24th April 2011

Ramblings through Thailand

Every time I start to write, I move to a new location, anyone interested in Location descriptions, each one trying to outdo the other. Maybe just one or two short ones. Yesterday I was back to my original location in the mini tourist resort of Had Yao(West) on the dance island of Ko Panang, a two hour boat ride off the east coast of Thailand. Known for the regular full moon raves on the beach at Hadrian with booze fuelled excess with many horrible consequences but I digress. Yesterday, in Had Yao, I was on the quiet side of the island. It was back to where I had started from some 10 weeks previously. 

In between, I got as far North as the Ho Chi Mhin museum and mausoleum in Hanoi where I saw Ho's hot water bottle which would have come in very useful as Hanoi's weather in Feb is a just like London's or Amsterdam, when its grey and damp, you need a reason to be there. Anyone not interested in opinioned travelogues, skip the next bit

By 8am I had been snorkeling off the coral reef, a 100 m. offshore a golden sandy beach in a totally tropical setting. Trying to catch my reflection in the sea as smooth as glass while enjoying breakfast of banana porridge. I could not but reflect that it was a good way to start the Monday morning, or any morning.

I planned to visit Had Yao for a couple of nights of comfort before returning to the joys of beach living next to nature ie no hot water and intermittent electricity for a few hours in the evening if we were lucky so early to bed and early to rise. But not the weekend, the Fri night dance at the local went on to Sat afternoon and then continued elsewhere. Nearly everyone at some point danced at this weekly institution. Its the universal therapy. 

And a few hours in the resort of Had Yao convinced me that I had had enough of civilisation and headed back to a different sort of civilisation. and remained in this semi secluded neck of the woods for another 3 weeks. It is very seductive. Some might call it heaven. It was good to have a base! Talking of heaven, they opened up this morning and the sea continued to rage providing a suitable alternative to the normal backdrop and a chance to catch up with this story. 

And no matter how far away from it all in Thailand, food and lodgings are, nearby, a friendly Thai family will provide a wonderful selection of food for not very much money, most hours of the day. The locals are friendly providing you show respect, Thailand has never been ruled by foreigners but in the back of my mind, there lurked the suspicion that Thailand with Israel are the only countries where the army is trained in martial arts. Do not mess with me and respect my country. But politics aside, the service for their beautiful food and accommodation is a fraction of the cost we normally expect to pay. How can you afford not to stay in paradise, the price is to accept their rules.

I am sitting in my preferred location in this preferred location, in a hammock on the balcony of my roughly hewn wooden room on stilts, 20 metres from the now gentle waves nestling in an exotic orchard, almost invisible from the sea. I am in the last week of my stay and on my last day of a 7 day fast and detox, well, I guess my body needs a holiday too, and I am not feeling hungry yet in a place with not much to do but enjoy the natural ambience and relax Mmmm, and eating wonderful meals take on an extra significance and their loss missed, but still I am not hungry although thinking quite a lot about roast potato's, lots of smoke and reading, incl Keith Richards amazing book, what an amazing geezer, and catching up with others living their dream on a narrow and precarious strip of land in the middle of a jungle.

My shack on the beach had the benefit of several nearby gaffs offering alternative therapy as well as Yoga and meditation. I had taken a weeks tantric course which I had to promise the seal of silence so I will only say that it was more about love than sex, although we exercised and a very lovely process, you lovelies. It was late Jan, I had been on the beach for nearly a month, it rained warm rain for about half the time and I was in danger of getting too comfortable, if there is such a thing, and maybe a bit restless. 

Travel companies helped take the stress from travel. but not from the weather. The sea was very rough and our long tailed boat perched vertically as it hit the waves. The cry of the onlookers rose to a scream but we were through, though drenched, and on our way. After a rocking ride, the boats with their long tailed propellers surfed in on the waves boosted by full power, we were back on land. Though drenched, I was dry within 5 mins, it was hot. I had an hours bus ride, a two hour boat ride and then a 2 hour coach ride to pick up the overnight sleeper to Bangkok. All beautifully organised by the efficient travel agent, the whole journey to Bangkok costing less than 30 quid, even the bed on the train was comfortable though sleep elusive.

There are not too many tribulations for the modern day comforted traveler, I thought, not yet having experienced the long distance buses in Vietnam.

The overnight train sleeper to Bangkok carriage second class was first class and for the first time on my third visit, I saw and enjoyed the capital. I was with a friend who knew the place a bit more than me and we stayed in Silom area, very local yet catering to tourist. I took an organised nighttime cycle tour thru a small part of this vast city and was most impressed, the energy, the life.. And although the traffic jams are justifiably legendary, nobody beeps their horn, except at traffic lights, people are allowed into the flow of traffic, every one is polite. And no black smoke belching out of exhausts. But Behind high walls, frequent oasis of peace and tranquility, the Temples, Buddha still occupying an everyday place in the community.

Thailand's paternalistic benign Monarchy, who has a title going on for pages, is revered, and encouraged by the military. The royal Palace is truly impressive, a vast fairy tail of design. Equally impressive at night, an orderly city of the dispossessed sleeping in the Royal park. Freedom of religion similarly encouraged. 

The temple of friendship has an elegant Portuguese Christian church, Muslim mosque, Chinese Buddhist temple and then a Thai one too, all in a row, though I saw no Hindu temple. 

Nearby, a 63m long reclining Buddha in a building bulging at the seams was a joy to behold. And for the benefit of foreigners, a 17th Century Buddha sitting on a chair.

Back Over the river, the flower market fascinating and beautiful and energetic. The river boats also a feature, their mooring involved serious lassoing, fastest stopover possible by river cowboys! After 5 days in Bangkok, it was time to ride out.

I was taking the 5a.m.mini bus to the Cambodian border, to be picked up at a local crossroads, no problem, I was the first onboard and by 9 a,m we had done a pick up around Bangkok and we were packed full and back to where I got picked up in the first place. Oh the dangers of modern day travel. I got a free tour early morning tour of Bangkok. Talking of danger, there was a conflict even a war with Cambodia over territorial rights too certain ancient monuments with Thai soldiers that week being killed. But we saw no evidence. The bus dropped us at the border and the driver helped us supply all with Cambodian visas over a meal outdoors under the shade.

The first thing to notice in Cambodia was the rural poverty, the ramshackled shacks, women pulling ox carts, perhaps they have more reason not to smile. The landscape as flat and featureless, less places to hide.  Also, perhaps more reason to benefit from foreigners, a small can of beer cost 6 quid, the smiling assistants assistant menacing. But it got better. The three of us were sharing an ancient cab to Angor Wat on a 5 hour ride through a flat and dry Cambodia. Angor What is one of the seven wonders, enormous temples dating from 10th Century built by the kings, which looked like giant pineapples with their tops off rising out of the jungle from a distance, intricate carved walls a mile long, moats half a mile wide, so big that busloads of Korean tourists have gone missing for days, so magnificent, I used 2 of my 3 day pass. 

Seat Ream provide the visitors needs including pub street and I got the tut tut out to the bus station,  for the 8 hour bus journey to Pnom Phen. it was the night of Newcastle V Arsenal, the nailbiter! seen in Murphy's bar Pnom Phen, this was near the place that Garry Glitter got nicked and anything went. Including me. My hotel room had no outside window. I was acting impulsively cause it actually looked a happening place compared to what I had seen in Cambodia. I took the midday fast boat to Vietnam on the Mekong. There were 6 passengers and we surfed at about 30 knots for the 6 hour trip. Weather fine, the river so wide that if you stayed in the middle you were safer from small arms fire. Pulling over to go through customs which consisted of a courtyard with a party of comrade soldiers enjoying their ample feast, we were no threat. 
The boat terminated in Pho Doc, so different from anything before, no signs of any western presence. They were celebrating the Chinese New Year, much smoke, much noise, street vendors, the blaring music unfamiliar and exotic, crowds gathering on a patch of land until 1 a,m to party. But I was to be a tourist up at 6 to visit the local community of traditional fish farmers on the river as well as handicraft before taking the bus over the border to Saigon. We are all tourists!

In Saigon, I wore my Rasta shirt and every hustler shouted, hey man, marijuana! and I thought about it and the next day I said how much and he said 500,000 dong, about 10 quid and we agreed 200,000 and he nipped into the shop to get it and we swopped all in the presence of everyone on the street, no problem, it was never a probem, accepted my the community as fulfilling a consumer need be discrete, and it was strong, Do not smoke it on the street unless you want some serious heat, better to find a hotel with a balcony. My story is getting boring or even silly. Saigon was good, narrow alleys and broad boulevards, saw some good local bands and the sites and enjoyed downtown for a couple of hot sweltering days, 

Onwards! I booked the 1600km sleeper bus along the coast to Hanoi heading north to the sleepy coastal tourist resort at Muine stopping long enough to buy a toasted cheese sandwich from a toasted western looking comfortable resort town but got back on the bus stopping overnight for a day and more at Nha Trang( a Vietnamese version of seaside Blackpool though I have never seen Blackpool), Hoi an( 19th Century old and outstanding) and Hue( a wonderful royal Palace) and a couple of weeks later arrived at a grey and cold and wet Hanoi as dawn broke. The trip involved 2 overnight drives. The sleeper buses themselves were fine, the seats as flat as they would go. But the single lane highway with cyclists on the right and left and buses coming the other way while going as fast as possible meant much braking and squealing and permanent honking. Lucky the seat belts which stopped you getting thrown out of bed, less lucky the air conditioning full on even in the cold. 

Vietnam, like Cambodia, is a fertile agricultural country, most work on the land, the worlds second largest exporter of rice, backbreaking and hard, there is a solidarity in this rice basket, the rice fields stretching off into the distance. Whenever I got off the bus for a longer stay, motor cyclists and tutt tuts would offer to take you for a dollar to very nice hotel and give you a sightseeing tour first and these guys were ok and your room might cost $5-10. The hustlers offered a good service to those seeking the easy route.

Hanoi was big and enormous and bustling including the old quarters with a maze of narrow streets in a a maze of narrow streets offering all basic tourist needs of food and bed and onward travel for backpackers of all ages. The city tour the next day a bit basic consisting of temples only that were free to enter and a paupers lunch when we had been promised more. The aptly named war remnants museum proudly presented captured us planes and tanks before telling a harrowing story. The crowds outside Ho Chi Minh mausoleum was long and patient in the grey drizzle. The army guards of honour uniform in white and gold outdoing easily any hotel commissionaires uniform, the guards very strict with the crowd. His museum is of a very interesting presentational type with no criticism intended of the Peoples Republic, people wanted to please, its just that the infrastructure for tourism was a bit haphazard, imposed rather than a reaction to, they had had other things apart from visitors on their mind.At the same time, other parts of the city offered enormous elegant exclusive a/c shopping malls with Western designer goods at Western prices. Everything was quoted in dollars and the $3.00 coffee was a days wages for the locals. There was virtually no business being done, heartbreaking for such a hardworking and industrious nation.

It seemed the further North you go, both the food and the weather got worse. I missed a warmer climate and managed to book a budget fare air ticket back south to Bangkok and back to before.

The weather in Southern Thailand in March is expected to be hot, blue skies and the water calm, but not this year. For the last 7 days and nights we have been bashed with torrential rains and high winds, a full on tropical storm. An official disaster area spreading 500 miles North. The Thai Navy have been summoned to evacuate the next island and we have been similarly marooned. No boat big or small could survive out there. And living on the beach, the surf roared and the waves lashed my hut and we survived. 26 coconut trees came down in our grove and bridges washed away. But it eased today and the comradeship and shared survival experience of the locals have created a kinship. A speedboat has been organised for tomorrow to take a small party including myself to near working airport in Koh Samui avoiding the storm damage ashore.

My last few days in Bangkok, I think I deserved a nice hotel.

My trip had two parts.  The first being a haphazard journey inward through a wandering mind and body while at the hideaway beach paradise, the second half of the trip being the overland journey by bus and boat through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to Hanoi. 

Travelling encourages you to meet new people and I was fortunate that I met some extraordinary people, living their dream, its all about the people, and I was awakened again to the joys of ayahuasca. This time by a Peruvian Shaman whose instructions to us were succinct, keep still and keep quiet. He sang while conducting a healing ceremony with a kind of tobacco, the ayahuasca strong and sublime. I was lucky to be a part of that group for a couple of ceremonies.

I am not particularly proud to admit to having smoked a joint most days for over 40 years, except when I took ibogaine. The first joint of the day is especially is too good to miss. I was lucky that I did not start until I first came across it in California when I was 21,. But Pot can also be the force of lethargy. Its fine if you have something to do but if you are in the process of deciding, it may not help. On the other hand, it might, certainly Aids and HMV victims attest to its benefits. On my travels, pot was available everywhere. Its not for everyone but for those that enjoy it, that first joint is too good, it cut across all social barriers. 

But you can get busted if you smoke on the street of any town in Asia, the overstretched Police will notice it at some point and you will get a heavy fine £1000-£2000 or worse especially if you have a credit card. Its their way of taxing tourists and paying their wages. But still Pot always seems available, more so in more remote places, and frequently used in some places by most and its the same everywhere except that where it is tolerated openly, less people do it.

It also means that an unregulated green cottage industry army of small time growers has grown up in many countries, quality does not necessarily benefit from economies of scale. Its production suits small time.

I guess the influence of Buddha and the absence of sin played its part in the full on sex industry available to tourists but you can easily get away from it, some even abstaining altogether. There is no loss of face among the locals for working in the sex industry especially if they send money back to their impoverished family. The picture of old and aged pinky gits with young Thai beauties also extended to middle aged and young gits too, but what did they speak about, probably the same things as you and me, they did not speak much, as if it mattered, masking the cultural gap. But they did provide pretty company, and sex. And genuine relationships did develop providing the money did not run out. Other girls with further education had the prospect of working in other areas of the tourist industry like airline stewardesses or hotel receptionist or waitresses, the more friendly ones helped keep sex sociable. I refused to be stereotyped with the gits, and in fact on the beach there was the consolation of floaty, yogi, meditati beautiful western women too that you almost had to rub your eyes, sometimes, at least on this trip!

My newfound taoist mate told me that I was distracted by women, he said something like that, and I cannot deny although I might deny it just because I have been rather poor at developing relationships, there's a chasm between meeting someone and making love. It could be going to an all boys school from 11-18 and not having any sister, though I exaggerate. It helps to be friends, more likely I'm kidding myself. The need to remove the ego, as if you didn't know and very difficult indeed in cliques in towns full of big ego's. Who knows, who cares, keep it happy yappy, say your prayers. But I try not to be stereotyped, at least while in Asia. Maybe easier to remove the willy rather than the ego, time will heal all.

I performed (got up onstage at open mike) the night I arrived and the night I left the island.
The first time nobody could hear what I said, the last time they did hear and I a good reaction, they were a very good audience. I told not much of a joke, what a joke, about life gone up in smoke. 
Going with the flow next onboard in Amsterdam. 
Viva Amsterdam!
The compulsion to keep moving, the desire to stay still,
Rj
x


PS More on the Courts next time

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Xmas Update

New Years Greetings from Thailand

 

Xmas up and New year too. Sanity is more than a vanity, in our beautiful world, yet how to come to terms with much of what goes on! so I write!

  There is nothing much more to report on my Court case.

Not much is going is going to happen for another year or so, according to the lawyer, until we go back to Court again. The next court is only interested to see if there has been a problem with the procedure, they are not interested in the evidence. And apparently, we have a very good chance. After 5 years, another year here or there will make little difference, unlike the Western Governments disastrous and chaotic drugs policy that now also directly causes cancer to untold thousands. My Court case is a symptom of the chaotic drugs policy. The issue for me is that I am registered with my doctor as a medical marijuana user and t.h.c. from smoking is the active ingredient that stays in your system for up to a month. This means I could effectively never be able to drive again even though I have an unblemished driving record.  

Another recent problem arising from the war on drugs is from the additives now mixed with cocaine now that the previous additives are outlawed. Livamasol was found in 62% of the samples of cocaine tested in Holland. The English percentage is guaranteed to be higher because of its much lower quality-averaged cocaine content now down to 7%. Livamasol is used to anti worm domesticated animals, yet it lowers the immune system and produces a wide range of aids like symptoms. It has shown to cause stomach and other cancer in Humans. In Holland, 5 million out of thirty million pigs died from unnatural causes from Liver disease from taking this pharmaceutical companies anti-biotic. Before Livamasol was added in the mix to cocaine, Phenacitin was used as an additive. Phenacitin was used as a headache reliever before Aspirin which had the consequence of causing all sorts of cancer especially kidney diseases. These drugs are poison and its Government policy that is causing the problem. I know people who have suffered the consequence. How to educate the criminals?  

No matter ones opinion, many in the West would be hard pressed to refuse a big fat line especially after a boozy dinner. The demand, especially USA and Europe  seems  insatiable, its a perfect compliment to the consumer society, expensive and disposable, and too much will leave you physically fucked and mentally paranoid. In the UK, If your habit is a couple of grams at the weekend, then you are at risk from the additives. If it was 80% pure cocaine, you would be better placed to handle it, although you might not get much sleep. Government policy, and other criminals, making things much worse. Research tells us that cocaine takers in the UK do not like pure cocaine, if their lucky enough to get it. It has less of the marching powder effect than the cocaine they are used to, pure cocaine is rather more subtle and depends so much on how you are feeling at the time. But you can sit there without conversation, happy and high. Instead, most expect to want to talk, any old rubbish. The extraordinary thing is that Research tells us that about 50% of people benefit from the placebo effect, they can snort anything and still get high, the associations of doing it are so strong to getting high that they get high. One reason why UK dealers continue to sell dreadful quality and get away with it, week after week. Its supply chain is criminally linked more powerful than some Government and a corrupting and destabilising influence, the war is long lost.  

It has crossed my mind that I throw around facts without their reference, but they are stuff I have been involved with. I did make a mistake in the last update when I suggested that Alan Bennett named his cancer after a certain media mogal,I was wrong, it was the playwright Alan Beardsley RIP. If you doubt anything else that I have said, let me know, and Iíll try and provide back up.

All drugs have their place, abundantly, when used appropriately, with no distinction between legal and illegal drugs except that legal drugs cause far more deaths.

Check out Peter Cohenís book on the Social benefits of Cocaine use in Amsterdam. Despite their tolerant attitude, there are virtually no drug deaths in Amsterdam, education and quality control are the key.

As for soft drugs, There have been coffee shops for over 30 years, they have done their research. They are extremely well run and cause far less social problems than alcohol, There has been rigorous investigation, a very strict policy on hard drugs so that if they are found on the premises his license is lost. And the Government benefits from their 50% tax cutting out the criminals, as far as one can. No one has od'd on Pot, it is a benign drug that does not suit everyone and its far healthier than the alternatives unless tobacco is involved.

Unfortunately, the New Government in Holland want a system of registration for the locals who want to visit coffee shops and foreigners will be excluded. This is silly because it will drive it underground, you can guarantee that demand will be met, at a price, the Government will not get its whacking share and the police will refuse to enforce this law, in any case. They do not want to criminalise a whole section of largely very responsible people. Toleration is the key with a pragmatic approach. Interestingly, the E.C. has accepted the recent Dutch proposal to register local to coffee shops as maybe a model for the rest of Europe. The problem would be improved if everyone had their own local Dutch style coffee shop.

 Few drug deaths in Holland apart from alcohol and tobacco which are directly related to over 500 alcohol deaths and over 200 tobacco related deaths in GB every single day! And that sad faced clown Cameron outlaws a weed because the cotton growers of America in the thirties did not want the competition from Hemp, the male of the plant, a wonder plant and he continues to benefit from following the agenda of the tabloids. I suspect that I may be preaching to the converted and even going over the same old ground. Ben Eltonís "High Society" captures hilariously the stupidity of the war on drugs. The drugs policy in the Netherland works to the benefit of the community.

Their way of doing things result in the happiest kids in Europe as well as the lowest number of drug addicts. These achievements should be shouted from the roofs, and copied, they are shown to work. Instead, America policy dominates and bullies and police and enforce international agreement. Alcohol and tobacco, the two most dangerous drugs are promoted incessantly. There appears no way to change this state of affairs.  

And leaving Amsterdam, I feel as though I have somehow blotted my copybook, not taking advantage of the creative possibilities offered, and the warmth and hospitality of some of the locals. in their city unique and wonderful in many ways.. It could just be paranoia producing guilt.

I think that I may have suffered from the Amsterdam effect, a follower of Plato, pass the plate, and the consequences of mood swings causing irrational behaviour which led me unwittingly, without wit, to cause offence while falling into the trap of exaggerating my own importance, maybe! And upsetting perhaps some of the locals, Sorry!. Maybe I am naive, even obsessed with myself, aren't we all.  

There is also the realisation that sexual gratification is a poor substitute for love but what pleasures are left to a single git approaching his sell by date who was originally involved with the Catholic gang and suffers from guilt. Fortunately, I have been reading Osho on the subject. He was the geezer, he would not say Guru, who was given a fleet of Rolls Royces and poisoned by the CIA, he was a subversive because he told things as they were. He did not write books, he spoke and they would record what he said and it filled 600 books. I have 599 and a half to go and already he has sorted my guilt issues. Which is just as well as I am in Paradise, Paradise Beach, Ko Panang, a lazy dance island off Thailand and I am sitting on golden sand inches from the warm water in the shade from the warm rain that has been coming down cats and dogs for the last week. No rain here for two years and now, so you would have to say its a late rainy season. Overcast skies and rain, and still its paradise. The locals are really cool, lovely food, the local weed abundant, uma Paloma blanca- I'm just a bird in the sky, and my stomach is starting to settle down. I reckon it takes about a week to acclimatise and longer to get used to the sun and since there ain't much , I could be here for a bit longer, no rush, its paradise. I will not mention the tourists, nor the Government, just the rain, and the girls, I satisfied my immediate and pressing problem with a massage which had two happy endings, but that was a while ago. If anyone is interested to know more for my next update, they do it differently here, please write. I know that I said that I only do this for my own benefit, itís my therapy. I must admit, but if no one got this far, better for me to keep it short  

Richard@lovedup.co.uk  

My road has wandered from "Crossianity" as Osho called Christianity with unrequited Love, and prayer to Thailand and Bud with intelligence and self. In a week or so I am off to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, lucky me, and coming back here again, what an adventure. Youíve already probably done it!  

"And Buddhaís last message on his deathbed to Ananda, his chief disciple who asked Bhagwan, give us your last message and he said "appa dipo bhava": become a light unto yourself. There is no other light, so don't look into the sky, donít look at me. There is no other light, be a light unto yourself. Your own intelligence has to become your light, depend utterly upon yourself- no other dependence, no shelter anywhere, no refuge"