I’m fighting a extremely slow Internet but mainly I’m delighted to have Internet. I’m certain that I’m using the full bandwidth of Laos. I appreciate their delaying International business whilst I’m here using their bandwidth. 🙂
I’m presently in the town (population 400,000) of Chiang Mai, Laos. The elevation is higher so the there was an immediately reprieve from the heat of Bangkok. But I’m skipping ahead.
Beyond the long boat, I tried to rent a car because I was chomping at the bit to drive in Bangkok. I’m sure I could have done a fine job of it, but the concierge could not locate any cars. The idea occurred to me way too late for actualization. Oh well. The tuk tuks were just fine… though precarious.
There was simple no rhyme or reason to the pricing scale of the mysterious tuk tuk ride. There were no shortages of the vehicles, and I’m assuming that I looked the part of the unsuspecting foreigner so I’m certain I paid a premium for the honor. So what that likely meant is that I paid a dime instead of a nickel. It’s all good. I got to where I was going. Got in some shopping, sightseeing, delightful food and met some fun people along the way. Just about the time my ear gets tuned into the accent, I’ll be on a plane home.
The Thai dance was incredible. As far as dance techniques go, Thai is slooooow moving, but full of small “hints.” i.e. While the body as a whole moves methodically and with great intention, thought and deliberance, there might be a small flutter of the hand, flick of a wrist or shutter of a foot that has meaning and purpose. I was mesmerized. The story-telling of each performance was quite brilliant, though not a single word was used.
One particular performance recreating the country being sacked by the Burmese all those years ago was particularly moving. Of course, it’s greatest meaning came from knowing the story they were illustrating. I should also mention the costumes were remarkable and the relatively subtle differences in the costumes depending on gender was fascinating. My biggest epiphany about Thai culture is that is rests heavily on nuance. It makes sense, really. Start with their language: it relies on intonation to form the meaning of the word. Pronounce it with a elevated last syllable and it means one thing. Soften that same syllable, and you’ve completely changed the word.
Such delineation causes a visitor to slow down and think and watch carefully. I enjoyed the search for clues.
The dinner was superb, though it set my innocent pallet on fire. Three bottles of water later, they were clearing the dishes and I was complimenting the chef.
After one incredible dinner show I moved on to Bangkok night life, many of the sights, sounds and vignettes were huge insights into the culture and a wide lesson of culture and religion for me.
The night life is… uh, interesting. Tenderloin District, but different. At the behest of someone I met in travel, I took a tuk tuk to the night district, first to see a show of “lady boys” and then to roam. The show was risque but nothing you wouldn’t see in the Tenderloin… well, maybe a notch up.
The premise of the show was 1930-1940 show tunes that the performers lip synced. Lip syncing is huge business here and appears to be a big trend. After the show I roamed for a couple hours and saw what you think you would see, old pot-bellied men, mostly caucasian with 1, 2 or 3 really cute little Thai women in hot little mini skirts on their arm. The men would sometimes look at them, mostly not. The girls would act overly-animated and little-girl-esque, flipping their hair, smiling, almost skipping in their 5″ heels while they walked. Then there’s an even darker part of the nightlife that’s better left in the dark.
80% plus of the population is Buddhist. There are multiple gold-leaf temples on every block. Bowing to each other is common and there is no “god” but what they find inside themselves according to those with whom I’ve spoken. I also know the textbook definition of the belief, but I’m recounting those with whom I spoke. It sounds as though it would make a peaceful society… until night comes.