Thursday, March 10, 2011

The good, the bad, and Cambodia. [Part 1]

“Madam, there's no such thing as a tough child - if you parboil them first for seven hours, they always come out tender."

-W.C. Fields

The good, the bad, and Cambodia [Part 1]

Upon exiting Thailand allow me to induce you to visit.

I was recently on the receiving end of a ninety minute massage--and only a massage, you pervert--for 150 baht (about $5). In corporeal euphoria I gave the masseuse another 100 baht, gratuity for a job well done. She waied me several times as if I were a Buddhist relic. My physical form already on cloud nine and now here’s my mind. Carrying the peace of a philanthropist. Bliss in both body and brain for a mere $8.

So, have you booked your ticket to Thailand yet? As your pack your rucksack for the Land of Smiles please throw in a couple sticks of Old Spice. My travel size containers were exhausted days ago. It’s all natural from here on out because how can one pay for deodorant at over 150 baht a stick when the same can purchase three full meals at a food stall or a ninety minute rubdown?

This isn’t going to sound right. I love Thai children. Imagine a three year-old on a six hour train ride. How about a four year-old on a seven hour, painfully bumpy bus ride. Imagine the child doing two things throughout the entire transportation process. Smiling and sleeping. I’m unsure if they’re given opiates ahead of time or if they’re just naturally content, but I never see these auburn babies upset. I never hear them whine or pine for extra sweets or toys at the store. When I was at the Chang Mai Zoo weeks ago there were busloads of schoolchildren wandering around and they were all so damn happy. Way, way too happy. Not in respects to being at a zoo--the animals didn’t seem to impress them much at all--but just a general sense of joy. Many of them, with sheepish grins, would volunteer a ‘hello’ my way, hoping for a response in kind. The best words to describe their disposition: relaxed delight. Infectious, anytime they were around there was usually a smile on my face too. Something about as rare as a crimson moon. I have a Skype session scheduled with Angelina Jolie for next Tuesday. I’m going to find out how to take one of these things home.

The term ‘things’ is appropriate because they can’t be human. People, especially lawyers and children, get upset and frustrated and gripe and talk back. They spit and stammer and stomp their feet. They flick snot-burgers. I haven’t see anything of the sort from these happily opiated Thai cyborg children. At least give me the software so I can download one.

Thank god (whoever yours may be) for American exhaust regulations. Here, while the modes of transport seem to be more fuel efficient--motorbikes, go-cart tricycle taxis, public buses--the fumes released bring to mind coal power plants. Those on motorbikes favor surgical masks over helmets ten to one for good reason. By mid-afternoon I usually find myself light headed and wheezing. Sometimes it’s the traffic and sometimes it’s because I just passed the most beautiful Asian woman I’ve ever seen. Again.

Skin-moisturizer in Thailand is like toothpaste. You can’t buy one that doesn’t contain a ‘whitening’ formula. To be dark is to be a second class citizen. It’s better to have more Chinese DNA (associated with intelligence and wealth) than Khmer (associated with farming and peasantry). Thais are the world’s most tolerant racists. Refrain from the tanning bed at least two weeks before entry.

This will be difficult to accept with your farang egoism. Thailand is far more advanced than the country you currently find yourself in. 543 years more advanced, to be precise. The Thai calendar measures from the beginning of the Buddhist era, the year of Siddhartha’s enlightenment, or 543 B.C. When a guest house receipt shows a checkout date for the sixth month of the year 2554 one initially thinks one either (1) received the greatest deal since the United States stole bought its west coast from Mexico, or (2) traveled in time. For me, the latter. Fear not Chicago Cubs fans. A World Series is realized in the year 2452. (Or 1908 with a farang calendar. I guess I can only prophesize the past.)

In Thailand you’re never without a wat within a five minute walk. Incredibly, they’re all beautiful. Take a bus ride 100 kilometers out of the city and there, in the middle of nowhere, is yet another temple complex harboring yet another chedi (stupa). Gilded and gleaming, the Buddha is with you wherever you go. His image is always accompanied by a sign: DONATIONS ARE APPRECIATED. There’s never a fee, one can’t buy enlightenment in baht.

Strike that. This is Theravada Buddhism, where even the lay disciple (a non-monk) has a chance at nirvana.

It’s called a ninety minute massage. It costs five dollars.

Keep drifting.

Ko Phi Phi, Thailand, where photo editing is never needed.

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