Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We are now in the north of Thailand, in a little place in the hills called Pai. It is so idyllic its main raison d'etre is tourism. My raison d'y etre* is to work in a relaxed setting, and hopefully I'll do a bit of that soon.

My new office. It's beautiful, but I wish my bungalow had a desk.

In modern South-East Asia “eco-” and “ethical” tourism seem to live side by side (or perhaps even hand-in-hand) with hidden and not-so-hidden exploitation. We foreign tourists are wealthy consumers in (and of) the Third World, and as such we enjoy a maximum of consumer choice. There's such a smörgåsbord of activities and companies providing those activities to choose from here it starts to look all a bit “same same, but different” (as they say here in Thailand in response to tourists forever wanting to know the difference between menu items at restaurant).

Thai street buffet

Do we want to play with tigers today? They'll drug the animals for us so we can touch their limp furry bodies safely. And tomorrow do we want to donate food to the local monks at dawn? Then they will sell us food to feed to the monks and take us to them. (Luckily there are no signs here saying “Don't feed the monks”).

On the next day, should we sign up for an eco-trekking of the hills we must be careful to choose one of the “ethical” tours, or else we may be taken to the Long Neck tribe, a society that still compels its womenfolk to elongate their necks (a practice akin to foot-binding) now purely to generate income from curious tourists.

We can ride elephants, some of which are reputed to be mistreated (here again, we can choose from ethical or non-ethical elephant cuddling experiences), but we can equally do our bit for the environment by helping make paper out from recycled elephant dung.

A man pimps his elephant to tourists

We have the option of taking a reiki course and or volunteering at an orphanage in the afternoon. Perhaps with our new reiki skills we could spiritually heal away the problems of these children. And no doubt we will be tired from the day's activities, and have a massage in the evening (with or without a “happy ending”).

An elephant, a motorbike, a young woman, a conscience – all these things can be rented for the day. All same same but different.

*"reason to be here"


At 4:15 pm, Blogger Patrick said...

It sounds like we're both making the most of the end of days.


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