Friday, January 12, 2007

Goodbye Thailand

We’re back in Nong-Khai, soon to cross the friendship bridge to Laos. As usual, sitting on the river bank, sipping our beer, enjoying the sunset (inform us when you’re tired of sunset + beer tales/pics, reading this at work).
We have a list of “things to do”, which Gal keeps away from Rami (so our day will not be too busy); today we bought a spare tire.
Our plan was to cross tomorrow, but, due to a gum infection Gal suffers of, we decided we’ll wait another day in the ‘modern’ world.
So, we have time to write our thoughts/conclusions of Thailand.
Returning to Nong-Khai, we went straight to the (untouristy) ‘Chinese style’ hotel, from our last visit. As apposed to our first time in town (6 days ago), we didn’t even have a look at the ‘cool’ backpackers guesthouse.
Call us nerds or old tourists/travelers, but, paying more than twice for beer & food (adapted to westerners), shitty, dirty lodging with no showers and toilets inside, for the same price and having each other, we prefer the cheap, clean room + balcony & roof over looking the river. Even the family, running the hotel, is extremely friendly and helpful, taking care of their sole guests.
We haven’t seen tourists for over 3 weeks and were excited to meet other westerners. After 2 days of searching for a travel book for Laos (& China), that is not the Lonely-Planet, asking tourists, we understood that this is not the kind of tourism we were looking for.
Many of these tourists said things like: “everybody runs away from Bangkok” or “In Laos people are friendly, not like the Thai people”. These sayings infuriate us. We can understand where it’s coming from; traveling from one tourist destination to the next, missing/ignoring everything on the way; paying ‘tourist’ prices in these places and looking/needing western luxuries, instead of enjoying what the place has to offer. They are what we generalize as “Lonely-Planet tourists” or, as an Italian we met, cycling with his wife & 12 kg blond child, called them: “fun-fun tourists” (with an Italian accent), having fun here, having fun there, not putting any effort in a search for the real local place and people.
We think it’s good to have fun, every now and then, but, leaving Thailand without the feeling that Thai people, in general, are kind, helpful and honest, is the biggest miss of their trip.
We’ve been many times to Thailand, all around, for a month or more each time, and so many places where tourism has changed the locals (down at the ‘Islands’, Kawasan road and more) and many unspoiled places with all the beauty & charm you can expect. But, cycling here, with a tent, showed us a new Thailand. So many times people have helped us, with small stuff, like running to us with 2 cold bottles of water when we were sweating, or inviting us for dinner & breakfast in small villages without a restaurant.
One of the many memories is sleeping in a Wat, where the old monk gave us everything he had: a new towel (out of the bag), new toothbrush + toothpaste and all sorts of food. He even wanted to give us his map of Thailand.

Thai food is fantastic! And, every time we discoverer new dishes, especially while cycle-touring, eating with the locals their foods. We think that we are the only cyclists that gained weight! Gal says we should gain fat, like bears before winter, for future countries with less delicious food.

"Eat & drink, because tomorrow you will not be in Thailand!"