Please note that most of the photos in this post are just from the internet as I don’t have access to my main bank of photos at the moment.
Hello everyone. As you may have noticed, the blog hasn’t been updated in a while. This is mainly because internet connections out here are slow and so uploading pictures to update the blog takes literally hours, which I usually don’t have. When you’re out in the islands and jungles it’s often hard to find wi-fi at all. I may start uploading images at internet cafes instead to keep the blog moving, certainly in my next destination, Nepal, I think it’ll be a challenge to keep the content up to date.
Following posts will cover Koh Tao, Koh Samui and the jungles of Khao Sok. I fly to Nepal tomorrow from Bangkok. I’ve had a laptop disaster: yesterday my hard disk died. It’s only a month old! I’ve replaced it and hope to be back up and running soon, though managing the photos will be harder now.
As I don’t have access to my photos just now, I thought I’d share some of the general little observations about Thailand which I don’t have space for in other posts.
The Ass Hose
This is your classic Thai toilet. In most places, especially accomodation, you’ll thankfully find a western style seat instead of the squatter shown here. How does it work? So, you do your business. If you have to use the squatter, good luck. Thankfully I haven’t yet, but you need strong leg muscles which we in the west don’t really use. You see Thai people waiting for buses and resting sitting in the proper squat position (feet flat on the floor). I read that as humans it’s a natural position from our primative days. Far from comfortable for us westerners though!
Usually now in the west you’d wipe yourself with toilet paper. But here, it’s time for the ass hose! You pull the lever and sometimes it’s a dribble, sometimes it’s a bowel-splitting jet depending on the loo. If you’re lucky you can control the pressure with the lever. So you jet-wash yourself with the hose, trying not to soak your entire lower half and clothes in the process. Practice makes perfect! To begin with it feels weird but liberating. You get used to it though and now I think it’s way better than the scummy western way. In the west you wipe feaces and urine around with paper, this way you wash off everything. It’s way more hygenic. You’re supposed to use the left hand to dislodge stubborn bits. In other parts of Asia where you don’t have a hose, just a water bowl, you have to rely on the hand and that’s why in these parts of the world the left hand is never used to handle food, shake hands and so on. Afterwards you can shake dry or use toilet paper to dry, which is folded and put in the bin provided, not down the drain as they aren’t designed to handle paper and get blocked easily. Some toilets have loo paper inside, others have some outside for you to take in, and others you need to take your own. Some travellers prefer to use baby wipes.
Then it’s time to flush. Sometimes it’ll be a western flush, if not then you do it the old fashioned way. A bucket or brick container is filled with water at the side, refill it with the tap if needed. Then you use the bowl provided to scoop water into the toilet bowl, as many times as you need to flush everything away, and clean the area. Often in accomodation the shower is included in the toilet area with a drain in the tiled floor – water gets everywhere with the hose and bowl in use anyway! Thankfully the realm of squatters seems quite low here, but in other countries they’ll be in full swing. I’d better get those leg muscles in training!
Any accomodation or restaurant isn’t complete without a gecko or two camping out on the walls. Only about the size of a finger, the pale green, little cute lizards can run very fast and they like sitting next to lights, bathing in the heat. They make little chirpy noises occcasionally giving their position away. It’s quite common to be having a shower or reading a book, to turn your head and realise a gecko is a meter away hidden in a wall crack or on the ceiling staring you. They eat insects so having them around can be handy, hopefully they’re cutting down on your mosquito population. They have little suckered toes which look great when you see them stuck on the other side of a window! I’ve encountered a few big darker brothers of Geckos on my travels, living in my rooms.
Dogs and Cats
Everywhere. Roaming the streets, in restaurants, outside houses. Some cats have little stumpy tails which is an Asian breed. Most of the dogs have sticky-up tails which curl back on themselves. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and there’s some weird hybrids out there where posh breeds have bred with the local riffraff. Like I’ve seen some dogs that are almost like sausage dogs but big and otherwise looking like a normal dog.
Cats act like cats anywhere, some are friendly, most don’t give a damn. They are far outnumbered by their canine enemies, who vary from friendly to ferocious. Some dogs are domesticated and just like we expect a dog to behave in the UK. The rest are strays, some friendly, some indifferent to you, some scared and some downright nasty. Twice I’ve had near run-ins with dogs when out and about, and at night you really have to be careful when alone as they go around in small packs. Most dogs will scare off if you reach for the ground, as they recognise you are reaching for a stone to throw at them. You also shouldn’t look directly at them if you’re unsure, as it can provoke them. I’ve read that street dogs are considered vermin by many Thais and can be horribly mistreated which explains the fear and aggression that some of them show to people.
You see a lot of the street dogs with mange and other skin problems. It’s common to see dogs with injuries like half a tail or limping along on three legs. I even saw one poor dog in Bangkok who had lost the use of both back legs and had to pull himself along on his front legs. Fortunately he looked well-fed so the locals must take pity on him. Because there are so many dogs and they’re so unpredictable, this combined with the crazy Thai driving means that a lot of animals are hit. It seems many are just left to their fate afterwards. There are some dog rescue centres in the bigger towns, often started by westerners distressed at the local dog’s situation. These take in strays, help injured animals and de-sex animals to try and keep the stray population down. However it seems a problem that won’t change for a long time. Dogs are just part of the daily scenery. It seems that the strays manage to feed themselves fairly well, I haven’t seen many skinny looking ones. Dogs also lie in the craziest of places, in the middle of roads, in patches of grass between roaring motorways and I even saw some chilling under a train before scarpering when it set off!
I haven’t caught many on camera, but it’s common to see the orange-clad monks around town. In the early morning they do rounds collecting food and other offerings from people. For the rest of the day, you can often see monks going about daily tasks outside of the temples. Sitting on a bus, in a computer shop, talking on a mobile phone, waiting for a train. Some Thais are only monks for a summer or a year, a rite of passage. When you first see a monk in Thailand around town, you’re grabbing desperately for your camera to snap him. After a few days it’s “same same” as the Thai’s say.
Shrines and Temples
Little shrines are all over the place, built by buildings and businesses to catch evil spirits. They vary in size, colour and ornateness. Offerings and prayers are made to the shrines daily and it’s common to see incense burning or food or drink left at them.
Temples are also far from a rare sight. On a train journey you’ll see plenty from the windows, varying in size and design but easy to spot as most are painted in bright colours. Most towns seem to have at least one decent sized temple. Usually temple complexes have a main building with a buddah statue inside. Many temples are dedicated to particularly holy monks and you’ll see statues of the monk and sometimes photos or paintings of them around the temple. I’ve seen a few where possessions of the monk are also on display. Around the temple hall/s are monks quarters, where you see monks writing or going about daily life and orange robes hanging out to dry, and other outbuildings. It’s often around these that you see the most interesting things and capture the daily goings on at the temple. You always have to take off your shoes before entering a temple building and there’s usually a row of flip flops and sandals outside each one. Many monks I’ve seen are pretty friendly, smiling or acknowledging you when you’re wandering around their temple.
It’s worth pointing out that some temples aren’t exactly stellar and poor paint jobs or ugly statues and disrepair can be seen at many of them. Repairs and construction of new buildings, or entire new temples being built can be found too, with shining golden statues covered in plastic wrap and racks of roof tiles stacked next to the scaffolding. Whereas most churches in the UK are quite old, here the temples seem to constantly evolve and new, more impressive ones spring up by the year.
Wares spill out from the shops onto the streets and stalls are dotted around the pavements. Most shops shutter up at night but many places are open till mid evening. Food and drink stalls are on every street, and open food markets easy to find. Simple restautants and food stalls with plastic stools or basic tables are all over the place – you never have to go far to eat out in Thailand. Walking around you’re hit with an array of smells from food to drains to petrol.
Traffic in the cities is buses, Tuk tuks, pickup trucks and cars. Go into country towns and motorbikes are everywhere with trucks and pickups. Traffic moves very fast and erratically and it’s not unusual to see a car that’s crashed off a highway. Horns are beeped (though not as much as China or India) and overtaking madness is common. Crossing the road requires maximum attention as even on crossings and red lights random motorbikes can zoom inches past. Usually it’s a case of pick your time and then go at a regular pace so the racing traffic can time its speed so as not to hit you. I’ve seen a few near misses with pedestrians in my time here. The Thai road accident rate is the highest in the world.
Well that’s enough for now, I hope this paints a bit more of a picture of life in Thailand for you, and with any luck there will be more pictures and normal posts coming soon!