Catch Me I’m Ballin’
December 26, 2009

When Egill told me that tourism was 7% of Thailand’s GDP, I thought holy moley that’s a substantial amount to rely on for money. The real number is about 6.7% of GDP being, and 7% of the workforce is all for taking care of us tourists. these workers take care of a range of things such as hotel, laundry, massages, happy endings, food, taxis, boats, bartenders, fire twirlers, bucket sellers, and plenty more. since the us recession started, our workforce has dropped 5% (5% to 10% unemployment). we’re already brutally feeling a 5% drop. so if people stopped coming to thailand (which could happen), the 7% employment being gone would be a substantial blow to thailand’s economy, both to the workers providing service to tourists and the money that the tourists infuse into the economy. this shows how fragile the thai economy can be, flailing or flourishing at the whim of your vacation plans.

this is why thai visas are free, they desperately need people to come and blow wads of money into their economy. and with 40 baht pad thai and 30 baht mixed fruit shakes, and 200 baht Sang Som buckets, it’s not by any means a hard sell. thailand seems to be operating on a different clock. one that’s slower and life is a lot more simple and relaxing. it’s as if your brain slips into a more soporific bandwidth. the feeling is infectious. the uniform is tshirts, shorts, and sandals and the worries are just as scant as the island wear.

bangkok reminds me a lot of saigon: hot, muggy, congested, polluted. so i felt right at home. it’s a long tradition in bangkok to serve yummy food, so i enjoyed the sidewalk restaurants. most are open any time of the day, so even at 2am i could enjoy some delicious seafood pad thai, and for cheap. Even though the portions are a bit small, at 50 baht a plate you can buy as much as you want and it would still be cheaper than a meal anywhere else in the world.

the first night in bangkok i headed down to the tourist party central: khaosan road. khaosan road is a road that has a row of hostels, bars, clubs, clothing stores, street vendors, and massage parlors. Many people who travel here can spend every night partying in khaosan and see nothing else in bangkok. like bees flocking a valley of flowers, street vendors flock to khaosan road to harvest tourist money. the streets never cease in activity. they usually sell useless things like fake plastic buddhist charms, led toys, douche hats, necklaces, and rings. Others hawk more useful items, like pad thai, mango stickyrice, Nutella crepes. which can be had at your disposal since on khaosan road you’re always ten steps away from a food vendor. these people do this for a living, so it’s good food that doesn’t make you sick. i thought that i’d have food poisoning somewhere in southeast asia but so far i haven’t gotten food poisoning anywhere in the world. knock on wood.
if you’re not careful on khaosan road, you can get into a little trouble. since it’s a crowded area many people have been pick pocketed, leaving for a nasty vacation experience. later in the night, ladyboys are also out on the hunt for unsuspecting drunk dudes. See, it’s expensive to become a ladyboy. there’s lots of operations and procedures to go through and those cost a lot of money. Some resort to prostitution while others band into gangs are straight up jack people for all they’re worth. Some do both. if you’re looking for them early in the night, you won’t find them. around 1 or 2 in the morning they’ll swarm out of nowhere to prey on overly drunk men. i seen dudes straight up making out with known ladyboys that they thought were actual women. all i could think is that they’re gonna be in for a surprise later in the night. in a khaosan club i actually witnessed a pair of ladyboys working it. you know when you’re watching national geographic and the tarantula digs a hole and waits for an idiot lizard to come and look down the hole to see what’s going on? it was sorta like that. these two ladyboys (whos shoulders were bigger than mine and could have totally beat me up) were camping out in the club together with their venom (a bottle of johnnie walker red). every time a group of seemingly drunk bros would walk across them, they would get animated and pour them shots. a couple dudes actually had some sense and kept walking once they figured out they weren’t real chicks. eventually there came a bunch of dudes so wasted that they took the bait and started to dance and hold these ladyboys, and then eventually make out with them. funny to see the predator catch its prey both on tv and in a club environment. so everyone, watch yo shit when you’re in thailand, and also watch your drinks as well. can’t trust nobody here.

from khaosan i boarded a double decker tour bus to surat thani to catch a boat to the islands of southern thailand. bus rides are usually nothing to write about. they usually involve sitting and looking at the changing scenery. if i luck out i’ll have some interesting people to talk to. learning new local card games is also a good way to pass the time. however, heading south to the port was the most event filled ride of my life thus far. at first i was on the top portion of the bus with my own seat. since the seats come in pairs, i was soon bumped to accommodate a couple (see why traveling as a couple comes in handy?). anyway, i was put into a small room with sofa style seating and had to share this space with six other people. at first i was bummed cuz i was bumped from having my own seat to having to share a room, but the group in the room was pretty cool and even prepared for the ride by bringing beers for everyone.

so about ten minutes into about an 8 hour bus ride throughout the night, a seemingly drunk thai guy comes into our room and nobody knows who he is. he motions that he’s just there to sleep, an sets up his bed on the ground in the corner. i thought it was a little weird but if he wants to sleep he can. everyone else in the room is just gonna get drunk and talk loud so if he can’t sleep it’s his fault. so we all continued to drink and get to know each other. about twenty minutes later, the thai dude gets up and leaves the room, and comes back with a bottle of really strong homemade booze. he starts to get wasted and it’s really fun because now we’re all wasted and having fun at the expense of a drunk old thai dude that we can’t understand. he gets so drunk that he leaves the room and sleeps somewhere else on the bus.

later in the night, one of the girls notices that her mp3 player and credit cards are missing. and us being all drunk, we look for them for about an hour and a half. we tear the room apart looking for it. she said she might have left it in the bathroom when we made a stop at the gas station earlier. so we’re working out all these ways of trying to contact the gas station and everything. a few people suspect the little old thai dude. but without solid proof i was ready to give him the doubt. i mean they were accusing him while not being sure it was him.

so out of rage the girl leaves the room, finds the dude, and starts yelling at him to give her all her shit back. and i’m thinking damn she’s getting out of hand she doesn’t even know it’s him. she then slams the door shut so that we can’t hear her scream but we could still hear her through the door.

then the weirdest thing happens. the dude was so drunk and scared that he actually points to a small chamber and gives up the dude that’s sleeping in the chamber. this chamber, was the only place we weren’t allowed to search earlier because there’s another thai dude inside sleeping. turns out he wasn’t sleeping he was just pretending. with the chase on, we demand the chamber open and search it. low and behold, the girl spots her little red wallet. the thieves were dumb enough to lead her back to her own shit! they were caught redhanded! the whole time, we were all in a down mood because we really thought her stuff was gone forever. and there it was, right in the chamber, with the thieves standing right there on the bus. a whole commotion starts and the thai manager comes down and starts yelling at the thief and starts beating him over the head. the thief apologizes but our group has since turned into an angry mob and don’t accept his apology.

we bust through the chamber and find out that the chamber is attached to the luggage cargo bay. the dude that was sleeping in there actually climbed through into there and was stealing everyones shit! we uncover about 20 books and 10 pairs of headphones in his stash (books go for a lot in thailand for some reason. but more on that later). we were threatening to call the cops but the girl was so relieved to get her stuff back that by the time we got to the pier in the morning, everyone was busy getting to their boat and nobody wanted to stay to talk to the police and all. and plus, police in thailand are grimey as hell. so the two thieves walked alway clean. but at least nothing got stolen.

i took video as things were cooling off, but i wish that i had been recording in the heat of the moment. Oh well. Here’s a taste. Pardon my prose, I think I been drinking: