Skip to content

Epilogue

Welcome to the final post of Bangkok Dangerous.

The only appropriate word I can come up with to summarize the experience is “tremendous” but sadly those who most understand what I mean when I say that are not likely to ever read this.  If I had to give a good reason why it’s because when you live in such an unconventional world year after year, one person’s personal account doesn’t have the same gravity to it you might expect.  These stories instead become rather conventional and come to think of it, many islanders don’t seem to read so much anyway.  Actually “tremendous” or any other word to describe Thailand is a gross understatement and I feel silly having to type that.  Hitting all green lights and getting your favourite parking spot is tremendous.  Thailand is something different indeed.

Now I don’t know about reality being stranger than fiction but it sure is a helluva lot more interesting anyway.

Now I’m proud of what I did.  I try to write these things so I don’t come off sounding too arrogant (too late?) but I believe I’ve earned that claim.  I once said to a good friend that this trip feels like the cumulative task of everything I’ve ever learned or experienced about the world and my adult life and my experience in Thailand was somehow a barometer for that task.  I believe that anyone can give themselves the opportunity to travel, commitments and family aside but I like to think that what I did was something unique – an experience yet to be lived until I had said and done it and that means a lot to me.  Now of course I’m not the first nor the last to take off and claim a life for myself in a foreign land but knowing I was blazing my own trail with unknown mistakes and successes to be had felt liberating.  Just as important, it felt good that no matter where I went or what I did I’d always think favorably of home and looking forward to the day I would be reunited with those most important in my life.  And now that I’m back home and preparing for a more settled and Western lifestyle I still like to think there’s an element of that trail blazing present in my life as I go back to school and start fresh with a new experience.  I will forever miss my friends and adopted family in Thailand and everything we went through.  I’ll miss the water, the beaches, the smells, the frustrations.  I don’t think I could do it all over again but I hope I can one day afford to travel and enjoy something once again out of my comfort zone from another perspective as a more mature adult.  Maybe outer space. . .

The thing about extended traveling, Thailand or otherwise, it allows you to come out from behind the microscope of your own society and culture and put it into perspective against something totally different.  This is something very important because it can be difficult to be constructively critical of yourself, your lifestyle and that of your peers when you only have one authentic perspective of how the world works.  I think that living in a world under ever-increasing globalization it’s important to be able to empathize with other people you share this planet with.  I believe this sentiment to be one of my core values and my experiences abroad have only served to strengthen this notion.

I don’t believe that Thailand has changed me fundamentally but it has matured me and hardened me towards some of the attitudes and perspectives I hold as I ease myself into adulthood.  And some of that has made me more critical of Canada and the way she marches through the 21st century.  Don’t get me wrong though, I love my country and the opportunities it provides but I think we could be doing things better and working harder to avoid the “Me” perspective towards some things.  I know I can be awfully selfish but it’s something to work on, right?
To give you an example about how I’m feeling, a couple of days ago while out for a run I was cruising up and down the streets of my late childhood in a particularly nice suburb of Burlington.  All the homes looked immaculate – those that didn’t stood out – and it just seemed that everyone was marching to the beat of the same drummer and looking the same direction.  Is that what adulthood is?  Is the generation elder than us a template for the adults we are to become?  Does fate really exist?  The instance that really caught my attention was when I ran past a great wooden sign with a painted stork on the front lawn announcing the birth of a baby girl.  Please understand that I expect (not yet having one) the birth of a child is one of the most precious and sacred things that can grace a loving couple.  But I believe that some modesty is in order when it comes to such things as I believe it is a very personal matter and as I ran by I couldn’t help but think that there was something missing from this picture.  Why should someone be compelled to erect a placard for something so personally intimate yet universally natural such as a new baby?  The impression it left me with was strong indeed.  I want to be proud of a child but I don’t want to feel like I need to be boasting.
The conclusion that I’ve drawn is that I don’t think there’s enough depth to spending your entire life in a suburb like the one I ran through when the rest of the world is out there waiting for you.  And I’m not trying to say in order to lead a meaningful life you must travel but I think that those with the means and time necessary to do so should spend a considerable amount of time outside of your comfort zone/bubble sometime in your life and appreciate that there is more than one way to do things and yours may not be the best.  Of course there are other ways of achieving this without donning a backpack but this has been my experience.
On the flip side of that, some of the most fascinating and genuine people I’ve met have never been more than 15 miles from where they were born and I would never suggest their life experience is any less valid than mine for they have truly made the most of what opportunity has been afforded to them.

And that’s just it, making the most of the opportunities presented to you and what you create for yourself.  Watch out for the distractions and always be grateful for those who care about you.

I’m going to miss writing and living out something that started out quite radical but with each passing day became somewhat more sensible as my personality carved itself a groove in a very foreign land.

I’d like to thank everyone who was supportive and positive throughout my entire experience.  Most of all my parents and my family for always having my back and allowing me to live this out the way I saw fit.  I love you guys.  Thanks to everyone I met and enjoyed crossing paths with in Thailand or its neighbours – you’re what makes the world a wonderful place to travel.  Thanks to Ko Tao for everything – You know what I mean.  Thanks to the wonderful people of Nanongthum who were a constant reminder of the generosity and genuine good nature of people and their acceptance of those different from themselves.  Ta and your family, thanks so much.
And thanks to all of you reading right now.  You kept my ambition high and helped me to be a better writer and this blog would never have been as successful without your positive feedback and the occasional comments.  Thanks again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the work here and maybe learned something too.  I’m always down for sharing stories and indulging details so don’t hesitate, especially if there’s a cold beer in the fridge.  If any of you have any plans for travels yourself, please let me know, I’d love to hear from you and your thoughts.  Just in case, any of you can reach me at:

ben_tolton@hotmail.com

I think I’ve finally ran out of steam.

Cheers,

Ben/Will

“Take me home, country roads”

Hello everyone, sorry for the delay but this has honestly been my first chance to sit down in front of a computer for more than 15 minutes since I made it home.

So I’m no longer in the fly-by-night realm of South-East Asia and have since landed safe and sound back in Canada.  I nearly didn’t make it though.  The day before I left I had bought a bus ticket to the airport with a 4:45 am meeting time.  Ugh.  Irregardless, on my last night in Thailand I was out on the town and upon checking my watch I noticed I had less than 3 hours before I was to be at the bus stop with all my bags in tow.  I was afraid of this happening so I took the precaution of making sure everything was packed and ready to be hauled out of my room.  “Why sleep now?” I asked myself.  Foolishly I thought I’d ‘rest my eyes’ and next thing I knew I had overslept and missed my bus and now had approximately an hour and a half to make it to the airport and check in.  A flurry of curse words swarmed through my head as I threw on my bags and hustled out of the hotel like I was the last one left in a burning building.  This was only the second time in Thailand I opted to take a taxi cab but it was a good choice because the driver managed to drastically trim the usual 50 minute commute to the airport and I made it with time for breakfast after I checked in.  Close one.

The flights home were long and uneventful and upon arriving in Canada and walking out into the street I felt warm and proud to be back home but melancholy and wistful that my adventure was over – at least for the time being.  “Things will never be quite the same” I thought to myself.  I was to meet a newly made friend on my flight at the sky-train so I hurried along, amusing myself at the immediate differences I noticed as I walked.
Soon afterwards I had met  my buddy Chris at his work and we were catching up fast.  I didn’t stay in town long and by Wednesday afternoon we were packed and leaving for the car ride home.  Vancouver by the way is a beautiful city and much more down to Earth and progressive than any town I’ve experienced living in Ontario.  Honestly, if it weren’t for family and roots in Ontario it would be very easy to move West and make a life for myself.

But we got busy with the drive and immediately I was awestruck by the expanse and size of the mountains.  Chris’s GPS unit read we were driving at an altitude of 1500 m at some points and the trees, rivers and peaks were stunning all the way through to Calgary.  We’d stop every so often to take a few pics and stretch our legs and our first night we crashed at a friend’s place in Kamloops.  We were quite efficient with the task at hand and in preparation we stocked a cooler full of food so eating was more so a measure of lack of spills than anything else as the ‘co-pilot’ would fish items out of the back and build sandwiches, etc.  Some nights we’d find a quite parking lot somewhere and sleep in the car and another night we’d pirate an unused campsite at a provincial park.  Driving through the prairies was an interesting phenomenon.  It’s flat and boring as all hell for a staggering amount of time.  Northern Ontario was quite beautiful and the deer whistles Chris and I installed seemed to do the trick since we never saw any sign of a deer or wildlife.  We saw one guy who looked like he drove through a brick wall which shat on him upon contact.  What a mess.
I never really appreciated just how bloody massive this country is.  It’s huge.  And that was only two-thirds across the southern most part.  I can’t imagine driving to make my way up to Yellowknife or someplace like that.  Madness.  All in all it took us 4 days to drive across the country, for a total of 4400 km.  It was a good experience and I’d recommend it at least once but bring someone with you and something to do.  Chris for instance carved a watermelon inside the car one day with a knife to make Rambo look twice and it was hilarious.  You see what I mean. .

Now I’m in full throttle forward trying to get myself organized for school and catching up with family and friends and it’s been exceptionally busy.  Yesterday, Victoria and I went shopping for tools.  It’s like trying to pick only one dish a buffet – everything looks delicious and you want it all, knowing perfectly well you’ll likely never touch some of it.  “Of course I need four different flavors of marinated oysters,” You say to yourself shoveling them onto your plate.  Lee Valley is a killer.

So I’m excited to be home and have all these big plans staring at me, but at the same time I miss Thailand, I miss the uncertainty of it all, I miss my backpack and I miss my friends.  I’m certain I’m not done traveling but I think it’s time now to do something more productive with myself and make the most of my youth in Canada now.  Expats are a dodgy bunch and no one wants to be “That Guy”, like the one who lingers on campus 4 months after he graduated.  I don’t know when or where my next trip will be or who it might be with but I’m excited at the possibilities.  Travel out of your culture and society is one of the greatest favors you can do for yourself because even when it’s bad it’s good.  There really is no substitute for it.

Check back in a few days for my final official post of Bangkok Dangerous as I write the epilogue and attempt to summarize my experience and give some final thoughts towards the whole shebang.

Once I get back in touch with Chris, I’ll post a couple of pics from the drive home.  Cheers.

This is the end. My only friend, the. . .

This will be the last post I write in Thailand.  *sigh*

First off, Chatuchack Market was excellent.  Bigger than anything I could handle.  There must have been dozens of kilometers to walk to ensure you passed by every shop, of which there were thousands.  I’d pass by entire neighbourhoods of shops that I simply didn’t have time for.  I bought some great souvenirs and spent a pile of money but it was all worth it.  Yesterday, as part of my re-entry into Western culture, Ashley and I saw Inception at the movies.  The movie was good, I really enjoyed it – strong cast, excellent pace considering the length, fascinating concept with Hollywood razzle-dazzle to fill in the gaps but I felt the movie tried to appeal to too many audiences.  The theater was huge.  More grand than anything back home and better chairs.  I toured about the gargantuan shopping complexes on the way to the theater.  I didn’t like it and I felt very confounded and out-of-place.  I know Bangkok does things a little extreme but the whole establishment seemed very grotesque.  I felt concerned about how much it resembled and seemingly trying to imitate Western culture.  I feel like that may have much to do with the fact that for the better part of a year I’ve lived between an ammenity-scarce island and an ammenity-less village where I had come to appreciate more of the slower, less refined aspects of Thai culture.

Anyway. . .

Tomorrow morning at 8 am my flight departs from Bangkok on to Tokyo and finally Vancouver.  For all I’ve thought about coming home and how I’ve felt myself distancing from Thailand there is a cornucopia of mixed emotions going into this.

I can’t begin to identify or understand all the ways Thailand has had an influence on me or how it will resonate with me as I begin to carve out a life for myself in Canada.  Right now, it feels like I’ve crossed a threshold – a transition into something resembling traditional adulthood and my mind races a mile a minute as I try to understand how I can best understand and make the most of this moment and opportunity.  It’s like a catharsis of sorts and I’m feeling very overwhelmed by the whole situation.

I feel like having come to Thailand I’ve allowed myself to have the time, space and freedom to live life in a new and structureless environment.  Something that has forced me to arrive with nothing, save some meager savings –  No friends, jobs, homes, adequate language skills, someone to tell you what to do, where to go or when to do it.  No predispositions you would expect of a developed, western nation and in that sense it leaves you with a very raw and malleable opportunity to do some very sincere self-discovery.  And my god, what a ride, it’s been.
The last time I was in Canada seems like a lifetime ago, and in a sense I feel like it has.  Not to say I’m coming back as a completely different person but when I think about that idea, I’m always reminded of a song lyric by Fastball that goes “I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same”.  Or something like that anyway.
One of the most significant things I see differently now, about me coming home is the opportunity to start fresh in the sense that I’m coming home to begin a new, important chapter of my life.  Time away from home has helped develop a different perspective of life back in Canada and for me to critique my own lifestyle and habits in a way I don’t think is possible when you’re always in the midst of things.  I can see more clearly what it is I like and don’t like about my own life back home and I feel like I’m in a much better place mentally and maturely to focus on the things I want for myself now and as I grow into adulthood.  It’s nice to talk about and be encouraged by such promotions, but of course time will tell how I readjust and whether or not I follow through with and realize such ideas.

Some of my friends are skeptical.  Not in a malicious or negative manner but skeptical all the same that I’ll be able to slide right back in and be another cog in the great Western Machine.  I’m sure that there is some truth to that sentiment but at the same time I want to come home and I understand that to live in Canada means putting up with all the bullshit that comes along with it.  It also means sacrificing this “sand box” approach to living your life but I’m also somewhat grateful for that.  For everything I’ve done I wasn’t successful enough to perpetuate a 100% independent lifestyle, completely detached from the support of family back home.  I’ve had to borrow money a couple of times and depend on my family for keeping my “Canadian life” in order such as making sure my taxes were done and finding me a place to live in September.  I’ve wondered though how it would be different if I were adamant on never going back.  I think I’d have a little more resolve to stay employed or play to my strengths and teach English in the long-term but to go down that path meant closing other doors and I was never prepared to fully commit to that.

In any event, my conclusion of Thailand is the end of an era for me.  A short one, but an important one nevertheless.  This characteristic/personality tweak that I’ve been going about it is being cut off from its source material and that is a little disheartening.  How much more would I learn about myself if I continued to live and learn the way I am now?  At this point, it doesn’t really matter I suppose.  This trip has been such a milestone for me that I feel like it’ll take me long enough to fully digest everything anyway.  And besides, it’s cheating to depend on a lifeline from home anyway.

That being the case Thailand has been, as my friends would joke, “tremendous” but this act has gone on long enough.  I hope I can come back some day – the teachers in Nanongthum are already asking and it’s warming to know I’ll have a place to stay but the world is a big place.  At least my time over here has made it seem a little bit smaller.

.

.

Next time I write will be back in the land of loonies, maple syrup, etc.  I’m excited.

Bangkok Dangerous finally realized

I’m out of my dusty, rooster-crowing, rice gorging, locals smiling village of Nanongthum and plunged into the blunderbuss insanity of Bangkok – hilarious, yet seemingly unneccessary, loud and intimidating.
Bangkok is fascinating but I’m finding it difficult to branch out and immerse yourself into the heart of things.  It’s bloody massive for starters – 12 million people within the metro.  Since I’ve arrived, I’ve met up with Ashley, one of my good friends from Ko Tao, as she herself has just arrived from a trip throughout Myanmar.  I’m staying in a hotel in the in famous Khao San Road neighbourhood.  Certainly nothing special but a cheap room with access to a hot shower and A/C, which is more or less palace living compared to what I left in Nanongthum.
Khao San is wild.  It’s essentially ground zero for all the 20-something backpackers of the world landing in Thailand.  It’s like reverse culture shock hearing all these different languages, loud music and lights everywhere you go.  Some of the things you can spend your money on challenge the imagination.  I particularly like the counterfeit IDs such as licenses, student cards and even bachelor degrees.  You can go see ping-pong shows, roster (cock) fights, there’s semi-professional break dancers in the street that always attract a crowd, clothes and trinket shops with more trendy T-shirts than you could wear all summer.  There have got to be 2 dozen tattoo and piercing shops within 15 minutes walking distance between each other.  There’s a huge shee-sha bar with live music and draft beer, falafel stands open 24 hours and the endless number of touts trying to get you to take cheap tours of the city to shop in gem stores or suave, Indian looking dudes trying to get you into their shop so they can cut you a suit.  It’s all madness but a helluva ride.
Now the thing is, Khao San for all it’s indulgence and counter-Thai culture is exceptionally accommodating for the standard, Western backpacker.  You can find a cheap room, cheap meal and any manner of entertainment your heart desires and the best part of it all is more or less everyone speaks English.  So having this bubble with all these other people in the same sort of situation you’re in makes venturing out into the vastness of Bangkok incredibly daunting.  Sure, I’ve picked up a touch of Thai since living in the village but certainly not enough to make sure all my needs are looked after, especially if I had a problem and couldn’t rely on someone to understand what the issue is.  My other hesitation is that I’m more or less already home mentally and not as interested in jumping off the band wagon into this relatively stressful and challenging alternative.  Perhaps if I were fresh to Thailand and had a little more time and money to explore, I’d be more inclined but as it is now, I’m going with the flow.  Mostly.

Yesterday I missioned across Bangkok taking the bus and the efficient Sky Train to a neighbourhood on the other side of town.  There I spent nearly 3 hours lying prone more or less in constant agony until the glorious finish well after the sun had set.  There, I chatted with a really cool Thai dude who has travelled all over South East Asia, among other places and had lots of interesting things to say about Bangkok and Thailand that I wouldn’t have expected to learn hanging out in Khao San the whole time.  In addition to his primary profession, he ran a local restaurant which was quite nice.  He gave me a T-shirt when we said good-bye.  To find out what business I had with him, google his name “Little Joe” and see what you come up with.  Otherwise, I’ll share with you when I get home.

Today, Ashley and I are going to head up to the outdoor Chatuchak Market – one of the world’s largest.  I have a short list of things I’m hoping to come across so I’m really looking forward to it.

In sad news, I think my camera was stolen in my last few days back in Nanongthum.  I keep my whole kit together and my underwater housing and cables were left untouched so I suspect foul-play.  It’s not the end of the world, and it’s possible to replace the camera only but the tragic thing is I’ve lost many photographs I had recently taken.  Luckily most of my underwater shots were backed up on my iPod.

3 more days until I’m on a jet plane.  Coming home will be excellent.

The Greatest Gong Show on Earth!

Well ladies and gentlemen,

This is essentially a cautionary tale against binge drinking and a total disregard for behaviors and laws you would otherwise respect in any other part of the world.  Ko Pha Ngan, however is unlike any such places.  It has a reputation for taking even the most straight-laced, button down, right-wing conservative prick and turning him into what anthropologists might describe as “primitive”.  A lawyer might describe it as “grounds for divorce”.  The women are no better, but you can use your imagination.  In any event, of course it’s possible to enjoy a more mild experience of this body paint, glow stick, throw-down extravaganza – I just wouldn’t recommend it as a school field trip.

The following is a slightly revised personal account of just such an experience, written for me some time after the event itself.  I’ve changed the names of those involved, not that it really matters but you never know where these things wind up.

Warning: This story is not for the faint of heart, or the under-exposed.  Frequent drug referencing and swearing. . .  So let’s begin!

————————————

To read the story, follow this link here to the page “Koh Pha Ngan FM 2010“.
Enjoy!  You can also select it from the tabbed pages across the top.

————————————

I’d like to state for the record that I think everyone in that group behaved like total jackasses and got what they deserved.  It’s too bad for Tom that he had to suffer the brunt of the consequences for the group’s follies but that’s what you get when you compound one bonehead decision on top of another – that and not listening to what your mother was trying to tell you all these years, especially considering a place as unforgiving as Thailand.

I have to hand it to the group for sticking together though.  No one ever abandoned Tom and we all did what little we could to help him get back on his feet while he was in jail.  I have to hand it to Tom for being so hard about the whole thing as well.  He took his licks and still managed to stay relatively positive about the whole experience after it was all said and done.  If anyone other than Tom had been caught, it would have been much more tragic, but since it was Tom. . .

I’d also like to note that Tom isn’t purely the raging asshole as depicted in the story.  Before Thailand he spent months of mature, culturally defining travel in India where he drove halfway across the country on a single piston motorcycle.  He’s since left Ko Tao and Thailand for a more introspective journey to Myanmar where he is currently developing his meditation techniques.

I miss him and hope he’s doing well.

.

.

.

Epilogue,

Now the story was posted as bit of a joke to show off some of the madness that springs up in such a reckless environment.  At the same time I mean for it to be taken somewhat seriously because it only has a happy ending because Tom was fortunate enough to have the money to bail himself out.  Worse case scenario he was facing 4 years in prison, not jail, and never being allowed to re-enter the country.  The lesson here is: Don’t fuck about when it gives the authorities any excuse to bend you over a barrel.  Period.

Better late than never

Hello there, a spot of exciting news.

Remember several months ago I posted a “Name That Fish” contest, which had a staggering participation rate?  Anyway, in case you missed it there was a picture of a fish which you had to research and properly identify.  The winner was to be awarded premiere access to a personal account of one of my mates who during the legendary Full Moon Party of Ko Pha Ngan, wound up in jail, tangled up with drugs, booze, money and so forth.  Anyway, like all true islanders, nothing gets done quickly or as expected and despite my pestilence, the written account never really got done.  Not until the literal last moments of my time on the island when my ticket is purchased, I’m saying my goodbyes and fighting back the tears, my good mate, Tom finally pulls out of his pocket with a big stupid grin on his face, the letter I had been waiting for all this time.  Wow, I was so happy, I had completely forgotten about it at that point.

I saved reading it until about halfway across the Gulf and at first, reading it in my head I was really struggling to decipher much of what was written.  Tom had admitted he was rushed to finish it in the last few nights and you could certainly tell.  Now it’s important to note that Tom is German, and while his English is excellent, to read his writing, a background in cryptology is quite useful.  I found it was much easier to read it out as if he was speaking the story back to me, in his hilarious German accent and syntax.  In this respect the story came to life and it was simply hysterical.

Now for reasons relating to both comprehension and personal, I’ve decided not to post the verbatim story.  Instead, what I plan to do is write up a similar version from a third person perspective, but I hope to follow the grammar and humor as closely as possible so it sounds like Tom and not me.  When it’s finished, I’ll email it to my brothers first since they actually submitted a reply to the original contest (and were both dead-on, as well) and then I expect to post the new version shortly afterward.  No deadline yet, but at least now I have the letter and it is coming.

You may have noticed two new links under the blogroll section of my web page, here – Dive Video 1 and 2.  This is a video that was shot professionally by an underwater videographer of the last day of an Open Water SCUBA course.  The video features myself, along with my students and Nacho, an American instructor with his class.  You’ll know Nacho when you see him – He’s the one that makes you think of words like ‘fruity pebble’.  Really nice guy, all-in-all.  For the sake of filming, the two groups were rolled into one and Nacho and I split parts of the teaching.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have chosen to feature this particular video since there’s so many students due to the size and everyone was rather *ahem* less than chipper from the night earlier.  However of all the videos made, this was the only one I ever found posted online by one of the students from the course, so this is what we have to work with.
For the seasoned diver, you may notice some irregularities, but in all honesty, Ko Tao has a reputation and this is why. . . Enjoy!

I almost forgot.  So the Elephant. . .

Early when I was getting started with this volunteering business, my first weekend I was invited halfway across the country for a Thai wedding.  Great experience, I’ll talk more about it later.  While having dinner one night before the wedding itself, myself and a group of students who came along for the trip were busy tucking into a marvelous yet baffling buffet when I heard a strange sound.  Sounded like there could have been a band playing somewhere off in the distance, when soon enough, the students sitting across from me start shouting, “Look Teacher, Chang! Chang!” while frantically pointing behind me.  I turn around and sure enough, a giant elephant is standing there with his Mahout, all dressed up and looking like it got lost from a parade that ended 3 years ago.  “Well that’s something you don’t see everyday”, I say sarcastically, looking to see if anyone is nodding their head.  I begin to chuckle at my own dumb joke and the absurdity of it all.  Not just at the Christmas Tree inspired elephant, but about everything going on around me.  “I’m sure as shit not in Kansas anymore”, is another thought that often floats through my mind, but the effect has since worn off.  That’s when I hear the noise again, and I look closer and notice the elephant is blowing tunes through a harmonica held at the end of his trunk!  I could have kept staring but I didn’t want the Mahout to think I had money for a show and he probably didn’t take requests anyway, so I turned back to my meal.
Later I found out these street elephants are actually tragic figures who are more or less beggars, having no other gainful work or a place to go.  There are some programs and habitats designed for reintroducing elephants into the wild, but many slip through the cracks such as that poor guy.
As I looked back down the road I could see the flashing red light tied to the elephants tail disappear around a corner.  Another casualty of a society caught between modernization and traditional practices.

Rice Mountain

19 days and counting. . .

I’m not so keen on having to countdown my remaining time in Thailand as if I’m a kid waiting for Christmas morning – oh god, how many more sleeps?? – but that’s what it’s becoming.  I can’t focus on anything here for more than 30 minutes without being distracted of thoughts from home.

I suppose that’s a good thing though.  I’ve met loads of travelers who have no interest whatsoever in returning home, not until the last possible moment when they have simply no other option.  Even when such people do make it back, sure it’s good to see family and old friends but there’s an itch to get the hell out again once money or time or whatever permits them.  I’m eternally grateful I don’t feel that way about Canada.  Many Australians as it turns out feel the same way and of course there’s always exceptions.

I remember when my time in Vietnam was coming to a close I was incredibly anxious to leave.  The Vietnamese had managed to take my liberal optimistic view of the world and shake it to its core.  I had always believed strong stereotypes were mostly bullshit, developed by narrow-minded bigots used for the sake of a cheap joke.  Vietnam changed that in a way I never expected.  Not to say it made me a bigot but it made me realize how different things can be from outside of my precious Southern Ontario bubble.  On the positive side, it really made you look for (and find!) the good in people.

Thailand has been something different once again.  I’m not so anxious to leave because I’m feeling resent or hard-feelings against the people.  The people I’m living with in this community are a class act.  There’s no better example of community and brotherhood than where I am and I’m sure I’ll miss many of them.  The teachers love me and will commit to well and above the call of duty to make sure I’m looked after (by Thai standards).  On the other hand, you’re always the outsider and there are some things I could never get used to, which by the way is a pretty long list.  Some of the many examples include pulling bugs out of my drinking water, smelling plastic fires in the morning, roosters crowing by 5am, the shocking amounts of rice,

– I dare you to try this as an experiment.  If you want an authentic Thai experience at home, for 1 month you must eat all three meals of the day with white steamed rice (no instant), preferably plain unless you know how to make sticky rice.  Also, rice must be by far the largest proportion of whatever meal you’re on.  Bonus points if you have your meals with fish sauce.

You get used to it in a sense but I’ll never look at rice the same way again.  Also wherever you don’t see a house or a road, you’ll see a rice paddy.  When a Thai person invites you to eat, no matter what the particular dish is, (it could be a plate of crackers and a glass of water) they’ll say something like “Geen Kow” which literally translates to “Have rice”.  It’s wild.

All that aside, one of the top reasons for my eagerness to return home is getting my life back on track and committing to something I can maintain and invest into for the long-term.  I’ll always love traveling and keep an eye out for new opportunities but I feel like I need to put some roots down somewhere in some sense of the word.  I’m really excited for my program in the Fall and moving into the log cabin my parents staked out for me.  I can think of one dark-haired history buff in particular whom it’ll be good to see again.  Thailand has been great to me in so many ways but I’m simply getting tired of it all and struggling without much money to make things a little more comfortable has worn thin.

So therefore in 19 days, I welcome my long flight home with open arms.  The plan is to spend a couple of days in Vancouver to find my feet and get readjusted to Canada living, whatever that means, and then my good buddy Chris Holton and I will be embarking on our road trip back to Burlington.  That ought to be an adventure therein itself, and I certainly intend on sharing the experience and the hilarity to ensue.

Thanks to everyone who has been faithful with the blogs thus far during my adventure.  It’s nearly at an end and I’m looking forward to sharing the stories with you personally over cold beer, etc, etc.

Harmonica playing elephant next time, I swear!

My nemesis. I've taken to naming some of the other local roosters after internet memes like 'hamster dance' and 'lolcats' because they're so incredibly irritating.