After three years, the Diplomat has been ordered to Europe to carry out some cool spy missions so travelswithadiplomat, Joshua and Isla are off to pastures new. That’s not to say the blog will end because we’re still tagging along for the ride and I’ve been promised a meeting with H.M The Queen at some point so that’s worth a few scribbles, surely?
Of course, returning to the land of my birth (where both Isla and Joshua have one genetic foot, so to speak) will be interesting as I will now see it with a greater understanding of the cultural colonialism mindset that has both blinkeredly educated and falsely validated the Sceptered Isle’s inhabitants’ treatment of everyone else on this planet.
Yep…I now realise I was (and still am) a cultural a**hole. But…whilst sojourning here in the blaze of the sunny smiles of Thailand has done much to deliquesce the Lumpini Monitor Lizard scales from my eyes, it has also given me a greater cultural clarity and appreciation for the people of both Thailand and Asia. At the end of the day, the average person working to live here couldn’t give a sh*t about CNN, BBC, political debate in the West, ISIS et al.. The opinions of the world, the criticisms of society, the splurge of incoherent social media…Nippadorn the fruitseller, who is outside our place every day from 11:45 to 14:00 selling his wares from under the penumbra of a hybrid Bangkok wire and tree canopy umbrella, couldn’t give two satang for any of it. The quality of his mangoes and the local pricing….now, that he’ll chat happily about. Somehow, that’s refreshing. Good mangoes too.
Not to say it’s perfect, because it’s not but I’ve now felt the cuts of the flints and sharp stones of our ASEAN journey underfoot. Each ouch has reiterated that the the travelling is about experiencing the real winds, sounds, smells, tastes, feeling of life elsewhere rather than the easy option of beliefs created by an online presence garnished with the soul-eroding falsity of social media.
People have asked me a lot recently what I’ll miss about Thailand. I tend to say “ask me that in six months”, but for now this is what Thailand means to me:
mogul-rated pavements for pushchairs; lack of personal space; never bothering to hold open doors for anyone; slow and meandering walking; mouthy service smiles that never reach the eyes; being called “farang”; ‘Yes’ meaning “whatever”;the great, friendly cyclists down Lumpini; golden Wats, the fruit seller, the donut seller, the baristas in Starbucks; lychee juice; plastic animals on central reservations and roof tops; tacky Xmas Mall lights; mopeds – racing off the traffic lights; the lunch time ant explosion from offices; glittering seascapes and landscapes; taxi drivers picking their nose/high on speed balls; saccharine news feeds – especially 88.0FM with its brainwashing rubbish; lack of accountability; cheap items that you can get anywhere; Thai spicy food; Mumbai’s Great Punjab; atrocious english spelling on signs; filthy tourists with no respect for Thais; amazing medical service in Bumrungrad; Storytime PreSchool; taxi Thai communication; cycling everywhere; Steven Curtin & Jire Carreon ; kids on mopeds without helmets; individual kindness of everyday Thais; puerile giggling from things like the excerpt from the multi-lateral meeting on Communicable Diseases held in Bangkok: “My name is too long for you to pronounce in Thai so please call me Dr. Kum”; thai store music – explicit lyrics that the Thais don’t understand; Opera in the park; heat heat heat; beaches of gold; scams in markets; Rot Fai; True Visions; diplomatic functions; the guys who play tennis in 38C; seats for monks on the Skytrain; Dusit Zoo; the “can-do-anything-if we-try” Thai attitude to the small things in life; lack of Health & Safety; nannies; car journeys that take an hour to cover 4km; freewheeling on a bike down Bhumibol Bridge at 60kmh; Dr Noppadol selling eggs under his gynaecological table; Mai Tai drinks; three hookers and a baby; massages without happy endings; never wearing socks or trousers; afternoons on a riverboat; the stench of the sewers; floods; coups with all their colour shirts; not mentioning the coup; Canada Day in 39C; Suvarnabhumi race track; the chance to travels around ASEAN; cockroaches and fumigating everywhere; 5pm kids playgroup time; top secret spy stuff I’d love to tell you but I can’t ;( ; endless, huge, conventions on the weirdest things; 3 in 5 bottles of wine being off; old Western men and their Thai girlfriends – relationship or transaction?; elephants; being able to clamber over historical sites and really experience them; monitor lizards; khao soy chicken; arguing with payment kiosks at cultural places that we don’t pay tourist prices; Siam Paragon; the tang of a fishy, briny sea; Kinokunyia; Siam’s history; Kanchanaburi Province; mangoes;
<pause to take a breath>…there’s probably more but it runs the risk of becoming a neo-Billy Joel fiery litany 😉
Oh, and ‘pla’ means in Thai (phonetically) fish. Douglas Adams might smile at that, wherever he may be.
Cheers Thailand, you’ve improved me somehow, somewhere. See you soon!
Is this what diplomacy is all about?