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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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9. THAILAND


TODAY'S THURSDAY, THIS MUST BE THAILAND!
Actually I didn't really start to enjoy Thailand until we were into our second month in that country. After India's often fiercely uncompromising attitude towards foreigners, Thailand seemed to be incredibly user-friendly. From the start, it felt like the Thai people had dealt with tourism for generations and as long as we kept coming up the cash, would supply us with whatever we wanted. My instincts told me that the Thais only liked me for my dollars and that many of the smiles were hypocritical. I found myself having as little to do with them as possible which put me in a somewhat alienated state. Catherine reported that she felt the same. At one point we thought we'd cut short our travels in the country and would move on before our two month visas expired. But we hung on and our experiences in the country improved later.


We flew into Bangkok and checked into a rather anonymous hotel around the corner from Khaosan Road which was the center of the foreign tourist scene. It was a street about two hundred meters long full of travel agents, cafes and restaurants, clothes shops, silk shops and cassette tape stores. The Thais did a roaring trade in illegal bootleg tapes. There was a wide choice of music and they only cost a dollar each so that I was in music junkie heaven. Everybody seemed very relaxed and loose after the tensions of India. There were TVs everywhere and the first thing we plugged into was the CNN coverage of the Gulf War which was now into its seventh day. Catherine and I took a boat upriver the following day to pick up a huge pile of mail at the Post Office. Getting some mail was exciting, though the news from Kate that Patty had died was very upsetting. I remember that we got caught in a heavy rain storm that afternoon. We ran back to the hotel soaked to the skin before the skies suddenly cleared again and we went back out to cruise the strip.


The next day was my forty-seventh birthday. It was a better birthday for me than most. We made another boat trip upriver and mailed a box of assorted treasures back to the States. That same day we discovered the very wonderful P.B's Guest house, a hotel in the middle of the strip. We went through the little doorway past the marijuana salesman, past the dimly lit pool tables, past the Thai boxers' gym and even past the little Agency selling fake ID cards. At the back of the building we found the Guest house and the back stairs that took us up to a great open balcony around the back of Khaosan Road. Here there were less motorbike exhaust fumes, a slight, almost balmy, breeze and a space to hang out in peace in the midst of this Babylon. Somebody was related to someone in high places or else was paying someone a lot of money for us all to be able to hang out on that balcony that afternoon, I thought. Later I learned that the owner of P.B's, who also ran the Thai Boxing Gym, was the Chief of Police's brother. Shades of 'Thanedaar', no? I resolved to stay at this hotel the next time we came through the City. We discovered a wonderful vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in the back streets at the end of the strip and ate all the rest of our meals in Bangkok there. That same night we took the 7.30 bus to Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand.

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