So its been quite a year. Being an active duty officer and a Battery Commander with over 80 Soldiers and families cut into my "blogging time". But hey its all for MERICA! Having a year long hiatus in internet speak is equivalent to digital suicide but don't count Buftravels out. We've been here since 2012 and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. I am out of command for the next 2 months or so. That's gives me a window to tell you about the past year in review and the end of the great Asian adventure which began in 2015. Lets do this! First addition, Thailand...
Unto the breach ,once more...
After all that excitement I was starving. There was only a small Dunkin Donuts near the terminal with dozens of impatient travelers trying to pick up food. The only problem was there was no food. I got the feeling that this was not an uncommon occurrence by the lackadaisical look on the worker's face. He gestured behind him to the wall, "all menu none.....coffee or fridge only". I got a great kick out of this. There was a full kitchen staff in the back. The fridge had a handful of ready made sandwiches that looked like they had been sitting for days. The other international travelers weren't as entertained. I know its a shallow assessment. After these experiences I wasn't to eager to go venture into Malaysia anytime soon. And with that I was on a plane once again...
Thailand, the good, the bad, and the ugly
Right from the start Thailand was a lively and intense experience. It was late after exiting the main airport but you wouldn't know it from the busting swarm of cabs and workers shuffling travelers like into cabs. There was little organization to this process besides the main desk asking you where you were going, taking your money, and sending you into a swarming crowd with a ticket you couldn't read.
Location- Kata Beach compared to some of the other beaches was less crowded and a bit quieter than most. Despite traveling during the peak tourist season the crowds were tolerable at the beach. We still had the space to set up camp and not be part of the conversations around us. The water was clear and warm, the waves were outstanding, and the sunrises/sunsets were something to be appreciated. Demographically, there was a few Americans while a predominate portion of tourists were from Russia, Poland, and Slavic countries. Apparently, if your a Russian this is where you go on holiday, “Будем здоровы!” [bóo-deem zda-ró-vye”! "To our health".
Bars- As you could probably surmise if you are a fan of tropical drinks this is the place. While you will still fall victim to some establishments being cheap and adding simple syrups and sugars there are many more where you can get authentic tropical drinks all day and night. The recent death of the Thai king in 2016 has made a noticeable impact on the country. Loved by the people and reigning for 70yrs, King Bhumibol Adulyadej's death resulted in the country to go into a year of mourning. Nightlife was toned down significantly although I must say if that was "toned down" I couldn't imagine what normal would be.
Souvenirs- Some of us enjoy picking up a few trinkets from the countries we visit. Personally, I like to do a little bartering here and there. Surprisingly Thai street vendors were the least pushy that I have dealt with in any Asian country thus far. After my trip to China I was thoroughly prepared for the experience to be intense. Although vendors will walk their goods right onto the beach or through the bars with a simple nod they will leave you alone. Personally, I didn't mind this. It saved me the time I would have had to take out of the trip for the sole purpose of shopping. This let me knock out two birds with one stone.
Prices- Across the board prices were reasonable as you could easily find lunch/dinner for under 20 USD and mixed drinks as low as 4-5 USD. Being in Asia for the past 2 years the notion of paying U.S. prices for mixed drinks is less than exciting which as you know easily double that rate.
Human Trafficking- According to the U.S. Department of State, Thailand is currently on the Tier 2 watch list for human trafficking. The country has a very large commercial sex industry and walk down any bustling party street in Thailand will more than verify this. You will be bombarded with strip club, after brothel, after bondage show, after bar, and back to another strip club again. Not the best romantic walk on the town with the wife but worth seeing the reality of Thailand nightlife for yourself. Of course the famous "lady boys" or Kathoey of Thailand are out on the street advertising shows and have received a certain level of being a unique feature of Thai nightlife and culture. The term "kathoey" is most often rendered as ladyboy or lady boy in English conversation with Thais and this latter expression becoming popular across Southeast Asia.
I am by no means saying that being transgender is a bad thing. I think people are welcome to do whatever floats their boat. I have only it listed this under the BAD because it seems that to most these individuals are looked at more of an "attraction" rather than a equal group in society. And in my opinion that's not a good thing.
Trash- Simply put, Thailand was by no means the pinnacle of cleanliness and similar to Korea, there was quite a bit of rubbish laying about. Unfortunately the beaches did not escape untouched either. The garbage collection systems are not as robust. Combined with the numerous small, narrow, and unconventional pathways and trails garbage is left uncollected.
Quality of Service- If you are expecting luxury five star service in the dining, shopping, and lodging industries you may be disappointed. In my personal experience services across the board were not really a strong suit. Overall, service was average and seemed to have some room for improvement. The focus on services can be appreciated by taking advantage of the numerous beach and outdoor excursions to participate in. In my opinion nature is really the best commodity that Thailand has to offer. Unfortunately, the second largest commodity in the country remains the sex industry which would be fine, except for the fact that many of those involved in it aren't exactly willing participants due to the high level of human trafficking.
Food Poisoning- On a unfortunate and disgusting note both my wife and I spent half our time in Thailand in the hotel room. Obviously, in my personal experience I cannot fully recommend Thailand since I have been to 9 other countries and eaten many crazy things including drinking horse blood, eating raw horse meat, eating live octopus, slurping down sea urchin with a spoon after it was pulled from the ocean floor onto a boat, gobbled up scorpion and cricket on a stick in China; in all of those circumstances I never got ill.
The place that got us sick was not a street stand as your probably thinking. Instead, it was a fairly modern restaurant with a rooftop view and well dressed professional staff. Everything appeared clean, orderly, and new. I was planning on doing what I always do and getting some questionable meat on a stick from a street cart but thought to myself, "better not, we are in Thailand" lol. And that ladies and gents is the definition of irony. As the saying goes, if its not broken, don't try and fix it. Moral of the story, YOLO just eat the street cart food people. You can't ensure that you won't get sick so be fearless.
VERDICT- IF YOU LIKE GORGEOUS BEACHES AND HIGH STAKES RISK TAKING
It should be pretty self explanatory but warm tropical weather, beaches, and food poisoning do not mix. You can grab some charcoal pills, dramamine, and pack those swim trunks but I think John Wayne put it best when he said...