Have fun when you can. Think all the time.

Music, Trees, Environment, BBC, Hardwood floors, Storytelling, Adventures, International development, Learning new things, Getting new perspectives, Writing essays, Water, Road trips, Photography, Spaghetti squash, Art, Books, Getting involved, Gingerbread lattes,(Not)Sleeping, Reading, Poetry, Falling leaves, Aging, Monologues, Prickly pear tea, Making lists, Politics, New ideas, Exploring, Traveling, Dinosaurs, Killer whales, Sushi, Pop Culture, Meeting new people, Barbequing with friends, Tubing down the river, Waking up early, Discovering new things, Trees, Empathy, Believing in the Power of Love

June 21, 2011

Thai Fashion, Fullmoon Party and Bangkok Ping-Pong Shows

I have been back from Thailand for six weeks now and although I am loving spending my time soaking up the sun with wonderful friend on beautiful Manitoban beaches I felt that my two weeks in Thailand deserved a post.

After spending five weeks in Bangladesh with RDRS we said goodbye to Bilan and Lindsay in the Bangkok airport with ferocious hugs and Kaitlan, Lauren and myself headed out into the streets looking to start a two week long adventure. I won't chronicle the full two weeks for you because frankly some things are better left unsaid, and some other things are better left without an electronic paper trail HOWEVER I will offer some tidbits from my Thailandia adventure...because if you don't tell people its like you were never really there at all. Right?

Before I start on Thailand I'm going to indulge in a tangent. In Bangladesh I had the interesting opportunity of traveling sans camera (thanks to my darling little sister who neglected to put my memory card back into my camera before I headed for the airport) and I loved it. As a traveler I have always been conscientious of focusing on where I am and not focusing on capturing 'memories' in order to share them with people back home...I'm a bit more selfish than that. I like to focus my time on where I am, with the people I am with. I rarely buy souvenirs for people back home, I never fill up memory cards with pictures and I try not to talk/think about Canada in a way that it monopolizes my time/thoughts. Because of this mantra so to speak I find it hard to understand when some people seem to travel with the purpose of sharing...when every picture becomes a photo opportunity to share with someone back home, when every little market means another trinket to be purchased for cousins once removed, and every experience is followed by either "Tim would love the jungle trek we did this afternoon!" or "I can't wait to tell Jane about the monkey temple!"

I'm not against sharing experiences with friends and family, I'm not heartless, I miss people and think of them fondly and often when I'm abroad, but I'm very much a 'be in the moment' 'remain in the present', 'right here right now' kind of gal, and no amount of pictures or
souvenirs will ever make the place that I was seem as real to you as it was for me (unless you travel there yourself) so I might was well make the most of my physical an geographical location and not try to take you (unsuccessfully) along for the ride...or at least make it a top priority. Travel savvy or travel selfish?

Now, on to Thailand!

In Bangkok Lauren, Kaitlan and myself devised a way for free (and very entertaining) city wide travel. Enter Thai fashion and tuk tuks (motorized rickshaws). Tuk tuk drivers are paid commission to take unsuspecting tourists to gem shops and tailors in hopes of getting the said passengers to spend mucho dinero all while thinking they are getting a steal of a deal and walking away happy (all the while getting ripped off big time). Usually the tourists who fall victim to this little game are trying to get to temples, shopping malls, floating markets, ect. however Lauren, Kaitlan and I tried to capitalize on this routine in order to save a couple Baut (Thai money). By the end Lauren had perfected her story and at some times I even believed we were looking to get a suit made for her dad. We only ran into one awkward encounter when we ended up back at a tailor shop we had been to the day before and we had to quickly change our story and make up some new questions on the fly. Definitely hilarious, although I'm not sure how much money we ended up saving in the end it was a great way to see the city, kill some time and learn a little bit about Thai fashion.

Koh Phangan was put on our Thailandia hit list because of the the elusive Fullmoon party (http://fullmoonparty-thailand.com/) and our perfect planetary timing. We found a hotel on the the other side of the island and for ~$14/night we were given a little slice of paradise. Empty sprawling white sand beaches, gorgeous bungalows, winding roads perfect for renting scooters to explore, turquoise waters, and coolers filled with jumbo Changs (Thai beer). We spent our Koh Phangan portion of Thailandia hanging on the beach, participating in impromptu games of beach volleyball, watching fire dancers, and laughing with new made friends. On the night of the Fullmoon we hopped in a taxi to venture to Haad Rin to partake in 'the' party. Bucket drinks, neon paint, fire dancers, pounding electronic with lots of base, 20,000 people ready to party, street meat, pass out zones and partying till the sun comes up. We caught a taxi back to our hotel with just enough time to shower, pack, and turn right around to catch a ferry back to Bangkok....worth every minute of it.

Our first night in Bangkok we went in search (high and low) of a place worthy enough of starting our adventure and celebrating the end of our five weeks in Bangladesh. We went up and down streets, in and out of bars, intrigued and (mildly) entertained/disturbed by the go-go dancers, glowing signs flashing names like "SuperSex" and "Pussy Palace" and overt in your face prostitution. We were pulled aggressively a club that had ~20 men in briefs with different numbers on their hips dancing, waiting for someone in the audience to want a special dance. We returned to our hostel unscathed and feeling pretty pleased with our first introduction to Thailand. Later we would find out (only after we had already booked beds for when we would return to Bangkok in order to catch our flight back to Canada) that our hostel was located in the middle of the red light district and things would make much more sense.

Everywhere we went that night we were approached by men hollering at us "Ping-Pong Show" and making a popping sound with the lips. We brushed it off but everywhere we went in Thailand this trend continued. Seeing a "Ping-Pong Show" was something you had to do when in Thailand, like climbing a Volcano in El Salvador, or Surfing in Australia...it would be a shame to return home without experiencing one of THE things that Thailand (more specifically Bangkok) is known for...so when we passed through Thailand again, we made a point of putting it on our list.

After hanging out on Koah San Road (one of the most touristy districts) we met up with two other friends and sought out a show. We approached a man who was less pushy than the rest (reluctant to go with the men aggressively hawking Ping-Pong Shows as a result of warnings from travelers who had spent 700 THB and been taken to clubs only to be yanked around, forced to buy drinks and shown nothing) who took us to a bank of tuk tuks. We were transported via tuk tuks to our old stomping ground and taken into one of the dingiest strip clubs I have ever had the pleasure of being in. We paid 300TBH each (~$10) while we overheard some men paying over 900THB meaning that prices are quite flexible and received one free drink with the price of admission.

There were some women walking around handing out drinks taking orders and flirting with patrons while other women gyrated on stage in tune to the music. The show entailed women after women taking their turns on stage to perform her trick and began with a member of the audience assisting a women pull a 20-foot scarf out of her hoo-ha (think of a clown pulling scarves out of his throat) and went on to a talented artist draw her rendition of Mount Everest with a marker clenched in her lady parts while another opened a twist-off glass Coke bottle (perhaps a sponsor) with a little grunt before she hobbled off stage. For the Ping-Pong part of the Ping-Pong Show a women began to fire ping-pong balls with a force not to be reckoned with...I'm talking perfect serves and some men in the front row (who had been given paddles) got some rally's going. The show didn't end there but continued with two of the women having sex on stage while James Blunt crooned "You're Beautiful" in the background. The show went on, but not for me.

The entire event was awful, horrible, and profoundly disturbing and the fact that these shows are so wide spread and sex tourism is so rampant in Thailand as a result of demand is chilling. I left the club feeling as though I had been punched hard and repeatedly in the pit of my stomach over and over again almost unable to process what had went on and why I had been unable to leave earlier. I'm not sure what I had imagined going into the Ping-Pong show, and while I was horrified by what I saw, I'm glad that I saw it because its going to happen regardless although I don't like that my money supported such a horrible industry.

With Love,
Delaney C.

Here are two other links of travelers accounts of the Ping Pong Show:



June 18, 2011

"Laughing makes your heart grow stronger"

**Warning: This post is unusually optimistic.**

If that is true, that laughter makes your heart grow stronger, then my heart is in impeccable shape after spending the last seven weeks surrounded by such amazing and hilarious people. Before heading off on my Bangladeshi adventure I was warned about the heat, the food, the traffic, the poverty ect. but no one mentioned to tell me how funny everyone was or how the effective use of humour can play a huge role in development. One of the masters of the utilization of humour (in my eyes at least) is my good buddy Basudeb, the district project coordinator of Lamonirat for RDRS. When that man steps into a room he fills it with his presence, his hearty laugh, and his eyes that brim with happiness. He's charismatic and knows how to work a crowd, and even though he spends most of his time in his office doing paper work and managing staff he is completely comfortable in the field, not talking down to program participants but getting onto their level and speaking their terms and also relaying that back to us with a component of realism and honesty that is sometimes overlooked. His office is always full of staff who clearly enjoy his company as much as I do, and he is always offering anecdotes, advice, praise, and a good cup of tea.

Although I am becoming more and more sure that international development is not the end all be all for me (something I plan on exploring in the upcoming year) Basudeb will remain a role model for me in whatever future carer aspirations I choose to follow.

I've learned a lot over the last few weeks and not all of it is related to Bangladesh, development, RDRS, ect. Although a lot of it is, I have also learned a lot about who I am, and who I want to keep being. My optimism has become a very useful tool, and even though I have always know that I can be happy in any situation the importance of attitude has become even more clear. For me, it becomes a choice. Its possible to be happy in any situation, and its also possible to be miserable (or somewhere in between)in any environment, in any crowd. Call me lazy, but it takes way too much energy to be miserable and if I'm only on this wonderful world for a limited time I want to love as many of those minutes as possible and take in as much of its beauty as possible.

Along with my borderline obnoxious positivity is my ability to learn something new in every situation even if seen the same scene a hundred times. To be able to continue learning even if I've had the same conversation, visited the same school, read the same paper. Learning never has to stop, and I don't ever want it to. Right now I am in no way ready to head back to school for a 'formal' or institutionalized education, but that doesn't mean I am going to stop learning, in fact I think I may learn more. From my friends, from strangers on the street, from the world wide web, from all the books I read, and from the world...because that's what its there for...right? To explore, to grow, to change, and to keep you just confused enough to keep on keeping on.

I leave Thailand tomorrow after spending two amazing weeks traveling in the Southern part of the country with Lauren and Kaitlan, and although those two weeks have flown by Bangladesh feels forever ago, and Winnipeg even further. I am nervous (once again) to return back to Canada, to a bunch of unknowns and changing relationships with so much baggage--filled with not only souvenirs but unanswerable questions, frustrations, unsharable experiences, memories, and dreams.

I forsee culture shock, which by now I know hits me pretty hard, but I am also very excited for the whole list of 'new' things and 'first times' that await me. A new apartment, a new job,new relationships, my first time at folk fest, my first semester completely detached from University (well mostly) and for a whole list of things that make me happy even though I've done them a million times before, like camping, road trips, dim sum, slurpees from 7-11 the beach, spending time with my friends and my ever wonderful family AND a challenge to myself for the upcoming year...Spending September 2011-September 2012 (one full year, yes one ENTIRE year)in Winnipeg without leaving for an extended period of time. Something I haven't done in the last five years, since graduating high school. Why does the idea of staying put for twelve months scare me more than taking off across the world all alone...

Because sometimes if you put roots down, they grow,
Delaney C.