26 days   summer 03

Kind of travel: alone in a wholly independent travel

When: heart of the wet season (2003 summer)

How I moved: by minibus, by tuk tuk and by train

Where I slept: in very cheap hotels (hotel...uhm.. it's a big word)

What I liked: "not pushy at all" attitude of the people and all the faces of Bangkok

What I dislike: the f...ing superhumidity and hotness, that made my brain melted, the fat whites fingering the local lolitas and the crowd of tourists coming from the beaches of the south

What you do need: nothing more than few T-shirts, some pants. Travel in Thailand is so easy that you don't need anything more!


I don’t really know why it’s years that the idea of hanging out in Indochina buzzes in my mind; attracted by this cluster of nations so known as stages of some past human madness (from the ‘65-’73 war to Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge), on the opposite so few mentioned in their actual situation.
At the beginning I was mainly focused on Vietnam and Cambodia, but then, for several reasons, despite already handing an expensive Vietnamese visa, I swapped the Hochi Min country with the earth of the elephant: Laos.
To fly to Bangkok rather than directly to my goals was the only way to save bunches of euros and if you add  I had to wait the Laotian visa for 5 days in the north of Thailand you figure out why part of my travel passed through the former country.



I prepared this trip for months before leaving: first of all reading pages and pages of funny reports to plan my itinerary and at the end I completely changed my way following my instinct and some funny fellows known on the road (thanks Leigh, thanks Enn). But this is the fun of travelling… "Travellers don’t know where they are going, while tourist don’t know where they have been"
Moreover I straived to carry just the indispensable stuff on my shoulders encompassing gears for my daily fight against supposed mosquito swarms. But evidently they were on holiday somewhere else and, as every travel (maybe even more than others), I utilised just a part of my 19 Kg bag….. this freaks my out every time I come back!!!!! (equipment tips)
I’ve promised myself next travel just two pairs of slip and a toothbrush (I’ll borrow the paste) in a plastic bag ;-))



Landed in Bangkok, still jetlagged and already sweat soaked, I jumped on a unexpected deluxe train heading to the north. The next morning I was in the exotic and touristy Chiang Mai where I spent some relaxant days waiting for my Lao visa and getting my feet massaged. My passport wandered through Thailand for four days before coming back to his fu**ing worried daddy in Huay Xai (the Lao border) at 7 am brought by a moped-boy coming from "whoknowswhere". Right here I crossed the Mekong river getting in Laos and experiencing a 30 years gap of development in 500 meters of water. No more roads here in Laos, in particular in the rainy season! That’s why I had to get packed for two days in a crowded (and touristy) slow boat to reach Luang Prabang. But I had fun, especially because most of the guys on the boat where travellers plenty of interesting stories experienced around the world. And what about the nice village of Pakbeng where the boat stops for the night?
No way to describe the charming Luang Prabang and the sublime noodle soups I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner.(read how I manage to cry eating a noodle soup!) Definitely it’s not the most off-of-the-beaten-track place I’ve ever seen, it’s really worthwhile though! I think it’s here I had my best days during this travel. In fact I knew Leigh (canadian no-fear guy) and Enn (dutch tough girl) who I travelled with for the next two weeks. Me and Leigh tasted every sort of thing was sold as food: the "snake juice" and even the unchewingable fried hen legs; but the point is that we appreciated most of them…. uhm… left alone the stinky dried rats; frankly I felt to throw up just glancing (and smelling) at them (read the funny story). The three of us decided to get to north to the Muang Ngoi Neua village where we sweated for some days, tubing down the river, swinging on the hammocks and watching the village kids playing,… I mean such things like hunting 3 m long water snakes ;-)). Then back to the civilisation, namely to the "built just for tourist" Vang Vieng and the nice Vientane. And south again till the four thousand island arcipelago at the border between Cambodia and Laos, where we settled down on an island for a bunch of days.
Here my travel fellows got caught by the idleness of sucking coconuts and drinking Lao Lao whisky laying down on a hammock overlooking the Mekong. If I had time… I’d be still there.. but Cambodia was waiting for me (bye bye dudes, I’ll miss you). It has been an hassle to cross the border (read!!) and I immediately experienced how these two countries differ.
Cambodia few years ago came out from a 30 years war, and this obviously cannot be devoid of consequences: while Laotians are far far more laid-back and smiling, in Cambodian I felt a kind of melancholy. It took one day to get to Stung Treng by a kind of wooden boat floating on the Mekong and this was definitely an off-of-the-beaten-track leg. I got well impressed by this colonial town far from everywhere, where I knew my first cambodian friend who took me to know his mother in the darkness of his "hut"(read). Then another day to Kompong Cham, still sailing, but now on the roof of a fast steel boat... no way, the first steel boat I’ve seen in the last 20 days!!
And finally one day more through the dusty bumpy roads of the flat Cambodia to get to the famous Siem Reap, where I stopped some days enjoying the eases to be in so a touristy place.
Then again on the road for the last bumpy hours before reaching the Thai border, where a four lane highway takes you to the crazy Bangkok, where I spent three days sweating and sorting out images, thoughts and memories crowding my mind.



Thailand, Thailand, Thailand… the country where the exotic south Asian tastes, smells and colours are well mingled with a development that sounds west. Bangkok represent the top of such contrast: where hundreds of smoky stalls selling every kind of fried animal and vegetables are settled below the structure of the high tech "sky train" just outside a super air conditioned 7eleven. In Bangkok there’s everything you need; nothing to envy to any European capital. It’s a kind of challenge in being inventive without rules. What is important is to sell something or to make a deal with somebody; it means you can find everything for nothing: documents, certificates, driving licences, student cards, CDs, Rolex watches, etc etc…. all faked, of course. But when the night comes the sex becomes the real business and then no morality is allowed in Bangkok, or anyway in a part of it.
The sex definitely is something that impressed me travelling in Thailand, but in general in the whole Indochina. Not only the fatty western whites fingering the Thai lolitas or the sexy shows promotions are fixed in my memories, but mainly the paying sex culturally well accepted. Happy married (with aware wives) Thai husbands usually meet prostitutes and the western lolitas exploitation doesn’t seem to bother them that much. But I’ve travelled just in the north I report just what it seems there to me and not what it is in the whole Thailand.
Outside Bangkok it not just rice fields and mountains. What about the developed (and nice) Chiang Rai settled in the far north nearby the Lao border?
Hence for a traveller Thailand means efficient means of transport, extremely cheap accomadations, safety as nowhere and I couldn’t end without telling about the nice attitude of the Thai people. They don’t miss a chance for a smile and I never got bothered by anybody.
Travelling you really feel their capability of living with calm and relative relax even in poor situations, in which anybody else (for instance an european or a south american) would get angry and aggressive. This is an attitude westerns should learn in order to better our life mood.
At the end I came back home carrying positive memories of such country, but (there’s always a "but") not the deepest of my travel in Indochina. Maybe because of the amount of tourists in summer, maybe because it’s so easy to move through the country, maybe because it was just a transit country since I was heading to Laos and Cambodia or maybe because I didn’t explore that much, but to me it seemed things were already prepared, in short I felt more a tourist than a traveller there.



PS: If you’ve planned to go to Bangkok or to the North in July or August I hope you like sweating as hell. I mean that kind of humid hot that doesn’t let you to sleep unless a fan blows on your body the all night. Good luck!  



Funny stories







It’s called Poipet. If you pass through there for sure you won’t forget this name.I mean one of the two border points between Thailand and Cambodia opened to foreigners.
I got there from the town of Siem Reap in Cambodia. It took me several days to reach Siem Reap from the Lao border, I mean spending days sweating on a kind of wooden raft, then toasted on the roof of a steel boat and finally packed in a 30 people van jumping and jolting on bumpy strips of earth called roads. Lonely Planet warns you about your freaking out moving in Khmer land, so you cannot complain saying; "if I had known… " since you knew. That’s way I was just patience and tried to enjoy everything,: people, landscape, town, cows, rice… hence time flew till the moment I realised in few hours my ass would have had peace.
This happened to me in Siem Reap thinking that in 8 hours I’d have reached Poipet, the border with Thailand. Those hours turned out endless and the bumpiest of ever; the average speed was at most 20 km/h and in addition the rusty old "bus" punctured. I still remember the driver getting on asking about volunteers who help fixing the tyre (and melting under the hot sun). Of course I dodged.
Finally we approached the border. One km before it the bus stopped and the drivers shouting to beware of thieves dropped us off. What I particularly remember is the dust, lifting from the semi unpaved road, clouding everything and the people pushing overloaded rusty trailers. I got my passport stamped and I started walking towards the Thai border stared by dodgey people doing nothing but standing there. While walking I saw a huge brand new glass-aluminium structure, it was a casino and then the Thai flags. The road became paved and the dusty disappeared. Just besides the border a clean polished market and same sparkling air conditioned vans ready to leave to Bangkok instead of the Cambodian rusty old bus.
Air condition… yeah it was three weeks I was longing for it!! Just I got on the van a man brought me same bottled water and a sandwich included in the travel fare. I was astonished. Five hundred meters from the border a four lane highway took me in Bangkok in four hours covered at 120 km/h.
This huge gap between Thailand and Cambodia once again shows how the political stability determines the development or the destruction of a country more than its resources or its geographical position.





I was just arrived in Chiang Mai trying to figure out how to get a Laotian visa as soon as possible when I met a woman, who run a hostel, saying she could provide it for 30 $. I decided to trust her (frankly I didn’t have other chances) and I left her my passport paying in advance. Unfortunately it was Friday hence there was no way to have it before Tuesday. It meant four days but, at least I could get it in Huay Xai, the town at the Lao border where she had another guesthouse. I was worried of separating from my document at the beginning of such long trip, having just a piece of paper as receipt and I was looking forward to get it back.
Time flied while I was hanging out in the north of Thailand thinking where my passport could be, like a daddy anxious for his kid. Finally it comes Monday and I went to the indicated guesthouse in this small town in the middle of nothing asking at what time I should have picked up my passport with the visa the day after.
"Boh?? Maybe at 7 a.m., maybe at 9 a.m., maybe at 11 am, maybe tomorrow"
"What?? But my boat to Luang Prabang is at 9 am and I’ve to buy the ticket in advance before it gets fullbooked!!!"
"Don’t worry you can buy the ticket anyway"
"That’s for sure,!!!! But what about getting back my money if I don’t receive my visa in time??"
Here started a persuasion about having promised they would have taken the ticket back. It was pouring the next morning at 6 am while I was standing in front of the guesthouse "reception" (I mean a scrap wooden table) plaguing the girl for my visa. I think she was eager to kick me my ass the fifth time I asked her how I would have known when my passport were received. But she didn’t and told me to be patience. Every minute to me seemed hours thinking about my boat. And what about if nothing would have happened?? Where the hell should I have gone to complain??
No way! At 8.30 am a young guy came riding a moped through the muddy puddles with a bag containing my passport! Yeah!! I was excited when I crossed the Mekong on one of this narrow unstable pirogue, but I turned quite upset when I saw it was possible to get it at the border for almost the same amount of money. And you don’t even need the pictures!!
Shit !!!
The last but not the least, the boat left Huay Xai more than four hours later; lots of efforts for nothing.





It was one evening in Chiang Mai while I was walking in the crowdy centre, that I wanted to have my feet massaged. I lay down on a deck chair right at the side of the main way were hundreds of people where strolling with nothing to do but looking at me and at the stalls. I wasn’t bothered, on the opposite I enjoyed this "being in a window shop" feeling. A respectful old lady spread on my legs a kind of eucalyptus essence. A good flavour but so strong that for the next hours even the cats runaway from me! A bunch of seconds after she started massaging I realised the Thai massage is not a relaxing one, but it aims to stimulate the muscles. It can be sorrowful and sometimes it was, but at the end I felt my legs fresher and more in shape.
Anyway while I was lying on the deck chair letting the old lady to do everything she wanted to my legs, I noticed the people, especially the young girls, looking in my direction whispering to each other. There was an agitation around me more than elsewhere. I realised what was happening when a young girl went to the guy lain next to me with a piece of paper and a pen asking for a signature. And then another and another. I glanced at him wondering who was.
After a while I didn’t withstood asking it to him. He turned quite disappointed hearing my question and answering he was a famous actor.
The worst for him came up when I kindly asked:" famous?? Where?" and, even more disappointed than before, he answered:" famous in Thailand".
Then I shut up felling I had grounded his proud.
Sorry man, despite globalisation Asia is still so far from West world.




Bangkok is big, not only in squarekm but also in sense of encompassing a large variety of social levels and nationalities. From the poorest part of Chinatown to the most modern ones that make Bangkok one of the capital of south Asia.
For a traveller, or better for any tourist, Bangkok is a kind of entertainment park. Even without visiting the highlights of the city, it's so fun looking at what happens around you just strolling. Personally I spent time trying to figure out the food of the street stalls and tasting it or looking at all these faked stuffs sold everywhere or meeting other foreigns exchanging impression about the travels. And what about hanging out in the city on these crazy tuk-tuk (a three wheel moped) slaloming in the traffic?
In Bangkok is so easy to find accommodation for any economic range and if you're a budget traveller you'll managed to get one bed for peanuts. Further to me the city appeared very safe; I walked in the night for two hours from the suburb to the centre and nobody bothered me. I'd have liked to stay longer in the Thai capital, especially to explore the outskirts far from the foreigns and have a look of the real life there, but time is never enough.




Chiang Mai is the main city in the north of Thailand and consequently is most touristy. So don't expect to be in an untouched south Asia town feeling to be an explorer. Nevertheless, despite the sexy pubs, the travel agencies and the souvenir shops this centre maintains his charm even with such things I didn't like to see. One of these was right the sex tourism of old fatty whites fingering Thai lolitas.
People were nice, especially the group of Thai guys stopping me eager to interview me in english. It was so funny!!
My best memory is the night strolling in the main way where hundreds of stall settled down selling every kind of delicious food, and the foot Thai massage I had right there.
One day I followed one of the organised groups visiting the tribes on the mountains nearby the town and then rafting down the river for one hour and half. Despite the tribes were interesting, riding the elephant was fun (the first minute) and the rafting was quite cool, I didn't like. I felt like being at the zoo. I prefer just wandering in the suburbs looking the people (as I did) that feeling in such way.
But Chiang Mai has also a modern aspect: malls and a huge cinema where you can find everything you need and enjoy the air conditioned for a while.




Travelling in Thailand is so easy that you don't need tips, unless you are going to explore the wild north far from the civilization, then the tips for the Laos can turn out useful (Lao tips)