed to unwind. That evening I put on the one dress I have with me as the two of us had been invited for a six course, farewell dinner for a friend of Nick’s in a beautiful penthouse apartment overlooking the city. This is the crazy contrast of my life now, one minute I’m washing street filth from my feet in a cold shower of a grotty guest house room in Kolkata, and the next I’m drinking Kir Royal in penthouse apartments in Thailand. Fun eh! As much as I could have happily spent the rest of the week drinking tea, playing with the dogs, listening to Opera and reading The Spectator in the garden at my godfather’s, I had to sort visas and the like, so this afternoon I came back to Bangkok. I’m staying in the newer part of town, the idea of staying in Khaosan road was just too much of a cliche, although I can’t possibly leave SE Asia without visiting and finding out just what a Thai girl can do with a ping pong ball! So I’m planning on sweet talking the embassies and doing a spot of shopping before the Linney madness, in the shape of my brother and Mum arrive at the end of the week. I’ve managed to roll up my curry stained combats to show 4 inches of leg and I’m sporting my Save Tibet T-shirt, but honestly I still look overdressed. With my newly accquired mosquito bites and India-city-pollution spots, not to mention what the humidity here is doing to my hair, quite frankly, I’ve looked better! Ah well, time for my daily liver workout, beer anyone?