Travel Notes: Summer
I close my eyes and see myself eating al fresco during a hot afternoon fanned by a gentle breeze and with a view of the water. I taste seafood and various vegetables tossed in a wok with ginger, oyster sauce, garlic and chilli. I smell Thai basil, lemon grass, steamed hom mali rice, scented burning wood. I am salivating with desire. However, right now I am languishing in my seat and all I can smell is aviation fuel as we experience near to one hour delay. Eventually, the plane takes off, dinner is served and soon after I fall into a deep sleep only to be awoken by the smell of food. Breakfast is being served and the city beckons.
The accidental tourist
Jean Paul is neatly dressed, sporting a short hair cut and two day stubble. His eyes exude confidence but in real he is a kind and unassuming man. I have known him for over a decade and worked with him on a couple of projects. He knows Thailand well and at the time of my first visit, his sojourns were already into double digits. He travels to Bangkok four times a year and by pure coincidence we find each other at the same hotel one late morning in June. He offers me a big smile and asks me to join him. He tells me that he is spending ten days in Bangkok while the latter is a transit destination for me. I accept and sit down with him to enjoy my first of cup of coffee of the day.
Jean Paul is jovial and talkative. He is respectful of the local culture but he is not particularly interested in temples or sightseeing, which he explored during his first visits to the kingdom. Nowadays, the only reason why he may enter a shopping mall is to sample their food court. With him being French born and myself being Italian it does not take much effort to agree a visit to the newly refurbished food halls at Emporium. Although, only a couple of stops away by BTS, this is a departure from his natural habitat in the municipality of Sukhumvit as his main motive for visiting Bangkok is what he calls carnal rejuvenation and that includes, as he puts it, the rehabilitation of his “member” by undertaking a little exercise from time to time so that it is used to do a little more than just pipi’.
The Food Halls at Emporium are located on the fifth floor. They are modern, expansive and air-conditioned. The main theme is Thai food but you can also find there Korean, Vietnamese, Indian and Arabic food and if your taste buds veer towards Japanese or Chinese, there are outlets surrounding the Food Halls that cater for this too.
I often wondered what it is that draws a man like Jean Paul to the gutter end of Sukhumvit. He has a good job providing him with the wherewithal to enjoy a pleasant life style, he is still reasonably fit, well presented and with a good education. I put the question to him and he tells me that he wants a little fun and he is attracted to Asian women. Requirements for women to be westernised or educated does not feature in his criteria when it comes to having a bit of fun and he has neither ambition nor plans to marry one but he is not being demeaning when he says that. As a matter of fact, I detect a little tiredness in his tone. He explains that he gets plenty of intellectual stimulation when interacting with women in his dual locations between London and Paris. He tells me that in the circles he frequents, he finds quite a few women to be intelligent, witty, attractive, well groomed and ambitious but that is where he draws the line as he confesses his disillusionment at the way, in his view, there is a contentious gap between the genders often fomented by the media. He feels that marriage is essentially a contractual agreement not worth pursuing because of its stringent terms and conditions and he is concerned at the increasing gender confusion that is developing all over Europe. He is neither pro or against homosexuality but does not understand the need for what he calls an invasive media profile in the name of diversity and equality.
We return to the topic of Asian women, he tells me of his love for them in a physical form but of his impatience with their ever changing moods. I ask him if his desire to become intimate with them perhaps prevents him from seeing other qualities in them. He is quite candid when admitting that he does not care for anything other than a carnal experience. He assures me that he has no intention of being an exploitative predator by all means but he is not inclined to cultivate a rapport with his opposite gender. He tells me that he has enough male and female friends back home but when it comes to physical desire his centre of attention remains Asian women in the South East Asian basin. He is happy to entertain them for the night, pay the required fees but, by the same token, he is extremely reluctant to get emotionally involved. We finish our food and we say our goodbyes with a resolve to meet in a few days and to enjoy a good Pad Thai when I return from my seaside destination.
As a European brought up in Mediterranean shores, I have the sea genetically imprinted in my brain. This condition was reinforced while islands hooping in the Greek archipelago over a number of years during my late 20s when my partner at the time was a local native incarnation of Aphrodite or at least that is how she looked to me.
Hence, perhaps, it is not surprising that no expedition to the kingdom would be complete for me without a few days by the sea and I could not see a good reason for breaking this habit. At this time of the year, intense showers are never too far away but they tend to be short affairs and throughout it all, it remains warm.
Mrs. Smith has chosen a resort not too far from the sea market in Hua Hin. She tells me that there is a pool and the beach is just across the road. I tell her that as long as she is there, that is all I need, which, I immediately realise, is a rather corny and tired expression but it seems to please her. The road to our destination is fairly straight and Mrs. Smith drives often holding that cute little smile of hers. She seems happy that I am here and I am certainly very happy to be with her once again. The journey concludes just short of three hours. We check in and decide to take a mid afternoon nap. Later, we shower, enjoy a cup of tea under the veranda and then we head to the night market searching for food. We return to our resort happy and with our bellies full. Cuddles turn into long embraces and intermittent kisses caressed by the warmth of the night. Eventually, tired, we fall asleep into each other’s arms.
It’s well gone dusk when Jean Paul visits Nana Plaza. He spends his time crawling from one bar to another. His modus operandi is always the same. He takes a peek inside the bar and if there are enough girls strutting their staff on stage then he goes in and takes a seat at the back. He orders his drink and pays for it on arrival. He enjoys looking at the girls. The issue of objectification does not enter his mind. He is aware they get paid for dancing, for drinking and most, if not all, are bar finable. He does not see evidence of anyone being there against their will. He is aware this environment appeals mainly to men of all ages but among the clientele he spots the odd woman too. Sometimes, if he is not looking at some of the dancing girls specific physical attributes, he will look at their eyes and in these furtive glances he tries to capture either the essence of their vulnerability or their mischief. He has all night and he never hurries. He is willing to find someone to bar fine but if he cannot see what he likes he will leave only to cross the threshold of the next locale conveniently located a few steps away within, what he calls, the Nana zoo and he is a willing monkey. It is just past midnight when he emerges from the last bar with a big grin on his face. He has been drinking a little but he is still reasonably sober and decides it is time to go back to his hotel down Soi Nana. A few minutes later he enters his room, his shoes are removed followed by his clothes and then, exhausted, he crashes in bed and falls into a deep sleep alone. His inner desire for love is rekindled while he rests but it is only a dream.
It’s only 9 am and it is already very hot. We seek shelter in the shaded areas near one of the fans. Breakfast is a simple affair of boiled rice chicken soup and, separately, fruit and coffee. We are browsing the newspaper s and Mrs. Smith is critical of the plight of the growing waves of Rohingya boat people which Myanmar refuses to recognise as an official minority despite hailing from their Rakhine region and in part from southern Bangladesh. Around 7,000 migrants remain at sea. Thailand is very reluctant toward the option of allowing them in the kingdom. They would rather repatriate them all but Myanmar denies that the Rohingya are theirs. According to Mrs. Smith these are not refugees but economic migrants and she remains concerned that their influx in her country has now reached an alarming level. Instead of allowing them inland, the Thai Government has ordered the launch of an integrated special task force to provide assistance to migrants at sea. The outside world, in its obsession to be politically correct, is united in the condemnation of the Thai Government decision.
Meanwhile, 10,000 kilometres away, boat after boat filled with Eritreans, Somalis, Nigerians and Syrians attempt the perilous journey to reach the southern European coasts of Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta, which, in their views, are the gates to the rest of Europe. In the last six months, more than 100,000 migrants have reached these shores. A few hundreds were not as successful and their bodies were claimed by the depth of Mare Nostrum, which led to an outcry from neo liberals who are quick in their condemnation of the lack of state intervention. Their manifestations are of charitable nature but the long term outcome of their intentions is ill-judged in the eyes of the local populace who are forced to rub shoulders with unskilled migrants from completely different cultures and who soon find themselves fitting the roles of city vagabonds. Inevitably, this is likely to create uneasiness and tensions on both sides with all the ills in the world being blamed on the migrants.
Migration, whether for political or economical reasons, is the big issue that western politicians are ignoring at their own countries’ peril. If you think that there should be a process of sifting one group from the other you are right and there is. If you think that the system is cumbersome and inefficient and it takes far too long to establish whether someone is entitled to remain or should be returned to their country of origin you are also right. Meanwhile the human traffickers rub their hands with glee.
I do not have a solution. I am merely an observer aware of the issues. I am concerned but equally decadent and powerless to do anything about it. As I enjoy another slice of tang-mor, I reflect on the pros and cons of the Thai approach to the issue.
Jean Paul wakes up early and decides to go for a walk delaying the pleasure of a freshly brewed cup of coffee until one hour and a shower later. It is 7 am and it is hot already. By lunch time, he deduces, it will be unbearably hot and he makes a mental note to visit a local mall for the needed comfort of air conditioning. He is strolling down Sukhumvit Soi 3 when a slim, lightly attired lady with legs which could advertise branded tights accosts him and speaking softly suggests that she could suck him for 500 baht. In that moment the idea of coffee seems to him irresistibly attractive and he smiles briefly to her before marching on without the courtesy of a reply. Optimism is the first cousin of love and it is exactly like love in three ways; it’s pushy, it has no real sense of humour and it turns up when you least expect it.
Happiness begins in the mind
It is another pleasant sunny day and Mrs. Smith and I have had a wonderful time so far. This morning, we have climbed atop Wat Khow Takiab and at its summit we are welcomed by a very enjoyable cool breeze and we decide to stay for a while.
We look at the horizon, another earth prisoner pretending to be free, while soothing our eyes with the vastness of Hua Hin bay. We are silent and that gives me an opportunity to reflect that there is a truth that is deeper than experience. It is beyond what we see, or even what we feel. It is the kind of truth that separates the profound from the merely clever and the reality from the perception. I am speechless in the face of it and do not try to confront it by seeking answers. We pray and for each prayer we ring each of the many bells surrounding the terrace. From time to time I glance at Mrs. Smith in silence. I look at her eyes studying the horizon, searching for her own meaning and I wonder what her own truth may be. The cost of knowing it, like the cost of knowing love, is sometimes greater than any heart would willingly pay.
If you think that it doesn't always help to love the world you are right and if you think that loving the world prevents us from hating it you are also right. I look at the horizon and try to find my own meaning and my own truth. Mrs. Smith takes my hand and by her action, in that moment, I understand that the only way to know the truth is to share it, from heart to heart, without contemplating the past and to avoid thinking of the future by focusing in the present. This is what I was told by my grandmother once, just as I am telling you now.
Noon is approaching and the tropical sun is now too hot and, for me at least, not as pleasant as it was when we first arrived. We begin our descent with the intention of seeking repair in one of the local eateries we had seen on our way to the temple. In the shade fishermen patiently tend to their nets.
Their boats are moored side by side lazily enjoying an early afternoon siesta.
Two women, under their respective umbrellas, debate what seafood delights to have for their lunch.
While they chatter away Mrs. Smith and I sip our drinks oblivious as to how long it will take for our food to arrive. Mrs. Smith is sketching a scene from a photo we have taken and I follow the delicate lines traced by her pencil. There is no hurry today. It is lovely here and we do not have to race anywhere else. We talk, we smile and we eat. Life can be easy if we want. Why do we make it so complicated?
When we decide to leave later that afternoon, my eyes catch a local Thai vendor who is shaving, with his right hand, a block of ice against a flat piece of wood with a blade in the middle. He works with sufficient energy and a rhythmically forward-backward movement to fill with grated ice a bowl held by his other hand in a matter of seconds.
It brings back memories to me of how, 30 years earlier, street vendors in the sunny island of Sicily, their skin burnt by the Mediterranean sun, used to prepare lemon Granita. The ice shavings drop into a bowl and when the latter is completely full he pours a red syrup on it to the wondrous gaze of a little girl to whom he eventually hands over the colourful creation of his labour.
He collects a few baht from her and is given the most enchanting of smiles in return and I assume that he cannot possibly make significant money from this venture but he smiles back to her looking truly happy and I conclude there is no act of faith more beautiful that the innocent smile of a little girl met by the generosity of a honest working human being.
Our return to Hua Hin night market this evening is a more crowded affair as we discover a large group of Chinese tourists have taken up all available seats over two adjacent restaurants. We decide to have our dinner at a venue opposite from them. From where we sit they seem a little crass towards the needs of others. For a moment we debate whether to stay or pick up a take away order from one of the street vendors and go somewhere quieter where we can actually hear the sound of our voices but we both fancy some grilled fish and we abandon the idea of departing in favour of staying among the joviality of these holiday makers no matter how noisy they are.
The Chinese tourists manage an excellent display of being loud and uncouth but Thailand needs them badly. A substantial rise in their numbers has prompted the Tourism Authority of Thailand to revise its forecast for Chinese arrivals to 6 million and by the noise they are making, you could be forgiven for thinking they are all dining in Hua Hin this evening although, apparently, most prefer Chiang Mai. The Tourism and Sports Ministry are hoping that the Chinese market will offset the downtrend of some European countries and it is big money with arrivals from China generating 122 billion baht for the country in the first four months of 2015. The average Chinese is topping the spending charts with 6,346 baht daily ahead of Singaporeans with 6,284 baht. They are good spenders when compared to a more modest 4,950 baht daily for all other foreign tourists.
Data from Thailand Travel Mart shows that the number of Chinese buyers confirming their attendance (42) is the highest among participating countries, followed by Britain with 29, Australia with 20 and India with 18. Despite the lack of appeal among certain quarters, Thailand remains an attractive ticket allowing ministers to boast a target for 2015 of nearly 29 million tourists and 1.4 trillion baht in tourism revenue. This poses a question; given the ongoing shortage of skilled labour in the hospitality sector (numbers of workers employed in this sector recently dropped to 6.2 million), how are the industry providers going to cope with the increased numbers of visitors?
For some unknown reasons, it is hotter than usual in Bangkok this June and another sultry night envelopes the city. Jean Paul is finding difficult to be out and about without sweating profusely. He decides to order a cafe yen at a popular restaurant bearing a set of golden arches for its logo and located across from the Landmark hotel. It feels too cold inside and to avoid an unwelcome chill he takes a seat outside. Most of the seats are occupied by working ladies who try to make eye contact but he is not too concerned with that. A young looking woman, wearing the tightest of light blue jeans and the skimpiest of tee shirts, walks out of the restaurant with her satchel dangling from a strap resting on her right shoulder. She is holding a soft drink in her left hand and in her right hand a smart phone fitted with headphones plugged to her ears. She places her drink on Jean Paul’s table without a hint of an apology as if she is oblivious that he is sitting there. Her left hand searches for something in her satchel until it re-emerges with a cigarette, which she lights up soon after inhaling for what seems like a long time.
Jean Paul looks at her for a moment. She has a pretty face and seems very young but he is unable to determine how young. Noticing his eyes on her, she feigns a little smile and then starts dancing presumably to the sound of music through her headphones. As she does so she turns once, then twice rather provocatively. He notices that the back of her jeans, where her legs meet her shapely round bottom are visibly wet. Given that she is far too young to be incontinent, he deduces that she must have used the toilet and washed herself with the spray gun but failed to dry herself properly.
A portly man wearing a tainted white tank top, basketball shorts and flip flops approaches the table. He is unshaven and with distinct Arab-like facial features. He looks at her and asks how much. She replies “One thousand five hundred baht”. He nods in agreement. She lifts the lid from her soft drink, drops her cigarette inside and then takes the Arab looking man’s hand and the two of them disappear round the corner. Jean Paul smiles while realising that her derriere was as appealing as her face.
The municipality of Sukhumvit is like a village and every city in the world has a village in its heart. You will never understand the city, unless you first understand the village. “Happiness is a myth” he reflects. “It was invented to make us buy things.”
Jean Paul is awaken in the middle night by heavy rain. He looks at his watch on the bed side cabinet and it reads 3 am. The rain is beating hard so hard that he is unable to go back to sleep. It is 5 am when eventually it quietens down and he is able to sleep again. When he wakes up he finds that he cannot go out as parts of Bangkok are flooded.
Khun Paribatra has had a successful career up to now but the rain which has fallen in Bangkok is an occupational hazard to his reputation as Governor of Bangkok. He manages the flooding issues via his dedicated staff at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) overseeing 509 districts and they welcome the extra help from the army troops. Meanwhile, the situation elsewhere is one of drought as rice growers have been advised to delay their rice crops due to water shortages.
Bangkok has been called the Venice of the east but that was a few decades ago when local children could still take a dip in the clear waters of Klong Saen Saep. In those days the locals used the canal water for a whole range of purposes including bathing and cooking, as tap water from the public system had not yet reached the various small communities dotted along its banks. Those good old days are long gone.
The quality of water in the canal has deteriorated and some point the fingers to the massage parlours along New Petchaburi Road whose operators have been releasing vast amounts of polluted water into the canal for years. Calls on the BMA to improve the city’s drainage system providing a direct link from drain pipes at buildings and offices to a big waste water treatment plant nearby are on the increase. The incumbent Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha and his Government have launched a plan to restore the canals starting with Klong Saen Saep. The water in the canals appears to be cleaner in the summer but dirtier in the rainy season. The project is bound to take years but efforts may be in vain unless awareness among local residents, many of whom dispose of all kind of items in the canal, is improved.
Last night it rained in Hua Hin too. Mrs. Smith and I watched an electric storm while dining at Madam Green, an unpretentious but frequently busy seafront restaurant serving delicious Thai seafood and when the rain was over we strolled back to our resort. Today it feels fresher but it is always pleasantly warm.
We travel to the Sirindhorn International Environmental Park. We buy two tickets and stroll among its gardens. I am struck by the beauty and shape of the trees along with their colourfully decorated coats.
At the end of the path, the scenery is both welcoming and serene. We take a seat on a bench. Ahead of us, two pleasantly shaped small trees provide an excellent frame for a wonderful view of the sea. You do not need to be Thai, American, Chinese, African, Arab or European to appreciate the tranquility of the setting. This location would be appealing to any soul but the soul has no culture. The soul has no nations. The soul has no colour or accent or way of life and you may believe that the soul is forever and that the soul is one. And when the heart has its moment of truth and sorrow, the soul can’t be stilled.
Nights have followed days returning darkness punctually at the same time. Jean Paul is coming to the end of his stay and his pursuits of the pleasure of the flesh have netted mixed results. By his own ambitions, this holiday has witnessed more nights spent sleeping alone that the other way round but he is not troubled by these findings.
This evening he finds himself a place at the Golden bar opposite the entrance of Nana Plaza and next to one of the most celebrated car parks. From his vantage point he can soak the entire scene playing before his eyes. Tuk Tuk drivers touting for business, taxis clogging the foot of the soi near the traffic lights intersection where moto-sai riders wait for their next customers, bar girls and coyote dancers arriving for their evening shift, women of most ages and looks pacing up and down waiting to meet someone or something. There are also women standing still by the Nana Hotel sign while street vendors whether displaying barbecued meat, crickets and other bugs or fruit are registering a seemingly active trade. A few young children can be seen trying to sell flowers and plastic trinkets that no one wants to buy and there are the ubiquitous ladyboys loitering the area too.
Jean Paul has bought himself a beer at the bar and he is carefully pouring the amber liquid in his glass. He does not notice her until the glass is more than half full. She has a rounded but pleasant face, darker skin, short black hair, nicely shaped lips and come to bed eyes. Her clothes are not too revealing and had they not met there he would have imagined she worked as a shop assistant at MBK. She introduces herself and he buys her drink. The inevitable questions as to name, country of origin and length of stay follow one another. She does not have to try too hard because he finds her sufficiently pleasant and he has already decided that he will bar fine her but he will play the game and answers her questions to put her at ease and because that is the way it is done. She says that business is quiet. She offers short time for 1,500 baht. Because it is a game, he counters 1,000 baht which she readily accepts full of smiles. He would have been happy to pay more, much more. After all this is Bangkok. It is a pity, he thinks, that she was not willing to negotiate a better deal. He would have enjoyed playing that game quite willingly but, he concludes, she must need the money. He gives her a 500 baht banknote and tells her to go and pay the modest bar fine. She returns a few moments later with his change and her handbag.
He takes her to a short room hotel about 200 metres from the Golden bar. It is a place that he has used before. They do not talk much while en route. He pays 400 baht for a couple of hours and he is given the key to a clean room in return. They disrobe but she tells him that she is too shy to shower together and he lets her go first but at one condition; that she will allow him to undress her when she re-emerges. She agrees.
While she washes herself, he sets the air conditioning to a comfortable temperature and selects a music channel. He places his condoms on the bed side cabinet and removes his shirt and then his socks but keeps his trousers on because that is where his money is stored although he really does not think that she will try and steal from him. She comes out and it is his turn to shower.
When he finishes he comes out of the bathroom naked holding his folded trousers. He is reasonably confident about his physique and he has done this far too many times to be shy. She has kept her promise and is fully clothed again. He enjoys undressing her slowly. He takes his time and relishes every moment. He finds her body matching her pleasant face. She is not the fittest looking woman in the neighbourhood but she is pleasant looking and he enjoys running his hands on her soft and smooth skin.
He moves nearer to kiss her but she leans back. She says she cannot kiss him as she is nursing a sore, which is why she has applied more lipstick than usual. He had not noticed this before but he is much closer now and he can see it. It is a pity, he feels, that he will not kiss what is probably one of her best feature, her lips. However, there is another surprise awaiting Jean Paul when she reveals, rather candidly, that she is at the end of her monthly period and she is a little concerned there may still be some blood. The combination of all these unexpected confessions have the effect of rapidly diminishing his libido. They cuddle for a brief moment then she massages him and eventually she plays with his member. There is no oral release, no penetration and other than petting and fondling nothing else that could be described as sex. Just over one hour later he is bored but not upset with her. He tells her that they can stop. He gives her 1,000 baht out of kindness and once out of the hotel they part by heading in opposite directions. They will never see each other again and seeing them walk apart no one could have imagined that they had shared a bed together only moments before.
Alone in his room, he wonders for the first time in all the years he has done this what exactly he is trying to pursue. Mentally, he is often excited about the opportunity to be there but, on this visit, his desire is lacking somewhat. He wonders what it is that he is craving. Is it sex or is it love? He is not sure but whatever it is, he is aware, while he is alone in bed, that the gyrating blades of the love windmill have been eluding him for some time and he realises that sex alone, while mentally alluring, cannot fill his vacuum of loneliness and this has never happened before.
Suddenly, Jean Paul remembers reading that one of the reasons why we crave love and seek it so desperately is that love is the only cure for loneliness and shame and sorrow. But some feelings sink so deep into the heart that only loneliness can help you find them again. Some truths about ourselves, it would seem, are so painful that only shame can help us live with them. And some things are just so sad that only our soul can do the crying for us. All these amazing sexual tricks the women of Thailand are capable of doing seem to have eluded him on this trip or perhaps he did not have enough convictions to pursue them. His eye lids eventually drop covering his eyes and he dreams of the incredibly sexy and colourful women of Pattaya which make Thailand so amazing and that is his dream that night.
It is time to depart from Hua Hin and return to Bangkok. I do enjoy these short stays at the seaside and Mrs. Smith is an ideal life companion providing me with a natural and yet rare sense of complicity. Before driving back, we visit one last temple called Lan-Tom.
I ask her what that means and she explains that translated it means “Sadness” or “Painful” and that in the past Lan-Tom trees were planted in temples. However, their flowers were so beautiful that many people would have wanted to plant them in their own gardens but they were fearful of disrespecting tradition. Hence, at some point, their name was changed to Lee–La-Wa-Dee which loosely translates as “The flowers with beautiful gentle manners” and since then people have been planting them in their own gardens and the flowers bear a delicate sweet scent which makes the Lee–La-Wa-Dee a very popular ornamental tree. We arrive back in Bangkok late afternoon and Mrs. Smith has to leave me for the rest of the day as she is engaged running some errands for her parents.
I read that popular Soi 38 food stalls, one of the city’s most iconic street food venues, are targeted by the developer’s wrecking plans. For more than 40 years Khun Dum, also known as “Fireman”, and colleagues have delighted tourists and local people living and working in Thong Lor with their delicious food but if the latest news are to be believed, come this time next year, the vendors in the northern side of the soi will be demolished.
It turns out that the owner of the land passed away at the end of last year and his family wants to sell the whole area to a property developer to build another condominium. This is one more good reason as to why, I explain to Jean Paul, we must go there. About 30 minutes later from that conversation, we sit face to face and before our eyes is Khun Dum’s world-known best Pad Thai.
Over our meal, Jean Paul recounts with his trade mark joviality his week of only partially successful adventures. They make an interesting tale and I ask him if he would mind were I to turn them into a short story. He agrees as long as I keep his identity anonymous. I suggest a few names and we settle on the one used here. Before leaving he draws my attention to a sign and asks me at which point Khun Dum secured the opportunity to have an extra ninety minutes daily!!
Despite not everything went according to plan, Jean Paul is in a good mood and I like this resolve in him. We talk about our next visits to Bangkok. He plans to be back in September while for me it will be the end of the year en route to the mountains.
Jean Paul tells me that he is aware that in the eyes of some western women he may be seen as an exploitative pig but he does not really care about that. As a matter of fact he is proud of being called a pig and when I ask him why he replies that “P.I.G.” stands for Pride, Integrity and Guts and who am I to argue with my good friend? However, I refrain from telling him what they do to most pigs in Bangkok.
I have said, on a number of occasions that Thailand was not in my radar until quite late in my life. I did not come over for the night life, which, nonetheless, can be a pleasant diversification, and I did not know much about the local customs either. I came with preconceived western ideas and, nowadays, I keep coming back fascinated by what, to some extent, is possible here. Unexpectedly meeting Mrs. Smith has allowed me to see the country in a way which I could not have accessed on my own. I would like to think that I will continue to visit here for the foreseeable future while retaining my roots firmly in Europe. I first visited searching for meaning without a specific purpose and discovered that purpose actually gives meaning to our destiny. The purpose is in doing whatever great or little we can towards achieving it. One comfort is that throughout the journey we are not alone. We are never alone as long as we live and we travel to new cities, new adventures and new dreams in the search of meaning and purpose and, of course, love because a life without passion is no life at all.
It is the solstice on 21 June and I hope you enjoy the summer.