Readers' Submissions

Keep Your Perspective

  • Written by Anonymous
  • January 26th, 2005
  • 8 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Like most readers of this site, I greatly enjoy the readers' postings and although this is not a chat room per se, it seems to have evolved more or less into the pre-imminent board about Thailand on the internet. No doubt largely due to the dedication of Mr. Stickman and his very reliable updating of the site.

But enough stroking Stick, what has motivated me to post is more in response to a recent trend in postings I’ve observed recently that (to me) threaten the integrity of the site. That is, my perception of a growing tendency of some folks to “flame”, or irrationally criticize the actions and motives of others for visiting or living in Thailand.

It’s more than a little hypocritical judging from what these posters go on to write themselves but without moralizing or preaching, although the postings are interesting they don’t particularly reflect anything other than one person’s opinions and as we know opinions are like noses, i.e., everyone has one. Or in the words of JFK, “I’m not sure if I want popular opinion on my side because I’ve noticed those with the most opinions tend to have the fewest facts.”

Ok, I said I wasn’t going to moralize and the quote obviously labels me as a Yank and that in and of itself tattoos me with a certain perspective and bias, but regardless here is my Thailand background.

I’ve worked in / out of the Middle East, mostly in Saudi Arabia for the past 25 years and have been to Thailand I suppose about a dozen times over that span. Like all I have pleasant and not so pleasant memories but they rather obviously are mostly pleasant or why return for a dozen visits?

I ask myself that and it always boils down for me to Thailand has been, continues as, and most likely will be for a long time one of the world’s great destinations, regardless of your interests, proclivities, and goals. In my 25 years span I’ve evolved myself from initially visiting for the wonderment of the place overall, and canned tourist adventure, to what is now labeled on many sites as the GFE (Girl Friend Experience), to investigating buying a place.

Through all of that I’ve concluded that despite my personal evolution and changing reasons for returning to Thailand it remains a truly unique place in the world and that the changes overall have improved the experience. Although there have certainly been tradeoffs. As proof I offer the following in more or less of a brief chronology:

? Late 70’s / early 80’s – for those of us that were around, who can forget the horrific traffic jams where it was literally possible, even likely, to walk and arrive sooner than those taking taxis, for relatively long journeys of a couple of kilometers if you were setting out any time between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. But in those days although you could easily get ripped off in Patpong, you almost had to try and to those who did not experience Patpong at that time, it was much like Soi Cowboy in that there was none of the infernal night market and you could just bounce back and forth across the street from one bar to another.

The first time I visited was late 1979 while in the newbie tourist mode, taking pictures, visiting temples, etc., and one of my pilgrimages and excuse for first time visit to Patpong was to take a picture of the bar from the mid-70’s movie Deer Hunter about Vietnam but filmed partly in Bangkok (I think it was the “Mississippi”? but some other reader can correct me). At that time Thermae was almost innocent but then the whole experience could be described that way compared to today. To a large degree I suppose the publicity served to do what publicity does and changes that very thing it publicizes. Life’s like that.

? Mid-80’s for me in Thailand visits was defined to a large degree by the AIDS scare / crisis. I never really got the “sex tourist” thing but it didn’t then or now seem to me like those that do are bad people. Personally I evolved into the GFE stage by then after having a fairly common (from reading the other postings) falling out with a fairly typical / stereotype “Western woman” and I suppose the timing was ideal. Although the landscape was changing and you could actually discern the pre-planning and initial steps for monumental changes coming to Bangkok and Thailand overall, e.g., the Sky Train, Bangkok was still sort of primitive in an exotic way. But for all the criticism leveled at Thais for being backwards and introspective, if there is one country in the world that confronted the AIDS issue head on, it was and to a large degree still is Thailand. For all the discussion on this site and others about other places to go if you are in the “Sex Tourist” phase of your journey through life, or it is just what interests you like Dana, I can’t imagine the risks. China is just one huge bomb simmering and ready to detonate if it has not already. Having worked extensively in Latin America and South America through the 90’s I can’t imagine how it is now other than much worse, because those folks are not confronting their problem as openly as the Thais

? So although I spent most of the 90’s in the other hemisphere mostly in one jungle or mountain top to another, mostly chasing mineral deposits and working on the front end of mine developments, I managed to get back to LOS from time to time and as Stick and others will surely confirm the big currency devaluation of the 90’s during the crash made Thailand even more of a bargain destination. I think the exchange rate went from something around 20 baht to the $US to 61 or 62 before it settled to more or less 40 level it has been for the last 10 years or so. The real impact of that has been the same goods and services available when I began my visits to Thailand in the late 70’s are there to be had in the 21st century, i.e., inflation was offset by currency fluctuation. It was during this time, i.e., the 90’s that the transformation of Nana Plaza took place. Yet through all of that, places like Nana, Dynasty & Grace Hotel soldiered on more or less that same.

? Strangely to me though with all of the improvements brought on by the Sky Train and Metro recently there has been another trade off for those navigating the tourist Sukhumvit area, i.e., the explosion of the day time stalls set up almost all down Sukhumvit for the cloned stuff. Although it is a little like New York City now in that if you can’t find it for sale there you don’t need it, it is annoying that it is virtually impossible to have a pleasant walk down the street any more. I love the Sky Train but I miss being able to walk without dodging the stalls and touts. Of course we frequent travelers know anything you can buy on the street you can buy cheaper and higher quality in MBK and similar air-conditioned shopping places, but alas there seems to be something about the street shopping experience that appeals to farangs.

Although I am currently in the “look outside Bangkok to buy a place stage”, there is just something special about the appeal of Bangkok. I’ve heard it described as the smell, the excitement, the commotion, etc., whatever, it just appeals to the senses. These days I simply enjoy whiling away time at Golden Bar outside Nana or Big Dogs in NEP and just taking it all in. For those posters that think one is a sucker for buying lady drinks for the staff, spending a whopping 100 – 120 baht a drink, that’s your opinion and like your nose you are welcome to it. Ditto for those that are hypercritical of Dana or the sex tourists who are pursuing their interests. For me, my interests have changed over the years except for I have always enjoyed returning to visit Bangkok and although it has changed, so have I and that is ok with me.

So lighten up, enjoy the posts of others for what they are, i.e., their opinions and experiences not some attempt to tempt or convert you. But be receptive to new ideas, as often as I’ve been to LOS I’ve picked up a lot of tips from this site and until the Stick starts charging <won't happenStick> there is no better cost efficient source of good LOS information. As far as LOS itself goes revel in its contradictions, it’s just part of the experience, if that isn’t comfortable to you then vote with your feet and seek other places for your adventures. I hope you find what you are seeking. I have. See you at NEP in February.

Stickman's thoughts:

The way some people get their knickers in a twist over others' opinions makes me chuckle.